Sunday, January 13, 2013

Flash Mobs & Democracy

Flash Mobs & Democracy

Article published in Herald, 11th January 2013 Flash Mobs & Democracy by Soter D'Souza
The horrendous and spine-chilling gang-rape in a bus and the subsequent death of the 23-year old paramedic at Delhi, stirred the conscience of the nation. Once again the casual approach adopted by the government to repeated crimes against women and girls, finally blew in its face after failing to gauge the extent of public anger. The refusal from a certain class of citizens to take any more nonsense from their government is very evident. In times when news and information is no more within the sole control of governments, it is not possible to conceal information and criticism. Relentless but peaceful advocacy and lobbying with the government by civil society groups, to ensure adequate laws and policies and their implementation in order to curb social evils, is very essential and justified in a democracy. A rape or molestation of any woman or girl is painful and threatening to any mother, father, husband, wife, brother or sister. Gender equity is a must for a healthy society, and violence against any gender just cannot be condoned. But in working towards gender sensitivity and security solutions, we also need to be mindful of the biological, mental and emotional aspects of humans. What seemed to have emerged as a spontaneous response from segments of concerned civil society on the rape incident, once again succumbed to seasoned opportunistic forces ~ as in the case of the anti-corruption movement. It was very unfortunate that yet again the momentum of a public initiative against a social evil which struck an emotional chord with the masses, was ultimately diluted into a political battle because of the absence of mature and experienced civil society leaders. The eagerness to imitate a 'Tahrir Square' or 'Arab Spring' phenomena and try to replicate it at Ram Lila Maidan or India Gate is probably the folly. Crossing the lakshman-rekha to a point of creating a constitutional crisis and governance paralysis, becomes more about a political revolution and a social reaction instead of social action. This gives an excuse for the government to clamp down on protests which in turn makes the public weary about lending support. It seems the latest trend is that little known civil society dispensations emerge as champions against social evils, with the ability to produce flash mobs that incite public emotions. This growing nuisance gets compounded by some private TV news channels that subject its viewers to an unceasing 24x7 bombardment on a single issue, as if the country and world is only confined to Jantar Mantar. This is nothing short of 'mental castration' that seeks to block rational thinking. Fascist approaches creeping in through proxy civil society flash mobs, hysterical TV channels and aggression in social media, to blackmail Parliament or Government with "this demand-this way-just now"; poses a threat to democratic institutions in this country. Only 'Lokpal' and all else is 'Jokepal' type of an approach, deprives the larger society of an opportunity for debate and informed decisions on policies or legislations. Parliament and governments are pushed into a state of panic and reluctant submission to pacify the mob. The increasing tendency by media reports to portray the decision of mobs as representative of the mind of a 1.2 billion population, is nothing but disrespect for democracy. As we know, the opinion of a mob is not necessarily the 'truth', as it is often devoid of rational and scientific thinking. This growing approach of a 'one problem-one remedy', that gets marketed across the country by some citizens squatting at Jantar Mantar, Ram Lila Maidan or India Gate and cheered on by the media, needs to be resisted if democracy is to survive. Those that manage to hustle together a mob in Delhi and rope in the media, cannot be allowed to become the decision makers and conscience-keepers for the entire country. What should worry every citizen is, the growing fascist type solutions of 'hang them', 'burn them' or 'castrate them' ~ that are taking control of young minds. The 'one solution-one demand' approach in recent movements against social evils, is reminiscent of a 'one nation-one culture' theory which is about intolerance and exclusion. Any citizen who has conflicting views is ridiculed, mobbed and driven into a corner. The rape of a young girl or pregnant woman on a street is no different from a rape or slitting of the womb of a pregnant woman during communal riots. The beating up of young girls with their boyfriends in public places or at parties, is no different from molestation of girls in a public bus or on the street. But it is disgusting that the responses of concerned civil society and political groups are discriminatory and skewed when it comes to action against certain forms of violence against women and girls. And if society is so concerned about women, then how come the rape victim and her friend had to remain naked and bleeding by the roadside for over half an hour, before help could reach them? Interestingly, the debate on the role of intoxicants and other cultural behaviours in the Delhi rape incident and other such crimes against women and girls, are cleverly being swept under the carpet. Probably, debating the issue of alcohol and drugs or modern life styles in relation to crimes against women, seems too threatening for civil society. It would confront many into looking and recognising their own contributory behaviour to the problem which they are selfishly hesitant to sacrifice for the greater good of the community. And here lies the hypocrisy in the entire debate ~ that takes pleasure in ridiculing males, slum dwellers, police and governments for failures to secure the rights of women and girls in this country. Can eradication of gender discrimination and violence be about a one-track blame game without every citizen acting responsibly? In short, the issue of violence against women cannot be tackled in isolation from other forms of violence, that are prevalent in our society. Rapes against women or girls are manifestations of a larger violence that takes place from 'the womb to the tomb'. It is the manifestation of a violent economy and violent development, that involves displacement and deprivation of human beings. What better can one expect in a society that collaborates with an economy that commodifies the human person, particularly a woman's body? Slogans like 'dress to kill' or philosophies about 'My body, my life' that get circulated without a second thought, cannot progress without an equal and opposite reaction. We cannot ignore natural laws. For, though we may have our own individuality and desires, we are also part of a society which ultimately is about dialogue, a degree of sacrifice and compassion, if at all there is to be harmony and peace. What we need is action towards fostering gender sensitivity and equality in our own homes and families to begin with, and not emotional reactions on the streets. More stringent and harsher laws, installing surveillance equipment and the rest would only mean someone earning more in the process, probably even more scope for corruption. Ultimately a criminal mind or a psychopath cares little for such deterrents. Investment in promoting sound and healthy families and economic development models that respect the human person, can contribute much more towards ensuring a safer society. We need more rational and positive action from citizens rather than reactions arising from emotions.


