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Indian Catholics reject compensation for lynching victims

The government's thrust must be on stricter laws so no one ever dares to commit mob lynching, says lay leader
Indian Muslims hold candles and posters as they protest against the mob lynching of Tabrez Ansari in the eastern Jharkhand state, in Ahmedabad city on June 27, 2019

Indian Muslims hold candles and posters as they protest against the mob lynching of Tabrez Ansari in the eastern Jharkhand state, in Ahmedabad city on June 27, 2019. (Photo: AFP)

Published: September 18, 2023 04:24 AM GMT

Catholic leaders have found fault with the move by a central Indian state to award one million Indian rupees as compensation for mob lynching victims.

“A one million [US$12,039.74] compensation package sounds good to one’s ears but in reality, it exposes the failure of the state administration to protect its people from such a horrible crime,” said Jerry Paul, national president of Sarva Isai Mahasabha (All-Christians Grand Council).

The Madhya Pradesh government on Sept. 9 announced the ‘Mob Lynching Victim Compensation Scheme.’ The financial compensation will be paid to families of individuals, who are killed in mob lynching incidents, it announced.

The scheme also awards compensation to those who sustain injuries in a mob lynching incident.

“Under this scheme, mob lynching has been specified as the killing of any person or persons by a group of five or more persons on grounds of religion, caste, sex, place of birth, language, food habits, sexual orientation, political affiliation, ethnicity or other such ground or grounds,” reported The Hindu newspaper.

“The role of the government is to protect everyone and ensure no such crime takes place,” Paul told UCA News on Sept. 15.

The Christian lay leader demanded that the government “tighten laws” so that no one dares to commit such a crime.

Mob lynching of Dalits or former untouchables and Muslims became a serious law and order problem in India since 2014, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power.

Mob lynching is mainly attributed to cow vigilante groups in the country who resort to violence under the guise of protecting the cow, a revered animal in Hinduism.

According to Indian media reports, between 2012 and 2022, at least 82 cases of violence by cow vigilante groups have been reported in the country, claiming 45 lives and injuring 145 others. 

Mob lynching came to prominence with the killing of a Muslim farmer, Mohammad Akhlaq, in Uttar Pradesh. The elderly man was killed by a mob on suspicion of storing beef in his house in September 2015.

In the latest case of mob lynching in northern Haryana state this July; six people were killed by a mob when the Muslim-dominated Nuh district witnessed riots between two groups.

However, mob lynching was not defined as a crime under the British-era Indian Penal Code.

In 2018, the Supreme Court, the top court in the country condemned the increasing cases of mob lynching and sought a separate law to ensure severe punishments.

The federal government tabled a bill in parliament in August this year prescribing severe punishments, including the death penalty, for the crime. The bill is pending approval.

Many states including Manipur, West Bengal, and Rajasthan passed bills since 2018 to prevent mob lynching.  But they are awaiting approval from India's president.

“There is no law to contain such organized crime but the government [of Madhya Pradesh] is ready with the compensation package,” Paul noted.

He said the government should first enact a law. “Then there will be no need for compensation,” Paul added.

Madhya Pradesh ruled by the BJP for nearly two decades is going to polls this year.

India too is going to the polls next year and Modi is seeking a third consecutive term.

“This should not remain a political announcement ahead of the elections,” said a Christian leader who did not want to be named.

Madhya Pradesh government officials, however, said that the government was serious about the move and that the compensation would be paid within 30 days of a mob lynching incident.

“No doubt it is a welcome step,” said Daniel John, a Catholic leader based in the state’s capital Bhopal.

“It is going to be a great help as most of the victims are from marginalized communities,” John told UCA News.

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