Mob lynching, rape, killings and rioting have become the order of the day. What is worst is the vitiating milieu of becoming prosecutor, jury and executioner of masses and delivering their judgement at a sweeping hysteria. This has diluted the authority of the state. If people take law in their own hands, what is state then for?
The state should come heavily down upon the mischief mongers without playing to the gallows, catering to a section of cow vigilantes or love jihad brigades. What is at stake is the society and state authority itself, not one section or other. Otherwise, the thought that crops up in mind is: Are we heading towards a Hobbesian reality?
English philosopher Thomas Hobbes once said that life in nature was brutish, savage, cruel and short lived. Because of this, they have come together to end all these. As a result, a covenant came into existence called the Social Contract.
By this social contract, a sovereign had been established who would rule unconditionally. The super power sovereign would rein the cunning men and women like a fox. As postulated by him, this gave birth to a civilised society of an uncivilised being, who have natural desires to outwit others.
Human beings are naturally vulnerable to savage emotions like cruelty, wrath, anger, hatred, violence. As such, they bear the primitive tendency of penalising their offender of collective conscience through mass display of punishment. In the dark ages of medieval times, criminals were given with strict regressive punishment in public display. It was the policy of the ruler to satiate the savage desire of the masses.
In modern democracies, the governments are unlike the unquestionable sovereign of Thomas Hobbes, in which the sovereign would take away every right of the masses except the right to life. The democratic government is a government pandering to the opposite voices. It, therefore, gives way to a restorative penal system to make adjustment for all sections.
The savage part of the human beings do not go away, whatsoever stage of civility is achieved. Human beings often display brutish nature of taking law in their own hands and satiate their bloodthirsty desire. Whenever they find lacunae on the part of administration, they would taken law in their own hands and create anarchy.
The recent episodes of mob lynching in Assam and Rainpara of Maharashtra exemplify the same. In Dokmoka of Assam, two youths were brutally killed by an unruly mob in the pretext that they were child-lifters. Although there was nothing circumstantial to be suspicious of, they were not shown mercy. Similarly, in Rainpara of Maharashtra, five people were mob lynched in a similar fashion. They were not given a chance to speak for themselves .Even the policemen were snubbed. The disrespect of the policemen speaks volume.
While the alibi of child-lifter and rumours is effective excuse to carry out brutality without fear, it is not palatable completely. On one hand, rumours of such nature can instigate some to take to violence. It is a societal problem –a society that consists of human beings presumably civil, but savage at heart. But on the other hand, it has been accentuated by emaciated political establishment. Hobbesian theory postulates that when ruler is strong and effective, the cunning subjects abide by civil laws. But, if ruler is weak and there is inefficiency on the part of the ruling administration, there is often break in the order.
Ever since the BJP has come to power, there has been unprecedented rise of crime related to women, Dalits, mob lynching etc. Everybody now has become the ruler of the land. If anything offends one’s sense of morality, one would assume the right to take another’s life. People don’t even bother to verify the veracity of allegations. An alleged offence may land one into a life-threat. There is no security of life. Anybody may become victim of the mob frenzy. It has almost generated a ‘might is right ‘situation.
Although the sovereign of Hobbes was different from present day democratic sovereign, their functions are same –to maintain peace, harmony and secure the life of the people. To do that the democratic sovereign has to effectively curb the anarchic, bestial desire of the anti-social elements without impeding the freedom, liberty and fraternity of the masses, the values that have ushered in since French Revolution and we all liberal minded people hold them dear.
In this direction, the present dispensation has not been able to deliver as expected. Undoubtedly, on certain fronts the ruling dispensation has taken strong and tough stance and we welcome them. For example, the ban on Triple Talaq, nikah halala and subsidy to Haz pilgrims. Avoiding playing to the gallows, the government has made its unequivocal stand clear.
But a government has to be judged by the governance it delivers and governance is intricately woven with effective administration and maintenance of law and order. The security of human lives, property and woman’s dignity is utmost in a democratic society. Even the arcane sovereign of Hobbes was bound to ensure that.
Mokhjumi Ahmed is a post-graduate student of Sociology in Gauhati University. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org