Yet again, another tragic incident of a mob lynching is making the headlines – this time in Nankana Sahib. Two senior police officers were suspended over ‘negligence’, however as a society, we have a lot more to ponder upon before we set about trying to fix the ‘negligence’ of our law enforcement agencies. The actual burning question is what we as a society are doing on an organic level to prevent these acts.
We need to deliberate as to why this extremism and the impulse to take the law into one’s own hands has become an endemic feature of our society. The accused person was already in custody and the law should have taken its due course to put him through the justice system to ascertain the facts of what actually was alleged and what he was accused for. The law cannot trust hearsay, but he was killed before justice could take its natural course
Some of the video evidence also shows some people calming down the crowd and telling them that everything should be done according to the law and that order should be maintained, and that the things will be done in line with the criminal procedures of the law. The crowd however, did not agree and kept asking for the accused to be brought before them. This is also evident of the ensuing lack of trust in policing and the justice system as the mob wished to impart justice right then and there, which they have no right to do. In a democracy, only the state is responsible for dispensing justice.
One is more appalled to see the social media clips showing many people making videos with their cell phones of the crowd who are charging towards the gates of the police station. One video also shows little kids smiling and enjoying the lynching as if this is some kind of child’s play.
The desensitization of society will only add to more viciousness and barbarism in the future generations to come. These innocent kids do not even know the severity of what is happening around them; they will grow up to unthinkingly accept this violence as normal and consider it their ‘duty’ to dispense justice as far as the blasphemy law is concerned. Pakistani society is failing its responsibility of preventing our children from falling into the bottomless pit of hatred, bigotry and vigilantism, which will only create chaotic society in the future where ordinary people are empowered to act as judge, jury and executioner in the name of religion.
As much as this act of lynching someone is inhumanly horrendous and coldheartedly dreadful, another worrisome aspect is that bystanders who make videos without feeling any guilt, culpability or remorse gives one jitters as to where this will end. How many more lives will be lost because of this unending insanity? The Sialkot incident where a Sri Lankan citizen was lynched is already fresh in our minds.
People’s apathy in recording such videos reminds me of an episode of the British science fiction series Black Mirror, named ‘White Bear.’ People follow a seemingly helpless lady being hunted, attacked, assaulted and pursued by what appear to be evil elements; the screenplay shows the complete dispiritedness of the people who appear to be enjoying her ordeal and recording videos with their cell phones.
The feeling one is overwhelmed by as a viewer after watching the initial part of the episode was utter disgust and outright revulsion. As these films usually have a twist, the viewer discovers that this was some future prison where the lady was under artificially induced amnesia and that this was her punishment every day and her memory was wiped out every night for the ordeal to be started again the next morning.
The people who were making videos and enjoying themselves were only the spectators who used to pay to enter the stage. That was why they were recording the ‘show.’ The similarity between the characters in the episode and the real people watching the Nankana Sahib lynching by a mob as an opportunity to tape some footage is profoundly disturbing.
Pakistan needs to be better than this. The clergy should rise above their political and sectarian affiliations and must take the initiative to educate people to leave the matter of blasphemy to the law and the justice system. Religious leaders need to do a lot more to discourage the deployment of violence in the name of divine purpose. Only then can we be hope to build a Pakistan that is country free of senseless religiously motivated violence.