They are alone, because...the ‘crowd’ is spectatorial!
   Date :30-Sep-2023

They are alone
■ By Kartik Lokhande :
SHE walked semi-clad, bleeding, seeking help,and people shooed her away or chose to look away or get ostriched into the sand dunes in their mobile phone handsets. Finally, some goods amaritan,who happened to be the priest of a temple, came to her help, gave her cloth and took her to a doctor. That good samaritan must be hailed,but what about the ‘others’? Sadly, this is not the first time that an incident has led to such a question exploding into the minds and hearts of every sane person in the country. There was a brutal murder and repeated stabbing of a girl in Delhi not long ago in memory. There were atrocities heaped on women in Sonipat.Then, there was brutal killing of a girl followed by her jilted lover throwing acid on her face. There was a rape of a mentally challenged woman in a train compartment by a goon...

How many instances should one cite? Simple Google search can bring forth several results. Allthese cases had one similarity --There were people WATCHING the crime unfold but DID NOT ACT! But then, not acting and just being mute spectators has become a part of Indian culture since the first victory of the British East India Company at Plassey in 1757. Else, how can one explain Robert Clive marching through the territories won in the battle with a few hundred soldiers,with the crowd of be wildered thousands of locals just watching the troops march? Had each one of the locals thrownastone at the marching troops, the scene might have changed. It did not happen, and the rest is history.What kind of a society has India become ? In the era of social media boom, people are reactive and angry to the extent of hurling expletives and doling out threats like indiscriminate firing in the virtual space. However, whenit comes tospeakingupaswitnessor acting to stop a crime taking place before one’s eyes on the streets, allthese social media daredevils suddenly get reduced to a bunch of pusillanimous presences.
They become mortified even if the crime is being perpetrated by one person or 10. Though the spectators may be 200 in number, they do not act against even a single perpetrator. Rather, they seem to be enjoying the cries of victim as some kind of dark entertainment, which they are addicted to watching in the form of web series or violent and vulgar movies. Agreed that some of them might be worried about their sons and daughters and brothers and sisters and wives and husbands and families. But, what if such an inaction to stop the crime leads emboldening of criminal tendencies that might catch their own sons and daughters as victims of such a publicly orchestrated brazen violation? Such timid onlookers of today might be convicts of future generations.
Of course, this is not to say that the crowds should resort to instant mob justice or vigilante action. But, this is to appeal to the people not to form a ‘spectatorial crowd’. Rather, it is time for society to create a situation wherein those under attack from anti-social elements feel assured that people would come to their rescue. The crowds need to become strength of society and not weakness. Where ver there is crowd, it must become very clear to the criminals that they would be caught and handed over to police if they dared to commit a crime inpublic. The criminals should be afraid of perpetrating a crime in full public view. It is for the police machinery also to gear up to stop crimes. As most of these incidents -- people becoming mute spectators and recording the unfolding crime in their cellphones for social media posts --take place in urban areas, the CCTV camera surveillance has to be connected with response time of police machinery.
Else, the Central Government and respective State Governments must take note of lax response in the form of adverse remarks in the career reports of officers concerned whether they belong to All India Services or State services. Because, at least a part of public fear in stopping the criminals comes from the lack of deterrent action against such criminals and their political bosses at the end of police machinery. The cops also need to instill a confidence in public that police stand with the right. There is another dimension too. If the society is united in standing with the right, no part of administration can afford to shield the wrong. The society must form active crowd and not turn into passive and timid group of faceless and shameless people.