Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A poignant pointer to growing lawlessness in society

THE execution—there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that it was—of six young man at Amin Bazar in Savar on the outskirts of the capital Dhaka early Monday provides a poignant pointer on the increasing lawlessness and growing sense of insecurity in society. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Tuesday, the ill-fated six, all students of different educational institutions in Dhaka, went to Keblar Char after offering prayers on the night of Shab-e-Barat where people from nearby villages, armed with sticks and sharp weapons, attacked them on the suspicion that they were planning a robbery. Al-Amin, who was with the six but survived the mob beating, was quoted in the report as saying that they had gone there on an outing and taken drugs for fun. The Dhaka district superintendent of police told journalists that the ‘tragic incident proves how terrible the consequences could be if people take law in their own hand.’ Indeed, when people take law in their own hand it only adds to the lawlessness. However, the police official and, for that matter, the government should know that people take law in their hand only when they lose faith in the justice system and the law enforcement mechanism. Suffice it to say that people of not only Amin Bazar but also elsewhere in the country have reasons to feel let down by the justice and law enforcement systems.

There has been a sustained surge in crime—from mugging to murder, rent-seeking to rape, extortion to abduction—since the Awami League-Jatiya Party government assumed office in January 2009. In many cases, criminals have used on their links with the ruling party and its front organisations to perpetrate crimes with impunity. The law enforcement agencies have been found inadequate, if not indifferent, when it comes to arresting the law and order downslide and bringing the culprits to justice. Worse still, the home minister and the top brass of the law enforcement agencies have time and again come up with the claim that law and order has never been better, thereby not only dismissing the people’s increasing sense of insecurity but also giving them the impression that they are on their own when it comes to ensuring their safety and security. Meanwhile, extrajudicial killing of crime suspects by members of the Rapid Action Battalion and other law enforcement agencies has continued unabated, which could very well have given rise to thought, at least in a section of society, that it is alright to take the law in their own hand once in a while.

According to the human rights organisation Odhikar, quoted in another report also front-paged in New Age on Tuesday, 75 people became victim of mob justice between January and June this year. Between January and September 2010, 126 people were beaten to death across the country. The sustained surge in the incidence of mob beating suspected criminals to death, as indicated before, is a reflection of increasing restiveness in society brought about by a widespread anger and frustration with the justice and law enforcement system and the consequent sense of insecurity. The incumbents need to realise that the responsibility lies with them and them alone. They have thus far failed to send out a strong message to society at large that they will not tolerate any extrajudicial actions, including killing, be it perpetrated by the law enforcers or an angry crowd. They need to realise as well that such a message needs to be through deeds, not words alone.