Mob Attacks in India: Myth and Reality

Mob violence or mob attacks seem to be increasing with every month in India. More than ever these kinds of incidents are in news every week. Recently, a number of hospitals and doctors were attacked by mobs and it is continuing. Mob attacks by Kashmiri youths or cow protection groups attacking people every now and then are in the news continuously.  It is getting nasty day by day. If mobs keep on beating up people based on their judgement of right and wrong, then soon we will not need judiciary.

Photo: www.dnaindia.com

Myth and reality:

Mob attacks are the safest way of committing violence. It provides anonymity. Although there are a few who instigate the violence, many join in for the sake of destroying because they know they won’t be caught or have to pay for anything they destroy. Then destroying other’s property becomes a pleasurable act than roused by any genuine cause. What they might not do as individuals they do as part of a group.

Many claim that mob attacks happen in order to bring some kind of social change or in response to some kind of injustice done to them. But is it really true? We need to go little deeper to understand this. Would people with a genuine sense of justice or social change destroy property or endanger the lives of people in no way related to the injustice experienced by them? People with a genuine sense of justice and social change always will go for peaceful demonstrations and advocacy. It has changed things in past and will always bring change. Things that won’t change by peaceful demonstration will not change through riots, it will only worsen the matter and create more chaos, destruction of properties and lives. People justify mob attacks and violence by saying they were frustrated. If frustration justifies such behaviour then all of us would be rioters.

The other tragic thing in India is that there many organised groups who instigate such mob violence. Anyone and everyone is allowed to form a group to protect their interests. Most of the time these groups protect their interest through violence such as mass destruction of properties, attacking individuals or people and even by killing. Many times these groups are affiliated to political parties and function with their approval. When hooligans get the licence to do what they want to do, we can only hope for the best.

Sometimes when mob attack happens in one place, feckless reporters go around glorifying and justifying the actions of the mob. Such messages carry with them an entitlement that legitimises lawlessness elsewhere. This is what is happening in the attack on medical professionals. The direct result of incompetent reporting of the issues has been encouraging people everywhere to do so without a second thought.

Some say it is hopelessness of people that instigates mob violence. But in reality, hopelessness produces passivity, the opposite of violence. People who want to be violent will cause violence anyway and keep on looking for opportunities to engage in violence. Neither does the unbearability of social condition causes mob attacks. People are violent because they want to be violent.

Mob attacks in the hospital or during road accidents are justified as it is out of their concern and care for the victim. But in reality, except a  few close family members, no one else cares genuinely about the victim. Generally, in a road accident, people in the mob will be more interested in beating up the person than taking the victim to a hospital. There are others who are not in the mob would first think of taking the victim to the hospital but all violent people can think of is beating and breaking things. They attack because they want to do it not because they care about anyone or anything.

Can it be changed:

It must start with people accepting that mob attacks are wrong. Fundamental to eliminating mob violence is to identify it as criminality, rather than a social phenomenon. Approval of such things is aiding violent and anti-social elements in achieving their cause. Violence outside the law can only create more violence and it will not bring social justice and change. Such actions should be unacceptable by media, public institutions, community leaders, teachers, parents and police.

It is a failure of family and socialisation process. Families need to teach their members moral standards and appropriate social behaviour. We Indians always boast about our family values but what kind of values do we instil among our members? To go out and create chaos in the streets?

Now coming back to the organised and legally accepted groups that are constantly taking the law into their hands and involved in violent mob attacks? I don’t understand why the government is accepting such groups. Why such groups are taking state matters into their hands and trying to control things according to their own interests? Political parties who form governments in most of the states and centre control various such groups. Now you make your judgment, how the government will control hooligans? This is the only reason I am sceptical about brutal police action to control mob attacks. We have many cases in the past when such things have happened and police personnel have stood by doing nothing because they did not have orders to act.

When the legal consequences of mob violence are limited, especially amid chaos, we need stronger societal action to eliminate this behaviour. Mass media can be very effective if they choose to do so by mobilising public outrage toward those who disturb the fabric of social order. Along with media, local communities should identify such activities as shame to their community. Most of the people participate in mob attacks because it provides anonymity. Therefore, if community shames them in public before their family members they might not repeat the activity. But this to happen, communities need to be empowered, which at this point needs mass public education. School education has a vital role in addressing this issue as well.

Acting upon mob attacks is not as easy as it appears to be. It has deeper roots and complexities. After all, more than anything it is a moral issue, therefore, requires the change in moral standards. Transformation of hearts will bring transformation in the society.

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