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MPs, enact an antilynching law to stop wanton killings

Editorials 2022-04-09, 11:14am

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Mostafa Kamal Majumder



Heart rending stories of lynching people on flimsy grounds still come from different corners of Bangladesh. A young man was beaten to death allegedly over betting on Indian Premier League Cricket on early 6 April last at Hathazari, Chattogram. A group of youngmen did beat up the victim Farook mercilessly and he breathed his last on way to the Chattagram Medical College Hospital.

Betting is an old practice found among close friends or relatives over sports or many other social events. While the loser pays the bet amount, the winner celebrates win along with the loser. Die-hard supporters of different sporting teams can never come to terms with each other. But rational ones see the argument of their opponents. Yet difference of opinion on such issues cannot make one’s mind so much hardened to take the other’s life. 

According to another report published in newspapers a motorcycle rider was beaten to death by some people in Bhanga area of Faridur on April 7. Some other people were injured in the incident. Mob beating often leads to deaths of alleged thieves or dacoits and these practices are seldom challenged in our society. It is sometimes argued that mob turns violent as they do not have confidence in the law enforcement system to hand over alleged offenders to law enforcers.

It is sad that lynching continues to be ignored in our society. The killing of a middle-ages divorcee women by a lynch mob in Dhaka metropolis did shake the conscience of the society on 21 July 2019. Taslima Begum Renu was killed in a lynch-mob attack as locals found the woman was behaving suspiciously in front of Uttar Badda Govt Primary School around 8:00 am.

Rumour spread that the woman was a child lifter, police said, adding that an angry mob indiscriminately beat and left her critically injured. Police rescued the woman and took her to Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) where physicians declared her dead at around 10:20 am, a police inspector said.

The victims’ nephew Nasir Uddin later filed a case with Badda Police Station on the following night. Her nephew and sister Rehana identified the body of at DMCH. She had an 11-year-old son and four-year-old daughter. Two and a half years ago, she got divorced from one Taslim Uddin. Since then, she had been living in a house in Mohakhali Wireless area with her children. Nasir Uddin said Renu was suffering from mental illness. She was going from school to school to admit her four-year-old daughter. That's why she might have gone to the Badda School.

Badda police lodged a case against 400-500 unnamed people over the death of the woman by an angry mob in capital's Badda area after they suspected her to be a child-lifter. There was a social outcry after Taslima Begum Renu’s details surfaced through news media reports. But mob beating and lynching of unfortunate people has not stopped. 

Four years before this incident, Samiul Alam Rajan, a 13-year-old boy, of Sylhet who used to retail vegetables was brutally killed on July 8 2015 accusing him of stealing a cycle rickshaw or some other things. The brutal beating by a group of men was videographed on a mobile phone and spread through the social media.

Stories published in the news media said, when Rajan expressed his wish to stand up, the miscreants untied the boy and forced him to walk and one of the gang members was heard in the video as saying: “His bones are apparently intact, beat him more.” It was too cruel to watch the video.

The autopsy report of Samiul Alam Rajan, conducted at the Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College said that the little boy died of a brain hemorrhage due to head injuries. More than 60 wounds were found on the teenager`s body, the autopsy report said. The prime accused in the case was a migrant worker and had flown to Saudi Arabia. He was later brought back. Not much is known about the subsequent stage of the case.

In the Hathazari case the victim was a 24-year-old youngman. He was identified as Farooq, a resident of Aminbazar area of the town. Rajib Sharma, inspector (investigation) of Hathazari police station, said Farooq was locked in an altercation with some youths at Aminbazar near Najim colony over betting on an IPL match at around 1am. At one stage, they beat up Farooq with sticks indiscriminately, leaving him severely injured. He was later rushed to Chattogram Medical College and Hospital (CMCH) where doctors declared him dead.

It is impossible to get the victim’s side of the story at that dead of night because he has left this world. Who knows the killing was not the outcome of previous enmity? Newspaper reports said, the main suspect, Farhad, has not been detained yet. “However, we have detained one person for interrogation,” said Inspector Rajib. Legal action will be taken after an investigation, the officer added. The statement of the law enforcer does not reflect the grievousness of the crime as a cold-blooded murder.

The point here is that the helplessness of the lynch mob victims should not be reinforced by inaction of law enforcement bodies that in a way gives an unofficial approval, unwillingly though, to such wanton killings as a punishment meted out by the society. Criminals do not come from another country or race. They are very much from within our society as its equal members and deserve to be dealt with in accordance with the law, if we are to claim ourselves to be a civilised society.         

It is to be noted that President Joe Biden of the United States on 29 March last signed an anti-lynching bill. A BBC News report said, The Emmett Till Antilynching Act is named for the black teenager whose brutal murder in Mississippi in 1955 helped spark the civil rights movement. Perpetrators of a lynching - death or injury resulting from a hate crime - will face up to 30 years in jail.

Mr Biden said: "Thank you for never giving up, never ever giving up. "Lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone, not everyone, belongs in America, not everyone is created equal." He added: "Racial hate isn't an old problem - it's a persistent problem. Hate never goes away. It only hides."

If anybody commits a crime in our society he is not to be punished by a mob because mob justice is not allowed under the law. Sociologists would be able to explain mob psyche better. As it is seen it can be termed as simply irrational. Somebody is caught on the allegation of committing a theft and anybody feels it his duty to physically or mentally abuse him without allowing him a defence. Nobody realizes that hitting people physically is a crime. The man beaten to death was also born in this society and has parents and other relations. Above all she/he is also created equal by Almighty God. Only the state is empowered to take anybody’s life if her/his crimes entitle him to such punishment after the due processes of law. Even murder suspects sometimes escape death penalty if the court finds reasons to give them the benefit of doubt. Would our legislators please consider the enactment of a law to stop the menace of lynching from our society? 

(Mostafa Kamal Majumder, writer of this piece, is the editor of GreenWatch Dhaka online daily newspaper)