A semi-starved nation can have neither religion, nor art nor organization.—M. K. Gandhi
There is no connection between mob violence and democracy. It seems that the streets of our nation today are in the reign and under the total control of lynching mobs. In this month alone (June 2017) we witnessed four gruesome lynchings— that of the 15 year old boy Junaid in Haryana and of a 52 year old lady and three young men in West Bengal! Certainly, the lynching mobs can be nothing but gang of psychopathic criminals. In Kerala, on Valentine’s Day this year, a gang of ‘moral police’ appeared in Ernakulam Marine Drive and caned young men and women celebrating Valentine’s Day. When the hooligans were arrested, it was revealed that many of them are accused in sexual exploitation cases. The lynching mindset exposes the alarming rot within and you can’t cover the rot within with the tricks like demonetisation and Mann ki Bat rhetoric.
Lynching has originated in North America. The hordes of white settlers who swarmed the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries first lynched and eliminated the Native Americans to rob their lands. Millions of Native Americans perished. The next victims were the African Americans. 3,446 African Americans were lynched between 1882 and 1968. If we fail to arrest this dangerous mindset which is similar to the Jihadi mindset of the outfits like the IS, India’s legacy of being a great syncretic nation of tolerance and diversity will be tarnished irreparably. To stem the menace, we have to understand it properly.
The Mahatma is the only politician who said that ‘whatever can be useful to starving millions is beautiful to my mind…I want art and literature that can speak to millions.’
In The Story of my Experiments with Truth, the Mahatma writes: “Bhitiharva was a small village …I happened to visit a smaller village in its vicinity and found some of the women dressed very dirtily. So I told my wife to ask them why they did not wash their clothes. She spoke to them. One of the women took her into her hut and said: ‘Look now, there is no box or cupboard here containing other clothes. The sari I am wearing is the only one I have. How am I to wash it? Tell Mahatmaji to get me another sari, and I shall then promise to bathe and put on clean clothes every day.’ This cottage was not an exception, but a type to be found in many Indian villages. In countless villages in India people live without any furniture, and without a change of clothes, merely with a rag to cover their shame.” (Part V, Chapter XVIII, ‘Penetrating the Villages’)
Today we talk about smart cities bullet trains and ‘cashless’ economy. We have tried to make India shining. We are going to make India a super-power by 2020. But still we can see millions of people in our country in the condition described by the Father of the Nation nearly a century ago. And we are busy with lynching people. The irony is that both the people who are lynching and who are lynched belong to the same strata of society—Lower middle class or poor.
We create nuclear bombs and provide Wi-Fi facility in trains and try to make India Digital to facilitate the needs of the elites at the cost of the poor and the needy, devastating the Environment which provides them at least their livelihood. And we celebrate development. The vast millions of ordinary people who are not the beneficiaries of the corporate oriented development are given the ‘duty’ of protecting cows and culture. And they know only the culture of violence. They are happy to mete out punishment to the ‘enemies’ of the nation—the poor and the hapless, the victims of the development just like the lynching mobs. Actually they don’t understand or realise that the real enemies of the nation are those who rule them and serve the corporate interests instead of helping to ameliorate their living conditions.
People are the bedrock of democracy, but in the present day India, we witness democracy being pushed to mobocracy by the people. It means democracy is being stifled by the people with the active support of the ruling political parties. This is a recurring occurrence in India. The British instigated the Indians to fight and kill each other on the streets in the name of religion in order to mitigate the threat to their power. In independent India we saw this mob violence in its ugliest form in the 1984 killings of the innocent Sikhs in Delhi. Every political party encourages this mob violence. Each political party criticises mob violence only when the ‘mob’ does not subscribe to their ideology or is not affiliated to them.
What is to be radically changed is the attitude of each political party towards violence and its uses for furthering their own ‘notion’ of democracy which is always pathetically sectarian, intolerant, nepotistic and exclusive.
Sukumaran C. V. is a former JNU student and his articles on gender, communalism and environmental degradation are published in many publications. Email: email@example.com