Jharkhand lynching: Our outrage is selective, and also possibly discriminatory

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By, New Delhi
May 21, 2017 01:28 PM IST

India hasn’t reacted to the lynching of Jharkhand villagers with rage, maybe because the incident didn’t take place in any of India’s big cities or the victims don’t belong to a particular religion or caste, or the crime is not connected to cows.

Jharkhand is more than a thousand kilometre away from Delhi and as expected, we haven’t been shaken much by what the eastern state witnessed this week.

Locals protest lynching of seven people by a mob in Jamshedpur.(Manoj Kumar/HT Photo)
Locals protest lynching of seven people by a mob in Jamshedpur.(Manoj Kumar/HT Photo)

In a day-long orgy of violence triggered by a WhatsApp message spreading unfounded rumours of traffickers on the prowl to abduct children, villagers in the interiors of Jharkhand turned into blood-thirsty killers and lynched seven people.

A week earlier, other villagers had killed two others in the same region. The victims begged and pleaded to be spared, but the mob was unsparing. The crime was as brutal as it could get.

Yet, India hasn’t reacted with rage and though the story found mention on the front pages of most newspapers, reactions have been muted.

But imagine if seven innocent men were beaten to death in any of India’s big cities and the possible impact? Or worse, if the victims belonged to a particular religion or caste, or the crime was connected to cows?

Our response to a tragedy can be measured by the distance between India and Bharat. Both the perpetrators of the crime and the victims were presumably poor, illiterate and marginalised. But as we don’t consider ourselves to be like them, the incident was of little consequence to us, the people sitting in the comforts of major metros.

It would, of course, have been a far bigger story had the murderous mob stopped in the morning after killing three Muslim traders. That would have fitted into the current dominant narrative on rising communal strife sweeping the country. But by evening, several Hindus also fell victim to the mindless violence, and the story lost its sting .

The media coverage of the incident has been perfunctory and is likely to taper off in a few days. There has been no outpouring of collective outrage and there have been no concerted calls to bring the culprits to book.

This just goes to show that our outrage is selective, and also possibly discriminatory.

We chose our subjects carefully, keeping our own interests, biases and that of the audience in mind. Sad that the seven men who died did not seize our imagination.

For a crime to be of any consequence to us, it must now fulfill many criteria. Religious and political contexts are guaranteed ways of capturing our attention. It is even better if crimes involve celebrities.

The men whose lives were snuffed out in Jharkhand did not fall within any of these categories. Besides dying a dog’s death, they also died in vain.


    Ruben was part of Hindustan Times’ nationwide network of journalists that brings news, analysis and information to its readers. He no longer works with the Hindustan Times.

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