The cruelty of crowds


Impunity, erosion in family values behind growing mob-beating culture

At least 840 people have been killed in mob beatings in the country since January 1, 2011 -a  heinous crime that thrives on the basest of human instincts allied to a public perception that the perpetrators of such brutal act go unpunished, said experts.

They also think that lack of people’s respect for law, negative idea about law enforcement agencies, absence of the rule of law, growing inequality and the degradation in social values fueled a sudden spate in mob beatings in the country, often resulting in the death of victims in recent weeks.

Talking to UNB, Professor Emeritus of Dhaka University Serajul Islam Chowdhury, its Social Sciences Faculty Dean Professor Sadeka Halim, Supreme Court senior lawyer Subrata Chowdhury and Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) Executive Director Sheepa Hafiza said the recent killing of over two dozen innocent people by vigilante mobs over the rumours of child lifting has manifested how the old social menace has taken a new turn with the growing stupidity of a section of people.

Statistics from HR bodies

According to, Ain o Salish Kendra,  134 people were killed in mob lynching in 2011 while 126 in 2012, 128 in 2013, 127 in 2014, 135 in 2015, 51 in 2016, 50 in 2017, 39 in 2018 and 50 in 2019 till July 24.

Of theme, 358 people were killed in Dhaka division alone while 211 in Chattogram division. Most of them were subjected to mob attacks upon suspicion that they are either robbers, thieves, snatchers, child lifters or petty criminals.

As per data came from another rights boy Odhikar, 1150 people were killed in mob attacks in between 20009 and June 2019.

Of the total victims, 127 people were killed in 2009, 174 in 2010, 161 in 2011, 132 in 2012, 125 in 2013, 116 in 2014, 132 in 2015, 53 in 2016, 47 in 2017, 48 in 2018 and 35 in the first six months of 2019.

Sheepa Hafiza said the incidents of killing in mass beatings are happening due to the prevailing culture of impunity. “Most people are not aware of the punishment for indulging in mob beatings. Many people believe there’s no punishment if anyone is killed in any lynch-mob attack.”

The ASK executive director said the perpetrators of such killing should be tried promptly and given exemplary punishment to prevent the recurrence of such inhuman and brutal act.

Time to get tough

Advocate Subrata Chowdhury said all the deaths caused by mob beatings are murders, and the offenders can be given death penalty for such crime as per the law. “Even the onlookers of any mass beating are considered abettors of offenders and can be punished. But most perpetrators of such heinous crime go unpunished for the weak enforcement of law.”

He said usually cases are filed against a large number of unnamed people for killing someone in any mob beating, but police cannot identify or arrest the perpetrators in most cases.  “Even, the victims’ families show little interest in continuing such cases. So, the justice in mob-beating cases remains a far cry.”

Citing an example, he said six students were killed in mass beatings suspecting them as robbers on the night of Shab-e-Barat near Aminbazar in Savar in 2011, but the case is yet to be disposed of. “There are many such cases that remain pending years after years.”

He said the government should put the perpetrators of mob beatings on trial under the Speedy Trial Tribunal to set examples of justice for the victims and stop the menace.

Social reasons behind prevalence

Prof Serajul Islam said people are becoming cruel as a sense of anger is growing among them for various reasons, including lack of safety, bleak future, unemployment, their fight for livelihood and growing inequalities.

Besides, he said, people now have become helpless as they cannot properly express their opinions and even ‘cast their votes’. “So, when they get any chance to show their power or to be overpowered on anybody they do it without considering its consequences.”

The noted educationist also said people are taking laws into their own hands as they do not have confidence in the administration, judiciary and other state organs.

He also said people are now suffering from alienation for lack of cultural, political and social activities. “Social interaction among people is gradually reducing while people are spending considerable time on social media, which is only making them self-centered and isolated from families, friends and social interaction.”

Serajul Islam said the situation will not improve unless cultural, sports and political activities are increased alongside taking steps to increase people’s trust in state institutions.

Sadeka Halim said people are getting distressed over fragile social system for various reasons, including growing inequality, injustice, lack of good governance, corruption, unlawful and illegal practices by law enforcers and the culture of impunity.

Besides, she said, people are suffering from mistrust and a sense of insecurity, which prompt them believe in rumour and indulge in acts like mob beating or nuisance on the streets.

Sadeka Halim, also a professor at DU’s Sociology department, thinks the country is witnessing a serious degradation in people’s moral values as social institutions, especially the family, that are supposed to teach values are getting weaker gradually.

The DU professor warned that the tendency of people to disrespect law will grow further if proper remedial measures are not taken. “Ensuring good governance and transparency in the administration and the police can help improve the situation.”

  • The cruelty of crowds
  • Vol 36
  • Abdur Rahman Jahangir
  • M Jahangir Alam
  • Issue 4
  • DhakaCourier

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