TODAY -

Put the kibosh on ochlocracy

Andrew Heanngam Pamei *



It was a caliginous evenfall, a week syne, I was on my way back home on a Delhi metro train after class. To revivify myself again from the tedium of listening to a day-long class lecture coupled with half an hour metro journey, I plugged my headphones on, listening to music of my choice and simultaneously scrolling through the newsfeed on facebook. It was then a video clip popped up on the newsfeed shared by a facebook user from Manipur through an FB news page.

My curiosity to stay au courant, to be cognizant and sentient of what’s happening in my home state Manipur compelled me to play the video clip. Obverse to my anticipation for some good news, there streamed a video which flaunted a tear jerking and unimaginable cruelty of certain sections of people of Manipur. The short video happened to be about the incident that transpired at the wee hours of 13th September at Tharoijam, where a young entrepreneur of the state was brutally lynched by an enraged mob at a mere suspicion of theft without a limpid substantiation of larceny.

I was crestfallen and livid at the sight of bestial and swinish act of lynching a young entrepreneur of the state by the heathenish and savage mob; kicking and pummelling mercilessly at a mere suspicion of theft, whilst the helpless victim, cringed, grovelled and begged for his life; then with his bloodied ears, nose and broken body grovelling on the ground gasped his last breathe; with it raised his gentle voice beseeching for a drop of water.

But an insensate boor from among the heathenish mob retorted and pummelled him over and over again till the helpless victim could speak no longer. Stupefyingly enough, there stood a policeman, doing nothing but blithely gawping at the victim of the enraged mob who was grovelling on the ground hankering for a helping hand. With such atrocities transpiring often times, the buzzword ‘mob lynching’ or ‘mob violence’ has become ubiquitous in our state in particular and India-the wold’s largest democracy in general. Even the policeman present there at the spot seem to be accepting this sorry state of affairs as an expedient norm- A ghastly reality of Manipur Police.

It isn’t that facile to comprehend the stark nihilism which maneuvered the heathenish mob to execute an unimaginably inhuman and barbaric stunt in such a civilized world. My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another’s heart couldn’t penetrate the blank stares of those feral perpetrators, who murdered a young entrepreneur of the state at a mere suspicion of theft by taking law into their own hands with an unmitigated serene satisfaction.

With these widespread brutality and callousness; and a society gone on berserk and brutality, it made me cogitate on this question which springs out of desperation, that, “would it be near to impossible for the younger generations of our society to grow up as a warm, loving and compassionate human beings with a healthy respect and appreciation for the human life?”

Antithetical to the beckoning call of a codified society, today, our society seems to be heading backwards to the nineteenth century United States of America. The lynching in our modern society is supervened by a disquieting new trend which coequal the lynching of black Americans in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century America. During 1880-1930, thousands of black Americans were lynched by white Americans on fictitious accusations of raping white women or on the suspicion of larceny.

The victims were killed in most grisly manner, after inflicting excruciating agony and suffering. They even dispersed the body parts of the victims and the dispersed body parts were then collected by the unruly attackers as ‘trophies’.

In our 21st century, the feral perpetrators, don’t disperse or collect the body parts of the lynched victims, but the film and capture the horrendous and atrocious scenes on their smartphones which they later upload it in social media. There are multitudinous video clips of such lynching being propagated in the social media by the attackers themselves. The incident of Tharoijam is an epitome for this.

While sharing the gruesome videos, the attackers neither have remorse for committing such a fiendish and inhuman act of violence, nor do they fear the law of the land. Rather they unfurled themselves to be enrobed by a sense of pride for their horrendous act and hanker to stir the memory of the event alive. These videos propagated by the attackers are the trophies coequal to the body parts of the lynched victim taken as ‘trophies’ in the nineteenth century America. So, is our society heading back to the nineteenth century America?

Thomas Hobbes, a 17th century English philosopher deduced a hypothetical concept of moral philosophy called ‘state of nature’. ‘State of nature’, according to Hobbes, is limned by ‘war of every man against every man’; a constant and violent condition of competition in which each individual has natural right to everything notwithstanding the interest of others.

