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EDITORIAL: Rule Of The Mob

It doesn’t need the intelligence or specialization or expertise of rocket science technology to understand that there is something basically wrong with the Government when its citizens increasingly start to take the law into their own hands and mobocracy becomes the thumb rule, rather than the exception. It is difficult to understand mob mentality and very difficult to control a mob, and this is the reason why the Government has in its armament non-lethal, but nevertheless effective devices such as the mock bomb, the smoke bomb, water cannon and rubber bullets etc. Again this is the reason why special units are set up within the police department to specifically deal with mobs and the personnel have to undergo intensive training to be counted as one among the mob control cops!

It is difficult to understand why a crowd of people should suddenly turn mad and transform into a mob but there are certain points that go along with every mob that one hears about. One is the sensitivity of the issue involved, the overall nature and mentality of the people who have gathered in one place, the influence of the silent but penetrative voice that goads the crowd to let go of all their deep rooted sense of frustration and desperation, the social and economic profile of the people gathered,  and most importantly the presence of a Government which has failed to deliver  justice and a police force, which is just too complacent to act timely and understand when the situation is likely to turn ugly.

Generally the mob mentality is absent among the people of Manipur, but recent incidents have clearly demonstrated that this may no longer be the case. There is no room for discussion with a mob, there is no chance to reason with a crowd of people which has suddenly transformed into a mob and the dicey part is, it is extremely difficult to pin point anyone after a mob has “done its job.” This is the reality and hence the best remedy is prevention and nothing more or nothing less. This is the reason, why District Magistrates are given the authority to clamp prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC which invariably means banning the gathering of four or more people at one place, moving around with any object which may be used as tools of destruction and curfew when the situation warrants, which is a more intense form of the restrictions placed under Section 144.

Curfews are usually imposed when there has been a bitter confrontation between peoples or between the citizens and the Government, when there has been loss of properties in the mayhem unleashed by some angered souls and in anticipation of trouble and violence breaking out over a simmering issue. These are some of the tools which have been honed by the Government as part of their mechanisms to counter or neutralize any possibility of mob violence breaking out. However experience has taught us that it is not the tools available with the Government that ultimately counts, but how effectively these tools are utilized by the Government agencies to thwart any attempt to build up an atmosphere which is conducive for a crowd of people to turn into a mob.

Mob violence is not just a manifestation of the people taking the law into their own hands, but also has something to do with the culture of violence prevalent in a society. A look around will be more than enough to drive home the point that mob violence are more likely to occur when there is a sensitive issue involved, such as deep divides along community and religious lines. It may also be pre-programmed in certain cases and this is where the term pogrom comes into prominence. The debate about what happened at Gujarat at the turn of the new century, following the Godhra incident, is itself an explanation of how mob violence can be interpreted. Some see the Gujarat carnage as a natural retribution for what happened to some Hindu sadhus on a train in Godhra, where they were allegedly burnt to death, after some Muslim fundamentalists set a coach on fire.

What the country, in particular, Delhi witnessed after Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own body guards is something that will not be easily forgotten, not only because of the killing and pain and trauma that numerous Sikh families had to undergo, but also for the unmistakable hand of political patronage in the carnage. The ghost of the anti-Sikh riot is yet to be exorcised and many politicians in Delhi are still under the heat of the fire that was lit after Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated.

In Manipur, we have not seen riots or mob violence of such a magnitude as the ones seen in other parts of the country, but yet there is the uneasy feeling that this is catching on amongst the people here. What happened at Sora sometime back, in which a couple was lynched to death by a mob after the killing of a Zilla Parishad member is the latest example that we can cite. To the mob, nothing else mattered except the deliverance of justice and who better than to target the prime suspects in the first case?

That the couple became the prime suspects as soon as news of the killing of the Zilla Parishad member started doing the round is a matter that needs some more probing or investigation, but as we have said before, there is just no way that one can attempt to reason with a mob, blinded as they are by hatred, which may spring forth from some genuine sentiments or from some imagined ones. Deliverance of justice is what the mob seemed to be after when they lynched the couple one after the other, but suffice it to say that just as a mob is blind and deaf to all reasoning the justice delivered or thought so by the mob cannot be called justice under any circumstances.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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