Satkhira: A Devastated District

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December 23, 2013
By Noor Islam, from Satkhira

Government sponsored rampage carried out by the joint forces: Even minorities are not safe.

After three day long operations by the joint forces, Satkhira has been reduced to a destroyed ravaged area. The situation is such that Satkhira now seems to be like a valley tremendously damaged by a heavy earthquake. The scenario here will be beyond belief to anyone who hasn’t seen it with their own eyes. Fires are blazing here and there randomly. Sounds of cries can be heard in the wind. There is wailing and grieving everywhere. Many of the affected, losing their all their belongings and worldly possessions, have almost turned to the verge of insanity. Their cries have turned the environment of the whole district heavy. Thousands of people have been rendered homeless and are spending their days without any shelter. People are running away as soon as any members of the Joint Forces are visible. Even the women, children and the aged weren’t spared from the barbarity. As soon as it gets dark, the males start leaving their homes in order to hide from the joint forces. Arson and looting of homesteads happen regularly at someplace or other every night in the district. That is not all. During the tenure of the present government, here have been 216 cases filed against the activists of Jamaat-e-Islami, Shibir, BNP and their umbrella organizations. In these cases 4500 activists have been named while 73,977 unidentified BNP-Jamaat men have been listed as accused in the various cases filed . At various times, 1449 activists have been arrested in these cases.

The inhabitants of Satkhira have been rendered helpless after the rampage wreaked upon their homes and properties by the joint forces together with the ruling party Awami League activists and supporters throughout the duration of 16th  – 19th December. At one end they are on the run from the security forces, while at the same time after losing their hard-earned homes and businesses, their families have to lead miserable lives beneath the sky in this fierce winter under extremely insecure conditions. Besides, they’re unable to meet any relatives and kith and kin aren’t allowed to even supply food. Many women and children have been victim to the wrath of police and Awami thugs in their attempts to search for missing or arrested relatives. Considering everything, the guardians of law are acting as its most ardent breachers in this border district. The country’s human rights workers are not being allowed to capture the image of persecution and oppression of the inhabitants. And the journalists, out of the fear for their own lives, are not highlighting the true situation on ground as well.

On investigation it was found that on the 25th of May back in 2009 the destructive tornado ‘Aila’ struck Shyamnagar, Ashashuni and Tala in Satkhira, which are also regions adjacent to the Sundarbans. Among them, Gabura and Padmapukur Unions of Shyamnagar were devastated. Due to the breakdown of the embankments at these two areas, they’ve got submerged and in effect became one with the raging waters of the river. As a result, in these areas, homesteads, farms and lands have remained below water all the year. Native people here have been leading miserable lives amid the lack of food, scarcity of drinkable water, unemployment and halting of children’s education among many other problems. Still struggling to overcome the loss due to the natural disaster, this rampage by the joint forces and the Awami workers and supporters has greatly added to their misery. During the security operation in various upazilas starting from the night of 15th December till now, 57 workers of the BNP, Jamaat & Shibir have been arrested. During these vicious security operations, 7 people including Jamaat activists Jahangir Moro and Saheb Babu have been murdered by the security forces. Beside this, home, shops and businesses of hundreds of BNP & Jamaat leaders & activists including those of Satkhira Jamaat Ameer and former MP Principal Mawlana Abdul Khaleque, Nayeb-e-Ameer Rafiqul Islam, BNP leader and Agardari Union Parishad Chairman Anwarul Islam, have been bulldozed and torched.

In recent times, the general people of the 7 upazilas of Satkhira have taken to the streets heeding all of the 18 party alliance calls for nationwide anti-government protests. In this, 33 activists from BNP-Jamaat and 27 activists from the ruling party Awami League have been killed in the last 11 months in Satkhira alone. To avenge the killings of their own men, Awami League activists have been reported to carry out destructive attacks in different areas of Satkhira district. To their credit, BNP-Jamaat leaders & activists didn’t retreat or shy away. Despite all the threats and violence, locals successfully kept the roadways to the main district disconnected from the various upazilas including Shyamnagar, Kaliganj, Debohata, Ashashuni, Tala and Kolaroa in order to make the countrywide blockade announced by the 18 Party successful. As a result the government initiated a joint forces operation in this territory. Satkhira district Jamaat-e-Islami’s Publicity secretary Azizur Rahman opined that the security operation had been launched with a view to clearing up all the opposition activists by hook or by crook in order to prevent the successful realization of the 18 Party’s program out in this Jamaat majority area.

