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Mob Justice: A Lacuna in the Social Movement

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The immediate question arises out of the mob justice is the sense of justice, that how far is the act justifiable? Who are the criminals and who are the victims? Who justifies it? The mob itself is a very temporary irrational type of gathering, without any proper coordination and understanding. The logic of means and ends of an action cannot be justified by swarming up in few moments. An action in order to be justifiable needed a proper coordination of the means and the ends to be employed before steps are taken up. 
Mob from the sociological point of the view is a short gathering of people who got into involved in a sudden upheavals or upsurges. It probably seems to have more negative impacts rather than the positive ones. Contextualising the situation in Manipur society especially, mob justice is the dichotomy of the solidarity which instigates a sense of fear psychosis to the whole of the family members of the culprits rather than bears the heat of social justice by the culprits themselves alone. Dismantling houses, ravaging properties and destroying the belongings of the culprits are the major ways of punishing the culprits through mob justice. It is an exemplary type of repressive punishment to the culprits so that the other members in the society could learn a lesson. It warns other members of the society to forbid replicating the same act or other heinous crimes.
Once a policeman remarked, “a mob has no heads, we were being taught like that in our training.” The intrinsic meaning being very clear, people in a mob are irrational. This perspective may probably be the immediate cause for the time and again act of brutality of the state forces over the people who got involved in mobs or other types of sudden upsurges. Whenever there are social collectives or solidarity in movements, they might have interpreted it from the mob angle and so usually discharged with aggressive acts to subdue them. The traditional methods employed in controlling are arresting the trouble makers, using tear gas, lathi charge, deploying more military personnel creating an atmosphere of militarization etc. In a turbulent society like Manipur, sudden upheavals becomes very common and so mob control mechanisms also needed to become more strategic rather chaotic or inhuman.
Crime and Punishment
Crime in the simplest term is an anti-social element. A criminal is one who is known to have committed an anti-social act or crime. Consequently, who bear the blow of the crimes, are considered as victims. He/she is the one who is unfortunately associated with a crime or an undeserved consequence, the outcome of which people treated him as the injured or the hurt one.  Margery Fry, Priestly and Philip Priestly were the pioneers who advocated that crime simply ought not to be viewed as ‘violation of legal order’ but as a violation of the rights of the individual victims. Generally victims are perceived as the weak in relation to the offender and blameless for what happen. Influenced by the modus operandi of an ‘ideal victim,’ the social attitude over these two distinct categories as per se, is the binary opposites. People have an aggressive attitude towards the offender and a sympathetic view towards the victims.
Traditional societies are governed by strict social mores and sanctions. Customary laws provide ways of sanctioning against the anti-social acts. They stigmatised the culprits as an exemplary phenomena. Traditional ways of punishing culprits may be far from legal approval. And at some point of time such customary laws overreact and turn out to be destructive and disapproving.  ‘Mob Justice’ is a prominent traditional way of settling crimes and a violent way of punishing offenders. It justifies an anti-social act through another heinous act. It implies approval of the Hamurabi’s code “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”  Criminals are punished through another criminal act.
Mob justice doesn’t take into account the innocent dear and near ones of the accused. The dire consequence of the crime committed is made to bear by the whole family members of the culprit including the aged, women and children. When houses and belongings are burnt, dismantled, ravaged, ex-communicated or made to banished from the society, the fear psychosis that gripped the rest of the family member’s minds and has an intense negative impact. Children, in particular are traumatised. In the sole attempt to stabilise a criminal act, the whole family members, except for the culprit, again become victims of the trauma. The fear psychosis inflicted by such irrational act is really criminalising. Thus mob justice is rather a victimising act rather than sympathetic towards the victims.
Examples of Mob Justice
The last two months of August and September 2015, there has been tremendous agitations going on in the valley districts of Manipur in plea with the demand of implementation of ILPS (Inner Line Permit System) in the state. Unprecedented disturbances caused due to prolonged situation of sudden road blockades, protests, rallies, burning piles of tyres, demonstrations and the consequent deployment of the traditional method of mob control mechanisms by the state actors. The psyche of the public become overtly sensitised that they readily swing into violence like demonstrations, or even if not in straight fights, the heavy exchange of slingshots by the youths with the rubber bullets and tear gas shells from the military personals become visibly and insanely high.
Youths involved in such destructive acts whole day long, for many weeks become disarray that in sensitive zones fights broke out among themselves. Here is a short story of a traumatise child in the mob justice out of personal experience.
