It was amusing to see the ruckus created by the French in the streets of Paris after their national team won the FIFA World Cup on Sunday. The rampage it led to, the resulting rubble on the streets made be happy in my tummy. I know it isn’t very rational to feel happy for such things, but, for once I saw news reports in the newspapers that were talking about “mob” mentality that had nothing to do with India or its citizens. That’s how used to I was to reading such news items every morning.
Earlier today, the Supreme Court of India has called the brute power of the mob employed in running the country as “mobocracy”. Oxford dictionary will surely see many more words coming its way from India going by the way Indian society pushes our vocabulary, forcing us to coing newer words that are relevant mostly, if not ‘only’, to India. Move over kebabs and curries, I say!
Well, mobocracy isn’t the only word we’ve given the Queen’s tongue in the recent times. Although, we can’t match up to the ridiculous levels of Trump’s Covfefe (that word deserved to be the best of the year), we also came up with “sickular” (a person claiming to be secular but isn’t) and gave a whole new meaning to the world “liberals” (people who are sickular).
That said, it’s disheartening and scary, at the same time, to see the mob mentality grow over the last couple of years. Mob lynching has become a way of life in this proud democracy, and seems to have the backing of the establishment in most cases. Lynching, as a reaction to events, took a firm footing in the daily business when the current NDA government came into being, unknowingly giving wings to a large number of fringe groups and lower cadre “activists”. The first few incidents were due to rumours of people eating / possessing beef.
Mob lynching saw a rise in 2015-16, with a large number of cases happening in succession, most of them related to illegal cattle trading, suspected trafficking of cattle for beef production. Those were the times when our liberals debated endlessly on how the establishment was backing such mobs because of the hidden “Hindutva” agenda.
It’s 2018, and it looks like the mob has moved on from cows, or has spread the disease of lynching to surroundings. This year, most lynching cases have been due to false messages forwarded on WhatsApp, spreading rumours of child kidnappers roaming around the town. It’s ridiculous, yes, but in a country that’s seeing rapid modernization in terms of access to latest technologies, education and common sense have not kept pace with.
“With great power comes great responsibility” Uncle Ben said once. Not many realize how powerful a tool like WhatsApp is and how that power can be misused. In Bengaluru, the mob killed a migrant labourer who couldn’t successfully convince the mob that he wasn’t a child kidnapper. In the north-eastern state of Assam, two local tourists were lynched in a village outskirts because of such rumours, even though they spoke the local language. In Bidar, 600 kms north of Bengaluru, a software engineer from Hyderabad was lynched and his friends were injured two days ago. The mob in Bidar went to the extent of chasing the car the victims were travelling in motorcycles, threw blankets on the car’s windsheild to pull the car off the road and make it crash into a ditch and then pulled out the occupants to lynch them – all of this due to a false message mindlessly forwarded on WhatsApp.
It’s unfortunate that the governments have done little more than warning WhatsApp (the company) to tackle this issue instead of mass-educating people, on a war footing, on how to use technology responsibly, on how to differentiate between truth and rumours. The Supreme Court is now calling for a separate law on lynching exposing the failure of the police and the governments in ensuring proper and strict implementation of existing laws. WhatsApp, on its part, is releasing page-long advertisements in newspapers hoping people will learn to identify a message’s truthfulness.
In Tuticorin, the mob was so powerful that it brought down India’s largest copper smelting unit, the government wrongly supported the mob by shutting down the plant.
Mass education and strict implementation of laws are the need of the hour to save India, its democracy and its citizens from mobocracy. I’m now wondering if it’s safe at all to travel in my SUV outside Bengaluru, I’m afraid I could be the victim of lynching too. Rural India is predominantly naive, they need help.
Elsewhere, in Indonesia’s Papua islands, a mob has culled 300 crocodiles in a private crocodile farm because the crocodiles had killed ONE human being who had entered the farms in search of fodder for his cattle. The villagers want the farm to be moved out because the area is residential in nature.
I don’t know if I should be guilty of being happy because the mob is rising outside India, or mourn the death of all those victims – humans and crocodiles alike!
I just feel humans are de-evolving, degenerating as social beings.