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New Delhi: Editorials in English language papers largely focused on the startling lack of leaders decrying lynching and mob justice following sacrilege attempts in Punjab.
The Tribune led its editorial with a simple declaration – “Lynchings indefensible”.
Any malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings must be condemned in the strongest possible terms, the newspaper said, but the brutal killing of two persons demonstrates blatant disregard for the law.
The paper attributes blame to the SGPC for the Amritsar sacrilege incident, for allowing things to spin out of control. In the incident at Kapurthala district, the paper pointed out the gaps in evidence. It also highlights the role the upcoming elections will have to play in the handling of such cases.
“Sacrilege is an extremely emotive issue in Punjab, which had been rocked by a series of such happenings in 2015. With the state going to the polls early next year, vested interests might go all out to disrupt communal harmony.”
The Indian Express called the sacrilege attempt condemnable, but said that the crime that followed it – in a shrine recognised as the holiest among worshippers – was “chilling.”
While leaders across the spectrum, from the “SGPC chief to the Akal Takht jathedar, from a former five-time chief minister to the newest one,” have criticised the sacrilege attempt, they have “disturbingly, they have offered no words of horror or condemnation on those who clearly took the law into their own hands and beat the accused to death.”
The editorial notes that this silence serves the purpose of not antagonising sections of voters ahead of the election. It also adds:
“…while the possibility of the mob being emboldened by a climate of impunity to mete out instant vigilante justice is something that should worry everyone in a system governed by the rule of law, it is not the only danger that lies ahead.”
It stresses that the government must call “lynching by its name”.
The Times of India calls the aftermath of the lynchings “worrying”, using the same word as Express to describe the mob justice – “chilling”.
“Particularly reprehensible was Congress state unit chief Navjot Sidhu’s call for public execution of the sacrilege accused,” the newspaper said.
It also highlighted how police and CBI’s failure to solve the 2015 sacrilege incidents, “which remain a raw wound for many Sikhs,” have created conditions conducive to such violent mob action. But even then, the editorial says, “…[A] collective sense of justice not being done cannot be either a reason or an excuse for lynchings.”
The paper highlights the possibilities of exploiting such divides at a politically crucial time.
Its concerns over the law and order implications on the border state are also reflected in the editorial run by The Hindustan Times which called the mix of politics and religion in Punjab a “volatile” one.
The editorial, however, appeared to stress on Punjab’s borders, the disquiet brought by the state being the first line of defence, the election and the farmers’ protests – without noting if any of these could have influenced the brutal reactions to the sacrilege claim.
It ends with a call to investigate the sacrilege incidents – putting the lynchings in brackets – and unearth larger conspiracies, if any.
“Given the current context, the two incidents (and the lynchings) must be adequately and thoroughly investigated to understand the motivations, and, if there is a larger conspiracy, to identify the people and agencies behind it. Punjab should not be allowed to come to a boil – for that will be bad for all of India.”