Mobocracy Alive

The series of mob violence in the world’s largest democracy, as reported, is a matter of concern and begs for an appropriate intervention of a State system that appears to be awfully short of public confidence at the moment. A recent incident in the State of Bihar where a petty criminal was dragged in open daylight and mercilessly beaten up by an infuriated mob and abetted by policemen in uniform and just yesterday, another shocking incident was flashed across the national media of how a mob pierced and gouged out the eyes of three motorcycle-snatchers in a village in northern India. It has to be made clear at the outset that as far as mob justice goes, no can condone it because it is barbaric and does not conform to what a civil society ought to follow. However, it is perceived by many, that people take the law into their hands because the system has failed them. And since the public knows that it cannot get due justice therefore this mob mentality to take recourse to rough but quick justice.

Public debate and awareness on this issue is vital if we are to address the problem. The mainstream media in India has rightly taken note of mob violence being reported from across the country last week. A north Indian city was in the news recently when a child needing immediate medical attention succumbed after the family was held up in a road blockade following clashes between two political parties. Recently in Tuensang mobs stormed a police station and took the law into their own hands. And in all these cases, because the government yields to violence and disorder, democracy becomes mobocracy and the rule of law becomes a mockery. And what should concern the State even more is that people vent grievances through street protests and intimidation instead of constitutional processes, which itself speaks about the lack of public confidence in the system itself. 

Another disturbing trend being noticed is that, while some of the mob uprisings are spontaneous and no one can do anything about it, in many other cases, it is the political groups which instigate the so called lumpen elements. One need not look further than the recent incident in Hyderabad, when controversial author Taslima Nasreen was attacked by politicians and protesters—some of whom were elected members of the state’s legislative assembly. These are without a doubt, worrying signs for the future of a functioning democracy. It will also be appropriate to mention here that besides some of the cause attributed to mob theory as mentioned, we cannot ignore the fact that people are more likely to become mobs in a climate of impunity and long festering discontents and further accentuated by political uncertainty in which the forces of violence thrive. Unless the political climate improves, it is likely that people will become victims of mob mentality created by the ever increasing level of fear and violence.

While no doubt the State is often perceived as corrupt and ill-equipped to deal with citizens’ complaints on time, a greater level of awareness has to be created among the public against resorting to mob violence and brute force. The public at large should be guarded against being misguided and misled by vested interest persons through rumour mongering and provocation. Civil society therefore needs to be better informed about such issues and to remain vigilant against those who propagate a culture of violence driven by their ideology of hate.