It appears that India has been taken over by mobs demanding justice of one kind or the other.

Unfortunately, crowds when combined with lethal violence lead to destruction with no purpose achieved. But mobs do not understand this – their primary aim is to destroy properties which belong to the government and the common man, since they are not happy with something.

In India, the communal angle provides yet another serious dimension to mobocracy. The law enforcement agencies are careful not to be seen as favouring one or the other communities, and that is only to be expected. India is a complex country with many religions, races and communities, and is a boiling pot of emotions. The smallest trigger would be enough to kindle passions in the midst of the milling crowds.

That is exactly what happened a week ago in Mumbai at the Azad Maidan in the heart of South Mumbai, just next to the Police Commissioner’s Office ! Policemen and Policewomen were attacked by the mobs, who seemed to have come prepared with sticks, swords, rods, et al, and managed to even grab the guns from the policemen.

In such situations, intelligence is a crucial lifeline – it was apparent that the prior intelligence that the police had was kind of faulty as the crowd size was vastly underestimated. The police force deployed was easily outnumbered by a factor of 6:1 or even worse.

Police leadership has to take stern action against mobs and against people who incite mobs into madness. Quick action will become a deterrent to future mob-driven destruction. If police or the government delay taking actions, then it would become increasingly clear to the mobs and their leaders that they can always take the city for a ride and do what they wish to do.

Appeasement on the basis of communities or communal feelings has long been the practice in India due to vote bank politics. This has to be taken note of by prosecutors and the courts. We cannot and should not let mobs take over our lives and cities. The destruction of public as well as private properties has to be compensated by the mob leaders, and that alone would drive some sense into their heads.

At the end of the day, everyone loses in this game. Government hopes that the citizens’ protests would soon die down, and the media would shift its attention to other pressing stories of the day. That is simply a futile hope, and would eventually lead to the weakening of the civil institutions that India has built over the past six decades.

Let us think through carefully, but government and police need to do their job without fear or favour.


Vijay Srinivasan
18th August 2012


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