With a licence to kill
A mob collects. It points, it blames, and then it kills. We read about this often, and like our response to acid attacks on women by men who hide under the guise of innocence and anonymity, we have no vocabulary to deal with it.
Individuals who use tradition as their legitimating clause are hiding under religious clauses or tenets which were part of society hundreds of years ago. Today, these are specifically crimes, and the modern state has recourse to legal clauses which put such criminals behind bars.
Traditional law, according to French sociologist David Émile Durkheim, had an aspect which was repressive. He called it penal law or repressive law. In contrast, was modern law called restitutive law, which he described as typical of “organic societies,” where difference or occupational specialisation is the key word. Because of interdependence of its institutions, such modern societies seek a return to normalcy, rather than using emotional catharsis as its reason to inflict punishment.
This is what makes capital punishment today one of the most discussed aspects of law, as people are votaries for one side or another. As the state represents the most valued sentiments of the nation, it has the final say on what is law. It believes that people must answer for crimes such as murder or rape by their own death, so that others may understand the gravity of the crime. Because the community identifies with the victim, reparation is not possible, and the sentiments of society suffering this rupture of its laws must be appeased.
Lynching then creates a space of just such violation in our minds, and we as a modern nation state, demand that the murders be immediately identified. Alcohol abuse or mental disequilibrium are cited by lawyers as reasons for pathological behaviour. In a court of law, neither ignorance nor inefficiency are accepted as reasons for acquittal. The idea that extreme and uncontrolled emotions are a reason for misbehaviour would be equally out of place.
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth,” being the basic assumptions of traditional or repressive law, means that people who engage in such forms of violence feel that they have committed this crime on behalf of their community. The prime minister who kissed the steps of Parliament on his entry to office, does at regular intervals chide murderers for their acts. Since 34 per cent of MPs in Parliament today have a criminal record, it is not surprising that members of extreme factions in Hindutva see no reason to obey.
A Muslim boy, Junaid, (Indian Express July 2, 2017), fond of soya bean biryani out of choice, beloved of his kin and parents, was heinously killed for being a “beef eater”.
Why do communalists believe that human life is not of value? As murderers they have to answer to the nation, where 17 per cent dalits are beef eaters, as are 54 per cent Other Backward Castes, 3 per cent Christians, 14 per cent Muslims. The largest number of beef eaters are Hindus, and they are also exporters of beef. The mob is not interested in facts, historical or familial. They have a desire to kill, and that desire is pumped by all sorts of people, including politicians and religious savants or godmen, who give fiery speeches about the divinity of the cow and the worthlessness of lower castes, and people belonging to other religions. All of North India is set aflame by these speeches by politicians, and so called religious dogmatists, calling death to those who do not heed their call.
Terrorists are present in all religions, and the mob is fired by the exhortations of men and women who are called “to do their duty” and save the religion they profess to belong to. What is frightening is that these out of date orthodoxies have every modern appliance so that the digital world, whether tv, computer or mobile, is at their service.
In the language of these communalist groups, women are to be domesticated, made servile, represented as without morality or values. Women going out to work is seen as a form of prostitution. Because they are able to earn a living, they are treated by these hidebound and illegal orthodoxies as errant women, who should be attacked while returning home at night, or setting out during peak hours. The hunger to kill, is honed as a skill, by ideological camps which demand that members of ‘other groups’ should be exterminated. The othering happens systematically through training and dissemination of materials.
In the need to define themselves as pure, these murderous orthodoxies emulate the cultures of premedieval and medieval societies. They put us back by hundreds of years and are only too willing to push this mercenary warriorhood forward as rational to the 21st century.