Monday, October 06, 2008

Mobs and riots

Over the past few days there have been reports of mobs attacking police stations and the newspapers have gone to town talking about how people are venting their frustration on the police etc. From this report:

Roy’s observation comes days after Muslim mobs had targeted the police in the communally-sensitive town of Malegaon last Monday following a bomb blast which killed four people and injured scores when Muslims broke their Ramzan fast. Again last week, Rabodi in Thane district was hit by communal violence over the location of a controversial Navratri arch. Asserting that the area had been simmering with Hindu-Muslim tensions for a few days, some locals accused the police of not acting in time to prevent trouble. Fresh communal trouble broke out in the northern town of Dhule on Sunday, forcing police to fire in the air and impose curfew.

How does the police tackle a mob? How can they?

The reason mobs are successful is because of anonymity. Every person who participates in a mob knows fully well that he would not do something that he does in a mob if he were alone. The anonymity and the fact that police do not and cannot identify the 20000 participating persons(Deputy chief minister R R Patil was grilled on the action planned against the rioting mob but he pleaded helplessness, saying "What can one achieve by registering a complaint when a mob of 20,000 people attack policemen?'') makes it easier for a mob to vent its fury on any cause or rumour (usually).

The police needs to get innovative here. For one, more than bullets, cameras - high resolution ones are important. If people know that their actions are being recorded, there will be fewer mobs. Once the riot subsides, get them all, create a police record for all of them. That will deter these adventurous rascals.

Second - use dyes instead of water cannons. A dye that can penetrate clothes and can be sprayed on mobs is a good idea. The dye should not indelible or atleast take a few days to wear off. Once the riot subsides, it is not too difficult to catch the rioters.

Drones that can capture wide areas with high resolution is another idea. With the budgets that the police gets, this is highly impossible, but an eye-in-the-sky will make people think twice before rioting.

A stink bomb is a smart idea, instead of tear gas.

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