The incidence of mob lynching has increased in the country, with seven people having been beaten to death in different places over the last four days. According to the human rights watchdog Ain O Salish Kendra, 36 persons have been lynched to death in the first six months of this year all over the country.
The persons who have been killed in such mob beatings are mostly women, mentally deranged persons, disabled persons, elderly and innocent persons.
A woman named Taslima Begum was lynched and killed by a mob on Saturday in Badda in the capital city on suspicion of being a kidnapper. It was a tragic death that brought an outcry of public protest. The social media was also filled with angry response to the killing.
And on the night of the very same day, another woman was beaten to death in Savar.
Another six persons were lynched in Manda of Naogaon. Following altercations over catching fish in a pond, rumours were spread about them being child abductors.
According to Ain O Salish Kendra, 43 persons have been lynched to death this year so far, 36 in the first six months and 7 over the last four days.
The police headquarters issued a press release on Saturday regarding the incidence of mob beatings, stating that such lynching increased over the past few days following a rumour that human heads were required in the construction of Padma Bridge. People were randomly being suspected of child kidnappers and were beaten up, resulting in tragic deaths. Spreading such rumours and beating people to death was a criminal offence and those involved in such incidents would be tried and punished. The press released asked members of the public to hand over any suspected kidnapper to the police and not to resort to lynching.
Who are victims of lynching?
An angry mob caught and beat to death a 28-year-old man on 18 July in Netrakona when he was fleeing with a bag containing the head of a child. After that, there were reports of 5 persons being beaten to death by mobs in various places of the country on Saturday. A man, around 55 years old, was beaten to death that night in Maulvibazar on suspect of being an abductor. The mob had been riled up by rumours of abduction. The police failed to identify the victim.
On Saturday, a resident of Siddhirganj in Narayanganj, was beaten to death. The Siddhirganj police station office-in-charge (OC), Shaheen Parvez, said that Siraj was deaf and mute. He was not a kidnapper.
Assistant professor of the communications and journalism department, University of Chittagong, Rajib Nandy, has been carrying out research on mob lynching in Bangladesh and India. Speaking to Prothom Alo on Sunday, he said in Bangladesh it is mostly the poor who were victims of mob beatings.
Associate professor of criminology and police science at the Maulana Bhasani University of Science and Technology, Muhammad Umar Faruk, said that the culture of impunity was one of the main causes behind the increase in such incidents. He told Prothom Alo, it is observed that in the case of such incidents, people have certain preconceived notions that lead them to attack the suspected persons. They lose their sense of judgement. A sense of awareness needs to be created among the people. Justice must be ensured.
Areas of prevalence
Ain O Salish Kendra states that among the 36 mob killings that took place in the last six months, the most took place in Chattagram, with 17 deaths by lynching there. Nine were killed in Dhaka, 5 in Khulna, 2 in Sylhet, 2 in Barishal and 1 in Rajshahi.
Rajiv Nandi’s research reveals that while such mob lynching occurs in densely populated cities like Dhaka and Chattagram, these mostly take place in the poorer regions of the country like Noakhali, Brahmanbaria, North Bengal and remote upazilas of Chattagram.
Slow judicial procedures
Eight years ago in July 2011, six students were lynched to death by a mob in a village of Savar, Dhaka. The incident created a stir across the country but so far the judicial procedures of this case remain unfinished. There are 60 persons accused in this incident and all of them are out on bail.
The case lies with a Dhaka court. One of the state prosecutors in the case, Shahida Jeasmin, told Prothom Alo that the second investigating office of the case is being cross-examined. The next hearing is on 23 July. Another investigating officer remains to be cross examined. She hopes the case proceedings will be completed within the next month or two.
On 27 July 2011, a young boy Milan was accused of robbery and mercilessly beaten to death in Noakhali. That incident also created a stir at the time.
Former chairman of the Bangladesh National Human Rights Commission, Kazi Reazul Haque, speaking to Prothom Alo about the overall issue of mob lynching in the country, said people have become intolerant. They have no patience. Another matter is, people feel that while crimes are committed, the criminals getting away without being punished. That is why such incidents take place.
What is the way out of this situation? Kazi Reazul Haque said, punishment of the criminals must be ensured. Social awareness must be increased.
* This piece appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir