Is It Rightly Asked Why Mob Violence Must Be Seen With So Much Alarm Today?
What is so different today?
Mobs have operated with impunity before, so what makes the murder of the police inspector in UP last year different, or that of crowds baying for the blood of Kashmiris in Dehradun?
It is so as these mobs are the shorthand of a certain kind of politics, a cheat-code of what that politics stands for and its idea of reshaping India.
It has taken years to define Democracy in India. With an elaborate Constitution, the point of which is that a mob is not the essence of “We, the People”. It is a complex thought, one which is still being wrestled with.
To explain that an angry bunch of people, looking suitably large will at no point overwhelm the idea that each individual, the antithesis of the mob, has rights and a place in India. That while electoral democracy is essentially about getting a feel of what the general public wants, that has nothing to do with the rights of individuals, each of whom comprise the nation.
So at first glance, what does the carpet-seller from Kashmir, or the young engineering student from Tamil Nadu do, by just being in Delhi or Mumbai, is to secure for each of us, our right to be that in a democracy.
What makes the current situation different from before is that we have a political ideology in power, that is precisely about the sentiment of that mob. Other than not making noises loud enough or mouthing even general statements to appear conciliatory, the targets are clear, and there is just not silence.
When PM and chief mascot of the BJP Narendra Modi says his “blood also boils” and the party President Amit Shah rails in the North-east, or the Chief Minister of India’s largest state on hearing of the murderous attack on the police officer orders an enquiry on the cow deaths, it is not just silence but a clear message that what is happening is okay and where they stand is not with the police but on the other side.
In the case of the UP Chief Minister, the facts are even starker. The origins of the Hindu Yuva Vahini lay in upending the law and order machinery that allowed less privileged groups, caste and religious to assert themselves. The cop with his baton allowed a sense of order or a shield to be there to give each citizen her space and allow for the Constitution to travel to each hut or village square and break the idea of the mob from the majority.
But whether it was like in other spectacular events that have dotted the leaping successes of the BJP since 1980, it is the mob and the angry one at that, that has been about contesting the Constitution. The Rath Yatra, the post-Godhra riots where despite a ‘strong government’ at Gandhinagar the mob was allowed full play to state a cogent and political case, it is the most eloquent way to assert what the new Constitution must look like.
The mob, whether talking about the dean in a College or just after Godhra, or the one in 1990 or 2002 is no aberration but a masterclass in political education by the party in power at the Centre and in several key states now about what democracy must mean, but currently does not, in India.
It is different because each time it turns up, it speaks the same language as the government in power and echoes their views.
This is no longer as revelatory, or even a bright new idea, as the Meghalaya Governor, an RSS Pracharak, has stated it clearly for the benefit of those not watching the news closely, of what must be done with those hailing from India’s northern-most state.
When one knows that rampaging mobs are echoing the views of those elected to guard the fort itself, it must be different. To see it as anything less would be to twist the lines of songwriter Roger Waters, to mistake the ashes for trees.