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Mob lynchings: Indians must confront the violent national character destroying us

No, violence and abuse are not cool. We have to be as creative as Nelson Mandela and create a Ministry of Living Together in Peace

analysis Updated: Jun 30, 2017 07:50 IST
A 'Not in My Name' demonstration at Jantar Mantar,  New Delhi, June 28. Protests against targeted lynching took place in nine cities across India on June 28.
A 'Not in My Name' demonstration at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, June 28. Protests against targeted lynching took place in nine cities across India on June 28. (Raj K Raj/HT PHOTO)

I hazard that this will become known as the Decade of Rage. There is an epidemic of anger and violence. How did our national character evolve into this vicious citizen?

Videos viral with goons beating a mentally challenged woman, a police officer in Kashmir gets lynched when the mob believes he is Hindu, Muslim men get injured and one killed on a train, a man gets killed for not handing over his scooter keys, a minor kills another for liking the same girl he does, a man kills his wife on suspicion of infidelity, a woman Bobbitises a man for refusing to marry her, and all this in a period of one week. We have become the East in the Wild Wild West.

The post-colonial man in the 50s could be categorised as a man who was used to being bullied, intimidated by power, in today’s parlance, a loser. The fictional angry young man of the 70s Bollywood hits spoke truth to fictional cruel businessmen and corrupt politicians. It caught the public’s imagination because they had no voice and Amitabh Bachchan was doing what they would have liked to do but couldn’t. Today’s social media has given that voice a platform. But the tragedy is that instead of speaking truth to power, social media has become a platform for virulently turning on each other. TV channels are competing in fuelling outrage. The kings are amused and smirk while the foot soldiers beat each other up.

Protests against targeted lynching took place in nine cities across India on June 28. Will the message reach those who don’t think twice about killing someone? Protesters have been called an anti-Modi cabal. But PM Narendra Modi has strongly stated he disapproves of these killers marauding as gau rakshaks, calling them goons. So, the protests are actually in line with PM Modi. The protests are against mob violence. Yet goons presume an invisible green light from Modi.

It calls for drastic measures. When apartheid was removed, Nelson Mandela faced a resentful, divided South Africa. Dealing with it head on, he creatively established the Truth & Reconciliation Committee. It bled raw wounds and was controversial in giving amnesty to 1,500 perpetrators of humanitarian violations out of 7,000 applicants. But the nation moved on from a dreadful past. Today India must confront the violent national character that is destroying us. We have to be as creative as Mandela. Create a Ministry of Living Together in Peace. This would include programmes throughout the country to create a new culture of harmony. Create a nationwide media campaign on Vaishnav Janate’s 15 edicts in all the languages. Yes, this can be easily dismissed as Utopian dreams, fanciful, silly. It could be but what, indeed, will work?

Subramanian Swamy wrote in The Hindu (May 1, 2015) “If the youth are taught to develop their cognitive intelligence to become original thinkers; imbibe emotional intelligence to develop team spirit; inculcate moral intelligence to blend their personal ambitions with national goals; cultivate social intelligence to defend civic rights of the weak, defend gender equality, and develop the courage to fight injustice; and develop spiritual intelligence, then India can develop a superior species of human beings — youth who can be relied on to contribute to making the country a global power within the next two decades.”

Too many of our youth, on Twitter for certain and in mobs to an extent that is worrisome, gloat over the power to abuse and threaten. Are there a larger number who can be loud enough for sense to prevail? Can you disagree and protest but preserve the dignity of all, mostly your own? Do we have to behave like ravaging invaders, plundering all asunder?

Do we own this country or not? We could be silent. We could whine. But there is the choice that we could fix it.

Democracy is a continuous process. It’s a perennial invitation to make it work. The peace and safety we expect for ourselves is giving way to violent tribalism meted on the “other”. Your safety is as ephemeral as a fleeting dream. At any time, you could be pointed to as the “other”. When a mob’s finger points to you and says, “anti-national”, no one is safe. You could be a Bihari in Maharashtra, or a Tamil in UP, a Sikh in Gujarat, you could instantly become the “other”. Whoever faces that accusing finger, in that terrifying, portentous, frozen moment, we will all be DSP Mohammed Ayub Pandith.

Madhu Trehan is editor-in-chief, www.newslaundry.com

The views expressed are personal