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A state of total lawlessness

  • Published at 12:00 am July 23rd, 2019
Footover crossing

Everywhere we go, there seems to be anarchy

The recent incidents of mob lynching in various parts of Bangladesh portrays the lawlessness that is pervasive everywhere in the country. Five people were beaten to death by angry mobs after they were suspected to have been child kidnappers in different incidents on a single day. 

One of the five victims of the mob lynchings turned out to be a single mother, who had gone to inquire about the admission process of a school for her child. 

The recent spate of lynching incidents started following a rumor regarding Padma Bridge. But can we only blame it on some rumors?  The incidents would definitely not rise at such a disturbing rate if the perpetrators from previous cases of mob lynching had been indicted. 

Sadly, it seems that the citizens of our country have lost faith in the rule of law, which has resulted in the spike of vigilante crimes and mob attacks throughout the country. According to Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), 36 incidents of lynching took place in the country in the first six months of this year. But in most cases, the offenders went unpunished. 

When people start losing confidence in law enforcement agencies, they show a tendency of taking the law into their own hands. Although the government agencies in Bangladesh carry out some basic proceedings after such incidents, justice is rarely delivered. 

Therefore, a belief that criminals are barely indicted allows incidents like lynching to keep on rising. However, mob lynching incidents alone do not reflect the state of lawlessness in our country.

The incidents of rape and sexual violence are increasing at an alarming rate. According to a report of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad published in July, 731 women were raped, and another 2,083 faced violence in the last six months, which is much higher than in previous years. We have seen horrific reports of children as small as three to five years old getting raped. However, only a few of the perpetrators have been prosecuted. Not to mention the cases which are not even reported. 

This dramatic rise in the number of rape cases can be attributed to a prevailing culture of impunity in the country. This culture persists because existing laws in the country are often not enforced. As such, the offenders grow a sense of disregard towards the system, which results in an increasing trend in rape and sexual harassment incidents. Besides, the perpetrators often use their muscle power and political back up to silence the victims. Although law enforcement agencies make some arrests, the perpetrators often get bail soon enough. 

Moreover, lawlessness is highly prevalent on the roads we commute on every day. The rules of plying on the roads are flouted vehemently, specifically by bus drivers. The speeding of buses has taken away the lives of far too many for us to care anymore. 

Just a few months back, we witnessed a Shuprobhat Paribahan bus killing a university student in the city while it was racing with another bus. Although the route permit of the bus company got suspended, it started operating under a different name. Most of these bus drivers do not have licenses. But they are rampant on our roads. The failure of the state to bring the perpetrators to justice allows these bus drivers to increasingly indulge in reckless driving. 

Not to forget the recent fire incidents in the FR Tower at Banani and at Chawkbazar, which too are displays of the lawlessness that exists in the construction of buildings as well. Moreover, investigation shows most of the high-rises in the country being constructed through massively breaching the building code and fire safety laws. What is more disturbing is that we pay attention to these cases only after an incident takes place. We care for a while, we raise our voices for a while, but we forget soon enough so that we may repeat it all over again. We lament sitting at home but do very little to change the circumstances. 

Adding to the miserable situation of lawlessness is the growing apathy among citizens of our country. The hacking of Rifat Sharif in Barguna in broad daylight betrays how apathetic we have become as citizens. While Rifat was being hacked by the criminals, the locals stood by and watched the despicable incident in utter despair.  

We have to understand that the increasing arrogance of the law-breakers, the contemptuous abandonment of responsibilities by the law enforcers, and the rising apathy among the public is a deadly combination which threatens to break the entire system of a country. 

When people start believing that law enforcement agencies cannot carry out their duties properly, they tend to engage in criminal activities more often. The government needs to realize that laws exist in the country to stop people from engaging in crimes. Government institutions should be empowered enough so that they can establish a stronger rule of law without any interference. 

To halt the mob lynching, it is essential that, along with creating social awareness, the government brings to book the mob attackers. It will result in boosting people’s confidence in the system.  

It is equally necessary that the government takes initiatives to finish the ongoing trials on different cases as early as possible so that the criminals stop believing that they can get away with committing a crime.  It is necessary to remember that if we don’t fight lawlessness in a society, it tends to prevail. 

Tahmid Hasan is President, Economics Study Centre. 

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