We have recently witnessed a spectacle that almost resembled the horrific March 5, 2015 incident involving a jail break and subsequent lynching of a rape accused by a mob. On September 6, a mob numbering hundreds, stormed the South Police Station of Kohima, ‘in search’ of the accused persons (who were in police custody) in connection with a case involving the killing of a Kohima-based taxi driver. However, the accused persons were not found in the police station’s lock-up and leaders of several organisations intervened and fortunately managed to pacify and disperse the mob.
It all started with the arrest of the two main accused in the taxi driver murder case. Taxi drivers, under the banner of the All Nagaland Taxi Association (ANTA), had been shaken and angered by the killing of their comrade while on duty on the night of September 2. They have since then, been vocal that this was not the first case of killing of one of their members, and were demanding security from authorities. Earlier in July this year too, a Dimapur-based taxi driver was found brutally killed.
News about the arrest of three persons in connection with the September 2 case travelled like wildfire and soon the taxi drivers had gathered in a group. Angered by what they stated, the police giving contradicting information on the whereabouts of the accused persons, the mob had reportedly marched to the police station, demanding to see the accused. The reinforcement to the already gathered crowd came in tenfolds in the form of the community youth of which the victim belonged, equally angered and crying for retribution.
We are all aware that huge crowds can be dangerous. Crowd behaviour is heavily influenced by the loss of responsibility of the individual and the impression of universality of behaviour, both of which increase with the size of the crowd. Once mob-mentality, of a violent nature, takes over, ordinary people become capable of terrible things.
While not all crowds are volatile or negative in nature and we have witnessed many peaceful mass protest marches in the past, it is a given fact that a crowd can change its level of emotional intensity over time. Mobs are known to demonstrate or develop mass imitation, and there is always the risk of someone amongst the crowd that tries to instigate aggression.
We have seen the consequences of a violent mob even this year. On January 31, a mob outrage in Dimapur, against the government’s decision to hold the elections to urban local bodies, had cost the lives of two young men. Subsequently, on the night of February 2, angry protesters, on the same issue, broke out into pandemonium and torched government buildings and vehicles in the state capital. Around 30 government and private offices were completely razed during that incident.
Some people attribute mob violence to indiscriminate responses by authorities, however, in our case, the community, especially the youth’s anger and resentment against policy makers and their decisions, clubbed with perpetual corruption, that had been pent up for years seem to be the ultimate trigger.
The September 6 storming of the Kohima police station did not end as badly as one who had been witness to the demonstration could have feared. But the question here is, what if the accused were found in the police station by the mob? What would have ensued?
On the consecutive day of the incident, at another gathering of angry protesting taxi drivers, ANTA officials have rightly reasoned with the angry members that if they harmed or even took the lives of the culprits, they would be no different from the culprits and that they would become culprits as well.
Mob violence or mob-mentality of violence has no place in a Christian state like ours. While we comprehend the anger and bitterness that the people have towards the system, the powers that be, we cannot condone such brutality. We need to rethink, retrospect, introspect and re-examine our principles and our integrity.
Small ripples can cascade into something big. Let us not create monsters out of those ripples (out of anger and bitterness), but rather, let us turn them into ripples of positive changes, ripples of justice as per the law of the land.