The local people have complained that along with police, Awami League goons have also taken part in atrocities upon the opposition activists throughout the district. Awami League leaders & workers have been forced to escape from several places upon facing the wrath of the local people. However, they are jointly involved in attacks upon helpless people with the help of various government security agencies and also jointly with the police. Shockingly, in some places, police firearms are being seen in the possession of the workers of Jubo League (ruling party’s youth wing) and Chhatra League (ruling party’s student wing) themselves.

Satkhira district Jamaat-e-Islami’s Publicity secretary Azizur Rahman informed that under the present government 216 cases had been filed against the opposition activists of this area at different times. In these cases 4500 were named in the deposition  while 73,977 were unnamed. Under these accusations 1449 leaders & workers have already been arrested and at present about 282 are still behind the bars.

Local people informed that, during an attack by ruling party thugs beginning on Tuesday in the evening till Wednesday in the morning in the villages of Govindpur and Vodrokhali under the Kusholia Union and in the villages of Choumuhoni, Mukondpur, Faridpur, Shridhorkathi, Hogla under the Bishnupur Union of Kaliganj upazila, armed cadres of the Awami League along with the joint forces torched the shops & groceries of five Hindu villagers including Jogodish, Tapas, Biswonath, Indrojit. According to the affected families, this nearly amounted to 200 million taka in damage. During the incident of arson, no fire brigade member was allowed access to douse out the fire. In the targeted vandalism, arson and looting, 12 homesteads & 27 shops were destroyed in Bishnupur Union while 19 houses & business deployments were destroyed in the villages of Govindpur and Vodrokhali under the Kusholia Union. Among the victims whose homesteads were destroyed by the joint forces were Baharul Islam, Mosharraf Hosain, Mawlana Mijanur Rahman, Mawlana Abdul Qader Helali, Siddiqul Islam from Choumuhoni village, Abdus Salam, Abdus Sabur from Shridhorkathi village and Professor Abdul Aziz from Faridpur village in the Bishnupur Union. There is also Professor Mosharraf from Ramnagar and Abdul Karim from Mukondpur village in the Krishnonagar Union. Moreover, looting, vandalism and arson have rendered serious damage to Baharul’s shop, Mosharraf’s Aluminium kitchenware shop, Saiful’s pharmacy, 6 store rooms of Abdul Kalam, Shamsur Ala’s grocery, Daud’s sweep shop, Abdullah’s store room, Jogodish’s shop, Maina’s fruit shop and the business establishments of Mukul, Salam, Hanif, Tapos, Shohor Ali, Shahidul, Mout Ali, Mijan, Biswonath and Mahbub in Choumuhoni at Bishnupur Union. In Hogla village, the businesses of Mahbub and Saiful have been torched. Most of the businesses and stores of Vodrokhali Bazar of Kusholia Union in Kaliganj upazila have also been torched. Amongst the properties damaged by the arson and vandalism, there are Sirajul Islam’s medicine shop, Mojam’s Lungi shop, Belal’s saloon, Hannan’s grocery, Monirul Islam’s tea stall and shops of Bani Adam and Mohiuddin.

Locals also complained that Awami League cadres led by the upazila Awami League chairman Ohiduzzaman, carried out the rampage under the orders of upazila vice chairmen Sayid Mehedi and Abu Taleb. According to them, members of the joint forces didn’t allow the villagers to enter their areas despite the ongoing barrage of looting and vandalism throughout the night on Tuesday. Even as the buildings and houses were burning, the Fire Brigade workers weren’t allowed to douse out the fire when they tried to come to the rescue of the affected at the scene of arson. Roofs over the heads of many helpless villagers such as Mizanur Rahman, Abdur Rashid, Abdul Hakim, Babu and Lilly Begum among others were destroyed by the raging fire. However, when journalists called upon the joint forces to know about the situation at hand, they replied that angry members of the general public were involved in committing the above acts vandalism and looting.

On the other hand, Moslem Uddin, Awami League president of Bishnupur Union of Kaliganj upazila, was beaten and hacked to death in the Choumuhoni region of the union at around 2:30 Tuesday noon during the blockade period. During this time, his assistant Hashem Ali and Didar Ali were left severely wounded. They were admitted to the nearest health complex. After the incident, Afroza khatun, wife of the deceased, filed a suit against 24 named individuals and 15-20 more unnamed individuals.

Ali Azom Khan, acting OC of Kaliganj Police Station, stated that four suspects were arrested instantly after the incident. Despite the instant arrests, opposition members including lecturer Abdul Aziz, Sabbir Ahmed, Babor Ali were later shown arrested against the murder case and Abdul Jalil was sent to court for another case.

