The brutal torture an eighth grade student from Sunderganj, Gaibandha was subjected to brings, once again, to the fore that Bangladesh society is increasingly becoming inimical to and at times sadistic towards children. Defenceless as children and women are in most cases, they are physically tortured, sexually abused and psychologically harassed to the point of traumatisation. The matrix of a patriarchal society rather stands downgraded today in stark contrast to the notable rise in the rate of literacy and education. When the country wallowed in illiteracy and educated men and women were no more than a handful, this kind of brutality and bestiality were unthinkable.
On Tuesday, the story of the inhuman physical violence on the eighth grader was carried in most of the national newspapers. Quite a few accompanied a nauseating picture with the story. The chilling details are good enough to jolt one's conscience. How murderous grown-up people can turn! Upside down, one holds his legs and another unleashes his furies with a heavy stick. Before this he was tied to a tree all night.
What is his crime? They say the boy was involved in the theft of a cow. But that is only a suspicion. There is no proof he committed the crime. This incident reminds another of its type in Sylhet where a teenage vegetable vendor Rajan was tied to a tree and mercilessly beaten on false accusation of theft of a rickshaw while the boy begged for water to drink. He was not allowed to drink and succumbed to the ordeal. That incident occurred in 2015 and was followed by a series of similar violence against children all across the country. In some of the most infamous incidents, vehicular pump nozzle was inserted into a few boys' rectums and passed air to their death.
This is evident enough that when it comes to unleashing barbarity on young ones, some villains are adept in inventing bizarre forms of criminality. In case of the Sylhet murder, one of the accused is alleged to have been helped by the officer in-charge of the local police station to flee to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in exchange for bribe. Clearly, children from poor and neglected background are not only more vulnerable than others but also are more likely to be deprived of justice by machinations often resorted to by dishonest people in official or institutional positions.
In the Sundarganj incident too, a few of the torturers have been arrested but people must keep their fingers crossed on justice delivery. Unless the investigation officer and the officer in-charge there institute the case on its merits, the court may have little choice but to dispose of the case with light or no punishment to the accused. Also, delay in settlement of such a case -even if the culprits are punished - does not help people follow up the proceedings and verdicts. Punishment in such cases thus fails to act as a deterrent to abuse of and violence against children.
The growing physical violence against and abuse of children are reflected in the findings compiled by the Bangladesh Sishu Adhikar Froum (BSAF). According to it, the sexual violence against children marked a phenomenal rise last year. As many as 1,383 children were subjected to sexual abuse in 2019 as against 812 in 2018. Of the victims, 1,008 suffered rape last year against 571 the year before. Similarly, the number of murdered children in 2019 also rose to 448 from 418 in 2018.
The figures have been compiled from reports carried in 15 national newspapers. So, one could not agree more with the observation made by a UNDP gender expert present at the unveiling ceremony of the findings. She observes that it was only the tip of the iceberg. The methods of killing varied but one of the more common is murder after abduction. What is, however, blood-curdling, is the murder of 36 children by their own parents. Again, as many as 12 young lives came to a premature end due to merciless beating.
Even the reported child murders and physical or sexual violence inflicted on children are an indication that this society has gone degenerate so far as its treatment of the budding lives is concerned. What can prompt a human being to kill his or her offspring? Even an animal of the lower order takes so much care of its cubs. There is no reason to think that all parents have committed the infanticides on a fit of temper; some have done so in cold blood.
Society has degenerated to an extent where such incidents are gradually becoming normal. Some young lives were done away with because of extra-marital affairs within a family. One however cannot help feeling pity for a mother who is forced to kill her young ones and herself as well because she has been abandoned and has no means of livelihood to keep going. Except such a tragic case, it is moral aberration at its worst that has been responsible for taking so many young lives.
Along with punitive deterrent, there is a need for stemming the all-round social rot set in this country. Socio-economic development will prove meaningless if human values, fellow-feeling are not inculcated to achieve a collective moral high standard. A brutal society crumbles under its own weight of criminality.
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