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Sunday August 23, 2015 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Sunday August 23, 2015 MYT 7:40:06 AM
by martin vengadesan
Making a stand: Bangladeshis protesting against the lynching of a 13-year-old boy in Dhaka. — AFP
THE other day I was reading excerpts of the Marquis de Sade’s 120 days of Sodom, and frankly I couldn’t get very far. Granted, I have been able to sit through movies like Quills and Marat/Sade which attempted to give Sade’s perversions a philosophical defence, but when push comes to shove, there is a certain level of depravity that is simply unacceptable.
We can talk about technological advancements and the many wondrous ways in which mankind attempts to tame nature. We can even indulge ourselves in creating myths that massage our collective ego by assigning humanity an exalted role on this planet. But if you ask me, the tendency among some humans towards cruelty is what truly sets us apart from our fellow creatures.
No other species has the inclination towards cruelty that we have. I mean think about it, what kind of mind can devise instruments of torture like the Iron Maiden, the rack or the thumbscrew?
Sometimes I walk around overwhelmed by a mixture of sadness and anger over all the cruelty that comes across our pages. UN peacekeepers accused of raping children in Central Africa, IS militants carrying out grisly beheadings with a casual air, unspeakable organised crime violence in Mexico, that vicious gang-rape in India, etc. Watching the world can become a soul-crushing endeavour, leaving you with a sense of helplessness.
I’ve just read a CNN report about boys in Bangladesh. Over the last few weeks, no less than four lads aged 10 to 17 have been found dead in Bangladesh, victims of torture. Among them was Mohammad Rakib, 12, who was tortured by his former employer because he took a job at another car repair shop. Robiul Awal, 10, was beaten and had his eyes gouged out after allegedly stealing fish.
Just think about that. A lot of times it’s easy not to empathise because it’s better to just block it out. Pretend our world isn’t as grotesque as all that.
The reason I haven’t been able to block out what happened to Samiul Alam Rajon, 13, in the northern city of Sylhet last month is that someone made a video of it.
The poor boy who looks closer to 10 than 13, was accused of stealing a bicycle and tied to a pole and beaten mercilessly with a metal pole by a group of no less than 13 grown men. He cries and pleads. He begs for water. He tells them that he will die if they keep it up. But they don’t. They beat him more than 60 times. Egging each other on. Jeering and laughing. One even wonders if knowing they are being filmed prompts these “heroes” to hurt him more and more. Eventually Samiul dies. Of a brain haemorrhage.
It is later revealed that Samiul was innocent. He was just helping his family by selling vegetables.
I can’t say I watched the whole video because I found it too traumatic. What could make 13 grown men beat a small child to death? What kind of cruelty drives them? Don’t call them animals, please. I won’t accept that because animals would never do such a thing.
Samiul’s father Sheikh Azizur Rahman has vowed to fight for justice for his son. Thousands of protestors took to the streets and yet there have been three more similar deaths since. Copycat killings maybe?
People often find solace in faith. Talking about karma and justice. How I wish I could believe in a system in which those who are cruel are punished and their victims rewarded. Sounds very much like wishful thinking, if you ask me. Do you really think Samiul will one day get justice for the enormous cruelty inflicted on him? Why didn’t anyone intercede for him on that fateful day?
Ultimately, our task might just be to carry on living knowing what kind of world is out there. As a father, I want to protect my children from the cruelty that lurks within some of us. I tell my children: “The world is a beautiful place. And it is an ugly place. And it is never fair.”
Star online news editor Martin Vengadesan still cannot believe he has watched a video of a lynched child.
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Opinion, Columnists, bangladesh cruelty
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Star Online news editor Martin Vengadesan grew up in nine countries spread over four continents and is both an avid student of global politics and an obsessive election-watcher.
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