Psychology of serial killers: Not Muslims but their oppressors are victims in ‘new India’

Godse, not Gandhi, was the victim when the Mahatma was assassinated. Wasn’t ‘poor’ Godse provoked by Gandhi Ji? New India is legitimising the classic excuse of serial killers

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Representative Image
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Ranjona Banerji

Serial killers in crime fiction often choose a type when it comes to their prey. Like a blonde-haired blue-eyed woman in her 20s, around 5 ft 4 inches. There’s often some psycho-babble explanation given for this: the mother they hated, the girlfriend they lost.

As far as the serial killer is concerned, these women have triggered his murderous instinct. If they did not exist or did not remind him of his mother or girlfriend, why, they would have been safe. He is sadly the victim of their very presence in the world.

Thus, it is liberal, secular people who would prefer a world without religious hatred and people who are responsible for religious hatred. It is their calls or appeals or fulminations for more religious tolerance which drives serial killers to violence. This argument was resurrected in full measure as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on August 5, went in his official capacity to take part in a brick-laying ceremony to build a Ram Temple at the site of the Babri Masjid which his party and his compatriots had demolished in a criminal act on December 6, 1992.

Would Nathuram Godse have assassinated Mahatma Gandhi if Gandhi had not asked India to fulfil its payment promise to Pakistan? If Gandhi had appeared to be less “Muslim-friendly”, would “poor hapless Godse” not have been triggered to pull the trigger? It is evident that it was all Gandhi’s fault?

Muslims in India trigger violence against them because they are Muslims. It could be a fez cap, it could be that they own a cow, it could be that they go to a mosque. The serial killer in this case has little option but to attack. Then there are the provocations of those secular and/or liberal persons who speak for the rights of minorities in India. How can that possibly be countenanced?

Further, all Muslims in India are responsible for every single atrocity or action taken by any Muslim anywhere else, whether in the past or in some other country. You could replace Muslims with Christians, Dalits, women who have a voice, people from certain geographical regions of India… in fact anyone that a serial killer may have a deep psychological hatred for.

The serial killers therefore are the real victims in this version of India. They would not have become serial killers if secular liberals, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, women, western-educated people, people of other political persuasions did not exist.

Now perhaps one could understand if serial killers themselves made this argument. After all, they must defend themselves. But in the society that we have become in India, everyone from the judiciary to sections of civil society to commentators to societal leaders also put forward this same argument.

The serial killer is not to blame. The serial killer was triggered by others who needlessly provoked him or her and unleashed those murderous instincts.

The tragedy is that all those sections of society know what they are doing. They know they are giving a free pass to serial killers using this travesty of reason. They know by blaming everyone else, they give more power to the serial killer. They give his or her depleted sense of self a huge fillip of confidence by providing this false justification. Rather than look for justice or reason, these enablers allow violence and hatred free rein. And free reign.

These arguments are both disingenuous and dangerous because they strike at the very heart of the idea of a democratic republic. If personal feelings and “public sentiment” can be allowed to overrun rule of law, then sooner rather than later there is no rule of law for anyone.

That supporters of the BJP would feel this way is not surprising, threatening though this thought process is to democracy. That Opposition parties of India buy into this for the hope of short-term electoral gains is frightening. I am reminded of the words of Jawaharlal Nehru after the idols of Lord Ram “mysteriously manifested” themselves in the Babri Masjid on the night of December 22, 1949.

He wrote to Govind Ballabh Pant, UP CM, in April 17, 1950: “The fact of the matter is that for all our boasts, we have shown ourselves as a backward people, totally lacking in the elements of culture as any country understands them. It is only those who lack all understanding of culture who talk so much about it.”

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