November 30, 2006

Yet another mob, yet another rampage. Jai Bhim!

Nov 30, Maharashtra: Dalits protest against vandalisation of an Ambedkar statue in Kanpur. Mobs burn the Deccan Queen, stop trains, pelt stones, shut shops. It's a free for all. Come, join the mob, express your hatred for humanity, scream your lungs out, leave. Do it all in the name of "protecting a national icon" and consider yourself St. Baburao or St. Pandurao.

This is one of the few times that I'm not going to be frivolous. I hate - yes, I positively HATE - these protests. For the mindlessness, the pointlessness, the hypocrisy, the vested interests, the losses, the politics. We're protecting our national icons, eh? We can't bear a blemish on them? We hold every mark of them as sacred?

What exactly is a "vandalisation of statue" anyway? Mud thrown on it? Portions broken off? Deliberate damage by person/persons unknown? Fine, take the worst case - a group of people who HATE Ambedkar, came along and broke the statue (if possible). Let's say there were five of them. Now a sensible nation with sensible people would probably catch hold of them and punish them according to the law for defiling public property. But the bottomline here is, we aren't exactly a sensible nation.

What we do is go on a rampage. We break, burn, injure, kill, stone. Remember a similar incident in June/July when there was some dirt found on Mrs. Minatai Thackeray's statue? The Sena decided to avenge that by declaring a "Mumbai bandh," burning buses, breaking shops that stayed open and basically bringing the whole city to a standstill. The whole "protest" was widely identified as simply a Sena tactic to show its power and existence, but you can't ignore the damage done.

The utter mindlessness is something that fascinates me. Dirt on a statue as a reason to kill people (who, by the way, sir, had nothing to do with it)? Vandalisation of statue as a reason to stop and burn trains? Heck, even 'Rang De Basanti,' (which I didn't like) had a shadow of a reason for killing. (Illogical movie, by the way, as Sharman Joshi himself says hysterically at one point, "Haan haan! Sabko maar daalo na! Tish tish tish!") That's somewhat similar to the present-day scenario.

Rebels without a cause. Avengers with no reasons. Martyrs from whom sacrifices were never required. Why?

It's the mob mentality. If you watch anything carefully, you'll realise that it all boils down to this - the psychology of the mob. Not one man in the mob is capable of protesting alone, on his own footing. Not one. Each man in a mob is fully dependent on the others. Because, when you come right down to it, each one is a coward.

These are men who, in their daily lives, rue the state of the nation on a personal basis. Many issues in the nation affect them personally - and, may I add, they affect them much more than the vandalisation of an Ambedkar statue. Health, education, cleanliness, discrimination, human rights. But they do nothing except swear at the government in their houses. Why? Because they don't have the courage to fight something in the way it should be fought. They don't have the courage to walk up to their government office / Ward officer / MLA's office and lodge complaints or protest peacefully.

But on an issue like this, all the anger from their personal lives and their frustration comes boiling out. Hell, this isn't even an issue - but they make it one. Because this is an event where they can join and be joined by hundreds of other men. It becomes the perfect opportunity to vent frustration. Each man is surrounded by five others. Not one of them has to raise his voice individually. The "cause" is apparently a patriotic one. Great. So now they're like brave lions, roaring all over the city and causing terror.

If any single man was singled out from a mob, and asked to do exactly what the mob was doing (burning buses, trains, and shops) without being backed by the hundred-odd people behind him, would he? I don't think so. To be able to express your anger ALONE, and in the face of opposition, you need: a. courage, b. a cause that you really believe in, c. a willingness to even die for it. They have none.

And there's always the political scenario. The CM goes from place to place, trying to calm down crowds. The rest can just go from place to place, instigating them and offering votes. Nothing like riots between communities to get a stronghold over votebanks.

(In passing mention, I just saw this mystifying video on NDTV of MLAs in West Bengal having a free-for-all. The caption read "Mamata protesting against Tata plant in Singur." Now I don't know where Singur is, or why the plant is being set up, or what problem they have with it - but then again, I doubt if the protestors know either. Seeing them protest really brought me face to face with the fact that our politicians are nothing but... erm... a bunch of hoodlums. I can't paint a word-picture here, you have to see it to believe it - utter chaos, huge tables overturned and broken, Legislative Assembly furniture being broken, official papers all over the place, politicians shouting naras. One message to all the goondas, sorry, maananiya netajis out there - Dude, break your own ghar ka furniture! And tear up papers that have drafts of your own speeches! The money for Legislative Assembly furniture documents comes from my pocket, as does your own salary, housing, food, electricity, car, driver, transport allowance, dearness allowance, and pension.)

Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand, what is it with these people being national icons who have to be defended all the time? Would they have asked for mass protests against the desecration of their statues? Would they have asked for killings? Would they have asked for huge losses to the economy?

And come off it, is Ambedkar the property of only the Dalits? Is Minatai Thackerey to be protected only by the Sena? Why does the vandalisation of a statue by a handful of people (of indeterminate class/community/creed/colour/race) make this a community-against-community war? Were the vandalisers upper-castes (in the Ambedkar case) or Muslims (in the Minatai case)? Does anyone know? Does anyone care? All we care about is that our "representative" has been "injured" and society, as a whole, must pay. I REALLY fail to understand how the one-community-against-the-other facet comes into play. Ambedkar is a nationally respected figure. So why do Dalits feel that it is their duty, nay, their religion to be his sole defenders?

I could go on for ages. But it wouldn't matter. Because somewhere out there, the damage continues. We can only hope for it to stop if there are more people who understand the truth, and more importantly, who can do something about it. There can be a change only if every man in that mob which is burning trains, understands a simple fact - that if he can't protest alone, it's not worth protesting against.

8 comments:

kanika said...

considering we'r a country where gandhi n his principals r supposedly given so much importance..where do ppl come off killin n terrorising entire states?...whats happnd 2 r counrty??...neway..awesome piece of writing...as i said b4...very powerful!...n im tellin u...i WILL find a way 4 u to hav ur stuff publishd!...it deservs it!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Very articulately written. Seems like the tables have turned this time, for I was about to write on the same topic!

Mob mentality is perhaps the farthest one can get from logic and rationale.

Anirudh Shetty said...

Bingo.....Thankx for voicing out my opinions...

If you care to look at these statues on normal days....they always have pigeon and crow shit all over 'em...
And they clean it only on their 'Jayanti' days....

I feel these ppl are only trying for a Dalit quota...by trying to appeal that Dalits are being ill-treated...

And for sure...the local level party workers are taking gud enough political mileage from it...

Nitish said...

Precisely my thoughts. This country is more divided today than it ever was. We have the OBC - General. Muslim - Hindu.The Dalits, Even Men are fighting Women for bus seats. But at the end, it boils down to what you said - there are only communities, not a single man has the courage to walk alone. I guess we Indians are wired that way- to seek an Indian wherever we go and we're no more scared of the world.
Quite a current topic ( 24 hours fresh, right ??). Wish the uneducated mobs were given this to read and maybe they wouldve thought twice

Maan said...

hey...read of your blog somewhere..and i SO agree!!! with everything you've written, though what appealed to me most was the fact that you didn't like Rang de Basanti..I thought it was illogical too..and everyone around me raved about it so much!! anyway, you write really well, you should definitely try and apply for a summer job at a newspaper...maybe young opinion by downtown plus? or wait..it's too page 3 for you. lol..anyway, great work, keep writing!!

Anonymous said...

My frustration reaches its peak after reading ur whole article..and thts coz ab kya? whats gonna happen now...none of the hooligans are going to come and read ur blog ....dey wudn even bother listening to something like tht told to them...ive been disturbed n thinking about such irrational incidents of late...but i have come to a conclusion tht currently i can do nothin abt them...ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ...and that is why i try not to think about them coz the only thing they do is ...get me more irritated...so mudra..if this article of urs helped u vent out ur frustration then good...else im sorry to say...this article is well written..but quite unproductive!
Avinash

Anonymous said...

India: the irony of ironies, gandhigiri does the rounds & then this.
I agree completely with what you have written here, especially the fact that these mobs grow out of ignorance & a sense of aimless agitation.
Also wht needs 2b pointed out is, do we need cement statues to prove the greatness of our leaders? does a vandalized statue mark disrespect towards one of the greatest men of the country? the answer is: No, not at all..& these aimless fools will stop this 'rebellion without a cause' when they realize THIS..

cheers \m/, (+.+) ,\m/

Dilshad said...

one thing i admire about you is you have the power to link ur thoughts each para leads to another......in my blogs u probably need a "map".....im not gonna comment on the topic though.....its hopeless....one of the many reasons im packing my bags & im off to USA......this exists everywhere, not only in India....India though takes it a bit too far.....a day will come when they'll protest against the pigeons and the strays for peeing/shitting next to or on the statues as well......but then its hardly 55 years since India's independence & USA is 230 years since its independence......so maybe we just gotta be patient....??....