Bangladesh is heading towards a dangerous destination

By Barrister Nazir Ahmed

I have divided my paper into three parts.  Firstly, I aim to discuss whether it is safe and conscionable to authorise normal Police Constables to take public lives by open shooting/firing.  Secondly, I will briefly discuss on the 'yellow journalism' that has been widely practised by most of the media in Bangladesh.  Thirdly: I will bring some facts and points in relation to Moulana Saydee for conscious citizens to think and consider.  Towards the end, I will draw some conclusions.

Killing public by Police through direct shooting/firing Taking life is the highest punishment [capital punishment] that one can be given.  Police in Bangladesh have been openly firing and killing people indiscriminately and mercilessly.  People have every right to demonstrate.  This is their fundamental and constitutional rights [Article 37, 38 and 39 of the Constitution].  If they break any law, they have to be dealt with in accordance with law, nothing but only in accordance with law.  How can a mere Police Constable get free licence to kill mass people [equivalent to executing the 'death penalty'] by direct firing/shooting?  How can the Police Constables be given approval to give the general public highest punishment — taking their life, which even no Judges below Additional District Judges rank/level are given, and again not without High Court's approval and, of course, not before exhausting automatic appeal right to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh [Article 103(2)(c) of the Constitution]?  This is a dangerous precedent set by the current government.  Is it the way and method of controlling people's democratic rights?  In the widespread riots in London in 2010, not a single bullet came from the Police's gun, let alone killing an individual.  Yet they successfully contained and then controlled the widespread riots.  Legally, an officer with Magistrate rank would have to authorise firing/shooting.  There has been no such authorisation.  Even if the Police are attacked, they can act in self defence but that self defence would have to be measured and proportionate.  What we have seen on last Thursday (28 February 2013) is unprecedented in the 42 years history of independent Bangladesh.  More than 70 people were brutally killed and more than 1000 were seriously injured by the Police in a single day in open shooting/firing.  Death tolls have been rising.  There has been not a single report that the Police were attacked by any weapon or gun.  The Police have been killing mercilessly by direct shooting/firing for the last few weeks.  Last Thursday was unprecedented in terms of number of death.  Not a single inquiry has so far been set up for such barbaric killing and atrocity.  Human lives have appeared to be very cheap in Bangladesh.  The former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia rightly said in a press conference on 02 March 2013 that this was a mass killing/genocide - crime against humanity. She has already shown her firmness and boldness.  She should come out and take the lead by proving her uncompromising unique leadership that she had shown in the 1980s.  Concerned Police Officers with their commanding officers, both civilian and uniformed, including the Home Minister and Prime Minister must be held into account.  A list of the concerned Police Constables should be made and kept so that specific murder charges can be brought against them in appropriate time to secure exemplary punishment.      

        Yellow journalism Media is the reflective mirror of a nation.  In fact, it is the fourth pillar of the democracy.  Through true, honest and objective reporting, the media and journalists play a greater role in a democratic country.  Unfortunately, most of the print and electronic media in Bangladesh are biased, partial and keeping their blind eyes on what has exactly been happening.  Most of their reporting is either one sided or false or concocted.  These have made the matters worse.  They appear to be over curious and over anxious to blame Jamaat-Shibir for all incidents, attacks and provocations.  Almost 95% people killed in the last few days are of Jamat-Shibir and general public.  They were almost all killed by direct indiscriminate shooting/firing of the Police.  Most media have failed to report properly.  As a result, true pictures have not been coming from up and down the country.  The time of calling 'yellow journalism' has probably gone.  In fact, what the most of the media are doing in Bangladesh can now be called 'media terrorism.'  Moulana Delawar Hussain Saydee has millions of supporters, sympathisers and well wishers around the country beyond the party line.  Those general public have been showing their spontaneous outburst and reaction since last Thursday.  Most of the media have been reporting these as of Jammat-Shibir's terrorism.  These have escalated the current situation and put the country into the barge of civil war.  The country's situation has been getting worse day by day.  The media, through their one sided and partial news/reporting instead of true and objective ones, have been harming and misleading the nation at this critical stage more than anything else.  The nation should be united against these yellow and syndicate journalism of most of the print and electronic media.

