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On-camera crimes & society celebrating them worries criminologists

On-camera crimes & society celebrating them worries criminologists
Expressing concern over crimes being committed in full public glare as in the case of the killing of gangster-politician Atiq Ahmed, several criminologists have said what is more worrying is a section of society openly celebrating such acts. Atiq Ahmad (60) and his brother Ashraf were shot dead at point-blank range by three men posing as journalists in the middle of a media interaction on Saturday night while police personnel were escorting them to a medical college in Prayagraj for a checkup.

The shooters, who were arrested immediately after the incident, had joined the group of mediapersons who were trying to get sound bites from Ahmad and Ashraf.

"The purpose of on-camera crime can be understood in two ways. First, the criminal wants to achieve fame, pleasure or exact revenge. It can also help the criminal put out a message to a particular community," said Netaji Subhash, an assistant professor at the School of Criminology and Behavioural Sciences (SCBS) of the Rashtriya Raksha University (RRU) in Gandhinagar.

The RRU is national security and police university functioning under the Union Home Ministry. It was established by an act of Parliament in 2020.

Subhash drew a parallel between Atiq's killing with several lynching incidents reported lately and said, "These are happening in broad daylight and public space. Even sex offences are now being taped."

In June last year, Kanhaiya Lal, a tailor in Rajasthan's Udaipur was hacked to death by two men with a cleaver at his shop. The accused even posted a video of the incident online, claiming that it was in retaliation to the victim sharing on social media a remark which was an "insult to Islam".

According to criminologists, both the killing of Atiq and Lal, have one thing in common -- the killers want to intimidate the community to which the victims belonged.

"Media serves as a tool to spread the intended message the offender wants to convey much faster," Subhash said.

Another criminal psychologist working with a federal probe agency said, "Social support, media cheer and public applause in support of such acts of crime are growing and it is a worrying trend. The most unfortunate part is that instead of denouncing and condemning such brazen crimes, a section of society is openly celebrating those as heroic acts."

Prithvi Raj, another assistant professor at the School of Criminology and Behavioural Sciences took to criminological theories to explain the causes and patterns of such criminal behaviour.

"Strain theory argues that crime is a result of the frustration and anger that people feel when they are unable to achieve their aspirations due to social or economic barriers. The shooters may have felt deprived or oppressed by the political and criminal influence of the gangster Atiq Ahmed and his associates," he said.

On the other hand, "Subcultural theory suggests that crime is a result of the values and norms of certain groups or subcultures that are different from or opposed to those of mainstream society. In this case, the killers may have belonged to a radical group that viewed Atiq and his brother as enemies or threats to their religious identity and ideology."

"These theories do not justify or excuse the crime, as it is still a violation of human rights and the rule of law. A crime should be condemned and investigated by the authorities, and the killers should be held accountable for their actions," Raj added.

Experts also highlight several other factors such as biological conditions, psychological traits, sociological factors, political and ideological beliefs along with religious fanaticism which encourage an individual to indulge in such criminal acts.

Laksheeta Choudhary, another assistant professor at the School of Criminology and Behavioural Sciences, said, "The perpetrators' surrender after the murder indicates a lack of deterrence of the justice system and the audacity to commit a crime in the presence of the media and law enforcement agencies."

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