An Italian priest has been wounded by gunmen in Bangladesh, the latest in a wave of attacks on foreigners there. Only weeks before, an Italian citizen working with a development organisation was shot in Dhaka’s diplomatic zone – one of the most heavily guarded places in the country. A few days later, a Japanese citizen was murdered in northern Bangladesh in a similar style.
The motives for these murders are not yet clear, but political leaders have rushed to suggest who could be behind these killings without presenting any credible and concrete evidence. Another spin-off of these events is to create an atmosphere of panic, which has been greatly heightened by Islamic State (IS) apparently claiming responsibilityfor these incidents – including the bombing of a Shia procession on 24 October 2015.
Initially, the government of Bangladesh denied it was aware of any such threats, but it soon transpired that some foreign consulates did actually inform the government about credible risk against Western citizens in the country.
Broadly speaking, security is a major issue in Bangladesh, with several murders reported in the national newspapers every day. Many of these murders are taking place because of political rivalries, extortion, and everyday quarrels – and alarmingly, a great many of them never see anyone brought to justice.
In 2012, a journalist couple were murdered in their bedroom, and the murder of an innocent man by the student wing of the ruling party was captured on live television. In 2013, a young student was said to have been murdered by the relatives of influential members of the ruling party.
Then 2014 saw the sensational “seven murder” case. Members of the country’s special elite forces were apparently involved, allegedly taking a bribe from the mastermind of the incident. Some of the violence has been religious, too: in the last two years, a number of secularist bloggers have been killed by Islamist extremists.
And in the meantime, no-one has yet been brought to justice for the 2013 disaster at Rana Plaza in which over 1250 workers died.
Don’t go there
As is all too common in Bangladesh, the investigations into most of these cases are still dragging on after an agonisingly long time. The failure to secure justice for these incidents and thousands more like them creates a sense of lawlessness, where local gangs, muggers, and terrorist groups feel that with strong political patronage and power it is possible to get away with serious crimes, including murder.
This has all hardly flattered Bangladesh’s image, and the consequences have already been humiliating in many ways. In autumn 2015, Cricket Australia (CA) cancelled a scheduled tour in Bangladesh citing credible threats by militant groups against Westerners. The CA raised the security concern and delayed the team’s departure while working on a “revised security plan” with the Bangladesh Cricket Board and top level Bangladeshi security forces.
The uptick in attacks on foreigners only made the situation worse, and the tour was finally cancelled despite Bangladesh offering VVIP security (given to the visiting Presidents of other countries) to each player. The Chief Executive of the CA said that in the end, it was simply not possible to proceed with the tour, because:
The safety of our players and officials is our highest priority. We had hoped the security concerns would fade, but unfortunately the advice we have received from government, our own security experts and independent security advisors has clearly indicated that there are now high risks to our people should they make the trip.
Soon after, the South African Women’s cricket team cancelled their Bangladesh tour too, and a number of foreign textile buyers and research teams have also written off their planned visits. Most of the Western embassies have warned their citizens to be careful.
Paradoxically, this is nothing less than blowback from years of cynical propaganda on the part of Bangladesh’s leaders, who deliberately maintain this culture of impunity and denial. They have also used brazen fearmongering to score political support from the rest of the world.
Let’s not forget that the present government’s mandate is questionable in the eyes of many; at the last election more than half of its MPs were elected unopposed, and only a reported 5% of voters turned out. And yet its senior figures maintain that their government has to remain in power to stop ill-defined “militants” overrunning the country.
The unresolved murders of foreign citizens have simply given them more fodder for this self-serving rhetoric, even though what they most clearly demonstrate is the impotence of Bangladesh’s law enforcement agencies.
And on October 24, amid the heightened tension and ramped-up security, a Shiite procession was bombed, with two people killed and over a hundred injured – even after national newspapers published stories saying the government had in fact predicted just such an event.
There are, of course, a range of groups in Bangladesh espousing violent fundamentalist ideologies, and over the years, scores of people have been arrested for militant activities – including suspected members of ISand al-Qaeda. But the state has never been able to prove that a genuine offshoot of IS or al-Qaeda is actually operating in Bangladesh.
Nonetheless, the government’s fearmongering seems to be serving it well, and its complacency has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This sense of lawlessness, coupled with a tense political environment in which governing and dissenting parties both resort to violence, means that Bangladesh is becoming a highly conducive environment for radical terrorism.
Superficially reinforced security and policing is all very well, but if the law and order situation does not improve and exploitation of a culture of fear continues, Bangladesh might become a story of the boy who cried wolf.
Link: The Conversation
Time to stop the executions of political opponents and restore the rule of law.
Lord Carlile of Berriew, CBE, QC
The news of a new round of violent attacks in Bangladesh underscores a deteriorating security risk the world can no longer ignore. Last week in Dhaka, groups of men stabbed two prominent secular publishers, leaving one dead and the other in critical condition. Western intelligence agencies have warned the government that terrorists linked to so-called Islamic State are targeting foreigners and are set upon bringing increasing terror to Bangladesh.
The ruling Awami League and religious extremists are fomenting civil war while the rest of the country—especially the legitimate political opposition—is caught in the middle of violence and oppression.
For those who have been watching Bangladesh closely, it is clear that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has abandoned democracy as she continues to use the government and courts to eliminate political opponents and consolidate her grip on power. The so-called Parliamentary opposition is supine and ineffective.
Hasina’s continued suppression of legitimate dissent only increases the likelihood of violence. Suppressing a real political process encourages extremists, whose rhetoric incites violence.
In the coming days, Bangladesh’s current state of unrest will only grow worse if Hasina continues to abandon the rule of law by allowing the execution of two opposition leaders. She has long given up listening to the people of Bangladesh or respecting human rights. The British and US governments and the broader international community must immediately pressure her to stop these executions and reform the government of her country. She is dragging Bangladesh inexorably towards an unwelcome choice between authoritarian and mob rule.
The so-called International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) is at the heart of oppression and unrest in Bangladesh. Prime Minister Hasina uses the ICT to imprison and in some cases execute opposition party leaders instead of allowing the ICT to fulfill its purpose of prosecuting crimes from the 1971 war. As Amnesty International recently stated, the ICT fails to meet international standards for a fair trial.
The ICT is one of the fundamental reasons that Bangladesh is descending into violence. Decisions by the ICT have led to surges in violence at the announcement of verdicts and executions. The world cannot stand by and let this happen once again.
One of the prisoners facing execution, Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, is a leader in the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party. During the ICT trial, Chowdhury was prevented from calling all the defense witnesses he was advised by his lawyers were necessary.
The ICT did not allow 26 crucial defense witnesses to testify or submit affidavits attesting that Chowdhury was in Pakistan during the war of independence in 1971 when his alleged crimes were committed in Bangladesh. The witnesses include a former Prime Minister of Pakistan and a former US ambassador. The Bangladesh Government must stop these executions and provide Chowdhury a fair and just trial.
