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Violence is a culture now

  • Published at 06:03 pm October 7th, 2016
Violence is a culture now

I’m not sure what to make of the latest in our series of violence against women: Must I be sad? Angry? Surprised? Shocked?

Or indifferent? Because sadness didn’t work the first time, anger didn’t work the second, and in a country as violent as ours, any display of power, no matter how brutal, is hardly shocking. It’s so horribly usual that people these days shrug it off even before they’ve read or heard the whole story.

And the stories are the same over and over again: Neither the motives nor the bureaucratic complications that seem to haunt our law enforcement agencies ever change. Neither does the media or the public’s role. We shed a few tears, demand that the culprit be thrown to the lions, and spend a few extra minutes trying to express our feelings through our Facebook statuses: Anything that can help us express our rage and our craving for justice.

A social media addict like me won’t complain about Facebook statuses. With a government as controlling as ours, the media outlets are often unwilling or unable to express public sentiments in their entirety. Social media lacks the constraints set by our authorities (regulation of advertisements, for one) and allows people to express their “raw” opinions, unfiltered by technical jargon and ideological tailoring (at least in some cases).

These “raw” opinions are not always politically correct, and in more than a few cases, the criticism is directed at the victims for any perceived immodesty on their part (because patriarchy dictates it’s always the woman’s fault). And in most others, they consist of a demand for immediate capital punishment.

Not justice, mind you. Nobody ever demands an investigation followed by a charge sheet followed by a trial. Just hang them -- this has become the norm.

I am not personally against capital punishment but the thing is, it can be only administered by a legal authority after a fair judicial process. Yet, somehow, every time a crime occurs in this country, everyone becomes hell-bent on playing the judge and the jury.

And mind you, the culprit is almost never referred to as a “suspect.” Rather, he/she is simply called the “murderer,” with the adjective “alleged” never being put in front of his/her name. This practice isn’t just done by the aam jonota on Facebook; even respectable media outlets do this.

What’s worse is that nobody bats an eye. Nobody questions the narrative that the media represents. I will admit that there’s something really anomalous (some might even say hypocritical) about debating the objectivity of the media through the media, but I don’t really have a lot of options here. Put it as a paradox: No matter how truthful and sincere I sound, my words shouldn’t be taken as the absolute truth.

Believing that a person is the hero or the villain as he or she is made out to be and should be treated as such without any further verification is nothing but mob justice, which in itself happens to be a distinctive brand of injustice

How is the discussion on the objectivity of the Bangladeshi media or mine relevant to the attempted murder of Khadiza? To answer that, we would have to travel back in time to 2012.

Some newspapers known for their pro-government stance report a young political cadre belonging to the pro-government student faction getting brutally beaten up by a notorious opposition faction. The attack leads to a piece written by a respected intellectual criticising the aforementioned opposition faction. Pro-government media outlets strongly denounce the attack, and are not the least hesitant to demand justice for the victim.

If this story had been true, I’d have no problem with any of it; the denouncement of violence-loving political factions and the demand of justice would only have been necessary and appropriate. But as reported by a Bengali newspaper, the young political cadre wasn’t beaten up due to his political inclinations.

He had been harassing a young lady he was obsessed with, and during the course of one such incident, the locals had decided that enough was enough and took the law into their own hands: By beating the youth up rather mercilessly.

I’m assuming you guys have correctly guessed the identity of the political cadre and the young lady. You might even know the newspapers which had published the now revealed-to-be falsified story.

But have any of us ever thought that, if this particular young cadre hadn’t been celebrated four years ago as a somewhat hero, would it have been possible for him to climb up the ladders of his political party? Without the “street cred” being donned on him by some parts of the media and intelligentsia, would he have been able to gain the political power that made him feel confident about getting away with his crime, or even allowed him to feel ruthless about committing it?

I have not done the necessary research to present a conclusive answer to these questions, but I think we can safely say that those who had contributed to this false narrative have some blood on their hands. And those among us who believed it don’t have clean hands either.   

That doesn’t mean we’ll stop believing. We’ve taught ourselves not to question the conclusions that are often forced upon us by our politicians, intellectuals, and media. It will take more than just the discovery of one falsified story to shake our beliefs. We’ll continue believing that it was Badrul and Badrul alone who had committed the heinous deed, because that’s what has been reported. And we are so convinced that we don’t hesitate for even a second to demand that Badrul be killed immediately and mercilessly.

It’s probably safe to say that this time, the story isn’t false. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask for a proper investigation followed by a credible charge sheet leading to a fair trial whose judgments are supposed to be as truthful and objective as is sanely possible. Believing that a person is the hero or the villain as he or she is made out to be and should be treated as such without any further verification is nothing but mob justice, which in itself happens to be a distinctive brand of injustice.

What also terrifies me is that we look at each and every one of these violent crimes as isolated incidents, and I’m not just speaking on the nature of the crimes such as the one discussed here. Among other things, I’m also referring to the violent political scenario of our country, with the not-so-latest addition of terrorism.

The only conclusion I have is that our society has a morbid fascination with violence which is increasing steadily. And we don’t even want to acknowledge it, much less solve it.   

Fardin Hasin is a freelance contributor.

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