The Season of Lynch Mobs

Even as we probe the question of ‘state versus love’ in this issue of Kindle, a ‘state versus hate’ problem remains equally relevant, as local governments and police forces face (or ignore, as is often the case) serious incidents of hate crime. Amit Sengupta notes, from the underground of South Delhi, the alarming recent spate of xenophobic, racist, and sexist violence, targeted at the African communities there.

“My friend told me, don’t go outside, they are beating up African women. I was planning to go out, but I stayed in and locked my door. They banged on our door, I was terrified. They beat up and groped other Ugandan women that night (the night that Delhi law minister Somnath Bharti led the ‘raid’). In Khirkee, there have been many such attacks in the past. On one occasion, a man broke a beer bottle and slashed my friend’s leg with it, she was bleeding. I have been stoned by men. They often touch our breasts, grope us as we pass, they brand us as prostitutes. We are very scared.”

Brenda, a Ugandan woman who lives in Khirkee Village, South Delhi.

“The RWA in Khirkee has been activated in the past year, not over concerns of sanitation, water, etc., but on an overtly racist plank, profiling and targeting the local African community. There have been multiple instances of violence against African women, and even African kids have faced discrimination at school. The police used to be insensitive to the complaints of the Africans. But, after we wrote letters to the police and spoke to them, the police’s attitude has become more sensitive and principled. The SHO there has, in fact, acted responsibly when he received racist complaints about how African ‘food stinks’ or how ‘women dress in short skirts’. The complaints of so-called ‘drug and sex rackets’ need to be seen in the context of this organised racist targeting. We ask the government – should the SHO and local police act as an obedient arm of racist sentiment? If the SHO is transferred, after our patient efforts have actually made him respond sensitively and responsibly, it will send a message to the police that they should not defend the rights of the minorities or foreign nationals.”

Aastha Chauhan, an artist who has long experience of working among the African community in Khirkee Village.

(Both quotes cited above are derived from a press statement issued by JNU Students’ Union, AISA and AIPWA.)

Even as a sublime winter enters the bones with its frozen cannibalism and the fog moves into the thick, infinite darkness of early, endless mornings, like cave paintings fossilised in ice, a new season has entered the political soul – unconscious of a high moral ground – of middle class Delhi. It’s the season of lynch mobs.

They gheraoed the homes of African men and women, mostly young ones, branding them as drugs traffickers and prostitutes, forcing the police to raid their homes and arrest them.

They are coming in all contours and contradictions, sometimes contorted in their self delusional ‘morally purified’ hallucinations, often transparently rightwing, xenophobic and murderous; at other times, camouflaged as cold, grey feminism; and mostly, as is the flavour of the day, dressed in multiple one-dimensional shades of brazenly bullish, bully- ish, racist, sexist, misogynist, Ku Klux Klan-ish codes of puritanical moral policing and protocols of conduct. These lynch mobs wearing those funny Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) caps, drunk with new power, bereft of an iota of ideological underpinnings or aesthetic/critical enlightenment, operate like holy-cow lunatics, branding and condemning men and women, hanging them in their imagined, retarded utopias as drug addicts, criminals, prostitutes, whores, future rapists, etc. In this season of cow urine purity, it is the lynch mob which is both the judge and the prosecutor.

This is exactly what they did on a recent, post-midnight, frozen hour at Khirkee Village, the urban-rural ghetto in South Delhi, even while they went berserk with male machismo and ethnic cleansing-enthusiasm. They gheraoed the homes of African men and women, mostly young ones, branding them as drugs traffickers and prostitutes, forcing the police to raid their homes and arrest them. The police refused to break the law and arrest these people without cause, so now the thugs are hounding the police. They blocked the roads and chased girls walking on the streets, dragging them to police vehicles. They chased eunuchs.

Moreover, a xenophobic racial profiling was ordered in the neighbourhood, in which citizens were classified by their race and the country they came from – in this case, all of them countries in Africa.

They blocked a car of some African girls. They beat, manhandled, abused and assaulted the girls and, in the most racist and sexist language, branded all the girls ‘prostitutes’. One girl was forced to urinate outside the car, trapped as they were in the hands of AAP vigilantes and goons for three hours.

They were forced to go to a hospital and without their consent compelled to give urine samples. They refused to give blood samples but they were humiliated and degraded by bodily and cavity searches. If this is not bodily violation then what is? They were made to wait for hours inside a police station, condemned and branded as prostitutes and drug addicts, even while the doctors found not one trace of evidence on their presence or bodies. If this not ‘mob-ocracy’; if this is not a violation of human rights, then what is?

Moreover, a xenophobic racial profiling was ordered in the neighbourhood, in which citizens were classified by their race and the country they came from – in this case, all of them countries in Africa. This racial profiling was glorified as ‘cleansing’ the pure society of the dark forces of evil, crime and immorality. And all this was led by the new AAP law minister in Delhi, one new bully drunk with power and morbid notions of racist purity, and a blood-thirsty mob of AAP goons and holy cows.

This happened all through this night of long knives, and yet they have refused to say ‘sorry’. Instead, they are on another high– the high of high moral ground vigilantism, muscle- flexing, chest thumping, blocking streets, turning lunacy into an art form, celebrating perverse, Ku Klux Klan type of machismo combined with misogyny and racism. Add to this the crude sexist/racist poetry of their resident standdown comedian, and this party of closet fascists becomes a lynch mob in eternal transit.

No wonder they don’t want to utter one word against Narendra Modi or the Gujarat genocide of 2002.

Amit Sengupta started journalism when he was 19, even while he was working in the relief camps as a student of JNU after the State sponsored genocide of Sikhs in Delhi in 1984. Since then, he has been an independent president of the JNU Students' Union, writer, activist and editor, closely involved with multiple people's movements and conflict zones in contemporary India. He was Executive Editor, Hardnews magazine, South Asian partner of Le Monde Diplomatique, Paris. He has earlier worked as a senior editor and journalist with Tehelka, Outlook, The Hindustan Times, Asian Age, The Pioneer, The Economic Times and Financial Chronicle. Till recently he has been a professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi.

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