The Monster of Lynching Mob

Light of truth

Mob lynching has taken on monstrous proportions. The epics both of India and outside speak of monsters. The Oedipus tragedy of Sophocles tells of a sphinx that kills people in Thebes who fail to answer a question: “What is it that walks on four legs in the morning two legs at noon and three legs in the evening?” Evidently the question deals with man, anyone who does not recognize himself as human being is killed. The one who did answer the question was an alien and he was made king of the Thebes. He becomes a demi god by his heroic action of killing the monster. Such monsters prowled over the earth in the epic periods. Still monsters exist among us, in Kerala 60 people are killed daily by the monster called cancer,12 are every day murdered in the same state by a monster which today is called road accidents. What have changed are simply the names, the reality remains.

The mob lynching that takes place predominately in Hindi speaking states of India is apparently by cow protectors, giving a religious dimension to the whole atrocity. The victims often are either Muslims or low caste people. The ruling party primarily provides a climate of hatred to these people and apparently protects them from the law enforcement police, which emboldens the youngsters who indulge in the lynching and killing. Moreover, the police and the government adopt a clear policy of silence and inaction, which is undoubtedly complicity in the criminal behaviour. This phenomenon clearly calls for multidimensional interpretations. First of all, it is the consequence of a political ideology which divides society and spreads hatred and revenge in the minds of the majority against a minority. Jayant Sinha, a minister in the Modi government, in July this year garlanded eight men convicted of lynching a man in Jharkhand. These groups, at least in Rajasthan, are allowed by the police to stop vehicles, search premises and seize animals.

Jacques Derrida’s book on authority is named “The Beast & the Sovereign.” The sovereign becomes a rogue, because it always is at work ‘silently and secretly’ like a criminal. The shepherd himself has become the wolf. The shepherd, who is absent in the fable, ‘hides’ in the wolf, who therefore has to conduct a trial against the lamb before he can eat it. Even where the sovereign resorts to violence, he cannot but do it in the guise of the law. It becomes “the great trap we are in danger of falling into when we try to analyse power.” It is Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, the monster.

All sociological and economic reasons are made to disappear with all issues being made one issue of religion, which placates its God by sacrificing scapegoats. The party boosts its image as the lone protector of Hindu religion and culture in India. It also deflects attention from real issues confronting the country, such as farmer suicides, unemployment, economic slowdown, the Kashmir conflict, terrorism and Naxalism, which are basically socio-economic and political. It is the mimetic rivalry that creates the scapegoat mechanism. In mimetic rivalry the other who is a neighbour is at once the model and the rival. Rene Girard wrote, “Violence and the sacred are inseparable.” He continues: “The extreme alternatives are suicide or murder of the model-obstacle. Other possibilities are schizophrenia, escape into a new identity, and liberation through the release experienced in love and forgiveness.” Here religion degenerates to irresponsible paganism of human sacrifice. Watts, J., et al in an article on “ Ritual human sacrifice promoted and sustained the evolution of stratified societies.” Wrote:

“We found that human sacrifice helped to build strict class-based social systems and to maintain social inequality in general.”

We are witnessing “ritualised killing of a human being.” Violence and the sacred are inseparable. Religion shelters us from violence just as violence seeks shelter in religion. Cain’s “jealousy” of his brother is only another term for his one characteristic trait: his lack of a sacrificial outlet. If sacrifice resembles criminal violence, we may say that there is, inversely, hardly any form of violence that cannot be described in terms of sacrifice—as Greek tragedy clearly reveals. The personification of the rivalrous mimesis engenders accusation and violence. The combination of religion and politics is killing Hinduism and democracy in India. Victims of human sacrifice will be captives from neighbouring castes or communities. Human sacrifice is used as a punishment, and now to display the ultimate power of the Beast and the Sovereign.

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