Regarding child abductions

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Rumours create chaos in the society

 

 

Child abduction is a heinous crime; either one child is kidnapped or several are missing. There is no justification to the misery and terror it creates among families and the society at large. There is no denying the pain and helplessness of the parents of a missing child, which indeed is unmatched. The rise of child abduction is evident in Punjab more than anywhere else these days. It’s heartbreaking to see that people are quickly buying the rumours and jumping to conclusions.  Does this situation allow us to take counter measures on personal whims? Shall we judge anyone as a child abductor and take physical actions (beating) against him/her on spot at community level?  Why rumours lead to conspiracy theory more easily in our society ending up bigger upsurge than the reality?

 

It is as clear as sunlight during daytime that the responsibility to provide security lies at the hands of state (law enforcement agencies) and on the shoulders of government. But the question remains equally important how far is justified to spread rumours’ to give enormity to the situation and consequently prevailing terror, horror and harassment among the masses? Without verifying sources shall we spread the word by quoting nullified figures on the basis of which different segments of society take power to judge the crime at their hands’ and penalise anyone passing by. Are we individuals the authority to define crime, judge it and declare some passer by a criminal and punish by beating up brutally on a road side?

 

Only a few days back, a story went viral on social media – the story of a mother beaten up by mob at Shalimar area of Lahore because she was suspected to have abducted a 10 year old child walking alongside her because he didn’t look like her. Though he later proved to be her son but by then she was injured and smashed by many mercilessly.  The mob was even reluctant to hand them over to the nearby police station and decided to do justice on spot. It is not the only case of punishing innocents for child abductions; more than 25 have been reported so far. It reminded me of the Sialkot incident where two brothers were brutally killing by the mob who accused them of theft or murder. A group of people decided their crime and brought justice at the personal will.

 

We do not question the source of whatsapp based circulated stories of child abduction in which people narrate a word of mouth. A few videos of abduction are also viral claiming CCTV footage as sources. On the other hand, we don’t want to trust the website and helpline (1121), which is working 24/7 under the authority of Child Protection and Welfare Bureau Punjab – developed for missing children recovery. We do not like to quote data given by DIG Police Lahore on August 9, 2016 in a video message that total 767 children were missing in 2016, out of which 603 returned home on their own as they were runaways, 119 were recovered by the police and sent back to homes in coordination with Child Protection Bureau, and that according to Government of Punjab 45 cases are yet to be dealt with, in another report in response to suo moto action by Supreme Court on child abduction these figures were quoted by Punjab Police; a total of 6,793 children went missing from 2011-2016, of which 6,661 were recovered. We are reluctant to disseminate counter initiatives like http://missing.punjab.gov.pk/children where data of 166 recovered children finding their way back home has been reported.

 

Instead we are focusing more on conspiracy theories, unverified messages, photographs and videos’ consequently depicting a magnified wave of child abduction as if at the nook and corner of every street few abductors are standing keeping an eye on you and your child to be prayed at once. We like living into conspiracy theories that give hype through make up stories and letting everyone pass judgment upon anyone they deem suspected. There is trust deficit between the public and the police. Government of Punjab has recently established Dolphin Force to improve law and order situation which is an additional department of law enforcing agencies – better trained, better facilitated and with better equipped weapons to perform more efficiently. In the past we have also seen a more efficient split of law enforcement agencies in form of Motorway police to ensure efficiency in the field. This shows whenever we require efficiency we need to establish another additional force. There are question marks on the performance of parent police department that has not been given much attention in terms of advanced trainings, equipment or up scaling the reputation. We may see the examples of model police stations in big cities but those are not applicable at large. Recently around 100 police officers were given demotions from superior ranks. These internal matters may result into certain disagreement and lethargy to perform better. An intra and inter law enforcement departments rift or lack of coordination can be a misleading factor in quoting the facts/figures in such cases, which may also widen the trust deficit between police and people further in future as well.

 

To control the damage we as citizens have to play our part by discourage rumours’, myths and conspiracy theories that eventually harm the real issue too. We shall not show case the examples of mob judgment and punishment as role model in the society. We shall be vigilant citizens in our surroundings to indicate any suspicious activity or people but to be handed over to law enforcement agencies for further action. Citizens role’ is to be a peaceful pressure group on government and state departments to urging them to find as triggering them to find lawful and strict remedies against inhuman act of child abduction.

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