Among the many admirable traits Indians have, perhaps none defines us better than our propensity for mob violence.
We love being part of violent mobs.
There are enough instances where this has been demonstrated – across the length and breadth of the country. Various pundits have waxed eloquent on this remarkable manifestation of the Indian character. They talk about such probable causes as frustration (either with our lot or the redressal system), a weak and apathetic administration and police force, rabble-rousing politicians and a host of other reasons. I think they all miss the point. We indulge in mob violence because we are like that only.
We are a nation of very timid individuals, but violent mobs. All that shit about Indians, as a nation, being peace-loving and passive is just that – shit. We love the idea of violence, but being smart, we also know that in a violent situation, there is the probability – however small – that we might get hurt ourselves. So, being rational and cerebral and all of that, we seek to minimise that probability. (Thus, we also excel in incidents of individual violence where the threat to us is non-existent. As individuals, we cleverly target all who can’t hit back – women, children, the weak and downtrodden, certain animals…). We endeavour to get that particular variable – the possibility of physical harm to oneself – out of the equation. And the ingenious, inventive and innovative (in these matters) Indian brain hit upon a great concept – mob violence. And we have even managed to give it the respectability of a legitimate form of democratic protest. Wah bhai wah!
The sheer brilliance of the concept is breathtaking. What better way of ensuring zero probability of physical harm to ourselves while indulging in all kinds of violent activities than being part of a mob? In a mob you’re protected. Both from physical harm to yourself, and the other consequent post-violence irritants. Since mob violence has been co-opted into our great democratic tradition, it is today a legitimate expression of the anger of the people, sanctified by years of public and individual apathy.
So whether we want to protest about some cartoons we’ve never seen, or some painting we’ve never looked at, some film we’ve never watched or just some view that we don’t agree with – there is nothing more democratic and equitable (redistribution of wealth and all that!) than a little loot and arson.
Or when we are hurt about the government not including our caste or tribe in the reserved list, we show our displeasure by rioting and destroying public property. Or as members of a political party, we call a bandh and violently enforce it.
Or if, in our never-ending and noble quest to build a crime-free society, we lynch a few alleged thieves – that’s just us taking our civic responsibilities seriously.
Or when we don’t like what’s written in a newspaper we set fire to the newspaper’s office with people inside it. Third-degree burns and death – both powerful and effective means of democratic persuasion. Dead people don’t write negative articles, do they?
In the safety of numbers, these brave Indians go around smashing windshields and stores, burning buses, cars and offices, attacking hapless bystanders and lynching thieves.
In a gleeful, cathartic frenzy, we hit, we lynch, we rape, we loot, we burn, we destroy. And we get away.
We get away on two levels. First, being part of a rampaging mob means our victims pose no physical threat to us. Second, we are always protected against any aftermath by being part of a political, social, religious, caste-based or linguistic group that was expressing a form of democratic protest. We’re a democracy. There’s immunity in numbers in this country.
So let’s continue strengthening the democratic tradition and building a better country by assaulting defenceless people and indulging in a little loot and arson. Let us continue being the brave Indians we are.