Over the last decade, there has been a disturbing surge in extrajudicial killings in the form of mob violence and lynching across Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, the three countries that once made up the great Indian subcontinent.
On August 17, 2019, a 16-year-old ‘alleged thief’ was beaten to death by an enraged crowd in Karachi, Pakistan. There was no evidence that he had stolen anything. It was just an accusation. In 2010, two brothers, 17-year-old Mughees Butt and 15-year-old Muneeb Butt, were beaten to death after being accused of stealing, while nine police officers watched the mob hanging the bodies of the young boys.
In November 2014, a mob in the hundreds bludgeoned and burnt alive a Christian couple Shama and Shahzad in the village of Kot Radha Kishan, Kasur for alleged blasphemy. The victims were parents of three children. Shama was four-month pregnant.
In 2017, 23-year-old Mashal Khan, a student of Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan was lynched on accusations of blasphemy. He was stripped, beaten and shot on the campus by a mob of students.
Pakistan’s lynching cases are few compared to India that has had cow violence increasing with each passing year. According to a Reuters report, a total of 63 cow vigilante attacks have been reported in India between 2010 and mid-2017, mostly since the Modi government came to power in 2014.
According to data collated by Factchecker.in, a website monitoring the surge in religious hate crimes across India, the mob lynching of Tabrez Ansari in July 2019 in Jharkhand’s village was the 266th in the country in the past four years . There have also been 46 WhatsApp-initiated lynching cases in India following the spread of rumours, primarily relating to child abductions. The chief targets of the lynching have been manual labourers, outsiders and the mentally disabled, but it has also included software engineers, academics, businessmen and middle-class families.
Bangladesh is witnessing a disturbing spate of frequent mob lynching incidents sparking concerns from activists concerning lawlessness in the country.
According to human rights watchdog, Ain-O-Salish Kendra (ASK), on an average, the country has experienced six mob lynching incidents a month. At least 175 people were killed in mob beatings over the last four and a half years. Many of these were triggered by false information spread on social media.
Media has always been a tool used to influence the minds of the masses. Youngsters these days are easy to influence often following the ‘morality’ of the online groups they follow, frequently participating in online moral policing.
One false meme can be responsible for sparking loathing and heated emotions. The energy can then transform into human savagery. People pour out vile comments against the accused on social media platforms. In a mob lynching, the perpetrators feel like a hero, punishing their powerless victims by hungrily devouring their lives. Videos of these brutalities go viral, every view further desensitizing its viewer. Humans then watch other humans beaten to death as if it were a sport.
Why is there so much hate? To answer this, we have to look for the source that spreads this hate and how much they benefit from it. Instigators are in the business of hate, as is an apathy state.
Ironically, these countries are so full of corruption that the real criminals, the rapists, the corrupt politicians walk around with impunity.
The judiciary and police can be bought and silenced. People know that justice is blind, mute and deaf. The lawlessness feeds people’s hopelessness and frustrations. Mobs know there will be no repercussions of killing a cow-eater or a suspected child trafficker. Human life is no longer respected.
Passing a verdict on each other have somehow become a divine-human responsibility. People feel they need to defend and protect the all-powerful God.
The hatred and vile comments on social media are the symptoms of how mentally unwell our societies have become. Hate as a result of religious extremism is paradoxical in itself.
Is the subcontinent becoming progressive or moving toward barbarianism as it heads into the future?