These stories of mob lynchings (this one in Reuters) are so depressing. I’m beginning to feel that there is something more going on than simply panic against child abductors.
I was just remembering a paragraph in Saki (HH Munri) story “Filboid Studge” (1912)
” There are thousands of respectable middle-class men who, if you found them unexpectedly in a Turkish bath, would explain in all sincerity that a doctor had ordered them to take Turkish baths; if you told them in return that you went there because you liked it, they would stare in pained wonder at the frivolity of your motive. In the same way, whenever a massacre of Armenians is reported from Asia Minor, every one assumes that it has been carried out “under orders” from somewhere or another; no one seems to think that there are people who might like to kill their neighbours now and then.”
That’s typical Saki. But it would be truer to say that this is a reaction of village people who have been left out of India’s boom. They see rich hi-tech workers from Hyderabad in their shiny new red SUV and something snaps inside them. Perhaps the story they tell themselves is that they are confronting child abductors, but unconsciously they are acting from a deep sense of grievance. All of these lynchings have been of outsiders. In the south, the victims have usually been northerners or people from the cities. In a case near Tiruvannamalai in TN, a 63 year old north Indian woman was killed after having been seen giving sweets to children. Probably the children themselves were pestering her for sweets or school pens.
Whenever there is a bandh (a strike) or any kind of civil unrest in India, the first thing you do is get off the streets, because if you are not a local, or are from the wrong community, you automatically become a potential target. If something unexpected happens, like the death of a well-known politician, the streets empty in an instant, because everyone is afraid.
Is India such a “primitive” country? It isn’t the only place subject to mob violence. In America, people become similarly afraid of each other after every national disaster. Every man for himself. Civilization is all too fragile.