  1. Reading this article takes me to think why this "mobocracy" (as said by Aristotle) is happening in the first place? Well, when democracy functions well, little does the intellectual sect of our country got to react. It is right that there were certain incidents which might make us think that there is an invisible force with an anti-state agenda behind the flash mob, like the kudankulam. However, one must not disregard the genuineness of the citizens demands for "End to injustice" to certain sections, esp vulnerable sections such as women, landless labourers etc. Jal Satyagraha and Delhi rape case agitations are the akin to this kind. Should the women of Delhi bare the brunt even after 650+ rape cases in the NCR alone in 2012? Is the govt. so busy counting the foreign exchange and laying red carpet to the QFIs and ignore the pain of its own citizens so long? I'm not anti-state, but should India, which is envisioning to be the 3rd largest GDP (nominal) by 2025, sit back and watch culprits hide behind the jungle of laws waving to the families of dead in humiliation?

  2. Dear Avinash,

    Thank you for your thought provoking comment. Infact I have shared this article in this blog to provoke such thought processes which will result into a collective social action than a mere emotional reaction.I am not for/anti-state,but trying to emphasize the role of each and every member of the society along with the state, to curb the menace of female infanticide,gender discrimination,ragging,eve teasing, dowry,sexual harassment at work place and rape etc. Can we say that each one in that mob has never participated in these acts..? Let us introspect before blaming the state alone..

  3. i agree with your opinion sir, but at the same time why the state, bureaucracy and political systems are not reacting before happening these menance , for instance after agitations only the entire machinery is stepping for new enactments and changes, now the delhi governament imposing ban on using blackflims for cars also planning to provide special autos to girls and also increased women police in the capital . if they do same before the nirbaya's incident,we may avoid that drastic incident...

  4. Dear SNR, I believe that a healthy discussion is the rockbed of democracy too. If we go to the micro level and ask "Can we say that each one in that mob has never participated in these acts..?" then everyone would be a culprit one way or the other, directly or indirectly. What we need to ponder upon is atleast the guilty should be punished. People of our country are tired listening to politicians saying "Law will take its course".. Well, on the brighter side, our president has called in for judicial reforms. Its astonishing that over 3 crore cases are pending in sessions, civil, high courts of our country. S.C alone has 60,000 cases pending! and leave alone the tribunal cases.... I think that the name "fast track" is so misleading... Whoever has made it, is great proponent of reforms, only in his own eyes! well, there nothing fast in it.. that should actually be the normal speed.. the relativity of fastness is obtained by comparing to the sluggish, lethargy of our judiciary which is crawling at snail's pace... no offence to our immensly talented judges and lawyers. I read in an article that they are faster, sharper, honest and obedient than our bureaucrats.. :) no offence again .. Our political leadership (if at all there is any leader??) should be more aam-admi oriented, than the QFIs and FDIs... Nevertheless, in a modernizing (not to be understood as westernizing!) Indian society, bullish investors, sensex needs to surge anyways... but more stabler countries are built only when the foundations are strong. Well, there is plethora of issues and corresponding ideas that could be discussed in such a forum. Its a great initiative ITCSA.. Hope I too join it some day ! :)

  5. Dear Avinash and Shiva,

    Thank you for bringing the new ideas/thoughts to this forum.However i still feel each and every individual and society as such needs introspection.As long as citizen respects and accepts the system works fine, otherwise fast track courts,changes in law will not have desired impact.In this regard i just want to give the crime related figures of worlds No.1 Country USA for better clarity on this.

