A HIGH Court directive to the government and law enforcement agencies to take effective measures to stop lynching, to identify the reasons behind lynching and to bring the perpetrators of past incidents of lynching to justice is welcome. A bench of the High Court issued four directives on Sunday after disposing of a public interest litigation writ petition filed by a lawyer in the wake of the death of Taslima Begum Renu, mother of a four-year-old daughter, in mob lynching at Uttar Badda on July 20, 2019 which shook the nation. The court has rightly directed the government, the home ministry and the law enforcers to make people aware through awareness campaign and through the media about lynching and to stop the spread of fake and explosive messages, videos and other materials which could incite mob violence and to identify and take actions against any such perpetrator. Admittedly, the government should also take note of what rights activists and legal experts have repeatedly said that a lack of good governance, of accountability and delay in justice dispensation are also responsible for making people take the law in their own hands.
Lynching or death by mob beating, in fact, has worryingly continued so much so that, as rights group Odhikar says, at least 1,164 people were killed in 2009–2019. The Odhikar statistics show that 27 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 half of 2019 were killed in mob lynching. While the figure significantly came down in 2016, 2017 and 2018, it registered a rise in 2019 riding on the rumours of the need for human sacrifice for the construction of the Padma Bridge as mobs randomly started suspecting some as child-lifters. At least 44 were lynched only in July, 2019, according to Ain o Salish Kendra, on suspicion that they were ‘child-lifters’. Among them at least seven were killed in Dhaka division, four in Chattogram division and one each in Mymensingh, Barishal and Sylhet divisions. Lynching, however, should be seen, as legal experts repeatedly say, as extra-judicial killings, though not in the hands of law enforcers, which has also continued apace. Be it mob lynching or extra-judicial killing in the name of ‘gunfight or crossfire’, both are an affront to the rule of law and need to be stopped.
The government and its law enforcing agencies must, complying with the High Court directive, take effective steps to end lynching as this is devoid of any judicial accountability and constitutes as much an affront to the rule of law as extrajudicial killing does. The government must not allow any breach in the rule of law by the mob or by the law enforcers.
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