Vol. 5 Num 667 Fri. April 14, 2006  
Front Page

Tell us why Kansat people being killed?

We have seen a lot of brutality by the police and other law enforcers in this country. But nothing can compare to the mindless killing that has been going on at Kansat during the last four months. The happenings at Kansat boggle the mind. Seldom, if ever, have we seen such police brutality upon our usually meek and peace-loving villagers. They have been shot at, mercilessly beaten, violently attacked and indiscriminately arrested. In the last few days, they have had their houses raided and personal belongings looted. Now most of the men are away from their homes and women are coming out to agitate. Why? What necessitated this ferocious behaviour by our police and that also under a democratic dispensation and by an elected government?

Here are some facts about the killings in Kansat that may help to wake us up to the immorality and shocking nature of the situation. First, two people were killed on January 4 followed by killing of seven on the 23rd of the same month. Then four were killed on April 6 and another was injured, who later died on April 12. Finally, six were killed the day before yesterday. A total of 20 innocent lives lost for the 'crime' of agitating for adequate electricity supply so that they could carry on their farming properly. All these deaths occurred due to police firing that can only be termed unprovoked, for there is absolutely no evidence of the villagers resorting to any sort of violent action that could have called for such brutality and response of 'final resort'.

Given the nature of the police action, one is almost compelled to ask as to whether there is an insurgency going on at Kansat. Has that area been taken over by our 'enemies'? Are those being killed so recklessly citizens of Bangladesh? Or are they some aliens occupying our land that we can kill as we please. Otherwise how could police repeatedly resort to firing when all the usual tactics of crowd management were not applied? First, what sorts of 'weapons' did the villagers carry that police needed to open fire? Second, what threat could stick-wielding villagers pose that police had to shoot to kill? Third, what measures of crowd control were taken to contain the agitators?

In the beginning they just demonstrated. When police attacked them brutally they started throwing brickbats and carrying sticks. Later they cut down trees to block roads and in some cases even dug up road sections. In no instance were they carrying any firearms or known to have used explosives or cocktails. To date, the police themselves did not make such a claim. So where was the danger that necessitated opening fire? Not once, twice, or thrice, but on four separate occasions interspersed by several weeks at a time. Do the actions of the agitators of Kansat justify the reaction by the police? No, not if we believe in democracy and in the inalienable right of the people to dissent and express that dissension in a peaceful manner. The question is whether the present government believes the same. If we are to go by their actions in Kansat, we are forced to seriously doubt that.

There is absolutely no adequate explanation for treating our villagers in this manner except of an arrogant mindset that treats every dissenting voice as that of an 'enemy'. The present government has become so used to applying brute force to contain opposition rallies and demonstrations that for them every agitation is inevitably the product of opposition 'conspiracy' and as such must be dealt with the maximum force.

Till today, to the best of our knowledge, the government or the ruling party has not bothered to sit for a moment to think what is going on at Kansat. Why has this area, which had hitherto been unknown to most people of the country and never had any reputation of being a hotbed of agitation, should suddenly become so rebellious? Between January 4 and today a good four months and 10 days have elapsed, but no initiative of any sort has been taken to talk to the villagers or to engage them in some sort of a problem-solving dialogue. No minister or ruling party leader of any consequence visited the area to find out for oneself what is happening there. Are these the characteristics of a representative government? Even the local MP, who is from the ruling party, did not sit with his own electorate (those who voted him to the office) to find a solution. In fact he has already dubbed them 'terrorists'. (See the story on Page 12).

In democratic systems elsewhere, governments have been known to fall for far less. A few unnecessary and unjustifiable deaths in the hands of government agencies wrought havoc on elected governments that truly believe in being peoples' representatives. But ours of course is a democracy with a difference. Here we do not seem to elect leaders who want to serve the people but to rule over them, and if the 'stupid' people have the insolence to misbehave (like agitating) then they need to be punished and even killed.

Here 20 people have already been killed by law enforcers and yet there is no inquiry, no talk of any minister's resignation, no explanation by the government and no sign from anybody in power that something unusual is happening in a small rural area 27km off the nearest town, Chapainawabganj. A few deaths don't seem to matter in our democracy, especially if those are of poor people of remote villages. Our leaders are far too high and mighty for small things like peoples' lives to bother them.