The year 2015 was a cruel one for the children in Bangladesh. The brutal killings of Rajon in Sylhet, Rakib in Khulna, Rabiul in Barguna and Biju in Pangsha shocked the whole nation. All four children were tortured to death within a span of two months (from July to August, 2015).
The Bangladesh Institute of Social Research Trust (BISRT) based on secondary sources (like videos, media broadcast and publication, public actions) tried to find out the causes why such horrific killings occurred one after another. According to BISRT, 'child torture to death' creates severe panic in society as a whole, especially in the parental world.
Now some questions automatically come up. To start with, according to the criminals, were these criminal acts? If so, from criminals' point of view, why such crimes occurred publicly? Are these people not at all concerned about any social reaction? How to prevent such crimes through social awareness?
An analysis of these questions reveals that in our society, child torture is not considered a crime, because it starts from the parents and other elderly family members. Particularly, in the poor and extreme poor families, poverty, illiteracy and unawareness are the reasons which lead to child torture. This creates a severe impact on the child's mental health which is rarely recognised by parents and others. In addition, torture of domestic child worker is being done by the well-to-do and educated people, which is a clear abuse of their power.
Moreover, social perception about crime is that the poor are prone to crime and are easy to punish. The above-mentioned incidences may be linked well with this perception. All the tortured children belong to the poor and vulnerable families.
A mindset is there among the socially affluent persons as though they have the privilege of torturing the poor and socially deprived, an act which they consider risk-free. The perception is that nobody will raise voice against them. Even if it draws attention, some financial compensation is enough to tackle the situation. As a result, torture sometimes leads to perversion and beastly pleasure that we have seen in all the above-mentioned incidents, especially in the cases of Rajon and Rakib.
Secondly, all these boys were accused of committing theft and beaten to death. Experiences in the country reveal the presence of a perverse mob culture that largely account for brute actions. When anyone is allegedly found guilty of committing a crime, the mob turns brutal without even caring for the veracity or degree of the crime.
Although a good number of children were tortured to death in the past few years, those incidents didn't spark people's uproar as it happened in case of Rajon and Rakib. Uploading video clip of Rajon's murder by the killers on Facebook and video-sharing site YouTube caused an outcry, demanding their capital punishment. Perhaps the offenders themselves circulated it through the social media to flaunt their might and authority.
Due to quick circulation of the video clip in the media, these incidents reached the mass people in no time which made it imperative for the law enforcing agency to bring the offenders to book. This ensured justice through speedy trial to the satisfaction of all quarters of society.
The court verdicts confirm that killing people on charges of offence is neither acceptable in the court of law nor to the people. However, there is no strait-jacket solution to this problem. Creating awareness about child rights through interactive popular theatre about child torture, organising dialogue among people, campaigning through billboard etc at the grassroots level may prove helpful. Besides, to bring an end to erratic mob behaviour or brutality, some actions need to be taken socially, institutionally and legally.
Zerina Shabnaz Akkas, PhD is a Gender Development Specialist at the Bangladesh Institute of Social Research Trust (BISRT).