Palghar Mob Lynching: How Did a Horrific Criminal Case Get a Communal Angle?

Social Commentary

Palghar Mob Lynching: How Did a Horrific Criminal Case Get a Communal Angle?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

It’s been four days since three men, including two wearing saffron robes, were brutally beaten and killed in Maharashtra’s Palghar district. But the emergence of shocking video footage on Sunday, has revived conversation around the latest case of senseless mob violence.

As is usually the case, much of this conversation went on to take both a communal and political flavour on Twitter, with hashtags like #JusticeForHinduSadhus and #UddhavWorstCMEver trending alongside #PalgharMobLynching for most of the day.

The incident has also led to several voices questioning why the crime was apparently downplayed by sections of the media, which reported a couple of days ago that the violence was sparked off by a rumour that the men were thieves.

It didn’t take too long for BJP leaders to join the conversation, with a few implying that the 110 adivasis who were arrested for the crime on the same day, had political backing and were carrying out “appeasement politics” on behalf of their “masters”.

This led to several hateful messages, including a few unfortunately calling for the deaths of more men.

Despite these very vocal claims, however, there seemed to be no communal angle to this act of violence. A number of reports — as well as the state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh — later clarified that both attackers and the victims belonged to the same community.

According to The Wire, the men who were attacked belonged to the “Shri Panch Dashnam Juna Akhara”, a nomadic tribal community. The report adds that this isn’t the first time members of the same community have been attacked by mobs in Maharashtra. In 2018, five persons were lynched in the tribal hamlet, Dhule.

Still, one religion in particular became the target of online trolls. Several tweeters used this incident to call out the country’s “secular” citizens, while others questioned why Muslims were choosing to remain silent. As a journalist pointed out…

With fake news emerging as the second most prolific virus in our country over the last few weeks of lockdown, no less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had to step in. The official PMO account tweeted on Sunday that our response to this pandemic should “attach primacy to brotherhood”.

Let’s hope his latest plea is met with the same enthusiasm as others have in the past.