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Lynching the "Rapist": a horror greater than the Rape

By       Message Prakash Kona     Permalink
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I couldn't believe how happy the mob of mostly young men in Dimapur, Nagaland looked in their euphoria celebrating the lynching of an alleged rapist who also happens to be migrant labor from another state of India. In their infantile excitement bordering frenzy the mob could not see the terrible truth of how causes are related to consequences. They had no idea that the price of such violence has to be paid individually and separately by each one of them in the isolation of the human spirit. This is what James Baldwin says: " People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become. And they pay for it very simply; by the lives they lead."

For two reasons I think that the lynching of the rapist is a greater horror than the rape. First, it has not been proved through careful investigation and beyond any doubt that the man is guilty of rape. Second, assuming that he did, every demand of conscience has been systematically violated in brutally ending a man's life without giving him a chance to acknowledge his wrong.

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From To Kill A Mockingbird-- a scene where a man is falsely accused of Rape
(Image by To Kill A Mockingbird Movie)
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I blame this whole morbid and meaningless discussion on rape that has been a form of media badgering the masses since the Delhi gang rape in 2012, this disease of endless "speechifying" that Gustave Flaubert saw as a serious problem with the socialists of the 19th century, their tendency to thwart the possibility of real change or a revolution because they are so much in love with their own voices, this culture of "talking" things out as if talking on public platforms is the only thing that would make the difference, I sincerely despise those sick men and those bourgeois feminists who are only interested in themselves and not in the plight of the poor housemaids whose labors they relentlessly exploit, a bunch of provincial minds hiding their reactionary feelings behind revolutionary talk, those who are in the "gutters" themselves but "looking at the stars," I blame them and their cynicism for the lynching of the "rapist" by the indoctrinated mob in Dimapur.

Where conscience is violated men are no different from animals. The worst thing about democracies is that numbers become the real issue and majoritarianism finds its ugliest manifestation in mob behavior. The superintendent of police said that when the mob forcibly broke into the jail where the supposed "rapist" was kept, the police was helpless. He says: "How could I use maximum force when there were hundreds of girls in school and college uniforms in the front of a massive mob? It was difficult. There would have been several casualties."

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Would the cop have said the same thing if the rapist were to be the son of an important personage and not a mere laborer! I personally think that the police are complicit to the extent that they ought to have foreseen what the mob was about to do. They should have used tear gas and dispersed the girls instead of waiting for the worst to happen.

On another front, across the globe, democracies are heading towards mobocracies in some form or another, something that John Stuart Mill feared as the greatest threat to individual liberty in the 19th century. And so did George Eliot, the profoundly insightful Victorian novelist, in her classic description of the riot by working class mobs in the lesser-known novel, Felix Holt, the Radical. Mill feared how majorities could use the strength of numbers against minorities, even if it were just two against one person.

This is the context against which we need to understand the role of the mob. They were primarily very young people. The men in the group were all too keen to display what little primitive notions of chivalry they had combined with sub-nationalism (how could someone do this to one of "our" girls!) along with a warped sense of manhood.

Alienating poor men is not a solution to the rape problem. Ignorance of the law may not be an excuse to commit rape. Ignorance however is still a problem to be dealt with and the antidote is education combined with a sense of belonging. A man who does not understand the gravity of his wrongdoing cannot be accorded the same quantum of punishment as the man who does.

The interview conducted with the Delhi rapist, Mukesh Singh in the BBC documentary, with the Bollywoodish title "India's Daughter," is making no serious point at all. What did they expect the man to say, that most men in this country and on this planet do not actually subscribe to: that victims of rape, especially women, are responsible for what happens to them when they do not conform to predominantly male standards on how women should conduct themselves.

Of course the overreaction of the Indian government which has a history of being complicit in violence against women is pathetic to say the least. I don't like it when western news channels make it look like patriarchy has come to an end in Europe and other developed countries. I also don't like this "holier than thou" attitude of Indian politicians either. Both of them have their own agendas which are not fundamentally different in my view, which is not to talk about solutions to the problems in terms of investing in the lives of the poor and downtrodden classes and giving them modern education that will sensitize and humanize them at various levels.

Every time I imagine how the poor man was dragged out of jail, paraded naked on the streets, taunted, humiliated and beaten to death like a dog, apart from the horror, my heart is torn with pity. Let alone a human being, I wouldn't want a wild animal to be treated in that manner. Whether the man is guilty or not, I just don't think what the mob did is right. Period.

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Prakash Kona is a writer, teacher and researcher who lives in Hyderabad, India. He is currently Professor at the Department of English Literature, The English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad.


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