Mob justice casts a dark shadow
In the motion picture ‘Batman Begins’ the evil villain Ras Al’ Ghul insists that being a vigilante is the best way to ensure justice. Batman refuses this premise based on the principle that being a vigilante blurs the fine line between being a ‘criminal’ and being an ‘agent of justice’. In distant Dimapur a lynch mob channelled Ras Al’ Ghul instead of Batman and took justice into its own hands and lynched an ‘alleged’ rapist. If this turns out to be true then not only is it a shocking subversion of justice, it also sets a scary precedent for future incidents of violence. The way in which the mob went about dispensing justice was inhumane to say the least. Syed Khan (the alleged rapist) was abducted out of jail, stripped naked, beaten black and blue and pelted with stones. He was then dragged a full seven kilometers before succumbing to his injuries and dying of shock. At least one protester died and 20 were injured in the ensuing riots as officers fired tear gas and blanks and the mob retaliated. Dimapur currently remains in curfew. Tensions had been growing for a while in Dimapur between native Naga people and Bangladeshis.
Syed Khan’s unfortunate death was the unfortunate culmination of a series of altercations between the immigrants and natives. This incident is a dangerous one on multiple levels. For one Syed Khan was a resident of India and his family had ties to the Indian army, the fact that he was lynched based on hearsay does not bode well for a region where rumours last year led to a mass exodus of immigrants from Assam and Nagaland. Natives have historically viewed immigrants as competition since they take away jobs from the local pool of labour by willing to work at low wages. This usually creates tension and unease between the two communities. Be that as it may, it begs the question as to how a man was dragged from a heavily guarded prison and executed summarily despite heavy police presence in the area. It is also unfortunate that a kangaroo court of ‘concerned citizens’ who mostly consisted of jobless students were allowed to be the judge, jury and executioner. Post the December 16 rape in Delhi its citizens had come out on the streets demanding justice for ‘Nirbhaya’. Some of them were angry enough to come out on various forums (social networking sites, TV debates etc) that the rapists should be castrated and stoned. Syed Khan’s death was that demented fantasy of justice turning into reality.