To institute the rule of law in Bangladesh, Prime Minister Hasina must immediately take the following steps to turn the ICT into a court that is truly independent and international:
- Convene a reconstituted, internationally sanctioned and supervised war crimes tribunal
- Impose a moratorium on all executions ordered by the ICT
- Allow a fully independent inquiry into all ICT judgments
- Halt all current trials until the above policies are implemented
Nothing less will do. At present the opinion of the world’s jurists condemns Bangladesh for ignoring internationally recognized rule of law values.
Prime Minister Hasina must now seek reconciliation with those values. Otherwise Bangladesh will continue down a path to one-party government, authoritarianism or mob rule.
Lord Carlile of Berriew, CBE, QC is a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords. He was the British government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation from 2001 until 2011
The Hindus came under the attack of ruling Awami League activists yet again. Some ruling party activists, as New Age reported on Saturday quoting victims, attacked the Hindus at a village in Feni on October 28 over Lakshmi Puja firework. What is the most horrific is that the attackers kicked a woman, pregnant for seven months, trying to save her husband, in the abdomen, forcing the birth of the premature baby stillborn. The attack left 10 injured in all. It reminds us of the gruesome incident, in which a baby, still in her mother’s womb, was hit with a bullet when the woman was caught in an internecine clash of the party in Magura a few months ago. The baby in the Magura incident could finally survive because of better treatment given apparently to calm down public rage. But it is not difficult to infer that humans are not safe even in mother’s womb under the government that earlier refused to ensure security for citizens in their bedroom.
Attacks on the Hindus, no doubt, are not exclusive of the incumbent regime. They have been persecuted and lost their land to grabbers tied to the majority Muslim community, in particular, under successive governments. But it is also true that the attack in question took place at the hands of people loyal to a party, the leaders of which often claim to be championing secularism and non-communal spirit, which are among issues that inspired the country’s war for independence in 1971. Besides, ever since the party assumed office in 2009, its leaders and activists hit the headlines on a number of occasions for their involvement in attacks on religious minorities, especially Hindus. In late March, the entire Hindu community of a small village in Barguna left their homesteads in the face of death threats reportedly from a leader of the Juba League, the youth front of the ruling party, who was desperate to grab the land. Leaders of the minority community at a press briefing in Dhaka on August 6 accused an influential minister and two ruling party lawmakers in Thakurgaon and Pirojpur of grabbing houses, temple and farm land of the Hindus. To add to the woes, almost all these incidents, like even the ones that took place under their predecessors, still remain unaddressed.
The attack on the Hindus in Feni, that too over a trifle mater, could take place in such a situation. According to the district Janmashtami Parishad general secretary, the ‘planned’ attack could have been headed off if the police had taken timely steps. Coming out of the majoritarian policy pursued by successive governments, regardless of the political inclination, on the one hand, and their oft-repeated rhetoric when it comes to protecting interests of minority people, religious, ethnic and otherwise, on the other, the incumbents immediately need to seriously deal with the case at hand as something otherwise will undermine the constitution in particular. People of democratically bent also need to raise their voice over the issue.
Source: New Age
Hydrologists, environmentalists and responsible authorities in the Bangladesh government have been expressing for the last few weeks serious concern with regard to reports published in the Indian media on July 13, 2015 suggesting that plans are afoot afresh in India for carrying out its much debated and controversial inter-river linking project.
It may be recalled that this concept of inter-linking of rivers was first proposed in undivided India by Engineer Arthur Cotton in the 19th century. Subsequently, in recent times, over the last four and half decades we have seen Indian planners focusing on this issue time and again. In the 1970s, the then Indian Irrigation Minister K.L. Rao proposed a “National Water Grid’ to facilitate provision of water for deficit areas from surplus parts of the country through the process of inter-basin transfer projects. The idea was examined but remained in limbo. Later, in 1980, the Indian Ministry of Water Resources prepared a report entitled ‘National Perspectives for Water Resources Development’. As pointed out by economist Jafar Ahmed Chowdhury, this report suggested three components for the water development project – the Himalayan component, the peninsular component and an intra-State river linking component. This idea was, however, binned by the Congress government.
Nevertheless, the Indian planners continued their efforts in this direction through reports subsequently published in 1982 (by the National Water Development Agency), the proposals drafted in 1999 by the Indian central government and lastly in 2004, after the Congress came to power in New Delhi.
The enormous cost of such a project and some other considerations led to some disagreement among the younger generation of the Congress party, particularly Rahul Gandhi. He, in 2009, pointed out quite correctly that inter-linking of rivers was dangerous and had severe environmental implications.
The Indian plan to inter-link the Teesta-Ganges-Manas and Sankosh will require cooperation and agreement in principle of the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam and Bihar to share their waters. This Plan will also most certainly affect the flow of water in the 54 rivers jointly shared by Bangladesh and India.
These rivers will include in particular the Ganges (Padma) which originates from China, flows through Nepal and India into Bangladesh; the Brahmaputra, which also originates in China, then enters India and subsequently flows into Bangladesh (with part of its catchment lying in Bhutan); the Dhorola and the Dudkumar which originate in Bhutan and then flow through India into Bangladesh; the Meghna which originates in Assam, India before flowing into Bangladesh. The Manas and the Sankosh rivers are tributaries of the Brahmaputra that add to the water flow of this mighty river.
It is claimed that these measures will help to control flood in the adjoining territories of the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, facilitate irrigation over 22 million hectares and also generate considerable amount of hydro-power. It is anticipated that the efforts undertaken through the peninsular river inter-link paradigm will help to irrigate 35 million hectares, generate substantial amount of hydropower and will help in improving food security in India.
M. Inamul Haque, Chairman, Institute of Water and Environment, has made some interesting points. According to him “from an engineering point of view, the interlinking project can be executed and delivered on the ground” but, there is the question of cost and also the principle of movement of water as a hydraulic mass. He then mentions that “the cost of the project in 2005 was Rs. 560,000 crore [5,600 billion]. By now it has increased three-fold.” He then goes on to add that the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank or both might still be interested in helping the Indian government to complete the project despite lingering opposition from certain quarters of the state governments of Assam, West Bengal and Bihar.
The question that it raises, however, is the cost such an environmentally destructive project will have for the sub-region in general and Bangladesh, in particular. This assumes serious dimensions, according to Professor Shafiqul Islam (Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, USA) given the fact that there is “lack of technical information about the viability of the project”. He then points out that “beyond a few lines drawn on the map to indicate the rough location of the dams and canals, nothing is available to the professional community to verify the justifiability and efficacy of claimed benefits from the project”.
Bangladeshi experts have correctly pointed out that such inter-linking of rivers and diversion of water flow by the upper riparian India, which will be in violation of international legal principles, will have catastrophic ecological consequences for the lower riparian Bangladesh – water logging, salinisation in the coastal areas and desertification in the north-western regions. All these hydrological and geological factors will have serious impact not only on our economy but will also trigger displacement of people and affect the re-charge of groundwater aquifers within the fresh water aquatic system. More than 20 million Bangladeshis will, directly or indirectly, suffer.
India over the years has always assured that they will refrain from taking any unilateral decision that might prove to be harmful for Bangladesh. Some Indian water experts have pointed out that upper riparian states have a responsibility towards the lower riparian states and they would equally be upset if China were to take unilateral action to reduce water flow in the Brahmaputra. This has led these water experts to reiterate more than once that there will have to be discussion between India and Bangladesh ahead of the adoption of any inter-linking measures.
