Lynching: A primer

3 July 2018

1. Lynching is not just punishment without due process; it is punishment where no crime exists.

2. The mob exists mainly in having a defense against reason. The most blatant of its tyranny is to reduce all history to the violence it can dispense.

3. The mob is not spontaneous. It is always assembled and organized for a kill.

4. The mob is not irrational. It is rendered useful because it is profitable to kill.

5. Lynching is an act of belonging, claiming authority through racial, religious and casteist violence. Nothing builds group cohesion and solidarity like violence.

6. India was always its mob. Lynching in India is not new. These incidences of violence are not against the grain. A cursory look at the caste violence against Dalits and other minorities demonstrates that this is how crowd draws their power.

7. The pogroms and riots in India also have a long history of mob violence. Leading up to the Bombay, Gujarat and the Sikh riots pamphlets were circulated, often instructing men to commit crimes as a group as this would make it harder to both collect evidence and prosecute.

8. Lynching is about pushing the law to its farthest limits of impotence, where justice is rendered impossible. It is also about creating hierarchies of violence and policing the boundaries of human civility.

9. Lynching is about majoritarian power, the unchecked authority of the majority. It also represents the ultimate control over the body of another, through the mere whim of the other.

10. Lynching whether here in the United States or elsewhere is based on race, caste, and religion as signifiers.

11. This is not a shape of things to come. This is not the event that foreshadows the decay. That moment arrived a long time ago.

12. Lynchings are a reproduction of supremacy. Photographs of the dead being circulated is a visual symbol of majoritarian power asserting itself.

13. Globalisation has also reproduced and transmitted a global culture of torture. All types of regimes (democracies, kleptocracies, oligarchies and authoritarian regimes) partake and reproduce the same tactics of terror and torture, and they also learn and borrow from each other. Lynching has now traveled globally and reproduced itself.

The above essay
is a part of