Hyderabad encounter: On our way to becoming a mobocracy?

Things have come to such a pass that we are celebrating encounter killings, surely a sign of abnormal social behaviour

Women distributing sweets to policemen in Hydeabad after the encounter killing of all the four rape-and-murder accused of a vet.
Women distributing sweets to policemen in Hydeabad after the encounter killing of all the four rape-and-murder accused of a vet.

Zafar Agha

Where are we heading to as a society? Are we losing balance in a rush of emotions? If you scan daily news, you feel that something is seriously wrong with us. First, the news comes of a young vet doctor being raped and killed by the rapists.

There is a natural outpouring of anger and disgust with both the rulers and the police. People take to streets in anger and surround police stations to vent their disgust over a very unfortunate rape. Three days later news comes that the alleged four rapists of the Hyderabad victim have been killed in encounter.

We all know what encounters are! Nothing but cold-blooded murders faked by the police if one believes activists who have studied cases of encounters. So, Hyderabad encounters too were nothing but cold-blooded murders of the alleged rapists. Yet a large number of people celebrate the killings in this case. People, some very sober ones, demand lynching and pubic hanging of rapists.

Are we a society based on the rule of law or are we a mobocracy? Well, the way people supported the encounter killings of the Hyderabad rapists, it seems we have scant respect for the rule of law wherein every crime, however heinous it may be, is judged through a judicial system. But no, we now want to bypass the judicial system and punish a criminal in medieval fashion.

It’s shocking, to say the least. Because we, as human beings, have evolved into a civil society where everything is governed by laws. One can understand our disgust with the snail-paced system of justice that we have developed over the years. It is a shocking reality that Nirbhaya’s rapists are still waiting to meet their fate. Yes, justice delayed is justice denied, indeed. But it cannot justify mob justice or extra-judicial killings through encounters.

But we celebrate police encounters. It’s a sadist streak that seems to have gripped us socially. How else can a lawmaker stand up inside Parliament and demand lynching/public hanging of rapists! Is it hatred that has engulfed us so much so that he have started applauding punishment of a crime with another crime? Or, is it a symptom of disgust with the system that leaves the people let down at every stage.

It seems a combination of both factors. Politicians are feeding us with hatred every day. Winning elections through demonising an entire community has been accepted as normal political behaviour is our system.

As a result, we witness incidents of mob lynchings that are then used to garner votes. We are thus eroding constitutional values every day. Things have come to such a pass that we celebrate encounter killings, surely a sign of abnormal social behaviour.

Secondly, the system too is riddled with corruption and apathy at every stage. People are losing faith in politicians, bureaucracy and judiciary. Disgusted and disappointed with the snail-paced movement of the system, people have started getting vicarious pleasure when someone breaks laws and rules in certain extremely disappointing situations like the one in Hyderabad recently.

But it does not mean that we lose balance as a society or give up faith in the rule of law. The only sane and civilised system of living in modern times is to adhere to the rule of law. Both politicians and the system cannot inspire people after the way both have let down the countrymen at large.

It’s, therefore, time for the civil society to step in and restore balance in our public life. Extra-judicial killings cannot and should not be celebrated as instant justice. If the trend persists, we may turn into a mobocracy which will be a sad day for both India and Indians.

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