Shame on the government!
Shame on the director general, RAB!
Shame on the inspector general of police!
Have the last four years of ruling totally erased all conscience, not even a tiny speck left? Don’t any of you have even an iota of decency? Any little shred of gumption? Of courage?
Does the whole state machinery have to be brought to bear on a 17-year old boy and his family — a family of day labourers, whose youngest son Limon had worked in a brick kiln to pay for his college education until RAB shot off his leg — to pursue your own vendetta? Continue reading “Cowardice unlimited!”
Everyone was happy this Eid, said the prime minister. Her administration had worked hard to ensure that there were no price hikes, no power cuts. That the roads were in good shape, that the law and order situation was under control.
Sheikh Hasina congratulated herself thus as she exchanged Eid greetings with ?”distinguished guests” and “people from all walks of life” at her official residence. Same press releases year after year, regardless of who’s in power. I remember them from my childhood, no change in wording. Continue reading “The government's Eid gifts for Limon”
`A state within the state is now ruling the country.‘ Recently uttered by Dr Mizanur Rahman, National Human Rights Commission chair, these words, ominous as they sound, are of immense concern to the nation’s citizenry.
To those who love this country. Who feed off its soil, off the labour of those who plant, grow, nurture, feed us. What sense can one make of his words?
Dr Mizan was speaking at a roundtable on granting constitutional recognition to indigenous people but his words were occasioned by something else. An incident which is proving to be the turning point.
Yes, Limon. People across the nation are outraged. At the shooting. If possible, more so, at the subsequent cover-up attempts by some ministers, by a senior civil-military leadership nexus.
Cover-up? How else but by `criminalising’ the victim? Limon is a `terrorist’, his father’s a `terrorist’. The whole family is nothing but a bunch of terrorists.
Limon’s left leg had to be amputated after the 16-year old Jhalokathi college student, the son of an agricultural day-labourer, was allegedly shot in the leg by RAB’s officers on March 23. RAB claims, the shooting occurred during an `encounter’.
But the real problem, from RAB’s perspective, is that Limon has lived to tell the tale. Unusual, for RAB’s victims generally don’t. Human rights activists allege, since the formation of the elite anti-crime, anti-terror force in 2004, the number of extra-judicial killings has crossed a thousand. Continue reading “`State within the state.' Militarisation, and the women's movement”
A `death squad’ was the BNP-Jamaat government’s gift to the nation, a gift that has been nurtured and defended by two successive governments, each claiming to be vastly different to the previous one.
Claiming not only to be better, but morally superior.
The death-knell was struck more than seven years ago, on June 2, 2003, when the cabinet committee on Law and Order decided to form the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Those present were the committee president Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, law minister Moudud Ahmed, home minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, education minister Omar Farooq, and state minister for home affairs Lutfuzzaman Babar.
RAB was formally created eight months later, in March 2004, a composite force comprising elite members from the army, navy, air force, the police, and members of other law enforcement groups. It began full operations in June, the same year.
Remember Fakhruddin Ahmed, the ex-World Bank guy who led the military-installed caretaker government (2007-2008), who claimed to be driven by the objective of “holding a free, fair and credible election” which will truly reflect the “will of the people”? Who saw himself as a “champion or leader” motivated by the aim of “strengthening Bangladesh’s democratic order”? (Time, March 22, 2007).
Well, if you search the records, it turns out that around 315 persons were killed extra-judicially under his, and general Moeen U Ahmed’s, 23-month long emergency rule. Of these, the deaths of more than 250 persons were allegedly crossfire killings (`Bangladesh 2008. Insidious militarisation and illegal emergency,’ Asian Human Rights Commission, December 2008).
Even if, for arguments sake, these persons were hardened criminals, how is the democratic functioning of state institutions strengthened by officials of its elite anti-crime, anti-terror force behaving exactly as criminals do? Continue reading “The gift of a `death squad'”
The problem with Limon — from RAB’s point of view — is that he has lived to tell the tale. Usually, RAB’s victims don’t.
Take Rasal Ahmed Bhutto, for instance. A 34-year old shopkeeper, he was picked up by men in plainclothes outside a friend’s shop in Dhaka on March 3, 2011. A week later, men in vehicles, including ones marked RAB, brought Bhutto back to his neighbourhood. A volley of gunshots. Family members rushed out, they found him slumped against a wall. Dead.
RAB insists, there had been a shootout.
Or take Mohiuddin Arif, a? 32-year old surgery technician at Apollo Hospital, Dhaka. He was picked up from his home on January 24, 2010 by 3 plainclothes men who claimed to be officers from RAB-4. Arif died 10 days later, after having been transferred to police, after having been sent off to Dhaka Central Jail. When jail authorities informed his father that his son was dead, he rushed to the DMCH morgue. Arif’s legs were `smashed,’ `flattened.’ They had turned green. From repeated beatings? His skin had been scraped off from parts of his body. His feet were swollen, they looked as if they were falling apart.
According to police, Arif had been sacked from work on charges of corruption. Not true, say hospital authorities. According to police, Arif had taken part in a robbery. Not true. Arif’s time punch card shows he was on hospital duty when the alleged robbery took place.
Thirty-two thousand taka poorer — 16,000 allegedly to Pallabi police station in exchange for assurances that he wouldn’t be tortured, another 16,000 reportedly to a court clerk, CMM court, Dhaka in hopes of getting early bail — his family has decided not to file a case. What’s the use? I won’t get my son back, says his father (Human Rights Watch report, Crossfire, May 10, 2011). Dead men don’t tell tales.
But there are other problems with Limon. I mean, `problems’ from RAB’s perspective.
His innocence shines through, there’s no denying that. Thick black hair, a steady, unwavering look. Sad, but with a tinge of indictment. Look at what you’ve done to me. How could you? He comes from a humble background. His father, Tofazzel Hossain, a share-cropper cum day-labourer, left Saturia village (Rajapur upazilla, Jhalokathi district) this February in search of better work, better pay. He managed to find work in a wholesale fruit market in Savar EPZ, Dhaka.
A college student, Limon’s HSC finals were days away when the incident occurred. Bent on getting good grades, he’d been studying harder. He wanted to fulfill his mother’s dreams. To be educated, to make her proud of him. He worked in a neighbouring brick kiln, lowly work, menial work, which upper class kids in cities, heady with lifestyle concerns, the `d-juice’ generation, cannot imagine. Neither can their parents. Limon also tutored children, meagre earnings to supplement an unsteady household income. Limon Protest from Shahidul Alam on Vimeo. Continue reading “LIMON HOSSAIN: Shattered dreams, ruthlessness, and the govt's spinning factory”