Costs of an absurd rumor

While addressing a meeting of Awami League (AL) leaders and workers through a teleconference from London, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday urged the countrymen not to pay heed to rumors and hand over the rumor-mongers to the police. It is a pity that when the world is on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution, rumor can still lead to height of mob insanity. Believing in an absurd rumor that “child abductors are on the prowl to collect heads and blood for construction of Padma Bridge”, reportedly mobs beaten seven people to death, including two women, and injured 18 others on suspicion of being child kidnappers in the past weeks .

However, among the incidents, the killing of a single mother, Taslima Begum Renu, who went to Uttar Badda Government Primary School to ask about the admission process in the capital’s Badda shocked the nation and spurred angry reactions from across the country. It is disappointing that the mob did not even interrogate Renu before lynching her and not a single person stood to save Renu’s life.

Videos of the event had gone viral on social media. A few young men had beaten her harshly and scores of others, including women, stood idly by watching and recording the event on their mobile phones. One of the attackers who led the killing even seemed to be posing for pictures with the motionless body of the suspect.

There are two distinct features to be noticed in the circulated videos of the aforementioned mob killing, firstly, hundreds of people are impulsively participating, and secondly, those who are beating the suspect are taking pride in committing the atrocious crime. This shows that most of the people believed the rumor and perceived their action as a way to achieving social justice. Why is this happening?

Maybe people have become impatient as these incidents hurt their faith in the rule of law, which in the long run may result in lawlessness. May be it is the failure of police and law enforcing agencies to arrest criminals and ensure their punishment, which has given rise to lawlessness among people who are taking the law into their own hands.

The heartbreaking lynching of Renu has provided us with enough cause for introspection for society at large. How can we be so infuriated that we pay no heed to a mother's appeal for life? There was none to listen to her simple statement that she went to the primary school to collect information in connection with her child's admission.

We believe the incident of Renu is a slap in the face of our society and civilization. No one including law enforcers has the right to take the law into one’s own hand. This is certainly one of the most integral doctrines of being civilized. The present scenario of mob killing in Bangladesh signifies the degradation of our humanity and social values. The need today is to practice tolerance and establish the rule of law irrespective of class and creed. We believe promotion of healthy cultural habits and practices can work wonder to this end.

 Repeat of crimes is clear evidence that people have nothing positive to think of or do. Moreover, the tottering social cultural bonds among people have made the matter worse. On the flimsiest pretext, people are prone to act irrationally and when irrationality rules the roost in society and the privileged are seen to enjoy immunity from legal breaches and social ills, outbursts of violence are only a natural outcome. It is a crime for a mob to beat a person to death, even if that person is confirmed to be a criminal.

According to section 304 of the penal code, if the act by which the death of a person is executed with an intention of causing death, or if such bodily injury is caused that it is likely to cause death, the punishment of such act is life term imprisonment. However, no one has received any such punishment till date. We hope cases related to mob justice will be investigated diligently by the police, and people involved in such mob violence will be brought to book. Stressing the need for more social awareness, the government needs to take initiative in finishing case trials associated with mob lynching in the shortest possible time, and ensure the punishment of criminals so that people can believe that criminals cannot walk away after committing a crime.

Upon the grave question aroused by the lynching of Renu, there should be an honest, courageous conference of patriotic, law-abiding citizens anxious to punish crime promptly, impartially and by due process of law to make our life, liberty and property secure against mob rule. Time was when lynching appeared to be sectional, but now it is national – a blight upon our nation, mocking our laws and disgracing our nationality. “With malice toward none but with charity for all” let us undertake the work of making our nation effective and supreme upon every foot of its soil – a shield to the innocent; and to the guilty, punishment swift and sure.

The writer is  Editorial Assistant,  Bangladesh Post