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Skeletons in the closet

  • Published at 07:45 pm June 11th, 2017
Skeletons in the closet

On a Saturday afternoon with the energy-sapping weather triggering a nap, cries of help from, what seemed to be from young girls, made me alert. Took a few seconds to grasp if this was for real or something I imagined in a daze.

Nope, the cries were real.

I went to the veranda and the scene on the other side was distressing: In a colony building, some sort of untoward incident had taken place -- girls from the window were appealing to the people below, and frantically gesturing to those on the road to come to their aid.

The police were also there: One sub-inspector talking intently on the phone, possibly asking for more men in uniform, as he and three other law enforcers were encircled by about 50 young men.

From the commotion it was hard to detect what exactly had happened, but from what I could understand from the screaming girls plus others, was that a group of goons had entered the colony premises and vandalised their home, since some of their demands were not met and had started beating up the girls’ father.

Eventually, the commotion died out. The crowd left but the disquietude I felt lingered.

The desperate calls for help from the girls kept coming back and, gradually, a series of other events, some experienced first-hand, others read in the papers, coalesced to form a very disconcerting image.

Extortion brings out the worst

As a result of a turf war in Old Dhaka between two rival groups, one man was slashed with a butcher’s knife. He was disemboweled, but the man in question simply asked someone else to put a gamcha around his waist and take him to the hospital. But lying on the van on his way to DMCH, he vowed revenge.

The cause of the rift was the distribution of protection money accumulated from local shops just prior to a major religious celebration.

From the Banani rape involving the well-heeled, to the hacking of a girl for repudiating a romantic proposal, there is a disturbing connection. These events highlight the level of intolerance that typifies modern life

To be honest, I have seen countless such violence, resulting from the distribution of money collected through the use of oppression or intimidation.

Violence erupts when someone dares to start a satellite dish service in an area without the right patronage. There has to be public admission: To start a business, the “right” connections are essential -- this means business starting from a tea shop to a large-scale industry.

Violence steps into family spheres

Lately, the most unnerving event has been the death of a mother and three children, allegedly from suicide. In Kamarpara, a mother and her children were all found dead in their home, and, while initial findings point to killing of the children by the mother followed by the latter’s self-immolation, not all questions relating to the deaths have found satisfactory answers.

Was it a planned killing by someone or a group or was it suicide?

The thing is, as part of this society, which has diabolically become accustomed to gruesome deaths, we need to look at both possibilities as symptoms of an inner decay.

Regarding the Kamarpara incident, many have underlined family feud, while others point to large amounts of money being loaned and never returned. Details are still sketchy, and whether it was about borrowed money or not should not be a major concern here. The focus should be on how violence and angst have blended to form a vicious social sub-culture.

A toxic credo of rapacity and intolerance

From the Banani rape involving the well-heeled, to the hacking of a girl for repudiating a romantic proposal, to the suicide of a father and daughter to protest injustice, there is a disturbing connection. These events highlight the level of intolerance topped by a vicious nature that typifies modern life.

In the Kamarpara tragedy, if this was due to family unhappiness, then there has to be an attempt to delve deeper and flesh out what family problems has the capacity to drive someone to such extreme acts of brutality.

If we assume that it was a family discord, then it’s about time we try to discuss hitherto concealed family complications openly. Unfortunately, we still hear a lot of elders talk about making compromises and carrying on, about how it’s better to not air your dirty laundry.

Time to tackle demons openly

Well, that veneer of traditional stoicism that prevents us from talking openly about the myriad faces of social afflictions, has to go. This may mean that many will have to bring out their skeletons from the closet.

Honestly speaking, there is no other way.

Unless the demons within the family are dealt with, afflictions in society at large, such as institutional bribery, syndicated extortion, exploitation in the name of the political party in power and fanaticism will only become more ensconced.

Deaths fade away, barbarism proliferates

In two weeks these deaths will be buried under the joy of Eid. Whatever the established reason for the Kamarpara incident, there won’t be any effort to deeply analyse the murkier sides of society.

The side where rapacity, unrestrained flow of yaba, desire for fast glory and wealth, vicious political ambition, and a sense of impunity that money gets all blend to overpower the live and let live ideology. Let’s face the inner devils now, without shame. We ignored the threat from Phensidyl -- a codeine-based cough syrup -- back in the 80s, saying: “What can a mere cough syrup do?”

Well, it destroyed a whole generation in North Bengal, tore apart thousands of families, decimated any youth with potential, was the cause of numerous conjugal strife, and finally left a grotesque scar on the socio-political tapestry of the 80s and 90s.

An honest sociological assessment, that is the need of the time.

Towheed Feroze is a journalist working in the development sector.