Analysts associated with water have drawn the attention of the relevant Indian authorities that as of now there are more than 400 treaties in the world that apply to various aspects or forms of trans-boundary water sources. In all these agreements the common factor is the stress laid on the obligation to honour the legal principle of ‘equitable and reasonable use’ of international water course flows by the concerned parties.
In this context one needs to refer to certain provisions in the Convention on the Non-navigational uses of International Watercourses which was adopted in 1997 and came into effect in the second part of 2014 after it had been ratified by 41 States. Bangladesh is a signatory of this Convention. Articles 5 and 7 of the Convention draws attention to the fact that “Watercourse States, shall in utilising an international water course in their territories, take all appropriate measures to prevent the causing of significant harm to other Watercourse States”. The Convention, consistent with other international instruments and customary international laws also underlines that Watercourse States shall individually and, where appropriate, jointly, protect and preserve the ecosystems of international water courses and refrain from causing significant harm to other watercourse States (their citizens or their other living resources) or to their environment.
It is understood that the Bangladesh government has reacted to the recent developments with seriousness. It is reassuring to note that the BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) has come out with a constructive statement that their party “will extend all-out cooperation to the government in resolving all national issues, including the one related to water”.
Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud has told the media that the government has taken steps in the fourth week of July to secure an explanation in this regard from the Indian Water Resources Ministry. A communication has already been sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and they have been asked to take action and ascertain the facts from New Delhi.
This is an important step. One hopes that the Indian government understands, that on such an issue that is unacceptable according to prevailing international law and that might adversely affect our national interests, the people and all political parties across the divide in Bangladesh are bound in bonds of unity.
Bangladesh has resolved bilateral problems with regard to maritime boundaries with India and Myanmar through international arbitration. There is no reason why it should not be able to seek such international intervention again to resolve the problems with the common rivers. In the meantime, the common development partners and international financial institutions need to refrain from getting involved in a project that is controversial, to say the least.
The writer, a former Ambassador, is an analyst specialised in foreign affairs, right to information and good governance.
Source: Financial Express
Ahmed Shatil Alam discusses the various incidents where members of the Bangladesh Chhatra League have been involved in since the beginning of the Bangla new year
Like every other year, Pahela Baishakh on April 14 was supposed to bring together the entire country in its’ largest celebration as a community with hopes for a brighter future.
But reality is bleaker as the new year began with Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) dominating the news headlines due to their involvement in several killings, not to mention their alleged public sexual assaults on female students during the Pahela Baishakh celebrations in Dhaka University.
Media reports quoted eye-witnesses and some CCtv footage identifying a number of BCL members who may have sexually assaulted several female in broad daylight at one of the biggest festival celebrations in the city at the Teachers Students Centre of the Dhaka University.
The victims, including a 10-year-old girl, were stripped of their clothes during these vicious attacks, as their cries were drowned out by the sound of vuvuzelas which the BCL members were carrying during these vicious attacks. Liton Nandi, Dhaka University Bangladesh Chhatra Union President was also severely injured while trying to save a number of victims during the assaults.
Media reports quote Liton as saying that around 30-35 people were involved in the attacks conducted on at least 20 females between 5:30pm and 7:00pm. He also alleged that the police and university authorities did nothing to stop the attacks.
The next day saw the BCL continue their reign of terror in academic institutions. Rangpur Medical College was closed for an indefinite period on April 15 following a clash there where BCL was involved.
The Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology Teacher’s Association has also been observing work abstention for an indefinite period since April 15 in protest against Chhatra League attacks on a university teacher. A group of Chhatra League activists attacked Jahangir Alam, a Civil Engineering Associate Professor, for his comments on a Facebook page criticising the execution of war crimes convict Kamaruzzaman.
According to New Age reports, the residents of Dhaka University were barred from protesting the sexual assault by Bangladesh Chhatra League activists who claimed that an anti-government organisation may take advantage of the situation to create further anarchy in the campus under the ruse of a protest. Similar scenarios unfolded in Jagannath University as well as Jahangirnagar University.
A day later on April 16, two factions of BCL clashed at Haji Mohammad Danesh Science and Technology University Campus in Dinajpur. The conflict left two dead and 50 injured. According to news reports, members of BCL, including those expelled, entered the campus on four micro buses and then proceeded to disconnect the electricity before opening fire during an event that was being held at the auditorium.
According to some news sources, this was merely a clash over campus dominance. However, others hint at a more disturbing and bizarre succession of events which apparently began at 8:30pm and continued till 10:00pm when the police arrived and then fired 30 rounds of bullets to seize control of the situation.
On the same day, a female student of Jagannath University filed a complaint with the university proctor’s office following yet another incident of public sexual assault during Pahela Baishakh celebrations. The accused were named as Nishat Imtiaz Bijoy, JU unit Chhatra League Assistant Press Secretary, Nafiz Imtaiz Shaheed Salam Barkat Hall Unit Publication Secretary, Iftai, Nurul Kabir and Rakib who are also BCL members. The female student and her friend were stopped by the group at Chaurangy of the campus on the way to the hall at 7:30pm after the Pahela Baishakh celebrations.
‘The BCL leaders snatched my bag and physically assaulted me and my friend. They hurled abusive language at us as they tried to tear my clothes off and they also beat up my friend who tried to come to my rescue,’ the victim stated. JU Chhatra League responded with the suspension of the accused students from the organisation.
On April 16, Jagannath University unit BCL also expelled another member named Nazmul after he had been identified as one of the perpetrators of public acts of violence against females in a bus. Nazmul and his associates also attacked a journalist who was taking his photograph.
The government continues to turn a blind eye towards the reckless activities of BCL, which include reports of infighting, extortion, tender manipulation, admission trade and other criminal activities. This negligence by the government since they assumed power in January 2009 has led to a loss of control over the student organisation and has allowed them to grow bolder as these events grow in frequency.
According to media reports, in the last 6 years, at least 31 members died as a result of violence within the Chhatra League in addition to 9 more who died in clashes with other student organisations.
History seems to be repeating itself as back in 2000, the new millenium began in much the same fashion as April 14, 2015, as the celebrations of English new year of 2000 was marred by sexual assaults conducted by members of the BCL in Dhaka University. A group consisting of 10-12 perpetrators sexually harassed, stripped and physically abused a girl named Shawon Akhter Badhon, on campus grounds where she had been celebrating the new year’s eve with friends.
Newspaper reports identified BCL members Fazlul Haque Rasel, Khan Mejbaul Alam Tutul and Chandan Kumar Ghosh. The blatant act of sexual assault shocked citizens, driving them to protest on the streets of the national parliament. Badhon filed a case at the Ramna Police Station. The case dragged on for 11 years and then in September of 2011, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate court in Dhaka acquitted all those accused.
Meanwhile, JU authority in 1998 expelled five students who were also prominent leading members of BCL JU unit following several accusations of rapes and violence towards women.
