The government, fearing a massive public backlash, rushes to rectify anything that stirs public emotion on social media
On the night of September 2, the infamous "Delwar Gang", a group of local miscreants, broke into a woman's house in Begumganj upazila of Noakhali. They accused her of indecency and tortured her brutally.
The woman, undressed, beaten and violated, was humiliated as she begged for mercy. The gang did not stop there and rather recorded the incident to blackmail her in future. The culprits, however, were never brought to book until the video clip went viral on social media 32 days later.
The clip took the internet by storm and a nationwide outrage sparked on October 4 causing the police to locate the victim and her abusers in a matter of days! As the story unfolded before the horrified public, the fragility of our justice system became painfully clear.
It was revealed that the woman reached out to the local ward member to file a complaint as she thought one needed money and power to go to the police for help. She did not have any money.
However, Moazzem Hossain Sohag, member of ward-9 under Eklashpur Union Parishad and a member of the ruling party, could not offer her any help and did not take any steps whatsoever after hearing the terrified woman's accounts of the night before.
This, along with the insecurity she felt, forced the woman to flee her home in the following days until the police found her a month later. This unfortunate fiasco is not, however, a rare case in our society these days.
The institutions of this countr,y including the government itself, has become entrapped in what can only be called a reality show. As memberships in social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp grow, so does their importance in our national lives.
The government, fearing a massive public backlash, rushes to rectify anything that stirs public emotion on social media. These actions, also closely imitated by the bureaucracy and the law enforcement agencies, have turned this nation's justice system into a selective and vindictive reality show dependent on whims of the general populace.
It was all too clear in the case of Abrar Fahad, the BUET student brutally murdered in 2019 over a Facebook post criticising the government over a treaty with India.
As the outpouring of grief and anger overwhelmed the internet, the culprits were arrested within days (some from distant villages and towns) by the police, and legal actions against them were swift as they were against Pradeep Kumar Das, the officer-in-charge of Teknaf Police Station and one of the main accused in the killing of Major (Retd) Sinha.
The killing of the former army officer in July this year riled up Bangladeshi netizens, whose demand for justice caused major processions and protests around the country against police violence, leading to the arrest of OC Pradeep and his accomplices.
The officer, as it later got revealed to the flabbergasted public, was instrumental in more than 150 encounters while conducting anti-drug operations across Cox's Bazar, which killed more than 200 people many of whom who might have been innocent! This shocking revelation could only be brought to light when the social media uproar forced the authorities to act.
Similar incidents can be seen across the nation. The Regent Hospital fraud and the MC College gang rape case are some recent examples where swift actions were taken only because of the role social media platforms played.
These media interventions, though they look satisfying in the short term, could be lethal in the long run.
Our constitution is based on the equality of every single citizen before the law where justice must be discharged without any special consideration for the accused, whoever he or she may be, which is the only way to preserve everyone's faith in our criminal justice system.
But when the law enforcement agencies, the government and the courts start to get influenced by social media platforms, then scores of legal cases get ignored for a selective few and wrongdoers lucky enough to escape a media trial would also escape justice.
The horrifying video of Begumganj shocked many to their core and It's equally horrifying that many may still be suffering in the same manner, whose abusers are 'bright' enough to not post incriminating evidence on social media.
The home minister, Asaduzzaman Khan, called the action of posting the video online an abhorrent one and on October 5 the High Court ordered BTRC (Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Authority) to remove the video from social media platforms immediately to spare the woman any further public humiliation.
It is ironic though that the social media, used as an instrument of public humiliation, was the only thing that brought her justice. It is high time we rethought our law enforcement agencies and the justice system so that we can stop the next Begumganj without waiting for a dim-witted abuser to post incriminating evidence after 32 days.
Sharifuzzaman is a postgraduate student of English Language and Literature at Jashore University of Science and Technology with an avid interest in geopolitics, literature and history.