And how to keep the scales of justice balanced
The recent church attacks in Youhanabad, Lahore, were a grotesque representation of the poison running through the veinsof our nation. The aftermath of the bombings saw another harrowing aspect, now transcended into a societal norm, rear its ugly head. An angry mob quickly turned violent, blocked a major highway, proceeded to burn cars and ransack a bus terminal before setting alight two people suspected of being involved in the attacks. According to his brother, one of the victims named Naeem, a glasscutter by profession, had the misfortune of visiting the area to do some work when the incident took place. The man adamantly yet futilely pleads his brother’s innocence. The second man killed has been left in such a state where he is no longer physically recognisable.
There is no discounting the fact that the sentiment, frustration and angst of the people are without doubt understandable and justified. However, the same cannot be said about their actions, especially where they concern the life of another human being who may not have been guilty in the first place. Even if they were indeed guilty, public ownership of justice is a very slippery slope and such killings can never be justified, irrespective of the degree of guilt. There were only a handful of policemen at the incident, with those present unable and unwilling to step in. A stubborn preservation of the medieval mind-set has regressed the common man to become complacent and succumb to sudden inspirations of unhinged barbarism.
The line between right and wrong had greatly blurred to birth this mob mentality resulting in a complete denial of and a disassociation with humanity. Two young men were beaten and burnt alive at the centre of the city in broad daylight, while the authorities tucked their tails between their legs having succumbed to losing control of the situation. This isn’t the first time and it definitely won’t be the last. Over the course of time, we have seen this lynch mob psyche spinning out of control, becoming a mere spectator sport. Hundreds of homes have been burnt, men and women have been heinously killed in front of their families and then made public examples out of. One can never forget the hair-raising Sialkot incident, where the bodies of two innocent brothers were beaten up and dragged to the streets only to be hanged against a water tank with their eyes hanging out of their sockets.
The list of such inhumane atrocities is long and relentless. The masses here feel the need to take accountability and law into their own hands, as they know from experience that justice is simply unattainable and a farce in this country. Having recognised that daunting reality of the inefficiency and corruption of our systems, this lynch mob mentality has long become a norm that needs to be dealt with and quashed once and for all. The two boys were killed in Lahore because of suspicion related to bomb attacks; the two boys in Sialkot killed by throngs of men, were being ‘punished’ for alleged theft. Firstly, it is worth noting the wide discrepancy between the two incidents in terms of the purported crimes, but the reaction in both cases is equally vicious and merciless. In both the incidents, the mobs acted on whims fuelled and blinded by hysteria. Arrests were only made in the Sialkot case when the Chief Justice issued a suo motu notice. How many times has that been done since? How many people have actually been questioned or tried for all the similar incidents that have taken place since?
Normal vendors and shopkeepers by day turned into frenzied murderers spewing venom in a matter of minutes is an extremely terrifying notion. The quagmire of despair that this country is slowly sinking into shows no sign of relief in the near future. Frustration and desperation are on the rise, with terror attacks showing no abating. Surely, the government needs to take matters back into its own inept hands and perform the basic duties of protecting its civilians, but this extends beyond the extremist faction. The most pertinent question that arises, then, is this: How are we to protect ourselves if we’re the ones we need protection from? As with anti-terrorism measures now finally being sought, others will also have to be taken into account to ensure such incidents are slowly but surely eradicated. As the church attackers need to be brought to justice, those who claimed the lives of the two brothers need to face the same treatment. Lives taken by terrorists and those by lynch mobs are still lives taken at the end of the day. They all hold the same value and should be respected as much as the other.
There is CCTV footage along with mobile recordings where the mob disfiguring and mutilating the two boys can be seen clearly. The attackers should be identified with their faces made public and taken into custody. They need to be dealt with by the judicial system so people can rebuild their trust in an institute that enforces law and order, is a severe deterrent of crime and provides security for the individual. The police should not be used as glamorised VIP escorts, but instead be trained to deal with such incidents and not watch on the sidelines as violence ensues. In a country where rape, honour killings, beheadings, corruption and extremism have become part of everyday life, let’s try to preserve whatever semblance is left of humanity. This cannot be done without force and zero tolerance towards such acts. The perpetrators do not have the time to self-reflect and question their morality; they have more pressing matters, such as dealing with basic survival necessities. The day liability prevails for the repercussions of our actions, will be the day our thoughts behind those actions will be questioned.