After reading about the horrifying attack on the Tanzanian student who was stripped and forced to walk naked in public and whose car was set on fire by an angry mob, I got reminded of a scary incident that personally happened to me last year, where I nearly got attacked by a mob in South Bangalore.
Sometime in November 2015, I took an Ola cab going to South Bangalore. From a perpendicular road opposite the hotel where my business establishment is located, the cab driver refused to cross the opposite road. He irritably told me to just cross the opposite side of Siddaiah Road by walking. Though I was quite upset with this lazy and unprofessional driver, I had no choice but to get out of the car.
As soon as I had opened the door, before I could stand and step out of the car, I heard a loud thud of a motorbike hitting the door and its two passengers were overthrown. Everything happened in lightning speed, before I could even understand what was going on!
The two male passengers from the motorbike immediately rose from the ground (fortunately, there were no physical injuries but the incident triggered bad tempers) and one of them came rushing towards me, in the act of dragging and pulling me out of the car.
I instinctively pulled back the car door in and locked it. Then palms pressed together (like doing the namaste sign), I said, “I am so sorry sir, I did not mean to hurt you. I did not see you.” I am not sure if they understood me as everyone was speaking only in Kannada, but I hoped they saw from my facial expression that I was truly sorry.
In less than a minute, a huge mob has gathered around the car. Without even understanding what exactly happened, everyone was involved — they were yelling at me and kicking and banging the car. They wanted me to get out of the car!
The Ola cab driver was powerless to protect me. He was also scared and just locked himself inside the car. He could not drive forward as there were too many people infront of the car.
To say that I was scared is an understatement. What I only read about in newspapers about the angry Indian mob was unfolding before my eyes, and I was the central character in that life-threatening situation.
How could the crowd react that way without even understanding the facts of the incident first? Did it have any bearing that I was in a car and the other two guys were just in a motorbike that I was judged as the errant party? Or is it because they saw that I am an expatriate and not “one of them”? Or are they just simply stupid?
Then I remembered a blog I wrote in May 2015 on how to deal with a challenging situation like this . . .
- I did not get out of the car.
- I did not fight or yell back at the mob. Instead, I looked very apologetic.
- I called up the Indian hotel manager across the street where my office is, and begged him to come with the watchman and a group of other male staff to rescue me from this angry mob.
- After making the call, I turned on the video camera of my phone to record everything.
- My other hand quickly searched for the pepper spray inside my bag which I always kept with me for self defense. I was ready to fire it in case the mob succeeded in forcibly opening the car.
The crowd was getting thicker and madder every second that passed, but I was fortunate that my office was just across the street and I was able to cry for immediate help. Thank heavens, I survived that traumatic incident unharmed.
My heart bleeds for the Tanzanian students who got attacked by the mob for mistaken identity. I am horrified that those who attempted to help them were also attacked. Worse, the Police allegedly failed to protect them.
As an expat who has lived in India for almost ten years now, I still could not understand why some people are the way they are, and there is nothing that we can do to change them. That sounds vague but I am sure you get my drift. For the meantime, you have to be vigilant of the things happening around you, and learn how to protect yourself from unforeseen situations like this.
Please scroll down and read an earlier blog I have written — The Dangers of Helping Someone In A Road Accident in India, where I shared some pointers on what you can do to protect yourself from an angry mob in case you find yourself in a similar road incident/accident like this.