Moulana Saydee: some points for conscious citizens to think and consider Moulana Delawar Hussain Saydee is an exceptional God gifted orator having a unique ability to convince the people regardless of their education, class, profession and background.  He is the most living popular personality [legendary] in the Islamic arena in Bangladesh - perhaps even more popular than Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia, both former and current Prime Ministers.  Sheikh Hasina has, no doubt, popularity in her own party and so does Begum Khalida Zia.  But, hardly Sheikh Hasina has any popularity in the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and similarly Begum Khaleda Zia hardly has any popularity in the Awwami League (AL).  The true exception is Moulana Saydee.  No doubt, he is a Jammat leader.  But this is not his one or only identity.  Outside Jammat-Shibir arena, he has huge popularity and supporters both in the AL and BNP.  He has hundreds of thousands of supporters and sympathisers in the armed forces, civil service and private and voluntary sectors.  Not only this, beyond political boundaries, Moulana Sayedee has millions of supporters and followers among the mass people in the rural and urban areas.  He has sympathisers and well wishers around the globe.  Arrange two meetings nearby, one with Moulana Saydee as the Chief Guest and the other one with Sheikh Hasina as the Chief Guest, and you can compare their respective popularity with public attendance/turn out.  It was proved in London around 20 years ago.  Public meetings of Moulana Saydee [not waj mahfil] and eminent lawyer Dr Kamal Hossain were held nearby in the East London at the same time: one in York Hall and the other one in Osmani School.  The writer had seen and compared the both meetings.  Dr Kamal's public meeting was attended by maximum 100 people, whereas more than 3000 people attended at Moulana Saydee's meeting.  Having a public meeting with more than 3000 expatriate Bangladeshis in London 20 years ago was really exceptional and uncommon.  

Deep public reaction and giving/sacrificing lives in the last few days in Bangladesh clearly show Moulana Saydee's unique popularity.  Unfortunately, this has been reported by most of the media to have been done by the Jamaat-Shibir.  We have lost our two Presidents in the past in the most barbaric and cruel ways. Have the mass public shown any reaction like this?  More particularly, would the people of around 100 have been prepared to give their lives with almost laughing face for their leaders?  Would the honourable Prime Minister find 100 people in her own party who would be able to really give/sacrifice their life for her? The government must realise this. The government must understand people's pulses, nerves and sensitivities before it is too late.  The country is heading towards an unimaginable dangerous destination.

Moulana Saydee said time and again that he was not a razaakaar [a member of the auxiliary forces created by the Pakistan government during the 1971] nor was he involved in any political party in 1971.  This was believed by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT).  He also said that he was not known by any other name.  Now all the conscious people wonder whether he has been made a sacrificial lamb due to his unique popularity and political reason.  Have all responsibilities and culpabilities of Diluwar Sikdar also known as Dilu or Dailla, a known razakar who was killed after the independence, been shifted and transferred to Moulana Delawar Hussain Saydee's shoulder?  This is a serious question that needs to be answered fully and properly.   

One injustice creates multiple injustices. Miscarriage of justice happened even in the developed country like the UK [for example, Birmingham 6, Tottenham 3 and Guildford 4].  In a volatile, politicised [of all sectors including the judiciary], divisive [along political line] and hostile [for vengeance and retaliation] country, injustice may easily be inflicted. If apparent injustice is inflicted to a personality, through conspiracy and drama, who has preached the message of Quran [Holy book of Allah Almighty] for nearly five decades and if all human beings are failed to stop this injustice, I fear that divine intervention from Almighty God may come, the wrath from which no one can escape.  The whole history of the mankind has seen many of such intervention in the past.      

Conclusion: Democratically elected leader can be a Monster. Hitler is the best example: he was democratically elected and what he then became the world knows it very well. Police brutality and government's techniques for restraining public by killing through direct shooting have crossed the boundary.  Killing an innocent person has been said to mean as if killing the entire humanity.  A well known great philosopher said "an injustice to an individual threatens justice to entire humanity."  Therefore, the expatriate Bangladeshi, British Bangladeshi and international community should come forward to raise their voice and put pressure on the government of Bangladesh to behave with its citizens in accordance with law and Constitution. The government should be pressured to stop police brutality and respect mass people's constitutional rights. Instability, civil unrest and possible civil war of a nation with 160 million people must not be taken lightly, for civil war in Bangladesh could destabilise the whole region which, in turn, affect the entire world in one way or other.       

   Barrister Nazir Ahmed is a legal expert, analyst, writer and author. This paper was presented as a keynote paper at an International Seminar on "Bangladesh Towards A Civil War" organised by the Association of Islamic Teachers (AIT), UK, in London on 05 March 2013.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 May 2013 on page no. 18

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