It has been noted at large that the blatant acts of violence against women and brutal killings have become common practice for the student organisation which are largely overlooked by the central leaders.
Despite pleas and threats made by the government, recent events only highlight that they have lost control over this organisation whose support and muscle power proved to be crucial for the ruling party to gain dominance, for which their lax treatment of BCL has truly led to them becoming monsters.
Source: New Age
This week a video upload of a debate at the Oxford Union Debating Society has been trending on the internet. I am led to believe it may be the most watched Oxford Union debate to date, with close to 2 million views.
The star of this debate is the very eloquent MP Dr. Shashi Tharoor; even the Honourable Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi has showered praise on the orator (an opposition Congress politician) for carrying the house in the debate. The subject of this debate – ‘Why Britain owes reparations for colonising India’. Colonisers need to acknowledge the great harm done, enslavements, exploitations, racism and the hypocrisies used to support colonisation; reparations are, thus, owed. In this world of ever converging economic interests and pragmatic politics, it is also a matter of time till reparations will be given, most probably with due heartfelt respect and symbolical pageantry being extended by previous colonisers.
However, there is an issue with the continued use of the India as the reference for “The Colony” in question that is owed reparations from Great Britain. The only “India” or “British India” that can claim to have been colonised by The Kingdom of Great Britain ended at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947.
The India of today merely shares a common English name with the “India” that was colonised by Great Britain. The debate on colonisation, in reference to India, therefore, must respect that it was the subcontinent, not India alone, which was colonised. Any debate needs to recognise India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and the regional states, all having shared this colonial exploitation.
Dr. Tharoor most eloquently speaks of the horrors of colonisation on “India”, with facts that have been voiced in the same vain by many other equally patriotic and eloquent writers and historians as following:
– The terrible Bengal Famine that cost 10 million lives
– The state sponsored destruction of the textile industry
– The smashing of weavers’ looms and thumbs to prevent production
– The de-industrialisation of the subcontinent
– The forced agricultural production of tea, indigo, cotton, opium
All true, and all, for the greater part, inflicted not on the modern geographical India of today but on the current state known as Bangladesh and its capital city Dhaka.
In 1793, Francis Baring, awarded a Baronet by Parliament, famed for laying the foundations of the once powerful Barings Bank and a Director of the East India Company wrote regarding the revenues of Bengal and Dhaka: “An astonishing mass of wealth has flowed … into the lap of Great Britain” from this great state.
In 1800, the commercial resident from Great Britain John Taylor wrote on the economy of today’s Bangladesh and the City of Dhaka, that due to Great Britain’s restriction of trade, taxation, export tariffs on textiles as high as 75 percent, commerce has fallen by an incredible 50 percent in 40 years. Spinners and weavers “died in famine”. The people of the once wealthy and industrious city Dhaka have been “reduced and Impoverished” and Dhaka “ruined and abandoned” to become a “melancholy retrospect.”
In 1860, the commissioner Sir E.W.L Tower appointed to head the British Government “Indigo Commission”, wrote in reference to the forced production of Indigo in Bengal, “Not a chest of Indigo reached England without being stained with human blood.”
Dhaka in the 1700s was a city with a population of over a million, one of the wealthiest cities in the world, with an estimated 80,000 skilled textile weavers. Dhaka, an exporter of silk and cotton textiles, steel, saltpeter, agricultural and industrial produce was reduced to a city deserted, and its inhabitants pushed to beggary and starvation within a generation. Moghul India may have had 25 percent of the world’s GDP, prior to British colonisation, however over 50 percent of this was based on the State of Bengal (the wealthiest and most industrial state of Moghul India), with Dhaka as the economic centre. Therefore, the argument can be made that modern India only had a relatively small portion of world GDP, and Bangladesh approximately 12 percent of world GDP in the 1700s, which was systemically exploited and reduced to a bankrupt state, under colonisation.
The treasury of Bengal valued at approximately USD 40 billion in today’s currency was looted, by Robert Clive and Great Britain after the Battle of Plassey. With the total tally of the spoils of conquest possibly well over USD 1 trillion in current values, if land grants, tax concessions, trade monopoly rights, revenue rights, mint rights are included in the accounting.
The entire established Muslim and Hindu Bengali political, military, feudal structure dismantled to eradicate any resistance, which resulted in both Bengal’s political centre (Murshidabad) and financial centre (Dhaka) being stripped of power and wealth, to be re-concentrated in British India’s capital Calcutta. A new Hindu dominated commercial class rose under British patronage as being politically and financially beholden to the colonisers, with no loyalties to the Moghul court in Delhi.
This led to possibly one of the harshest oppressions on any indigenous population recorded to date. As famine raged repeatedly through Bengal, it is estimated up to 50 percent of the region was depopulated, tens of millions died. However, British profits continued to increase, and taxes went from a pre-colonial Moghul tax rate of 10 percent to a taxation rate of 50 percent and higher imposed by Britain.
Bengal was forcibly de-industrialised. The production of food crops reduced, with labour forced to grow controlled crops such as cotton, indigo, tea, opium, at a fixed return of as low as 3 percent of the market value. This ensured continued famines, indebtedness, and the economic enslavement of the Bengali population.
The political leadership of Great Britain must not only agree to make reparations for the terrible famines, humiliations, oppressions, injustices, and looting that took place during the administration of British India to Delhi, but also should make these reparations in equal part to Islamabad, Kathmandu, Thimphu and Dhaka. Further, stressing that for true reparation to ever take place, a special acknowledgment needs to be made for the disproportionate suffering, impoverishment and looting inflicted on Dhaka and the people of Bangladesh from 1757 until 1947.
As Dr. Tharoor proposed in the debate, even if the reparation for colonisation is a single pound symbolically paid for the next 200 years by Great Britain to India, we would hope that Delhi and Great Britain in turn symbolically pay 45 pence of this single pound to Bangladesh, in acknowledgment of this state’s suffering.
Source: Daily Star
The following is a counter-opinion piece against an opinion piece by Rupak Bhattacharjee on BDnews24 on 21st July, 2015. The counter-opinion was written by Ali Ahmad Mabrur, son of Ali Ahsan Mujahid, who has been sentenced to death by the war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh. It is being reproduced here with permission.
I read the opinion written by Rupak Bhattacharjee titled Mojaheed to walk the gallows for the killing of intellectuals in ‘71 published on bdnews24.com on last 21st July, 2015. I am fortunate to experience this case proceeding very closely. On that note, I am writing this counter opinion just to focus the other side of the coin. I would like to get response and reaction for my writing. I will welcome those responses if it comes based on logic and facts rather than mere perception.
The writer initially blamed Jamaat-e-Islami for supporting and assisting the Pakistani occupying force. My first question is, what was the position of Mr. Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid in Jamaat-e-Islami in 1971?
Was he a civilian with high civilian position like bureaucrat or government officials or a military officer?
Did the prosecution submit any single piece of evidence to prove their claim that Mujahid assisted the Pakistani forces in preparing plan for the intellectual murder? How did Mujahid abet or assisted the killers? Is there any picture or any news paper cutting that exhibits that Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid held a meeting with the senior army officials or with the Pakistani government officers?
