Within a week there have been two separate news reports that made our hearts cringe. One was the death of 27 people in Mymensingh in a stampede that ensued during the collection of Zakat. Of the victims, 23 were women and four children. All because, Md Shamim, the owner of the local factory, wanted to put on a show of his charity in the name of religion. I am not sure if there are rules and regulations to abide by while holding a public event like this, as in most first world countries. But we all know from our experiences of distributing meat during Eid-ul-Adha or if you have participated or witnessed relief distribution after a natural disaster how desperation can quickly turn dangerous.
The second act committed by a group of men in their 30s and above is torturing to death a 13-year old boy, Sheikh Md Samiul Alam Rajon, on the accusation that he had stolen something. One wonders what has happened to humanity. The people who perpetrated this are nothing but sociopaths. No normal person would deny a dying 13-year-old boy some water, a boy who was selling vegetables when most 13 year olds play with their play stations. It's just impossible to justify how a group of grown-ups can torture a small boy. Even if he had stolen something, it certainly was not worth his life. It's not the first time nor will it be the last time that we will witness such cruelty of human nature. If you recall, in October 2013 a stampede on a bridge leading to an Indian Temple left 89 devotees dead. It was caused by thieves who had spread the rumour that the bridge was collapsing so that they could steal while the crowd was in panic.
What makes the 13-year-old boy's death so shocking is that it was done in broad daylight in front of a crowd. It's not just the five but everyone in the place Kumargaon in Sylhet who witnessed and perhaps even cheered. All of them have blood on their hands. The most famous case of such an attack where bystanders stood by is called the Kitty Genovese case on March 13, 1964 where a 28 year-old woman was raped and killed in two separate late night attacks near her home in Queens, NY, while according to police reports at the time at least 38 people and seen or heard of the attack but did not call police or do anything that may have scared the attacker away. This incident became a major study for behavioural psychologists and the term was coined "Genovese Syndrome" for all future such incidents. It caused an uproar at the time, a crime symptomatic of urban society's moral decay. (It must be noted, though, that the report was after 40 years believed to be exaggerated about the number of witnesses who did not act).
Right or wrong, it led to a number of studies and the uproar and noise raised awareness. That is exactly what should be done now, to make an example of the people who carried out this heinous act and the whole country made aware. There is moral decay in society trickling down and trickling up, but the swift reactions of so many says that it's not impossible to stop it. Whether it is enacting laws, executing them or spreading the word through media, schools or social workers, this decay needs to be stopped.
Syed Nadeem Ahsan writes from Maryland, USA