University student Shefali Begum, from Batara village in Ashashuni upazila, stated that, “The joint forces and Awami League men ingeniously enter localities through processions with chants of “Naraye Takbeer-Allahu akbar” (slogans associated with Jamaat). When worshippers from the mosques come out, they are rounded on all sides and either get indiscriminately beaten or even shot and get left for dead. Some people get taken away after being gagged and blindfolded. I do not know what happens to them or where they end up in the end. Many people also do not go to hospitals to treat their injuries out of fear of getting arrested. Young girls have left villages to take refuge with their relatives in towns to save their honor. And those who have no other place to go are giving their body to those beasts.” Expressing anger, she added, “I have heard about the torture perpetrated by the Pakistani occupying force in 1971. And at present I am witnessing how our own country’s government forces and ruling party members are carrying out ghoulish torture on the general people. When I shall recount these tales of torture to the future generation, they will be the ones reminding me that I was a resident of a savage era”.

On the other hand Satkhira police SP Manjurul Alam Chowdhury stated to journalists that Joint forces personnel comprising of members of BGB, RAB and police had launched security operations from the night of the 15th of December in all the 7 upazilas of the district. Till yesterday, 57 people were arrested including Azharul Islam, Molah Sana, Sultan Ahmed, Riazul Islam, Abdul Majeed Morol, Imran Sarder and Abdul Motaleb Sarder from Tala Upazila, Azizur Rahman, Sabbir Ahmed Shobuj, Md Abdul Jalil and Babor Ali Morol from Kaliganj Upazila Mostafizur Rahman and Mohidul Islam from Patkelghata Upazila, Mehedi Hasan, Shafiul Azam Shujon, Arshad Ali, Anisur Rahman, Akter Hossain, Ahamid and Mohasin from Ashashuni Upazila and Alamgir Hossain(30), son of Nurul Amin, Ashraful Sarder (25), son of Sirajul Sarder, Shaheen Sarder (25), son of Maneer Uddin Sarder, Abul Hosen (26), son of late Surat Ali, Shawkat Ali Sarder (33), son of Sukur Ali Sarder and Aminul Islam Lavlu (40), son of Rezaul Ialam from Roispur Area in the District town. The operations still continue to date.

However, the SP skipped questions on how thousands of inhabitants had lost their homesteads and shelters due to the rampage carried out by Awami goons, how people were being murdered, how people’s residences are being attacked, looted and set ablaze amid the joint forces’ operations.

But Ali Azam khan, the acting OC of Kaliganj police station, said that the ones (Jamaat, Shibir and BNP) whose houses, stores and businesses were vandalized and torched had been the ones ruling in the area for a long time. General agitated people had in fact vandalized and torched those houses, shops and business deployments. But when the police official was asked whether the joint forces and the Awami League cadres were helping the “agitated villagers” during the rampage, he became indignant and told the reporter that those who had been ruling the territory throughout this long duration needed to be reigned in and taught a lesson today. And that was what was happening here now. That was all. When asked about the Hindu minority owned stores being vandalized and torched during the night at Choumuhoni, he replied that this had been carried out by Jamaat-Shibir activists. This was the reason why the general people had got agitated and set their (Jamaat-Shibir’s) homesteads ablaze. What could they, the police, do in this case?

Jahid Sumon, our representative from Shyamnagar (Satkhira), informed us that 10 people including an OC and a constable got injured yesterday during clashes between joint forces and Jamaat-Shibir activists in the village of Gorer Math under the Kusholia Union in Kaliganj upazila of Satkhira. During the clashes, Shibir activist Ashraful Islam Babu (22) got bullet ridden and was arrested despite severe injuries.

Ali Azam khan, the acting OC of Kaliganj police station, informed the media that yesterday after noon the joint forces had started a security operation to catch accused in the murder of Moslem Uddin, the Awami League chairman of Bishnupur Union. At one stage when they reached Gorer Math, Jamaat Shibir activists came together and started throwing brickbats at the joint forces members. In the aftermath, joint forces started shooting & Shibir activist Ashraful Islam Babu, being shot, fell to the ground. The police arrested him and admitted him to hospital. During the clashes, OC Ali Azam and police official Shariful Islam also got hurt by the brickbats. But the locals countered that the statement of OC was outrageous. They stated that yesterday afternoon the joint forces, along with the Awami League cadres, in the name of a security operation, started attacking local people and vandalized several of their houses. At the same time the joint forces’ members started lathi charging the peaceful inhabitants at random. Even the wives-daughters of the families were not spared their indiscriminate attacks. In response, the general people of the area tried to draw up resistance and started throwing brickbats. That was when the joint forces tried to disperse the villagers by counter-firing, leading to the clashes.

Translated from Manab Zamin

 

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