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Every third Indian policeman finds mob lynchings a ‘natural’ response to cow slaughter: Survey

On June 18, a Muslim cattle trader was lynched on suspicion of cow slaughter in Hapur, Uttar Pradesh. | PTI

A new survey reveals the biases among India’s police forces.

Every third Indian police person thinks it is natural “to a large extent” or “somewhat” – for a mob to punish culprits when there is a case of cow slaughter, a new survey has revealed. These data correlate with the findings of a FactChecker.in database that tracks such violence: police had charged victims in 28% of 133 cow-related attacks since 2012.

The survey, conducted by Common Cause and Lokniti–Centre for the Study Developing Societies, a nonprofit and a think tank, respectively, based in New Delhi, was part of the Status of Policing in India Report 2019, released on August 28. Researchers interviewed 11,834 police personnel across 105 locations in 21 states between February and April. The survey covered the personnel’s opinions over the adequacy of police infrastructure and their perception over several types of crimes and different sections of the society.

The question posed in the survey was, “In your opinion, to what extent is it natural for the mob to punish the culprits on their own when there is a case of cow slaughter?”

The choices given to the respondents were: to a large extent, somewhat, rarely and not at all.

Across 21 states, 15% respondents said they think mob violence over cow slaughter is natural to a large extent, while 20% chose somewhat natural, 16% chose rarely and 46% chose not at all.

There was an 8-percentage point difference between senior officers and constables: 28% officers said it was natural to a large extent or somewhat, while 36% of constables said so.

Source: Status of Policing in India 2019, a report by Common Cause and Lokniti–Centre for the Study Developing Societies*

Jharkhand had the highest percentage – 66% – of personnel who said such violence was natural to a large extent or somewhat natural, followed by Madhya Pradesh where 63% personnel thought so, Karnataka where 57% personnel thought so and Andhra Pradesh where 52% personnel thought so. West Bengal had the least with only 3% personnel who thought so, followed by Nagaland at 4% and Punjab at 9%.

Madhya Pradesh had the highest percentage – 39% – of police personnel who said such so-called punishment is natural to a large extent. Punjab had the highest percentage of those who said it is not at all natural.

The findings of this report find resonance on the ground in a series of cow-related hate crimes where police have acted more decisively against victims than against the mob.

Since 2012, at least 133 cow-related attacks were reported nationwide, leading to 50 deaths and more than 290 injuries, according to a FactChecker.in database that records such attacks. About 98% or 130 of the crimes recorded in the database, built with English media reports and on-ground verification, took place after 2014 when the Bharatiya Janata Party first came to power at the Centre.

Muslims comprise 57% of the victims, Dalits account for 9% and Hindus form 9% of those attacked in cow-related hate violence. Among those murdered, 74% were Muslim and 20% were Hindus including Dalits.

In more than a quarter – or 37 of 133 cow-related hate crimes – police have filed cases against victims of such attacks under prevailing cattle-protection laws in the respective states. About 99.38% of Indians currently live in areas under cow-protection laws, as IndiaSpend reported on April 14, 2017.

About 58% of these attacks took place in states which had a BJP government at the time of the attack, 14% in Congress-ruled states.

The latest such attack was recorded in Khandwa, in Southern Madhya Pradesh, where a Bajrang Dal mob attacked 25 men for transporting cattle, chained them together, abused them while chanting “Gau mata ki jai [hail mother cow],” as FactChecker.in reported on July 9.

While a case had also been filed against the attackers who brought the group of 25 men to the station, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for unlawful restraint, obscene acts or words in public, voluntarily causing hurt, and a criminal act done by several persons, “given that it was a bailable offence, they have now been bailed”, police said.

Prior to this, on May 22 in Seoni, South Eastern MP, a group of men including the district administrator of the Sri Ram Sena, an off-shoot of the Vishva Hindu Parishad, attacked a Hindu man and his two Muslim friends for allegedly carrying beef, as FactChecker.in reported on May 27. In this case, as well, police booked the victims for possession of beef though the type of meat was yet to be tested and verified.

In Jharkhand, three months after a 55-year-old Christian tribal was lynched by a mob of Hindu villagers for carving up an ox, the local police charge sheet revealed that the deceased and three other victims of the mob attack have been charged for bovine slaughter and possessing bovine meat under sections of the Jharkhand Bovine Animal Slaughter Act, 2005 and the Animal Cruelty Act, 1960, FactChecker reported on August 1. The charge sheet also features testimonies of police informants, as well as many other witnesses, including the owner of the dead ox – all of whom maintained that the bovine was long dead before the villagers carved it.

While the surviving three victims had not yet been arrested, they could be, after the June 17 rejection of their anticipatory bail petitions.

Previously in June, FactChecker.in reported on how the police investigations into many such attacks in Jharkhand were marked by callousness and partisan behaviour, often leading to fatal consequences.

* Figures include personnel who said such violence was “natural to a large extent” and “somewhat natural”.

This story  first appeared on IndiaSpend.com here.