The Financial Express

Muscle flexing and might is right

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Usually incidents of gross injustice taking place in rural settings do not make screaming headlines unless there is a twist of sensationalism. What happened the other day to examinees appearing from Jajira College at the fourth year degree honours examination under the National University on their way to the exam centre at Shariatpur Government College is outrageous and deplorable. The examinees, reportedly, were travelling on auto-rickshaws on Wednesday but midway they were intercepted by transport workers at a place called Premtola. Why? The examinees have to travel on board the interceptors' vehicles or they would not be allowed to proceed further.

The examinees argued that they had to reach the exam centre in time before 9 am. So they hired vehicles instead of boarding public transports. But transport workers were not ready to listen to such reasoning. Altercation ensued and then the examinees were beaten mercilessly, sending two of them to a hospital with severe wound.  Unbelievable! But such highhandedness and flexing of muscle are incorrigibly undermining civil liberty in the social fabrics.  

This is exactly how most transport operators have been oriented over the decades. The impression is when human life hardly matters to them, an examination carries no significance to them. It is clear, they have been enjoying patronage from powerful quarters. But they are not the only ones, the poisonous mentality is now raging like a wildfire in people who are influential in rural areas. Or, else how can opponents in union parishad election attack each other ---mostly both sides claiming to be supporters of the ruling party --- leaving some dead and severely wounded? 

In a democratic dispensation, all people are supposed to be entitled to equal rights and opportunities. But this is more rhetoric than a fact of life even in Western societies claiming to espouse rather than expostulate the values that make democratic institutions function.

In reality though, certain communities and ethnic people are looked down upon and discriminated against by not only the ultra-right white groups but also by some of the members of the law enforcement agencies. George Floyd's infamous choke-hold death at the hands of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, the USA on May 25, 2020, is not the only case of racial hatred unleashed by the police on black people. Several such people have lost their lives to police violence since July 17, 2014, the last person becoming victim was Daunte Wright on April 2021.

Yet it must be admitted that in Western societies, the precept 'might is right' does not quite get currency. Of course, there are cases of behavioural aberrations, mostly when people get drunk or some eccentrics commit the ultimate crime like opening fire on people in a public place or students and teachers in classrooms. That election violence leaves opponent followers or candidates dead is almost unheard of in those societies. Donald Trump was an aberration and the violence he triggered at the Capitol Hill is a first-time addition to the US history. That the most charismatic president of that country was slain is, however, a different story.

What is remarkable is that people, no matter if they belong to the lower segment, are not brow-beaten and bullied simply because they are less fortunate or weaker or can be taken advantage of in a certain situation.

Here this is accepted as a fact of life. In an independent country such muscle flexing and violence that curtail other people's rights should have been a thing of the past. What is particularly galling is that examples are being set to the contrary. Thus democratic aspirations of people suffer, bringing down the benchmark of civil liberty.

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