Are you safe in numbers?
By R Nataraj
08th August 2012 12:05 PM
We always think there is safety in numbers. We assume that if we go in a group nothing will happen but going alone is beset with problems. This hypothesis is not entirely true. Numbers can be deceptive as we unwittingly become responsible for the single or collective misconduct of members of the group. The group as a whole is held responsible and condemned. In a frenzy the group acts before saner counsel prevails, but by then the damage is done!
Take any act of vandalism, individually all are good and are pleasant to talk to and vibe well with everyone. But suddenly the mob mentality takes over and there is mindless violence. This was evident in the violence and looting that was witnessed in London and Birmingham last year when a mob took the law into its own hands resulting in total breakdown of order. Ironically mobile phones, which have become a part of everyone’s life nowadays, were widely used by the thugs to mobilise support in the riots which ravaged London for nearly a week in August 2011.
What sparked the London riots? There is a lesson for all of us. On August 4 Mark Duggan of Tottenham suburb of London died following an encounter with the police and they failed to intimate the family. There was a peaceful protest by local people over this death. The first riot followed this march when the police, who arrived to regulate the mob, allegedly pushed a 16-year-old girl, who was found brandishing a bottle. In the melee that followed the girl was punched and all hell broke loose. This one spark was sufficient to ignite a series of riots which lasted well over a week. The violence also spread to other cities in England. Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and several towns witnessed copycat violence. Many police vehicles were damaged, shops were looted, civilian homes were targeted and the media attention only emboldened the rioters.
Media coverage is expected to deter the law breaker but strangely people indulging in vandalism posed for photographs unmindful of the trail of evidence they were leaving behind.
Police were initially reluctant to act fearing further reprisal and escalation of violence. There was mounting criticism of the high-handed action of the police which sparked the problem and later inaction in the face of mounting violence. The police finally acted and arrested over 3,000 people out of which nearly 1,000 have been charge-sheeted for specific offences. Five people lost their lives during the riots and 16 others were injured. Over `1,500 crore worth property was damaged.
A lot of times innocent bystanders and those who would not have had a major part in the violence but just got involved due to peer pressure get caught by the police. Even people who get injured often belong to the passive mob category while the active manage to get away.
In the riot discussed above it is a moot point how a 16-year-old girl got into the protest march and was brandishing a bottle provocatively. Anti-social elements who organise such mobs cleverly place adolescent youngsters in front just to deter police action while they quietly instigate the mob from behind.
Causes of these riots have been the subject matter of debate among sociologists, administrators and the media. Socioeconomic causes due to unemployment, perceived social injustice, deprivation, disparity in social strata emerged as major causes. A dangerous trend of gang culture and moral decay in the society are other contributory causes.
Youngsters would be well advised not to join any such seemingly peaceful protests. All protests have the potential to turn into extremely serious situations.
Another development is the ‘flash mob’ in a public place in which an event is organised suddenly, attracting everyone’s attention. It could be a dance, music, promotional event or a clever marketing gimmick. Anti-social elements can take advantage of such situations to commit theft, cause disturbance or something even more serious.
Prudence, caution and security consciousness should be the watch words. Trouble is troublesome, so let us get out of trouble’s way!
Director General of Police (Retd), firstname.lastname@example.org
- For team Rahul, it’s good politics that will yield rich dividends for poor Indians
- Incredible India! Cuppa at Rs 1,200 is Chiru’s idea of sustainable tourism
- Farmer gets wise, beats drought with micro-irrigation
- Translation to go hi-tech; C-DAC to launch ‘Translator’
- Hurdles galore as UPA walks road to Ballot 2014
- BJP's post-Karnataka gloom: Neither united nor untainted
- Hit by chit fund scam Mamata faces biggest challenge in 2 years
- Western Ghats: Gadgil’s missive to Kasturirangan opens fresh debate
- Siddaramaiah has his way with team
- Key relationships
- Man arrested for attempt to attack TV host Ranjini Haridas
- Car makers run into diesel dilemma
- Rs 8K-crore plan for upgrading ICVs of Army
- Kept on Congress fringe, says Mani Shankar Aiyer
- Hyderabad beat Kolkata, make semis; put RCB out