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If You’Re Not Condemning Lynching Unequivocally, You’re Offering Solidarity To The Mob.

Let's make India humane again.

Blood-curdling, disgusting to the core, horrifying beyond words. After reading about the recent spate of lynching crimes, I am at loss of words to express the feeling. What makes it even more unbearable, is the frequency at which they are occurring in the country. How did these murderous mobs grow so bold? Why, even after video evidence and eye-witnesses, do they get bail? Who is protecting them? Does the state sanction their actions? So many valid questions come to mind.

For now, I don’t have the energy to get into a mob’s mind to understand why they did what they did. If we just look at data, according to IndiaSpend, the recent lynching in Alwar is the 87th cattle related incident since 2010 when their database started tracking such crimes. 34 persons have been killed and at least 240 have been injured in these mob attacks. In the past few years, as all of us have witnessed, these incidents have been rising exponentially.

What shocks and appals me the most, is the insensitivity of fellow human beings. Those who stand on the roadside when someone is lynched to death; those who choose to shoot a video on their phone but do not come forward to protect a lone man fighting for survival; the callous approach of those who wear the uniform and have sworn to protect civilians from beasts such as those masquerading as Gau-Rakshaks.

Every time a horrendous criminal act is normalized, we lose another strand of humanity. The increasing indifference towards mob lynchings, and the explanations given for such hate crimes, are alarming. If we don’t get our act together, this will haunt us.

Why, and how, are many around us are so calm about it? How has silence and indifference slowly become the default reaction to hate crimes? It could be due to ‘bystander apathy’, a term coined by social psychologists half a century ago. As per this theory, we think that when we see something bad happening – a person injured in an accident or someone being assaulted – we would step forward and help. But in reality, most of us don’t come forward. Reasons behind this vary – it’s inconvenient, or we don’t want to get involved, or we think someone else will stop to help. Although some people will not take the initiative to help, they will conveniently photograph or videotape the incident and post it on the internet. Studies over the last 45 years have proven that greater the number of people observing an emergency, the less is the likelihood that someone will help.

We have to stop this vicious cycle.

We either have empathy as a core value or we do not. It doesn’t work in compartments. If you say that you empathize with customers as a Product Manager at work, you cannot say that you can’t empathize with another human being who has lost their life.

 As a society, we are at a precarious bend, and as individuals, we must take charge of our own actions and inactions. There is no neutral ground. You either condemn a gruesome crime like lynching or like it or not – you are offering solidarity to the murderous mobs. Take a moment to think. Is this the kind of environment we wish the next generation to grow up in? In some conversations, I have heard answers like (of course, in not as many words), “This is not affecting us and those dying come from poorer sections of the society and mostly from a religion that is not mine.”

A mob knows no morals. It neither rationalizes nor does it have a code of conduct. When a mob is not shamed and penalized for its crimes, another set of such people are emboldened to become a mob in a different part of the country. Today, these mobs lynch based on a hunch about cow smuggling. Tomorrow, they might kill suspecting something even more absurd. There is no rational thinking at work here. Without any flowery words and taking the chances of sounding blunt, let me say this – you or anyone in your family could very well be their next target.

It is not complicated to live the part of sensible and humane Samaritan. The next time you see an unarmed person being beaten up, intervene. You might save someone’s life and with that, your own dignity. Do not be a virtual bystander. if something heinous happens in the country, speak up. Speak up about it on social media platforms, during your tea time discussions, and to your children. Small conscious acts are also necessary to save basic human decency from being eroded. All is not lost, yet. For every act of violence, there are examples of empathetic reasoning and harmony around us. But it’s not enough. We need more thoughts and acts of kindness.

Pracheta is a writer and a life coach. She tweets at @prachetab.

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