Mr. Rupak Bhattacharjee claimed that Mujahid led the ruthless Al Badr militia. Perhaps, he is not aware of the prosecution claims, that Al Badar, as a paramilitary force were controlled, administered and financed by the then government and the Pakistani army was supposed to train them up. How being a civilian, Mr. Mujahid led such a military force?
The writer being excessively biased, repeatedly used the prosecution reference to substantiate the notorious activities of AL Badar. I have no objection about that. My view is only about Mr. Mujahid and I just want to clarify that prosecution miserably failed to establish his nexus with Al Badr. As a writer, Mr. Rupak Bhattacharjee should use the reference of both the prosecution and the defence to make his writing piece more credible.
Let me also highlight the confession of the investigation officer (IO) of the case (Prosecution witness number 17), who categorically admitted that, during his investigation, he found that Mujahid never escaped the country since the war of liberation. I do not know that, from which source, Mr. Rupak Bhattacharjee got the information that Mujahid went into hiding after liberation war?
It is to be noted that the investigation officer (Abdur Razzaq Khan) also claimed that, during his two yearlong investigations, he found that, not a single case or GD had ever been filed against Mr. Mujahid since 1971 in connection with the crimes committed during the liberation war?
Though, the writer Rupak Bhattacharjee, is as usually terming Mujahid as Al Badr leader but he must be acknowledged that IO also claimed that, during his investigation, he did not found any list of Al Badar, Al Shams, Razakar or Mujahid force where the name of Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid is included.
I think, as an analyst, it would be better if we could find any specific view of Rupak Bhattacharjee about the above said claims of the investigation officer.
Finally, I would like to conclude by asking a question, if Mujahid is allegedly found guilty for assisting and abetting the offence of intellectual killing, then why the prosecution failed to produce any family members of the intellectual as a witness against Mujahid?
Why the prosecution failed to produce any single charge of killing any specific intellectual against Mr. Mujahid? (The only specific charge of killing journalist Shirajuddin Hossen does not stand at all against Mujahid as the Apex court acquitted him from the charge. This acquittal rather weakens the allegation of intellectual murder.)
Without resolving these burning questions, any process of executing a man would never be justified.
The writer Mr. Rupak Bhattacharjee described the activities and political functions of Mr. Mujahid negatively in his writing. But he shrewdly avoided the fact about the corruption free ministerial job of Mr. Mujahid. He also ignored that history that not a single charge of corruption, abusing power or embezzling money has ever been raised against Mujahid though it is almost impossible to believe in context of Bangladesh politics.
Below is the opinion piece by Rupak Bhattacharjee as posted on BDnews24,
Mojaheed to walk the gallows for the killing of intellectuals in ‘71
The ongoing war crimes trials have occupied considerable space of Bangladesh’s political discourse for obvious reasons. Unlike other South Asian nations, Bangladesh was born through a bloody Liberation War fought over a period of nine months. In 1971, South Asia witnessed the worst human suffering and state-sponsored violence in the post-colonial era.
Even today, the country finds it difficult to come to terms with its violent past especially the treacherous acts of some conservative religious groups, including Jamaat-e-Islami. These forces owing allegiance to the military junta of Yahya Khan indulged in large-scale atrocities against their Bengali brethren in the guise of protecting the unity of a so-called nation. The present secular government of Sheikh Hasina has fulfilled a historic responsibility by bringing the collaborators of the murderous Pakistani troops to justice.
In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence against Jamaat’s secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed for committing heinous crimes during the Liberation War. A four-member Appellate Division led by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha delivered the final verdict after Mojaheed appealed against his sentence.
The apex court stayed the war crimes tribunal’s death sentence given to Mojaheed for aiding and facilitating the killing of country’s leading intellectuals during the final phase of the war. The International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)-2 verdict clearly noted that the 67 year-old Razakar had planned and executed the brutal murders of intellectuals and under his leadership, al-Badr, an elite auxiliary force of the Pakistan Army, indulged in killing, genocide, kidnapping and looting across the country during the Liberation War.
The Supreme Court, however, acquitted him from the charges of abducting and killing of popular journalist Sirajuddin Hossain. Earlier, the ICT-2 sentenced Mojaheed for killing Hossain. The highest court also commuted his death penalty to life imprisonment for killing nine Hindu civilians in Bakchar area of Faridpur. The ICT-2 awarded him capital punishment for his direct involvement in the murder of innocent people belonging to the minority community.
Mojaheed is the fourth war crimes convict whose case has been resolved by the Supreme Court after the Awami League (AL) Government instituted the war crimes tribunal in March 2010. Mojaheed appealed against the ICT-2 verdict on August 11, 2013. The Appellate Division began the appeal hearing of death-row convict Mojaheed on April 29 this year.
Mojaheed was sentenced to death by the ICT-2 on July 17, 2013 for two out of five charges brought against him. In addition to the murder of intellectuals, he was found guilty on the charge related to the killing of freedom fighters Rumi, Badi, Jewel, Azad and music director Altaf Mahmud at the army camp set up in Nakhalpara, Dhaka, during the 1971 war.
Mojaheed was the sixth Jamaat leader convicted for wartime atrocities. He was arrested on August 8, 2010 and the prosecution submitted formal charges against him on December 11, 2011. The ICT-2 indicted him on June 21, 2012. The prosecution brought two charges of genocide against the Hindus and five charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, forced deportation, abduction, torture and arson committed during the war period. His trial began on July 19, 2012.
Mojaheed led the ruthless al-Badr militia which was specially trained and armed by the Pakistan Army to crush Bangladesh’s struggle for independence. The armed group, which called itself “angel of death”, was notorious for targeting the prominent personalities of the Bengali intelligentsia whom the agents of the Yahya regime viewed as ideologues of the Bengali resistance movement.
According to the prosecution, Mojaheed was the chief architect of the killing of intellectuals, including top writers, journalists, professors, lawyers and physicians. Prosecutor Muklesur Rahman Badal noted that as the president of Jamaat’s the then student wing Islami Chhatra Sangha (ICS), Mojaheed was the supreme commander of al-Badr between October and December in 1971.
The prosecution claimed that al-Badr activists executed the orders of Mojaheed “until the last day”. Reports say Mojaheed declined to surrender even after the Pakistan Army laid down arms on December 16, 1971. The prosecutors added that Mojaheed had taken over the charge of al-Badr, comprising mostly of ICS activists, from Matiur Rahman Nizami in October 1971.
Numerous Liberation War documents and reports depict how Mojaheed, who had begun his political career with Jamaat’s erstwhile student body ICS, fiercely opposed East Pakistan’s secession from the west. He joined the ICS at an early age and became its chief in his native Faridpur district in 1968. In 1971, he was ICS’ general secretary of East Pakistan unit when the war broke out.
Like many other collaborators, Mojaheed went into hiding immediately after Bangladesh had attained independence. He resurfaced in 1977 when the military regime of Ziaur Rahman started rehabilitating the anti-liberation forces in its bids to broaden civilian support base. Reports suggest that he formally joined Jamaat in the late 1970’s and was made a member of its central committee in 1982. He moved quickly to the largest Islamist party’s leadership position to become assistant secretary general in 1989. He was subsequently elevated to the post of secretary general in 2000.
