Brutal people

Published October 16, 2023

OUR inner demons are at their loudest as bodies of women, the poor and minorities become battlefields of choice. The frequency of brutalities is worryingly high as is the number of victims falling to mob savagery. The latest chilling episode occurred last week in Hyderabad: a rumour of alleged desecration of the Holy Quran kindled bloodlust, leaving a teenager dead, his cousin and four constables injured, torched motorcycles and a vandalised police van. But such rage goes beyond religious sentiment. Last October, two telecommunication employees were lynched over whispers of child abduction in Karachi and scores have met the same fate for ‘attempted’ theft or road rage attacks. Certainly, this desire for instant justice stems from absence of faith in the justice system and economic distress. Besides, it has government approval; a fortnight ago, an amended bill for public hangings of rapists was passed by a Senate committee.

What is it about us that has legitimised brutality? Consider the fervour for capital punishment. Perhaps, knee-jerk responses from politicians leave little hope for the polity to understand that harsh punishments are not deterrents but catalysts for the brutalisation of society. Moreover, empathy and patience have run short, so vigilantism has found space in daily life. In the network of state muscle, faith, and violence, the blame is laid at the police’s door, that too when the intensity of mob justice is directly proportionate to the government’s neglect. Officialdom has failed to take responsibility; what it does instead is put matters in the police’s hands. The force is overwhelmed and ill equipped to accost miscreants and confront mobs, as was seen at a TLP sit-in. Their sloppy training, poor income, broken vans and archaic equipment render them toothless. Finally, no incident can be seen in isolation, or the link between law enforcers and civilians would reach an intractable stage, and make the onus of complicity inescapable for the state.

Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2023

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