By Riti Das Dhankar
While some of us celebrated International Women’s Day, some sulked grieving about the beef ban in Maharashtra, some furiously discussed “India’s Daughter”, and some others were busy following the cricket World Cup, a fellow human was lynched by a crowd of thousands. What the man saw when he breathed his last was a swarm of people mocking his inevitable death. The man in question was an alleged rapist. The first news that flowed claimed the man, Khan, was a Bangladeshi immigrant and had raped a Naga girl.
The next morning a clearer picture of what had happened started emerging. News bits, facts, pictures, and articles started appearing, which helped us connect the dots. As the news channels and online forums started following up the incident, the horror of what had happened dawned. At first, I refused to believe what I read and promptly went into a denial mode.
When such an incident occurs, there are few things that need to be kept in view:
1. The accused is not guilty unless proven.
2. We are not living in a country that believes in barbarism.
3. We have a judicial system that no one can override.
Or at least, these are the principles one would like to believe in.
This is the fuller picture that has emerged after connecting the dots.
A huge crowd gathered and a protest rally was organized at the clock tower of the district, which was supposed to be “peaceful”. There are two versions of what happened next: 1.The mob marched up to Dimapur police station. There the police tried to stop them with batons and tear gas but failed to do so since they were clearly outnumbered. In the process, some inmates who were jailed also fled. The crowd then got hold of Khan, pulled him outside, stripped him naked, started beating him, dragged him (he was dead by then) by tying him behind a vehicle, and hung his naked body there. 2. The other version is that the jail authorities let the protesters inspect the cells so that they could then identify the accused, who had been shifted there from the police station. In the chaos, three other inmates, who have been charged under sections of the National Security Act also fled. In this version, one must remember that the protesters were allowed by the authority.
As these images were splashed in newspapers and news channels, one saw a crowd of thousands of men finding pleasure in inflicting pain, making videos, clicking pictures, dragging a dead man tied behind a vehicle, and then hanging his body. How could a crowd of humans target a defenseless man, kill him, and find pleasure in doing so? Even if he were a rapist, even if he were an immigrant, how could one justify it? How could one call this justice?
At this point, it is necessary that we know more about the man. His name was Syed Farid Khan. He was an Indian, as Indian as I or my friends or my parents or my teachers in school or our PM. He belonged to Bosla village of Karimganj district in southern Assam, located 350 kms from Guwahati. In the words of Sanjib Gohain Baruah, the deputy commissioner of Karimganj, “The Khans have been there for generations, like many Bengali-speaking Muslims in Barak Valley (of south Assam).” Also, His father has served for 20 years in the Indian army’s Military Engineering Services and his two elder brothers – Kamaluddin and Jamaluddin are soldiers in the army. Another brother, Imanuddin, died of wounds sustained while fighting during the Kargil War (1999).
Could we now look objectively at a murder that was committed apparently because we have no empathy for people who are not like “us”? Could we acknowledge this was probably a planned hate crime? Perhaps it’s time to get off our moral high horse when people responsible for maintaining law and order allow this to happen.
A man was killed. Let’s forget if he was Indian or he was a minority. Let’s concentrate on a man being killed by a crowd for a rape charge that is still not conclusive in spite of the medical examination. Would the crowd be punished? Would our twitter-friendly government react? Would the authorities apologize?
Such ubiquity of violence is perhaps what we could term ‘the banality of evil’, which has permeated our psyche.
Riti Das Dhankar is a freelance writer. She is doing her PhD in Psychology from Jaipur, where she completed her master’s degree in Clinical Psychology.
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