UNDOUBTEDLY, the rape of a child is an emotive issue and the culprit deserves the strictest punishment. But no matter how extreme the provocation, in a civilised society there is no justification for an angry mob taking law unto its hands and rendering ‘justice’ by taking upon itself the role of the accuser, judge and executioner. The brutal lynching of a man suspected to have raped a nine-year-old girl in Jalandhar underscores the disquieting rise in cases of people turning outlaws, emboldened by the strength of their numbers against the weak and vulnerable. Violence against doctors in hospitals by kin of patients alleging medical negligence or thrashing of rape accused in courts or damaging of property by agitating mobs cause irreparable losses. Such impulsive or organised reaction to a perceived wrong by a mob is reprehensible. A strong hand is needed to curb it.
Of late, the implicit immunity afforded by socio-political patronage has encouraged vigilantism. Mohammed Ikhlaq, Pehlu Khan (in the name of beef in UP and Rajasthan) and Junaid (teenager killed in a moving train and pushed out in Ballabhgarh, Haryana) are some recent victims of brazen and brash murders spurred by intolerant mobs. Even as their perpetrators are yet to be penalised for the horrendous crimes, there is no let-up in mobocracy or cow vigilantism.
Only quick and retributive justice can instill the fear of the law in the minds of people against indulging in violence, even in the relative anonymity and safety of a mob. There is need to fill a gaping lacuna in our law-enforcement system: it has not been able to win over the trust of the public enough. The first instinct of anyone becoming aware of a crime should be to hand over the suspect to the police and let the law take its course. Mob ‘justice’ only renders its members criminals — many a time guilty of lynching or harming innocent people. Plus, only a few are invariably left to deal with the repercussions of their acts alone as fellow mobsters slink away.