Mojaheed, who is also known for his oratory and organisational skills, made concerted efforts to establish him as a political leader in the country. He contested the parliamentary election several times between 1986 and 2001 without much success. He served as a Social Welfare Minister from 2001 to 2006 in the BNP-Jamaat coalition government headed by Khaleda Zia. He was the second highest-ranked member of Jamaat and an influential leader of the 18-party opposition alliance until his arrest in 2010. Despite all attempts, Mojaheed could not emerge as a mass leader largely due to his anti-people role in 1971.
Mojaheed rejected all the charges brought against him and denied Jamaat’s anti-Bangladesh role in 1971. He has always maintained that there was no Liberation War in the country. Demands for the trial of war criminals were renewed in 2007 when Mojaheed remarked that “anti-liberation forces never existed”. The fundamentalist party called Liberation War a “civil war” which further angered the people.
The Supreme Court ruling evoked mixed reactions in Bangladesh. Many welcomed the judgment while Jamaat termed the trial of its secretary general “farcical”. The prosecution expressed satisfaction over the verdict. Reacting to the ruling, Bangladesh’s Attorney General Mahbubey Aam observed, “There is no bigger crime than to eliminate the nation’s intellectuals”. Scores of pro-liberation organisations, including Ganojagoron Mancha hailed the verdict.
The Jamaat on the other hand rejected the conviction of its leader Mojaheed. The orthodox party perceives that the war crimes trials have been politically designed to eliminate its top leaders rather than delivering justice. The party enforced a 24-hour strike the very next day protesting the ruling of the highest court. Such divergent opinions and ideological schism have persisting in the polity ever since the ICT was established in 2010.
What has alienated Mojaheed from the people was his arrogant attitude towards the judiciary. Reports indicate that he had been in defiant mood throughout the trial process. Mojaheed’s counter-narrative of the glorious Liberation War has found few takers in Bangladesh. His radical views on the birth of an independent nation are tantamount to rewriting history.
Mojaheed now faces the gallows for his dubious role in 1971 unless the case is reviewed by the same court or he is granted clemency by the president. Both seem unlikely particularly the second option. None of the war crimes convict belonging to Jamaat sought presidential pardon as the party does not recognise the present government. Recent reports say Mojaheed asked his lawyers to file a petition seeking review of the Supreme Court ruling.
The verdict of the apex court assumes significance because this is for the first time a former minister will be hanged for committing heinous crimes in the 1971 war. The people of Bangladesh lament that noted Razakars like Mojaheed used government’s cars sporting national flag after becoming ministers in independent Bangladesh—a country whose emergence as the first Bengali nation they had violently resisted more than forty years back.
Bangladesh, a small country of 160 million people in South Asia, usually only touches headlines in times of disaster and overblown but isolated cases of so-called Islamic fundamentalism, tidbits of the mosaic that the Western media so love to portray. Not only does such selective portrayal serve to placate Western interests, it also brings into the fray the dangerous precedent of overlooking genuine issues affecting the masses that have to face them, namely repression and subjugation by Western backed regimes. With this prelude, I would like to shift the attention of the reader to discuss such an issue, namely the recent mass arrest of dozens of women from Iftar gatherings last week throughout the length and breadth of Bangladesh, in what the government has labeled a drive to combat the threat “Islamic fundamentalism”. However, as we shall further explore, the truth behind these perceived instances of victory over the terrorist Islamist boogeyman could not have been more anticlimactic.
Unwarranted arrest of dozens of women from Iftar gatherings:
Though not comprehensively documented, the suppression of the opposition in Bangladesh by the government of Sheikh Hasina has been ongoing unabated for the past 7 years, through a myriad of methods, namely mass arrests, filing of false cases, brutal crackdown on protests and protesters, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and elimination of notable opposition figures by crossfire among others. The number of arrests never went down, and the new trend of arresting women activists from Ramadan programs has added a new dimension to this ongoing oppression. In last few days, more than fifty women were arrested from several regions of Bangladesh. All of them were peaceful housewives and women of respected social status attending Iftar gatherings to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan, yet they were arrested on outlandish charges of conspiracy and sabotage, something which even security authorities found difficult to justify.
On the 27th of June, 09 women were arrested from a house at Beparipara, Jhenaidah. Although locals confirmed that they had gathered at a religious function to discuss the religious teachings of Ramadan, officer-in-Charge of Police of Jhenaidah police station Biplob Kumar Nath claimed that they had beenconspiring for sabotage when the police arrested them at around 2:00 pm. On the same day, 5 more women were arrested by the Detective branch (DB) at Bogra from a gathering for discussing the spiritual aspect of Ramadan arranged by the women activists of Jamaat-e-Islami at Erulia village of Bogra Sadar. The official press note sent by Senior ASP Gaziur Rahman confirmed that twenty “Islamic” books were seized during the raid.
Figure 1: Arrested women from Khulna (28th June, 2015)
On 28th June, Police arrested twenty four women from a religious program arranged by Jamaat-e-Islami, at Gobra village of Koira thana, Khulna. Koira police station officer-in-charge (OC) Harendra Nath Sarkar stated that police raided the meeting of around 150 women activists of Jamaat, and managed to arrest 24 while the others fled. In what appeared to be the most baffling of allegations, police alleged that the women were arrested along with three bombs and bomb making materials. While the Jamaat-e-Islami women wing has vehemently denied the accusations and stated that the women had gathered to attend an annual Iftar program, local residents have been left bewildered with the police claims and have questioned as to why the women would bring ‘bombs’ to Iftar. It is wise to note that claims of ‘bomb making materials’ by police in the past have included kerosene containers used for household cooking purposes.
On 2nd July, 16 women from Puratan Satkhira area of Satkhira town were arrested by police when they congregated for a religious discussion on Ramadan. According to media reports, police suddenly stormed the gathering at the house of local businessman Mr. Fazlul Haque, and assaulted the participants, most of whom were women with children. Sixteen women along with Asma Khatun, a member of Jamaat-e-Islami women wing and landlady of the house were picked up on charges of conspiring for sabotage. Police, in yet another obnoxious statement, claimed to collect four cocktails from the spot along with papers and documents of Jamaat-e-Islami. However, Jamaat stated that the event was a family gathering and that the house actually belonged to a person who was the leader of local Olama League, the religious organization of the ruling party Awami League.
Figure 2: Women arrested from Satkhira (2nd July, 2015)
In total, local media reported the arrests of 58 women from Iftar gatherings in the span of 7 days from various parts of the country including Jhenaidah, Bogra, Khulna, Satkhira and Madaripur.
Making sense from the nonsensical:
This disturbing pattern of arresting women from religious gatherings brings in a whole new dimension to the claims of combating religious fundamentalism by the secular Bangladeshi state. Difficult to give an explanation over, the state has tried to gloss over such arrests by blanketing media coverage or resorting to the tried and tested method of justifying such arrests in the name of curbing terrorism, as evidenced by some rather eccentric claims against the women on part of the police.