    Incarceration Trends in America

    From 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people
    Today, the US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of world prisoners.
    Combining the number of people in prison and jail with those under parole or probation supervision, 1 in ever y 31 adults, or 3.2 percent of the population is under some form of correctional control

    Inspite of US Govt every year spends more than $200 billion for public safety, it has 25% of world prisoners.

    So i strongly feel that it is not only the punitive actions of the govt.,but also the corrective and collective actions of each individual,parent,teacher,religious heads,political leaders etc. of the society will contribute for the better& safer society..

  6. Dear SNR, Thanks for the info.. thats very useful.
    I totally agree with u.. Finally it always ends with a note regarding Gandhiji's Swadheenta-self control, wherein every individual has control over his emotions and is tolerant towards others feelings and emotions. If every Indian is aiming for "swaraj", wherein he/she is dutiful towards state/citizens, before claiming for their rights, then policing, weapon control, safety laws bother us lesser and lesser...
    Also, we should acknowledge the "Godly" presence(only in morality terms but of not any superpowers :))us, as preached by Shankaracharya's "Aham Brahmasmi".

    But I wonder whether the "quickie-age" of juveniles and techies could understand these great philosophies of life? In a rudimentary sense, probably, the intellectuals' thoughts are only confined to UPSC's exams... :)

  7. dear sir.. I want to prepare for civil sevice exams.. I am interested in public administration and Sociology... So will you please send me the material for that including general studies..

  8. Dear SNR,you said that Collective social action is far better than mere emotional reaction,but we are living in the country where one politician slips "dented&painted" words over civilians and another one uses indecent language over his fellow lady politician,the list of these type of people is infinity.But we can't blame any individual,our system has become like that,i read the entire post by you, but i did't get clarity over precautionary measures should be taken to eradicate these type of incidents,I hope even chemical castration wont do anything,but our government should impose Value added education instead of value added tax on the we can observe one thing that Justice is far away from common woman,due to it lot of crimes against women are not even go into the records.even they filed,they won't go to the court premises,especially "women violation cases",most of the people consider it as common civil crime.this is not a brutal act against women body but her on her soul,so our laws should be eye openers to every rouge who are willing to do this crimes.Finally i wanna say that this heinous attitude towards women is like polio disease,once it was every where in India but now our country was unlisted from UN records w.r.t Polio.this was not one night process,but our govt. did its best to eradicate this disease,by vast awareness in society like "this disease is a shame to our country so we should demolish it",the result is now we can see "Polio free India",like that our govt. should create awareness about women self respect and her self esteem so that we can get fruitful output,once again thank you sir,we owe a lot to you,keep posting these type of thought provoking posts.

  9. Dear Hima, please send your detailed queries to our mail id.

    Dear Santosh, I too agree with you w.r.t mass awareness programmes and changes in educational systems.Pease find an article from The Navhind times, which advocates a positive channelisation of public anger

    NEW DELHI: Asking people to view the December 16 gang-rape as a crime against women in general and not just any individual, the Chief Justice of India, Mr Justice Altamas Kabir on Monday said there have been “knee-jerk” reactions but the anger can be “channelized positively”.

    “On that day what happened is not exactly something new. But it caught the imagination of the people. But I will still caution that what happened on December 16 was not against a particular person, but crime against women in general,” Mr Justice Kabir said at a conference on domestic violence here.
    He said certain groups permeated the protests which was a “retrograde step” and there were “knee-jerk” reactions to the incident.
    The Chief Justice of India also revealed that his nephew was also one of the protestors beaten up by the police at India Gate.
    He said that in order to address issues like gang-rape, six fast-track courts have been set up in the capital. “I wrote all over the country to ensure that these courts are set up in other places also.”
    He said it was important that apart from the “letter of the law, spirit of the law” is also considered.
    “Without sensitivity, there is no point in being a judge,” he said.
    Earlier, addressing the conference, the Women and Child Development Minister, Ms Krishna Tirath said the government has made a provision of around Rs.100 crore per annum for the implementation of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act
    Ms Tirath also said the protection of women against sexual harassment at workplace bill which has been passed by the Lok Sabha will come up for the discussion in the Rajya Sabha in the coming budget session of Parliament starting next month.
    She said her ministry will be assisting state governments in funding for two protection officers and two service providers at the district level and for office equipment and one protection officer exclusively at sub-divisional level in 100 “vulnerable” districts.
    Former Supreme Court judge Ms Justice Ruma Pal, who was also present on the occasion, said that despite the increasing recourse to the PWDVA, there is still an absence of accountability of those charged with its implementation. She insisted on a more stringent and systematic monitoring.

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