Congress President Rahul Ghandi. Photo: AFP

According to a recent survey, Indian National Congress (INC) President Rahul Gandhi is the favorite alternative candidate to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, way ahead of other opposition stalwarts like Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati. But despite this, his poor logic continues to hurt his image. His recent comment in Germany that incidents of lynchings are attributable to demonetization, unemployment and the GST (Goods and Service Tax) is surely not something that is expected from a politician of his stature, one who leads a century-old party.

Obviously, the growing lynching problem is a black spot on our vibrant democracy and must be addressed urgently. But the problem deepens when sensitive issues like lynching are looked at through the prism of political opportunism – a competition of scoring more goals than the rival. Lynching is a complex issue and it should be handled carefully and with maturity. It is true that demonetization has not been successful, leaving the rural areas and the unorganized sector badly affected.

Many people lost their jobs due to demonetization. But how many jobs were created during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) time? Even the UPA-II government, in 2013, accepted that there was a lack of substantial jobs growth during its first tenure. Ironically, it was the same period when the country saw the highest GDP growth. It seems that the present National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is following the same line with the narrative of inclusive growth minus the growth of jobs, just like during the UPA tenure.

The cases of lynching reported are mainly due to two reasons – cow smuggling and child trafficking. Most of the cases are due to rumors in social media like Whatsapp, especially in the case of child trafficking. In cases related to cow smuggling, it is mostly Muslims who are lynched. In rural India, milk is one of the major sources of cash for farmers and it mainly comes from cows.

Cow’s milk is a major source of income for many in rural areas. That’s why the cow has been respected by Indians – mainly Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists – since ancient times. However, the illegal growth of slaughterhouses – despite the ban on killing cows – and successive governments’ ignorance of the issue are the main reasons for the growing problem of mob lynchings in the name of cow protection.

The current government’s policy of not making a clear distinction between legal and illegal slaughterhouses has only exacerbated the problem

If Muslims and Dalits (mostly Hindus) are under attack, Congress must accept responsibility for this, as it was once the de facto ruling party both centrally and in the states. Apart from that, the present tendency to turn a blind eye to lynching incidents has emboldened the mobs. Also, the current government’s policy of not making a clear distinction between legal and illegal slaughterhouses has only exacerbated the problem. The attacks are mostly painted with communal colors but the actual cause is the failure of successive governments, including the present one, to address the anger of the majority community and to protect the minority involved in the cattle business for their livelihood and ensure its members are aware of the existing laws governing cow slaughtering.

In the case of child trafficking, the reason is the rumored presence of suspicious people – especially “foreigners” – who might kidnap children. People have not suddenly turned into lynchers. It is because of social media that these incidents are highlighted and it is the main reason such gruesome incidents take place. These people have always been part of society; it is just that social media has put the spotlight on them.

Most of the people involved in such cases are illiterate and living in villages in the deep interior.  The actual reason for lynching is a lack of quality education. Will Rahul Gandhi acknowledge his party’s failure to provide education in the less developed parts of the country, which are today chiefly responsible for such criminal activities? Obviously, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cannot escape its responsibilities as it is the ruling party both in the center and in most of the states. The truth is, there have been no significant initiatives from the current government in regard to bringing quality education to the least developed areas.

In conclusion, none of the issues Gandhi mentioned are the exact causes of lynching; joblessness can be linked but not demonetization and the GST. Cases of lynching should be taken very seriously. However, enacting strict laws is not going to stop lynching unless the root causes of it are addressed sincerely by the government. Trying to score political points with a very sensitive issue like lynching should be avoided, as it makes the issue more complex due to the political and communal colors added to it.

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Sagarneel Sinha

Sagarneel Sinha is a freelance contributor from Tripura, India, who tweets @sagarneelsinha