Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thought for the Day - Why We Should Not Believe Authorities Without Proof

Credibility must be built by consistent behavior. We believe those whom we think behave responsibly. Or because we know they are in responsible positions. We tend to erroneously think that responsibility and responsible positions go together.

This is where we may be making the biggest mistake of our lives.

In cases related to people in power, like say political leaders in the government, the police, the bureacracy, the judiciary, the media etc, we somehow seem to think that whatever they say has some clear evidence backing their claim and we tend to believe them. Or at least we give them more credibility than anyone else, however genuine the other voice may be. But this is something that can be used michievously especially by people who do not display responsibility with power or authority.

In such cases people with no responsibility can make others out to be irresponsible and get them into trouble or behind bars and walk away with the accolades. Now everyone will believe the leader with his or her dramatics and one sided and totally irrelevant arguments, or a policeman who makes completely disconnected things as evidence, or a good looking and English sepaking media person who can spice up the TV with some helpful slogans, banners, ticker tapes and equally loud and sinister sounding music and a repeated version of the offensive clip and in many cases doctored tapes. We believe them and we miss out on the truth.

But who is bothered about the truth? Or about justice? As long as we get our name on social media and have our five minutes of fame.

Case 1:
It's a local case. A friend of mine is a bike maniac. He is late 40s, but loves his bikes. He and his brother and a group of friends with similar likes, go for rides on Sundays on their expensive bikes (red flag). They go to Suryapet or Medchal or someplace far enough to ride their bikes on good and open roads, eat breakfast and return. To go with these powerful bikes they have jackets, helmets and riding gear and shoes etc (red flags) because the bikes are powerful and may cause injury if the right gear is not worn.

Enter Authority:
Last week the gang was returning after a leisurely ride to Medchal when they were accosted by the police. Charges were slapped on them - they were indulging in racing (no proof), they were wearing racing clothes (no law against it), they all carried money for betting (no proof that they did and not likely because among 15 bikers an amount of 1 lakh or so was seized - still not relevant how much). The group said that they go on long rides every Sunday. Police said they did not believe them because they are wearing riding clothes and they are carrying money for betting. Their parents had to be called and reported about this. Challans were raised and money paid. Even better, the media was called.

After the main gang was harassed and 'arrested', two bikes came by - a girl and a boy - riding Bullets. They were also apprehended on charges of wearing jackets, logos and racing and perhaps betting. Now with a girl in the picture, many other charges might have also appeared in the minds of the authorities but they restricted them to racing and betting etc. The Bullet couple shouted themselves hoarse that unlike the superbikes that can race, the Bullets barely touch 100 kmph which every other 100 cc bike does. But, they were also 'arrested'.

Enter media:
TV channels and some other print media gathered at a signal by the policeman who returned in uniform for the TV. The cameras panned the faces of the rich, spoilt, racing, law breaking, betting gang. The bikes were shown to show how depraved these bikers were. Questions were raised on why it would in all likelihood be racing because they are wearing jackets and 'racing clothes'. Questions were also raised by the anchors on how people go for long rides 'alone' and not in groups of '15'.  

Much talk focussed on the young woman. The report said that the police counselled the young woman (why her specifically and not the young men one can only venture a guess). After further pondering over how the police are gearing up  for more such raids and arrests, the report wound up on a sinister and self-righteous note. Look what the brats are doing to our society seems to be the gist.

Proof of crime:
Nothing. Except that they were riding powerful bikes (no crime), wearing jackets (no crime), carrying some money (no crime).

In all likelihood the policeman involved would get noticed by his superiors for this extra work. How the police are safeguarding us from these bikers. Its a case where the one who does the injustice, in this case the cop, by harassing and penalising and invading their privacy by calling the media, becomes the hero. The innocent, despite their jackets and helmets, are the villains. Who can they speak to? Who will listen? Already everyone must have made up their minds about immoral activities etc.

Traumatised citizens who cannot live and do freely. Normally these are the soft targets. Try touching a hard target. No way. TV happy. Cop happy. All of us self-righteous people at home happy.

Show me proof - and what's the law?
The danger is how we believe the cop and the media guy and their slant. We can never get the real picture. Unless the cop or the media guy shows proof. Don't make up your mind till then. Don't believe them blindly.

Now extrapolate this idea into all that is happening around you. Aarushi Talwar. HCU. JNU.

Where is the proof? What does your proof mean? Is there a law against your proof or are you still talking of 'public sentiment' (if selective parts of your evidence are leaked) and treating mob insanity as the law? Are you not a bigger culprit - you have shown your 'proof' to a million people who can misread the situation, your position and your emotion?

Who is the bigger culprit? The cop? Or the bikers? Or more so, the young woman?

Proof. Always proof. Always first principles. If we do not have first principles, the mask will fall. If not now, after sometime. But by then, for all of us who go by without asking for irrefutable proof, it may be too late.

Ask for proof. If there is no proof, it is plain goondagiri. Whether at the Centre or in a University or a police station.

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