This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Saurav Kumar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Mark Twain And Harishankar Parsai On The Culture Of Mob Lynching

More from Saurav Kumar

After 2014, when a new government assumed power at the center to govern India, one message informally, unofficially trickled down the line particularly to supporters of Hindutva organisations like Rashtriya Swayansevak Sangh, Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Hindu Karni Sena, Gaurakshak Dal, etc – Do not hesitate in taking law in your own hands and deliver a verdict on anything by gathering a mob and carry out lynching on anything that makes you suspicious, goes against your propaganda or idea of Indian society. Let the court of law be out of this business of mass level delivery process.

Incidents of mob lynching in India have caught attention of different sections of society. Mob lynching is not a new phenomenon but its impunity and normalisation is definitely a new threat which is grasping and overshadowing the ideals, principles of our Indian Constitution. At a time where mobs have become hyperactive in taking the law into their hands, I feel the need to recall two literary icons from the field of Hindi and English literature – Harishankar Parsai and Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens).

In 1901, Mark Twain gave an excellent description of a violent mob in response to a racial lynching in Missouri. He warned about this danger on a democracy. He wrote – “It must be that the increase comes of the inborn human instinct to imitate–that and man’s commonest weakness, his aversion to being unpleasantly conspicuous, pointed at, shunned, as being on the unpopular side. Its other name is Moral Cowardice, and is the commanding feature of the make-up of 9,999 men in the 10,000. I am not offering this as a discovery; privately the dullest of us knows it to be true. History will not allow us to forget or ignore this supreme trait of our character. It persistently and sardonically reminds us that from the beginning of the world no revolt against a public infamy or oppression has ever been begun but by the one daring man in the 10,000, the rest timidly waiting, and slowly and reluctantly joining, under the influence of that man and his fellows from the other ten thousands. The abolitionists remember. Privately the public feeling was with them early, but each man was afraid to speak out until he got some hint that his neighbor was privately feeling as he privately felt himself. Then the boom followed. It always does. It will occur in New York, some day; and even in Pennsylvania.

…. Then perhaps the remedy for lynchings comes to this: station a brave man in each affected community to encourage, support, and bring to light the deep disapproval of lynching hidden in the secret places of its heart–for it is there, beyond question.

Then those communities will find something better to imitate – of course, being human they must imitate something. Where shall these brave men be found? That is indeed a difficulty; there are not three hundred of them in the earth. If merely physically brave men would do, then it were easy; they could be furnished by the cargo. … We are out of moral-courage material; we are in a condition of profound poverty. We have those two sheriffs down South who – but never mind, it is not enough to go around; they have to stay and take care of their own communities.” 

Just ten years short to a century later in 1991, Harishankar Parsai wrote an article named- ‘Awaara Bheed ke khatre’/ ‘आवारा भीड़ के खतरे’ with aim to understand the mindset who easily flows into the deep sea of hate whose result ends up in ‘Mob-violence’ which in today’s India has become ‘Mob-Lynching’. He writes

“In a discussion within a group of 4-5 writers, Lakshmikant Verma, hailing from Allahabad recalled an incident of last Diwali. In a Sari shop, a dummy model was kept for show off. All of a sudden a youth picked up a stone and threw at the dummy model, the glass shattered. When asked about this violent act, he reverted back with a reply- Bastard, “she is too damn beautiful”/ “हरामजादी बहुत खूबसूरत है.” We debated the reason behind the young man’s action. What does it mean? What kind of a mentality was behind the act? How did this mentality come to existence? In the latter half of the 20th century, this question is being raised on youth of developed countries of the west to the poor nations of the third world….the young man in this scenario was wearing kurta pyjama. His face was loaded with languish and was unenergetic but at the time hurling the stone, his angry desperation was evident. Educated but jobless, he was wandering in search of a job. The young man’s family was going through tough time. Insults at home, disrespect outside, he was full of guilt, suffocation, anger and negativity having a grievance against everyone. In such a state of mind, extreme beauty would be irritating. Blossoming of flowers would seem to be extremely unpleasant. Someone’s beautiful house becomes a hate subject. A stylish car makes you feel to spit on it. Hearing a melodious song is to be in pain. Alienation from friends who are well dressed. Anything that gives the feeling of happiness, beauty, completeness, success or prestige leads to anger….Students and youth symbolize carriers of revolution and social transformation with a vision for good. If they have the power of fresh ideas, direction, organization and positive energy, and they are able to comprehend the ills of the older generation, then they would neither inherit the weaknesses of their elders nor add some of their own to take the tradition of degeneration forward.  Resentment causes self-destruction.

An aimless, frustrated, Jobless crowd is dangerous. In the past, they were easily mobilized by fascists such as Napoleon, Hitler and Mussolini. This crowd starts following religious fanatics. It becomes most prone to be part of any organization that teaches fundamentalism and hate. This crowd can easily become the weapon of fascists.  Then this crowd can be made to indulge in all kinds of destructive acts. It is this very crowd which is on the rise in our country which is in action as well. In upcoming time, this crowd could be deployed in large numbers to crush and destroy all national, humane and democratic values.” 

Mohammad Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan, Junaid Khan, Ayub Pandit, Qasim, Gautam Verma, Vikas Verma, Gautam Gupta, Baban Musahar, Murahu Musahar, Nilotpal Das, Abhijeet Nath… the list goes on and tragically is increasing in the world’s largest democracy with the biggest young population. The pattern and increase in incidents have a direct relationship with the rise of the Right Wing power. It aims to establish a nation which is the antithesis of today’s Republic of India. The leverage and free hand to attack anyone on mere suspicion by the outraged population aligns with the hyper-nationalistic sentiment unleashed by leaders of the ruling party where they commit to carry the whole expense of 4 people convicted for lynching two Muslim adults. Even the conviction rate in mob lynching cases is much more demoralizing. Between 2014-2018, there were 86 incidents which had 33 deaths and 282 victims but till date, only 11 people have been convicted that too only in the state of Jharkhand.

This new form of hate is getting normalised and socialised by ineffective policies of the government where it failed to create job opportunities for the youth of this nation and by providing impunity to miscreants, religious fundamentalist organisations who aim to grab a chance to execute barbarity. Many of us may reject or take this argument of considering mob lynching as common incidents of crime but it differs from all as it has something to do with humiliating the minorities either caste-wise or religion-wise. Hope cautionary warnings of Mark Twain and Harishankar Parsai fall on our ears to vehemently oppose transition of Indian Democracy into Mobocracy or Hindustan into Lynchistan.

You must be to comment.

More from Saurav Kumar

Similar Posts

By Ritwik Trivedi

By Geetika Gaurav

By Megh Mandaliya

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below