Mobs rule. And democratically elected governments, standing aside, watch the events as mute spectators. This ‘misrule’ is costing lives and paving the way for mass anarchy in India.
Most recently in Alwar, Rajasthan, a mob lynched Rakbar Khan, alias Akbar, and left him for dead. He was suspected of smuggling cows, as was Pehlu Khan about a year before him in the same district. Rakbar was but another addition to the list of people who have fallen victim to crude manifestation of collective rage. Or is it manufactured rage? In the case of Rakbar, the circumstances of his death give even greater cause for worry as the police itself has come under scanner for possible inhumane neglect of his condition. Reports suggest the police had shown greater care and speed in getting the cows that Rakbar was accused of smuggling to a shelter than in getting the injured man to a hospital. Also, the police are said to have taken a tea break before proceeding to a nearby hospital, where Rakbar was declared brought dead. The post-mortem examination report indicates that Rakbar died of injuries sustained in the attack, including fractures to his wrist and femur.
Even as controversy over the death of Rakbar rages on, a leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has stated that the cause of trouble is the slaughter of cows, and an end to the practice would also bring mob lynchings to an end. A form of mobocracy perpetrated by self-styled vigilantes and encouraged by the silence of the people in government and administration to such incidents is spreading mistrust and fear; and leading to the death of many innocents. It is also true that people in general are becoming more intolerant and acting on impulse.
The government was forced to speak out against spreading of hate on social media platforms such as WhatsApp after fake videos circulated on the app had led to lynchings. Rumours of child-lifters being on the prowl have led to several cases of mob attacks in recent times. WhatsApp has also responded to Indian government’s notice by announcing that it is testing a new feature that would limit the number of times a message can be forwarded to five. However, such initiatives may not suffice to end the spread of mob violence. Even in states such as West Bengal, Tripura, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, instances of mob fury are not uncommon. Many a migrant worker has had to pay with his life for perceived wrongs. Such fury has not spared even mentally deranged persons caught committing petty theft or other such acts, often to just assuage their hunger.
Mob lynchings led by ‘gau rakshaks’ or cow vigilantes is a fairly new phenomenon with the Hindutva agenda of the BJP government taking centre stage and even being misinterpreted or twisted in many cases. However, cases of mob fury are not exactly new. They have been happening sporadically across the country in recent times. To address the issue, it will not suffice to bring about changes in law. Change should happen at a broader social level, where people would be ready to place their faith in the legal machinery and justice system.
Most people are unaware that the poor Hindoo farmer is usually the one who sells his non milching cows to these traders. The traders, unfortunately, invariably happen to be Moslems who further sell these cows or bullocks to slaughterhouses. These slaughterhouses then sell the meat and the skin. Most of us wear shoes and sandals made of cowhide. These lynch mobs, by their deadly attacks on the traders are disrupting the economic chain that sustains the poor Hindoo farmers in the rural belts. If the traders do not buy the old animals, the farmers are incapable to get hold of seed money to buy new pair of bullocks or cows. They are financially burdened to feed and medicate the old animals. This load forces the farmers to let the animals roam free and graze in the farmlands, destroying crops and trees. Not only is the Hindoo farmer deprived of income which, till recently, he was getting by selling old animals but his crops are being damaged by unwanted animals roaming and grazing around all over in large hordes. The lynch mobs are, in the terminology of Uddhav Thackeray the Shiv Sena boss, ‘agents of Pakistan’.
At present, the country with its burgeoning population and widening inequalities, is bursting at its seams. A large segment of the populace is still deprived of basics of what would be considered a moderate quality of life.
Illiteracy is rampant and unemployment also ensures there are enough people waiting around to act under the slightest provocation. Although we take great pride in our numbers, especially when it comes to the youth, there are too many idle minds which can create the devil’s workshop at a moment’s notice. India’s much tom-tommed ‘Demographic Dividend’ is most probably turning out to be Demographic Disaster.
Indians have never been a disciplined race. In fact, it was this inherent mass indiscipline that unnerved the British when Mahatma Gandhi directed it against the rulers as the civil disobedience movement. Gandhi probably knew it too well that Indians would be incapable of fighting a war as disciplined soldiers. Disobedience was deeply ingrained in the Indian psyche much before it stumped the British. Times however have changed. There are no foreign rulers to overthrow. It is just us. And in much greater number than before. No matter what the odds and what it takes, be it changing the education system, creating awareness with long standing campaigns and coming down heavily against unruly mob behaviour, discipline needs to be instilled in the present and next generation of Indians. Otherwise, we will become a nation that would need no enemy. The enemy within would be enough to destroy the country from inside out.