Gangster Vikas Dubey, wanted for the killing of 8 policemen in Kanpur, was gunned down in an encounter after he reportedly tried to flee when a car in the Special Task Force (STF) convoy taking him from Madhya Pradesh's Ujjain to Uttar Pradesh's Shivli overturned in Kanpur.
He was wanted for the death of 8 policemen, and was carrying a reward of Rs 5 lakh for information leading to his arrest. The gangster had been on the run since last Friday night when a police party, which had gone to arrest him from his house in Bikru village in the Chaubeypur area of Kanpur, was ambushed.
According to the police, after the vehicle ferrying Vikas Dubey met with an accident and overturned, the gangster tried to flee and snatched a pistol from the cop who was accompanying him.
Soon after reports of Vikas Dubey's demise broke on social media, Indians have been googling to see photos of the encounter that killed him. Even more horrifying was the fact that were eagerly searching for photos of his dead body after the encounter.
Take a look:
Vikas Dubey was a gangster, a criminal. Yet, that does not mean his death does not deserve to be treated with a degree of sensitivity.
But this is not the first time voyeuristic and prying individuals have looked for sensationalism in gore and crime.
A few weeks ago, when Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput died by suicide in Mumbai, social media was flooded with photos of his dead body allegedly taken at his home. Real or fake, the fact that the photos were being shared over and over again offered an insight into the disturbing way human minds work.
Last year, when the barbaric rape and murder of a 26-year-old veterinarian came to light, we hit rock-bottom collectively as humans with an increased number of Indians desperately searching for her assault video on Google. Google trends in the days following the rape and murder showed that along with the victim's name and identity, a large number of people have been searching for "Hyderabad rape video", "Hyderabad gang rape video" and other related keywords.
Vikas Dubey's death is no different.
But really, ask yourself: Why does anyone want or need to see a photograph of a dead body? Even if it's a criminal? What purpose does it serve?
A study published in 2005 on the "privacy of death" speaks about the voyeuristic pleasure and sadism that often provokes individuals to seek out visuals of death and gory crime. Voyeurism, in psychology, is classified as a paraphilic disorder -- where one deserves a form of sexual pleasure and satisfaction from viewing or spying on others' private and vulnerable moments.
Another study published in 2010 attempts to understand why an individual may demonstrate such personality traits, which includes sensation-seeking often combined with aggression. According to the researchers, such individuals would be more likely to consume content that satisfies their needs to watch observe the lives of others. In short, it refers to seeking stimulation by visual means. The sensationalism and excitement that the individual may feel while watching such photos, which others might consider disturbing, would increase psychological arousal in them.
Of course, curiosity is certainly assumed to be one of the reasons behind people looking for and subsequently sharing such photos and videos on social media. But as research shows, another very probable and very scary reason could be a sadistic pleasure derived from watching another human being, lying dead, exposed and vulnerable.
So, who was Vikas Dubey?
Vikas Dubey was a notorious gangster and a prime accused in some 60 criminal cases in his lifetime, including murders. In 2001, Dubey allegedly shot down a BJP leader Santoh Shukla, after chasing him inside the Shivli police station in Kanpur Dehat. He was named in the FIR and had surrendered after six months but was acquitted four years later. Almost everyone gave statements in the gangster's favour.
When he was 20-years-old, Dubey was first dragged to the police station after he had beaten some men from another caste for allegedly insulting his father. However, local heavyweights intervened and got him released, without a case being registered.
But no matter how many crimes he had committed, it's unfortunate that he was gunned down in an encounter before justice was served. And the collective searching for videos and photos of his dead body says a lot about us. Most of it, is scary and ugly.