The arrests may be understood in light of implications spanning religious, political and human rights aspects. Firstly, implicating religious rituals with “terrorist” activities has been an age old tactic employed by the secular state. This blatant ploy of setting up a connection between religion and terrorism needs to be understood for what it is; another subliminal campaign to brand up religiosity with the terrorist. Secondly, heeding the fact that most, if not all of those women arrested are some way or the other related to the opposition either as activists or supporters make it clear that this is one of the more dastardly and vicious attempts to slice out opposition members from the fabric of the society, even if they may be just over simple Iftar programs. Thirdly, and most importantly, the reprehensible incidents are blatant violations of human rights, more so taking into account the fact that those arrested are helpless women and children.
As columnist Mahin Khan aptly notes in an article discussing similar incidents of attacks on families of opposition activists and even murder of several women in recent months, the above trend is recent, and “it is particularly troubling given the sacred place women traditionally have held in Bangladeshi society that rendered them off-limits, despite the country’s murky politics. This has seen a sharp and disturbing change under the Awami League, which returned to power in 2008.”
Although Bangladesh is hailed for being a model of women empowerment by many in the secular West, especially considering the employment of large number of women in the garments sector, with the icing on the cake being that both the premier and the head opposition are women, that fact that women and girls are being party to such violence is shameful testimony. A testimony to the hypocrisy of the West, which claims to stand for women’s rights, yet secretly condones such measures through loud silence. As the violations add up and the noose on citizen rights tighten up, the stark realities negating the lullaby talk of democracy and human rights in Bangladesh cannot be ignored.
India is richer, in terms of per-capita economic output, than its smaller neighbor, Bangladesh, and a greater proportion of Indians are connected to the Internet and have cellphones.
But if you look more closely at other measures of development such as life expectancy, child survival and the proportion of girls to boys in secondary education, Bangladesh comes out ahead.
The two countries spend the same proportion (1%) of their gross domestic product on healthcare, but India devotes more of its GDP (3%) to education than Bangladesh (2%).
Still, 20 years of targeted financial support in Bangladesh to get girls to go to high school rather than, for example, get married, has helped dramatically shifted the needle on human-development indicators there.
“Gender equality is good for economic growth and good for human development. That is really part of what explains the quite remarkable achievements in Bangladesh,” said Christine Hunter, country representative for U.N. Women in Bangladesh.
In pursuit of the 2015 Millennium Development Goal to redress the lopsided gender imbalance in high schools, Bangladesh began the secondary-school subsidy program for girls in 1993.
Funded by the government, the Asian Development Bank, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and the European Union, the education-payment program contributed to a tripling of participation rates of girls in secondary school between 1991 and 2005, according to a World Bank analysis. Bangladesh met the goal ahead of time.
Some 88% of women are literate in Bangladesh, compared to 68% of women in India. Though the overall adult literacy rate is lower in Bangladesh (59%) than in India (63%).
“The moment that there was education equality, there was power of the mind, then there was financial power,” said Joyeeta Bhattacharjee, research fellow on Bangladesh from Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi based think tank. “That is really helping Bangladesh to change.”
The gains in female education have, along with the booming garment industry, helped boost female participation in the paid labor force.
Around 36% of women were in paid jobs in Bangladesh in 2010, up from just 14% in 1990, according to the International Labor Organization.
By comparison, in India, female employment has gone backwards in recent years —from 37% in 2004-05 to 29% in 2009, according to the ILO.
Empowering women financially and establishing a thriving micro-credit system for female led small businesses, has also meant women have more say over financial decisions in the family.
“They try to prioritize health and education across everyone in their family,” said Ms. Hunter of the U.N.
From roughly the same base as India, Bangladesh has brought its life expectancy for both men and women up from 47 years to 70 years since 1970. Indians, on average, live to 66, according to United Nations’ data.
Child mortality rates too have come down, from 144 deaths per 1,000 under-fives in 1990 in Bangladesh, to 41 in 2013.
In that time, India has moved the dial on child mortality from 126 deaths per 1,000 children aged under five years old to 53 per 1,000.
India ranks 13 places below Bangladesh in child mortality globally.
“India can learn from the support that the government in Bangladesh has given to NGOs,” said Ms. Bhattacharjee. “It is trying to learn from the microcredit system.”
Source: Wall Street Journal
Police high-ups are embarrassed as many officials of the force have now been found involved in serious crimes including smuggling, human trafficking and rape, apart from the most common allegations of bribery and extortion.
Data of the Police Headquarters also shows that the number of complaints against officials ranging from superintendents to constables have been on the rise, despite repeated warnings issued by the home state minister, police chief and the Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner against such incidents.
Crime and security experts observe that strict monitoring, tough punishment and an end to culture of impunity could have stopped police’s involvement in serious crimes.
Asaduzzaman Miah, the DMP Commissioner, issued a letter last week saying he had evidence that many police officials were engaged in crimes like narcotics trade and kidnapping for money.
He warned of stern action against the errant personnel if they continued such activities.
AKM Shahidul Haque, the inspector general of police, said they had taken “zero tolerance” theory against the criminals. “If anyone is found involved in crimes, the person will not be treated as police official,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.
“Legal and departmental action will be taken against them,” he added.
Yesterday, the deputy commissioner (north) of Barisal Metropolitan Police, Jillur Rahman, was suspended for taking bribes from lower-tier officials promising them of giving promotion. Jillur was also attached to the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Office in Sylhet range.
Later in the day, 10 other officers were suspended. The Police Headquarters took the decision as per recommendation of the IGP since the allegation against him was proved. The “discipline and professional standard unit” of the police conducted the departmental inquiry.
Police Headquarters Security Cell data say they got around 6,000 complaints against officials of different tiers from January to May this year. Of those, complaints were filed against 5,566 police officers – 28 were arrested red handed while committing crimes – across the country.
So far, the Police Headquarters have taken action against 787 officials. Of them, 57 were sacked or sent to forced retirement. Probe against the remaining accused is under way.
Of the accused officials, three are police superintendents, seven additional police superintendents, 18 senior assistant police superintendents, 48 inspectors, 812 sub-inspectors, 1,218 assistant sub-inspectors, 1,115 sergeants and trainee sub-inspectors, 431 habildars, and 3,132 are naiks and constables.
The data show that the Police Headquarters took action against 14,500 police officers for involvement in crimes in 2013 while 15,500 in 2014. The number of complaints filed last year was 18,000.
Different local and international rights bodies also blame police and its elite force Rapid Action Battalion for their involvement in extrajudicial killings, forced disappearance and torture in custody.
On June 28, two sub-inspectors of Pallabi police station and 16 others were sued over extortion charges.
On June 21, an assistant sub-inspector of police’s Special Branch, Mahfuzur Rahman, was arrested by the Rapid Action Battalion with 6.80 lakh yaba tablets from Feni. In interrogation, he confessed that 14 other police officials were also involved in the drug business.
Last week, the OC of Cox’s Bazar Detective Branch (DB) of police was closed to the DIG office and 10 others transferred for their suspected involvement in yaba smuggling and human trafficking.
Recently, an intelligence agency recommended action against 24 police officers for their involvement in human trafficking.