During the agitating months, some youths indulged in fights, for which the mob labelled them as traitors and were deemed to be punished by the mob with their ‘style of punishing’-dismantling houses, ravaging and thrashing (which is equivalent to the primitive term ‘flogging’) whoever resisted. The mob snowballed and the fury spread like wildfire. Family members of the culprits started running for life, seeking refuge in neighbours. Children were traumatised and started crying out of fear. We run out for any possible help, there I was made to experience an unforgettable shock of life. A boy, a son of the culprit (as the mob labelled so) was seen bitterly crying in a corner, trying hard to subdue his own voice. I started convincing, hoping he felt safer. At that moment he uttered a few words in voice so broke up…., “Mamayai, (a formal way of addressing to the second aunt of a family who has many aunts), eikhoi papado meena hatkhraniye (meaning, my father will be lynched),…… (still breaking down and in a shaking voice), ……eikhoi yumdo mei tharaniye, ei yam kijeiye…. (meaning, our house will be ravaged, I am very afraid). Tears rolled down the cheeks of the kid and I stood amused in the scene, failing to give myself a satisfactory answer to what ‘justice’ means. The only answer I can gave that child was, just a sentence which the boy felt, as a pack of lies “mamayai leirisidi, ichagi” (meaning, mamayai is here for you, my son).
The source from where they derived the authority to grant punishment is doubtful. If the strength of solidarity be sublimated that way, then it will be a lacuna in social movement which will degenerate the essence.  
There have been numerous cases of mob justice turned out ugly. Some such examples are on 16th April 2015, a husband who has been driven out of the locality on charge of killing his own wife, found her cremated wife living a new life with a new partner. Laishram Chaoba, from Thoubal reported a missing report of his wife Naobi on August 22, 2011. Three days later, a death body of a young girl was found floated in the Ithai Barrage. Assuming the death body as Naobi’s, the family members of the girl, relatives and a JAC forcibly cremated the body in the husband’s courtyard. He along with his father were convicted of murder. Their house were dismantled and burnt by the mob. They lead a miserable life taking refuge at a relative’s place. Surprisingly, after 4 years, the husband found out the cremated wife living a new life with another partner at Nongdam Tangkhul Village at Ukhrul district. Be it coincidence or fate, the question now arises is Laishram Chaoba, the first husband set forth before the mob justice dealers is the identity of the woman cremated at his courtyard and the price of the mob justice at which he lost his house.
Lynch mob strikes again: man killed for ‘stealing’ calf in Manipur is another ugly face of mob justice where a school Headmaster was lynched by mob on 4th November 2015, when he was seen near a missing calf from a shed. This was a case which propagated foul smell in the act of labelling a headmaster as a thief and a case which meted with state wide shutdown. 
Moral policing is another way of forcibly dealing justice by the mob. ‘Keina Katpa’ is a traditional way of dealing with sex scandals. Whoever convicted of having illicit relations and get caught were prone face the fate. Sometimes many people seems intimate in relationship and except for the siblings, society interpreted it as illicit. As a lesson, they would be made to ‘keina katpa’ (keina means ‘bride,’ katpa means ‘offering,’ altogether offering of bride). In case of youths, their personal lives are put under a social radar and whenever they  seems to exhibit intimacy with an opposite counterpart, they will be caught and made to indulge the act. Parents in many cases have shown strong resentments in such acts. The resentment may not be simply, because their kids got married early or immature. But the main reason behind everyone try running away from such facts is that ‘keina katpa’ in usual sense does not possess a positive meaning, it implies a way of labelling for being lustful, incestuous or loose moral. The sense of stigma associated with such acts is very high. The shame to be bear by the family is disgusting. Many times, young girls who unfortunately fall prey of such acts try committing suicide out of shame and stigma. Who are we that would blindly justify the relationships in someone’s personal life? It is a derogatory act and we should respect privacy of someone else’s life.                  
In today’s world, people are looking into more restitutive laws as inhuman. The change from the traditional organic society to the modern mechanical society is marked by the change in the law enforcement system in the society. The more society advances towards modernisation, the more restitutive it becomes in penalising the criminals. The repressiveness in penalising marks the primitiveness of the society.
Mob justice being a short span and disorganised one fails to accommodate the diverse views and interest. It has a low level of tolerance also. In fact, it itself can be perceived as an act which originates out of disorder evolving from within a vicious circle of disorders. What are the acts which the mob justice perceives as breaking of order? And can the act of mob justice restore order or was the order ever broken? Who is the victim and who is the culprit and how the order is maintained needed a thorough understanding by the mob justice. My plain intention is not to justify the mob justice as right or wrong, but let’s observe whether it is justifiable. If I say something that sounds guilty, someday I may fall prey of the same act. But I would set forth that this act is a serious impediment in the social movement whereby the system itself falls within the anarchy.

By : Mamta Lukram

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