Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Mob Violence in India

Do you know what has become almost a staple of Indian life in the last few months? The spectacle of mob violence, whether on the front pages of the paper or on the TV screen, as part of the daily intake of news.

Have we become a more angry society in the last 60 years? I should say we have, mainly because we have lost faith in our criminal justice system. We all know the extent to which politicians have infiltrated the bureaucracy and the police with those who support their policies, but the judiciary should also take the blame for the time it takes to dispose of a case. For instance, it has taken 10 years for a court to find an ACP and nine others guilty of shooting businessmen Pradeep Goel and Jagjit Singh. It has taken a special court 14 years to find Sunjay Dutt guilty under the Arms Act.

Another reason why mobs go on the rampage is because their legitimate complaints are not dealt with speedily by the politician-bureaucrat nexus. For instance, the people in three districts of West Bengal have resorted to mob violence because the ration shops in their areas have no grain for them for the last 17 months!

Why is this scenario dangerous? It reminds me of Russia and France, just before their respective revolutions, when the ruling class enjoyed protection from the rule of law whereas the ordinary person was crushed under a heavy taxation system. Here, too, politicians and top bureaucrats/policemen or their kin, get away with murder (literally--think Jessica Lal or Nitesh Katara) but the ordinary man on the street has to put up with police or bureaucratic intereferance in his daily life. Either the politicians, bureaucrats and police officials implement the reforms suggested by Justice Malimath, or they prepare to face the wrath of India.

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