It is hard to know what to make of the arrest of two men from a village near Sargodha suspected of stealing bodies from a graveyard and then eating them. Both grave desecration and cannibalism carry jail sentences and given that the men involved have confessed not only to these crimes but also to eating their own children, they will surely serve long sentences and, perhaps, be given the death penalty. But is there any purpose to this macabre story other than shock value? What does it tell us about the society that we live in?
Statistics about cannibalism aren’t exactly available to pour over and come to conclusions about its prevalence and perhaps the most obvious example that comes to mind in modern times is the case of American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who used to dismember and eat body parts of his victims. While his defence lawyers claimed the insanity defence (cannibalism is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders used for such purposes), he was eventually given the death sentence. Apart from this, cannibalism is seen as a deviant practice in today’s world, and, at most, some people living in tribes in Africa or Papua New Guinea practice it. In the olden days, in some instances the act of eating a human was also seen as part of a war ritual while some cultures believed that it lent those consuming the human flesh extraordinary strength and powers.
What led these two men to indulge in such a socially-repugnant practice is unclear. One of them is believed to have killed his wife some years ago and devoured her body, followed by those of two children. Since it wasn’t a group ritual of any sort, one would assume that it may have to do with the fact that the men may have some mental deficiencies or that they liked the taste of human flesh and saw nothing wrong in satiating that desire — till the time that they got caught.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 7th, 2011.
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