Bangladeshi Christians form a human chain in Dhaka on Aug. 20 to protest and demand justice for recent child killings. (Photo by Stephan Uttom)
Several hundred Christians rallied and formed a human chain in Dhaka on Aug. 20 to demand justice for four recent mob killings of children that have outraged many across Bangladesh.
Protesters prayed for eternal peace for the dead children. They also said the government has not taken enough action to punish perpetrators and protect vulnerable children.
“There are laws to protect children, but they are not applied,” Father Albert Thomas Rozario, secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission, said during the demonstration in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka. “Our negligence is destroying the future of innocent children.”
The most recent killing happened Aug. 17 in Dhaka. Three men are accused of beating to death Muhammad Raja, 17, allegedly for stealing a mobile phone. Raja became the fourth child victim of a mob lynching in just five weeks.
On July 8, Samiul Alam, 13, a vegetable seller in northeastern Sylhet city, was beaten to death for allegedly stealing a van. His killing was recorded on a cellphone and shared online. On Aug. 4, Muhammad Rakib, 12, was allegedly tortured and killed by his employer in the southern city of Khulna for joining a competing company. And Rabiul, a 10-year-old who used a single name, was bludgeoned to death, allegedly by a neighbor in southern Barguna district, after the child was accused of stealing fish.
Father Rozario said existing laws provide for a minimum of 10 years in prison for physical violence against children, and the death penalty for murder. But these laws, he said, have never been strictly followed.
“So the government’s negligence is one of the major causes behind ongoing abuses and killings of children,” he said.
‘This might happen to anyone’
The children’s murders show an alarming level of lawlessness and intolerance in Bangladesh, says Marist missionary Brother Cesar Henriquez Leiva, a child rights activist.
“All of us must be deeply saddened and ashamed that those children had to face barbaric killings,” he said.
Samrat Charles Gomes, 13, attended the Aug. 20 demonstration. For him, the country has become an unsafe place for children.
“Every time I think about those killings, I become frightened,” he said. “If there is no justice, this might happen to anyone, even to me.”
Amid national and international outcry, local police have arrested suspects in each of the four cases.
On Aug. 16, police filed murder charges against 13 men allegedly involved in Samiul Alam’s killing.
On Aug. 17, police in Dhaka arrested three men for Muhammad Raja’s beating death.
Bijoy Basak, police superintendent in Barguna district, told ucanews.com that one person has been arrested in connection with Rabiul’s murder.
Sukumar Biswas, officer in-charge at Khulna police station said three people have been arrested for the killing of Muhammad Rakib. Charges are pending, he said.
Bangladesh has seen an alarming rise on child abuses and killings recently. At least 191 children have been killed and 180 raped in the country this year alone, according to Dhaka-based Bangladesh Child Rights Forum, a national network of child rights organizations.