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22 July, 2019 12:23:02 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 22 July, 2019 07:13:32 PM

Mob lynching paints grim picture of lawlessness

5 people were killed and 22 injured by mobs on suspicion of being child lifters in last 2 weeks
Saugato Bosu, Dhaka
Mob lynching paints grim picture of lawlessness

Violent acts of mob lynching seem to have taken a new turn in the past few weeks in the country, depicting a worrying picture. Moreover, such crimes continue unabated because the perpetrators are never brought to justice, said experts. Though the formal processing is completed every time according to law, the delivery of justice is very rare, they added.

Sociologists and criminologists told The Independent that the situation was likely to deteriorate in the near future as the government was not taking any fruitful step to book the people involved in mob lynching. They asserted that the mob’s penchant in taking the law into its own hands was increasing due to a lack of respect for the system and distrust for the law enforcement agencies. An overall weakened and compromised judiciary also played its part in aggravating the situation, they believed. A few recent incidents have highlighted the enormity of such vigilante crimes committed in the country.

In the past two weeks, as many as five people, including two women, were killed and 22 injured by mobs on suspicion of being child lifters. Shockingly, four of the victims were mentally-challenged women. Last Thursday, a youth was lynched by a mob in Netrokona after he was found “carrying a child’s severed head” in a bag. On July 10, a mentally-challenged man was killed by a mob after he stabbed three people to death in Debidwar upazila of Comilla.

These incidents of mob lynching have painted a grim picture of lawlessness and people’s distrust of the system of delivery of justice in the country, the experts said. They believe that mobs will continue to torture and lynch both petty criminals as well as innocent people on suspicion of committing crimes since the brutal acts go unpunished in most cases.  What Data Reveals?

Data by a human rights organisation, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), shows that 797 people were killed by mobs in the country from 2011 till June 2019. Of them, 134 people were killed in 2011, 126 in 2012, 128 in 2013, 127 in 2014, 135 in 2015, 51 in 2016, 50 in 2017, 39 in 2018 and 36 in the last six months of this year.

Although the number of mob killings was lower in 2016, 2017 and 2018, such brutal incidents were on the rise again in 2019, the data showed.

According to ASK, most of the mob killings last year took place in Dhaka division, where 356 people were killed in the past eight-and-a-half years. During the same period, 211 people were killed in Chittagong division, 79 in Rajshahi, 101 in Khulna, 29 in Barisal, 22 in Sylhet, and 24 in Rangpur.

Statistics provided by another rights organization, Odhikar, show that at least 115 people have been killed by mobs since 2009. Of them, 127 people were killed in 2009, 174 in 2010, 161 in 2011, 132 in 2012, 125 in 2013, 116 in 2014, 132 in 2015, 53 in 2016, 47 in 2017 and 48 in 2018.

 What Police Say?

In recent time, several people were lynched by mobs suspecting them to be child lifters. These followed unverified rumours that children were being beheaded as part of sacrificial rituals necessary for the construction of Padma Bridge.

Following one such mob violence on Saturday evening, the police administration has urged all not to take law into their hands by resorting to mass beatings of suspected child-lifters. “Refrain from hearing any rumour and spreading it. If anyone’s movement raises suspicion of him/her of being a child-lifter, hand over the person to police,” the police headquarters said in a media release on Saturday evening.

The release also said creating an unstable situation by spreading rumours was tantamount to indulging in anti-state activities and lynching people was a criminal offence. It further said that law enforcers were looking into all the incidents of mob lynching of suspected child-lifters. “Those involved in the incidents are being brought to justice,” it added.

Speaking to The Independent, assistant inspector general of police (media), Md Sohel Rana, said they were aware about the recent incidents of mob violence. “Police are collecting evidence as part of their investigations into these incidents. All the perpetrators will be brought to book,” he added.

“We have already directed all the police stations in the country to be alert on this count,” he added. What Experts Say? Experts on criminal law said that lynching was a premeditated extrajudicial killing by a group. It is most often used to characterize informal public executions by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate a group.

Supreme Court lawyer Advocate Jyotirmoy Barua said that the punishment for a killing by one person is same as that of one who is part of a mob. “In this case, there is no chance for them to be shown compassion. There is no such thing in the law,” he said.

“A woman was beaten to death on suspicion of being a child-lifter—it’s is not acceptable. You have to accept the judicial system, whether you like it or not. If you see someone committing a crime, you have the law enforcers and courts to prevent it,” he added.

Noted criminologist Prof. Zia Rahman said humans have two instincts—self-preservation and survival of the species. Social norms, law, values, morality and cultural activities generally act as deterrents for an ordinary person from indulging in heinous acts.

“And to maintain law and order, we have developed rules and regulations in society from time to time. But in our traditional society, we fail to develop these criteria in us. Sometimes this heinous behaviour erupts in an outrage,” Rahman explained.

“We are now talking about these recent incidents. But such things have been happening here in Bangladesh since a long time. For instance, a mob catches an errant driver after an accident and beats him to death. Sometimes, a pickpocket is left to the mercy of a mob after being caught,” he added.

A society where justice system is not imposed properly, there are not many law abiding citizens, he said.

“Another thing in our psychological system is that we have low rationality. There too much superstitions working among us, like seeing Saidi (a war criminal in Bangladesh) on moon, relying on village quacks or placing complete trust on priests. These reflect our primitive thinking. These superstitions are so prevalent in our society that we tend to believe anything quickly without justifying it scientifically or rationally,” Rahman said.

Besides, there are some quarters who want to fulfil their political agenda by using these superstitions among the people. “As I said, these pertain to superstitions like seeing Saidi on the moon or need for human sacrifices for building Padma Bridge,” he said.

Prof. Mahfuza Khanam, an eminent psychologist, said: “As we psychologists say, every rumour has an agenda. Our society is not properly educated. This is why many people easily fall prey to rumours and superstitions without any justification.”

“As Padma Bridge is an important subject for us, many might believe these rumours that human sacrifices are mandatory for this. This is not true. The government should take the help of intellectuals and experts to spread awareness against such rumours,” she added.

Prof. Dr Nehal Karim, a sociology expert, alleged there was no rule of law in the country. “So for lack of this, people are using their own method. This is not expected.

Does this mean there are scheming quarters working or using this malpractice for their personal agenda? Of course there is,” he asserted.

He said that creating anarchy in the country can benefit some groups. “Suppose, when cars are vandalised during hartal, the owners of spare parts shops and garages would benefit. It means more business. So, if any anarchy happens there, it must have some agenda. We have to be careful of this.”

 What People Say?

With the recent incidents coming to light, the general people are also confused. They averred that earlier when they saw beggars or tokai, they did not give any heed to them. But now these reports have made them suspicious.





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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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