A number of police officers were sued in the recent times for realising money from people, mainly businessmen, following abduction. Some of the victims were killed while others released.
Police officers have also been found involved in rape, and harassing rape victims and their families when they wanted to file complaints.
On May 27, the officer-in-charge and a sub-inspector of Rangunia police station were sued for destroying evidence of rape of a minor girl and harassing the victim’s family members.
Few days back, officials at Turag, Gulshan and Bhatara police stations refused to register a rape case when the victim, a Garo woman, and her family members went there. Later the High Court deplored the police’s behaviour and ordered that no victim faces such discrimination and negligence in the future.
On May 11, SI Kalimur Rahman and his cohorts raped a police constable at his house in the capital. He was later arrested from Cox’s Bazar area and eventually lost his job.
In February, then Mohammadpur zone assistant commissioner Rajibul Hasan kidnapped a 17-year-old girl and kept her confined in his house for two months. The victim’s family filed a case with Kafrul police and approached RAB for help.
After the incident came into light in April, Rajibul was withdrawn and attached to Tejgaon deputy commissioner’s office.
Prof Zia Rahman, chairman of criminology department at Dhaka University, thinks the offenders in the police force should be given exemplary punishment.
“As there have been changes in crimes and life style of the people, same happened with police’s activities,” he said.
Former police chief Md Nurul Huda said it is a very sorrowful incident that officials of a disciplinary force are getting involved in crimes.
“The senior officials should intensify supervision to bring down the number of crimes committed by the police,” he said adding that the departmental punishment should be increased.
When contacted, State Minister of Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said no one would be spared if they are found involved in wrongdoings. “We will take action against those responsible applying the existing laws of the country.”
The government on Wednesday suspended Barisal Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner Zillur Rahman on allegation of raising funds for bribing officials of three ministries to speed up promotion. Earlier on June 27, the police headquarters suspended 10 more cops of Barisal Metropolitan Police on the same allegation. The home ministry suspended Zillur following a recommendation made by the police directorate on June 28, said officials concerned.
The police directorate also recommended removal of the Barisal Metropolitan Police commissioner Shaibal Kanti Chowdhury in this connection, the officials said. Police headquarters in a statement on Wednesday said that Zillur was suspended for misconduct, corruption, breaching discipline and tarnishing the image of the department. Zillur hailed from Bogra joined Bangladesh Civil Service police cadre on January 25, 1999.
The 10 other suspended cops are assistant sub-inspectors Anisuzzaman, Monir Hossain and Md Hanif, nayek Kabir Hossain, drivers Shahidul Islam, Bablu Jamaddar and Dolon Baral, ration-storekeepers Abbas Uddin and Arifur Rahman and constable Tapas Kumar Mandal. Inspector general of police AKM Shahidul Hoque said that they would show ‘zero tolerance’ for any criminal irrespective of identity.
Additional deputy inspector general for discipline and professional standard Alamgir Alam told New Age that they launched an inquiry and found the involvement of the cops in raising the fund for bribing officials at ministries concerned. According to the police inquiry, the police in Barisal set a target of raising a fund of Tk 1.22 crore from 340 cops ranking from constable to sub-inspector to speed up promotions in the police force.
The police directorate officials said that the money was meant for concerned desks in home, finance and public administration ministries.
‘We did not identify people at the ministries involved in the process as it was out of our jurisdiction,’ said Alamgir, ‘Further inquiry is under way to make sure whether same thing is happening somewhere else.’
Talking to New Age, a number of local ranker admitted that they had to pay bribe to speed up their posting and promotion. The police said that the validity of promotion examination usually expired just one year after the examination and the cops were being posted or promoted based on vacancies.
‘The main problem is the files related to promotions and vacancies have got stuck in the ministries and sometime they move after the expiry of the examination,’ said an official. The police inquiry found that cops under supervision of Zillur had opened a bank account with Dutch-Bangla Bank branch in Barisal to raise a fund of Tk 1.22 crore for bribing officials in the ministries. Until the inquiry was launched, Tk 77 lakh was deposited in the account and Tk 60 lakh was withdrawn. A constable had tipped off the crime to the higher authorities recently leading the departmental inquiry. New Age Correspondent in Barisal added that a three member departmental inquiry led by BMP deputy commissioner (headquarters) Shoyeb Ahmed was instituted on June 13.
Police officials said that recently 800 new posts were created in BMP, while 230 constables were waiting for promotion to habildar and naik and a large number of cops were waiting for promotion to assistant sub-inspector after passing departmental examination successfully.
The fund was created collecting Tk 30,000 for a promotion to naik and habildar and Tk 50,000 for assistant sub-inspector, the inquiry found. The committee at police headquarters interrogated Zillur’s bodyguard Bablu, naik Kabir and assistant sub-inspector Monir in Dhaka on June 17. The police headquarters also interrogated some others. Collection of the money for the bribery began in January by the examinees, in inquiry revealed. Of the money, Tk 17 lakh was deposited in a joint account of assistant sub-inspector Anisuzzaman, nayek Kabir Hossain and driver Bablu at a Dutch-Bangla Bank branch in Barisal. The rest of the money was given to Zillur, the inquiry found.
‘Zillur confessed to the crime on black and white,’ a police headquarters official said.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police found 13 members of the force, ranging from constable to inspector, involved in mugging, extortion and drugs trading in the past five months since February, but none of them were punished till date. Officials concerned said that they received 17 specific allegations – 10 of mugging, three of extortion and four of drugs trading – against cops from February to June. After investigations, the police found 13 members guilty. Allegations against two cops were still under investigation and allegations against the rest two cops could be proved, the officials said. None of the 13 cops, however, faced any punitive action yet.
The officials said that departmental cases were filed against seven cops and criminal cases were filed against four, said an official of DMP professional standard and internal investigation department. The accused cops included an inspector, two sub-inspectors, a traffic sergeant, three assistant sub-inspectors, a Nayek and nine constables, showed DMP data.
Nine of the 10 allegations mugging and all the four allegations of drugs trading were proved in the force’s internal investigations, said the officials. An official concerned said that the actual number cops involved in crimes would be higher as many victims usually did not dare to ledge complaints or failed to provide specific evidence. DMP commissioner Asaduzzaman Mia recently warned all his officers in a letter that he had evidence that a section of police personnel were engaged in crimes like drugs trading, extortion and abduction for money.
Asaduzzaman told New Age on Wednesday that they would not allow some dishonest members to spoil the total force. He said that he would put an end to illicit transaction of money among some members of the force which he termed the root of the problem.
Involvement of cops in heinous crime including extortion and drugs business came in focus after Rapid Action Battalion arrested assistant sub-inspector of the special branch of police Mahfuzur Rahman and seized about 6.80 lakh Yaba tablets worth around Tk 27 crore in his car in Feni on June 21. He reportedly confessed that some other policemen were also involved in the drugs racket.
Based on his confession, Cox’s Bazar Detective Branch officer-in-charge has been withdrawn and 10 policemen have been transferred to different districts on allegations of their involvement in Yaba smuggling and human trafficking.
Sources: Dhaka Tribune and New Age