In a nutshell, ‘state of nature’ is a situation where individual’s rights subdue state’s rights. Mob justice favours these individualrights and so, when these individual rights through the form of mob justice supersede state’s machinery to impart justice and pinch-hit law enforcement agencies, it ultimately leads to a savage, heathenish and lawless social system, which adversely affect social unity and tranquillity of the state. This ‘state of nature’- a hypothetical concept deduced by Thomas Hobbes seems to have dawned in our society today, not just as a conjectural concept, but as a subsisting reality.

I’ve no qualm in enunciating that in our society, ochlocracy has pinch-hit democracy. Ochlocracy is a form of government where authority is wielded by the mob or group of people and tyrannically deliver justice or verdict to an accused person even without a limpid substantiation of a crime an accused person has committed. ‘Mob justice’ is a term given for that justice delivery system. Ethically, the verdict or justice delivered through ‘mob justice’ can never be justified and it is unethical.

Even the term itself is absurd and it is incongruous to the true sense of justice. One unethical aspect of it lies in the irrationality of the mob, which can force them to act in such a manner that an accused person is punished more than what that person deserve. If we consider the case of mob lynching at Tharoijam, one can facilely extrapolate that even desperadoes and first degree murderers don’t deserve to die in a manner that young lad had been lynched.

In any justice system in the world, an accused person is not considered guilty until proven, but in a mob justice system, there is no room for an alleged person to present his part of the story with a limpid substantiation of the crime he is accused of to justify himself, thereby, violating the principles of natural justice and rule of law. This is in fact, most unethical aspect of mob lynching and it is in itself not just an unethical, inhuman act, but a criminal actbecause mob lynching is a premeditated extrajudicial killing. It can’t be gainsaid that the general populace has lost its trust in the police department and judicial institution of the state. The dilatory and tardy intervention of the police force and state’s judiciary system in the matters of larceny, robbery, crime and murder leveraged the people to take law into their own hands by resorting to mob justice. So, if police department and judiciary system of the state work effectively, impartially and more professionally, it’ll foster confidence and trust among the people to report crime suspects without recourse to mob justice.

Having said that, there’s also a need to look with a sociological perspective. Our society has long been crippled by a moral breakdown. Our social root needs to be traced back and cogitated. Truth be told, in our society, people have the propensity to stereotype certain community and bear a prolonged frustration or resentment against them. When these frustration or resentment being built in the minds of the people reached its tipping point of intolerance, people tend to irrationally resort to mob violence.

And another reason that I assume for the proliferation of mob lynching is ‘impunity’. It can be assumed that, mob who are always at the tendency to lynch any person accused of certain crimes are very much confident of evading punishment, which is because of the fact that there is no law which criminalises mob lynching.

Albeit, the Indian Penal code has provisions for unlawful assembly, rioting and murder, but there’s nothing that takes cognizance of a group of people coming together to kill(mob lynching). There is a possibility under section 223(a) of the Code of Criminal Procedure(CrPC) to prosecute together two or more people accused of the same offence committed in the course of the same transaction. But, even this provision falls far short of an adequate legal framework for prosecuting a lynched mob.

Ergo, there arises the need for enacting an ‘Anti-lynching law’. “Anti-lynching law” is the sine qua non for obviating mob violence, because, it is this law that can; hasten trial, make lynching a non-bailable offence, criminalise dereliction of duty by policeman, criminalise incitement on social media and stipulate that adequate compensation be paid within a definite time frame to victims and survivors.

Finally, I’d like to conclude this write-up with a gentle supplication to the Education department of Manipur for a mandatory inclusion of Moral Science Education in all the schools of Manipur as a non-elective subject from primary level to a high school level. Moral science education can promote a sense of strong moral and ethical consciousness in the minds of younger generation and it’ll help them grow up as warm, loving and compassionate human beings with a healthy respect and appreciation for human life.

Law of the land cannot put an end to the barbaric mentality of our society, it can do only little to control the prevailing social evil. But Moral Science education equips one with the ability to snuff out completely every kind of social evil and put the kibosh on mob violence and ochlocracy.

When every mind is equipped with moral intelligence, and every personality endowed with core virtues such as empathy, conscience, self-control, respect, kindness, tolerance and love, only then can a society exist peacefully and every citizen live with mind without fear and head held high. God bless.


* Andrew Heanngam Pamei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The write can be reached at heangam(DOT)pamei(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on October 17, 2018.


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