Self defence and vigilantism – The thin blue line

Posted: February 4, 2009 in pub, Pune
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Read an interesting post on a blog titled Against The Tide run by a good friend Joseph Pinto, on the violence in Mangalore around Republic Day and the views of some bloggers who are understandably disturbed by the events that took place. In all the hoopla and hysteria created by the media over the incident, mostly to cover up for its own misdemeanours, one issue has been relegated to the backburner. It’s the thin blue line that separates self defence and vigilantism. What if one of the patrons at Amnesia had a licensed revolver that day? Would he wait for the attackers to identify themselves, when the only thought at that moment, was to protect his life and that of his companion? And what if he ran after one of the attackers and shot at him, because his companion was molested and he was beaten up? What if single women were to apply for gun licenses, because they believed they were unsafe in the city, and shot at someone because he tried to molest her? Where would one draw the line between self defence and vigilantism?

I ask these questions because I remember an incident that took place around two decades ago, in then conservative Pune that stirred up a veritable hornets’ nest. For those of you who aren’t old enough to remember that incident, it revolved around a citizen who, while sitting in his garden late one evening, saw a burglar scaling the wall to enter his property. The citizen warned the intruder that he was armed and that he shouldn’t attempt to enter. But when the intruder didn’t heed the warning, the citizen shot him. When the case went to court he was acquitted. A section of Pune’s media supported the citizen when the incident occurred and all through the trial, because they believed he had exercised his right to defend himself. Strangely enough a majority of Puneites also supported the citizen for the same reason.

How would the media, TV channels in particular, react now if such an incident were to happen? Will the media support the citizen for defending himself or herself or will that citizen be branded a killer?

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