Uh-oh, I’m getting soppy in my old age. I see a perfectly draggable man being dragged by his right foot by a 350 cc mobike on prime time TV and I sit up. No one’s dead. No one’s turned India into a client State. No one’s even vociferously complained about prison food. It’s just a man, already moistened by a lynch mob who’s being dragged.
Now I’ve seen a few dragging sequences in my life. The old Robert Wise technicolour epic Helen of Troy has a wonderful sequence where Achilles drags the slain body of Hector tied to his chariot. (Brad Pitt in a skirt in the more recent Troy manages to make even this sequence crackle with homo-erotic frisson.) Then there’s Shakti Kapoor in another movie — whose name and plot and everything else I’ve forgotten — dragging a man tied to the end of his jeep. And yet, there I was, horribly blasé about pretty much everything else (including Salman Khan’s brave jaunt to Jodhpur) except for a small, silly incident in Bhagalpur.
It turns out that the dragee was a small-time crook by the name of Aurangzeb a.k.a Salim and the dragger was Assistant Sub-Inspector of Police of Nathnagar Police Station, L.B. Singh. Aurangzeb had been caught some 25 minutes before snatching a woman’s chain. While some spoilsport had called the nearest police station, the dependable mob, lacking pitchforks, torches or even a castle to march menacingly towards, started beating up the 50-odd kg man. The 50-odd kg man, as I might as well state here lest I be branded a jholawalla despite carrying a translucent satchel that I got from the Swiss cultural centre, was a rickshawpuller by profession who was quite well-known in the locality as a petty thief. This was the third time that the law would catch up with him — not before a communal (in the original sense of ‘community’) thrashing, of course.
Now I checked with a television journalist based in Patna whose channel, like all the other national TV channels, had procured the footing of the episode in Bhagalpur from a local cable TV channel team that had rushed to the site to capture the last six-seven minutes of the festive event. It turns out that the two policemen who arrived at the scene of the ‘vigilante villagers’ pulled Aurangzeb out of the whirpool of public wrath and started thrashing him with a stick themselves. My TV journo insists that that was the limit of the policemen’s crime. “The putting a rope round the man’s right foot and pushing him off the bike while the bike had started rolling was the handiwork of someone in the crowd,” he said.
Phew! Just when I was starting to have ideas about the police I have been corrected from forming a stereotypical notion. But why didn’t the suspended police clarify the last bit later? It turns out that Aurangzeb, our bashed-up dragee was a Muslim. (Oh!) And ASI L.B. Singh and constable Ranchandra Rai were Hindu. (Oh!) So...
Which now clears the air so much. A few days later when I saw another character attacked by another mob, I was prepared. A woman was ‘caught’ on hidden camera running a dodgy sex racket thing with children in the school she taught in. The mob came — fog-like and with Mossad-type force — and dragged her out of the school and beat her up. The police arrived a bit late (with her, for her, sometimes), and somehow managed to disallow anyone from tying the woman’s foot to any motorcycle.
Which makes Aurangzeb a.k.a. Salim my nomination for the Taurus 2008 World Stunt Awards. Until the mob throws up the next star stuntman. And please don’t be lily-livered and tell me that talking about a thing is more shocking than the thing itself. Or, even lilier-livered, that showing it on telly has now spawned a whole generation of kids dragging other kids with their cycles.