Assam Darrang
A video clip of cops shooting a protester in a village during an eviction drive in Darrang district, Assam hit national headlines and caused outrage Image Credit: PTI

An unarmed man was shot several times by cops in Assam, India, when he brandished a stick during an eviction drive in Assam’s Darrang district last week, visuals of which have sparked nationwide outrage.

Worse was to come when the scrawny man lay on the ground, a photographer (hired by the police) took a running build up and jumped on the motionless, presumably dead man’s chest, stomping him.

This use of overwhelming force on citizens is a vestige of a colonial mindset prevalent in some services, which were set up under the British Raj.

When protesting farmers were recently attacked by cops under the orders of an official who saaid, “I want to see broken heads. Is it clear or do you want more direction?”, the police dutifully beat up the farmers.

All that the farmers were doing in Karnal, India, on Aug. 29 last month was protesting the three controversial farm acts brought in by the central government when the junior official ordered police to beat people.

Did the lawless act attract censure from the government? Well if you consider a transfer to the state secretariat a punishment. Despite the video of his instructions going viral, political outrage and cries for accountability, the officer got away with a mere rap on the knuckles.

Mercy of the lynch mob

I know this SWAT analysis has made grim reading so far so I will just offer one more example a Dalit girl gang raped and killed in Hathras, in Uttar Pradesh whose body was cremated at midnight, keeping her grieving family away.

First an explanation: I am not an activist. Having covered the national security beat in India for over two decades, the truisms that we, the privileged, live in a bubble in Delhi no longer seems palatable.

Minorities anywhere in India — a train in the heartland, hawking their wares in a quiet south Delhi colony, even a superstar living in Mumbai with huge security — feel the pressure too. They are often at the causal mercy of a mob on the street or a lynch mob on social media. Those attacking them are radicalised enough to hate them.

People’s human rights matter

Rights of citizens across the world seem to have been something that most countries in the world do not see as an essential non-negotiable right as the security state grows larger. Social media and surveillance ensure that people are constantly under watch.

Big Technology and the private sector biggies, who run social media, make problematic monopolistic decisions everyday, causally mining the data with no regard for our privacy. This is data that we have cheerfully handed over in the belief that social media would make the world a better place.

We need to ask the big question: Is the world a better place now? We need to ensure too that Big Tech comes under some privacy enforcement.

Social media lynch mobs

Social media lynch mob, which is whistled up in nano seconds, often from troll farms run in different countries, powered by bots, has real life human consequences and zero accountability.

Being anonymous ensures that even outrageous lies cannot be called out swiftly enough before real damage is enough. Something is made viral with no regard for the truth. And, by the time the social media companies act on complaints, it is all over.

Sometimes when I think of my country, India, I wonder how imaginary crimes like 'love jihad' (marrying women under a false name and then getting them to convert) can have real life consequences.

For a moment imagine what minorities and Dalits — who have to live through it — go through.