HORRIFYING reports of hijacking, abduction, killing, and raping of women and minor girls that fill the pages of the dailies with alarming frequency lead one to believe that the country has fallen into the hands of barbaric forces. This has raised the question whether the law enforcement agencies are really up to their task, and whether they can work ignoring the influence of some political masters. The eroding public confidence in them could spell danger with ominous implications in different spheres of public life.
The spectre of violence let loose in the country reflects that in the face of widespread rise of crime, people are taking law in their own hands rather than seeking help from the law enforcers. In fact, incidents of violence and terrorism stalk the country in a manner that no sensible citizen can comprehend. Reports of 35 murders during Eid holidays, a peaceful period, reinforce our belief about the horrendous crime situation in the country.
The surge in crime in recent times has come about with the backing of some godfathers who have a share in the booty or toll. They also employ these thugs to eliminate their rivals. While newspaper reporters, columnists and editors write articles, politicians who still have human values give public speeches and police officers leak stories about political interference in the investigation destroying their morale, the dastardly acts of the hoodlums that continue to play havoc with the citizens' lives go on unabated.
The whole country is being held hostage in the hands of a limited number of criminals. Fed up with the increasing incidence of violence, terrorism, abduction, raping and secret killing, that brought no response from the law enforcement agencies, people at large and in many cases the victims themselves, out of pent up anger, took law into their own hands.
The charge sheet in the Tawqi murder case in Narayanganj was prepared after thorough investigation for over a year. It named some influential members of the godfather family in the town as the main perpetrators in the killing, but could not be submitted to the court because of obstruction from some invisible quarters.
Investigation in the seven murder case has been dragging on for more than three months and about 300 persons have been interrogated, but there is no indication that the committee formed under the instruction of the High Court could make any headway, and there is little hope that the report will be submitted in the near future. There is no denying that because of police inaction, failure to give justice, and unusual delay in conducting investigation, crime is sweeping across the country. With investigations dragging on for years, it is no wonder that justice is rarely delivered. Once it goes off the front pages in the newspapers, the case is forgotten.
A vast section of the population seems to be disillusioned with the police and the administration. If evidence is anything to go by, criminals, some politicians and some bureaucrats have always been good friends. Each has a use for the other, a nexus that has time and again proved to be lucrative. If a criminal is arrested, he often comes out of the prison taking advantage of the laxity in investigation. These days, a convict can even talk to his gangster associates from behind the prison bars, run extortion business, and plan murder of rivals through cell phones.
No attempt has been made so far to retrain our policemen to think of themselves as protectors of the tormented people in the community rather than instruments of the government machinery. A change of attitude is the call of the hour now. The administration must rise to the expectation of the people and not wash its hands off the challenges by hiding behind excuses. The ministry concerned will have to realise the urgent need to modernise the police not just through better equipment and transport but in terms of modern methods of surveillance and means of interrogation that must be followed, but never through coercive methods.
A sense of alienation of the youth force from the humdrum of national activities, a feeling of deprivation, and a seeming lack of participation in the national rejuvenation programmes are the prime reasons for the country's slide into crime, drug addiction, trafficking in women and children, abduction and extortion. Suppressed public anger about the failings of the concerned administration is finding outlet in such activities, leading to a situation where disrespect for law and social ethics has hit a new high.
Even if we condemn such violence in the strongest language at our command, we cannot remain oblivious of the cracks and tremors that have developed in the society over the years. People have hardly any knowledge as to how many of the killers, rapists, abductors or extortionists have ever been tried and brought to justice. With societal norms torn apart, people are now becoming increasingly restive. In the face of adversity, calamity and unrest threatening them one after another, there is little for them to hold on, to hope for, and to be proud of. The administration is yet to wake up to the tragic consequences of the shocking episodes of sinister crimes. But to a whole generation growing up with psychological trauma, shock and grief there must be a ray of hope.
Criminals by themselves can never defy the laws of the state unless they are protected by influential quarters. People obey laws because defiance or breaking laws invites punishment. A careful look will bring to the fore that a section of political elements are in some way or other involved in untoward activities in our society. Even after so much damage inflicted on the society, we tend to forget the alarming implications and grave consequences of the linkage between terrorism and some politicians.
But a failure to bring crime of any sort under control could cost not only the image of the government but also its attempt to move towards democracy. Peace loving citizens hate the chaos and unremitting violence they see every day, which has shaken them to the core. The growing loss of confidence could even produce sudden political swings. In fact, most people exhibit frenzied behaviour as a protest against helplessness and inaction of the government in dealing with crime.
The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.