Published: Wednesday, May 8, 2013

News Analysis

Shapla Chattar & act of Houdini

Since the Sunday violence centring around the demonstration of Islamist group Hefajat-e-Islam which was followed by law enforcers’ late night action to drive away some 35000 activists, the country has been abuzz with rumours that the cops killed around 2500 people and buried them somewhere.
Contrary to such rumours which are being spread through social media, blogs and word of mouth, The Daily Star reporters who were present throughout Hefajat’s demonstration till the law enforcers completely drove away the activists at 5 am Monday found 13 persons to have died during or after Sunday’s violence. Of them, one died of heart attack.
The 13 persons did not all die at Shapla Chattar, but in different adjacent places where violence erupted from Sunday afternoon. Following the late night police-Rab action the journalists saw five bodies kept by Hefajat activists earlier at one place and several seriously injured people lying in different places.
But conspiracy theorists do not believe in what the media is reporting. After all, hours before the police, Rab and the BGB started their late Sunday night (or early Monday) operation, the authorities had shut down electricity in that area. And then, early on Monday morning, the government shut down Diganta TV, which had been strongly supporting the Hefajat demands.
Rumours have it that the bodies were taken by trucks and many of them were dumped in manholes in Motijheel by the cops and thrown into the Buriganga and Turag rivers.
Hefajat-e-Islam in its press statement claimed that 2500 of its activists were killed or went missing. The main opposition party BNP also said hundreds of people were killed and that the killing was more heinous than the killing of innocent people by the Pakistani forces on March 25, 1971—which is basically trivialising the war of liberation. Even the Bangkok based Asian Human Rights Commission did not hesitate to put up its concern at its website at the reported massacre of 2500 people!
Such serious claims need to be scrutinized. Are these claims based on real information? Why did any print or TV journalist present at the site did not even see a dozen dead bodies lying on the streets—let alone 2500? Either the journalists are blind, immoral and corrupt to hide such basic information or the BNP, Hefajat and their supporters are lying or are too confused to believe in anything.
Firstly, Sunday night’s actions did not take place secretly. There were dozens of print and electronic journalists watching the whole police action up close. The television journalists followed the police as they marched towards the Shapla Chattar firing rubber bullets and throwing sound grenades, etc. Television showed it all till early morning. If there were 2500 dead bodies, they could not have disappeared from the television cameras right away.
If anyone considers dumping bodies of 2500 bodies in manholes and the adjacent rivers, there are two problems with the theories.
Firstly, how many bodies can one throw inside a manhole? Maybe five? Then what happens after the bodies are thrown inside—let’s say a few hundred manholes in the busy business area of Motijheel? Could anyone cover up the odour of dead bodies after a couple of days?
Secondly, if the bulk of the bodies were carried by trucks to be dumped in rivers, how many trucks are required and how many bodies can each truck take? Maybe one truck can carry 150 dead bodies—although that would look like a little hill. Then around 17 trucks will be needed to carry all of these dead bodies.
Then consider how much time is needed to load these bodies, cover them up with something and drive through the city to dump them in the rivers? What are the possibilities that the people will get to see a dozen to 17 trucks, one after another suspiciously running through the city roads to the rivers? Who saw one such truck dump even a few dozen bodies in any of the rivers?
Then what about dead bodies floating up in the rivers? Who would cover that up and how?
The Kawmi Online Activities –a Facebook page of Hefajat supporters –yesterday posted two video clips under the headline “Brutal killing of Hefajat activists”. But none of the clips showed any killing. They rather showed law enforcers asking the cornered activists to flee, otherwise they would be beaten.
The only way the cops could have accomplished dumping so many dead bodies was implementing one heck of a big disappearing act of the great magician Houdini.
Another lie is widely being circulated over burning of the holy Quran by Hefajat activists during the Sunday evening violence in and around the Baitul Mukarram area. While the book shop owners went on record on television saying that the Hefajat activists had set fire to their book shops, conspiracy theorists are insisting that it was the work of Awami League activists. After all, Hefajat activists went there demanding the death of those who had insulted Islam. They couldn’t possibly have burnt the holy Quran, could they? The shopkeepers who lost everything say they did.

  • sabrina

    What does the above look like . Disappearing bodies.

  • James Mason

    Shahbagh didn’t light half the city on fire…However, it does sound unfair.

    • Ash C.

      Shahbagh didn’t need to. They had been kept under five star treatment & many other facilities for all these months with round the clock four tier security meant for only VVIPs! These guys at Shapla Chattar got the other side of the extreme – with the loss of many lives! And who were the Ring Master for the mayhem at Shapla is a matter of question!

  • shamimash

    Thanks for pointing it out. We have already corrected it.

    • Samih34

      So, it works out? 16 to 17 trucks?

  • MAS Molla

    The mob needed to have dispersed by some acceptable means. Some casualties might also be acceptable for public good. But the govt. has created smoke on the issue by switching off electricity and closing 2 potential TV channels. Now it’s very difficult for the govt. to remove the smoke; still transparency has no alternative. We are to remember that the killed people have relatives to know and speak out who and who were lost, though even Hefajat may opt for keeping the issue in the dark.

    • Niloufar Naseem Sarker

      You will see smoke where you want.Have you thought about how operation during the day with lacs in attendance could have been worse.

  • shamimash

    We have already corrected the error. Thanks for pointing out.

  • Ash C.

    Except Shomoy TV – and that too only to glorify the operation – no other TV channels or reporters were seen during the operation as they were barred from covering. More over, the whole area was put in to darkness to keep the ‘operation’ from public view.

  • Spytek

    Big different between Ganojagoron Moncha and Sundays gathering of Hefajat? The former was peaceful and non violent whilst the later was violent with shops being burnt and looted, protesters attacking police with stick and stones. The police had no choice but to respond aggressively. If Hefazat supporters wanted a peaceful gathering, then why did they carry weapons and sticks? This clearly shows that they went with the intention of creating violence and confrontation.

    The BNP held a rally the previous day and that ended without any major incident. Hefazat could have done the same but they chose confrontation and violence and in turn, the police responded as neccessary.

  • Spytek

    I have seen news reports showing Hefazat activists pretending to be dead with fake blood on their clothes and their fellow supporters taking pictures of this claiming that they have been killed but then the police come a long and drag them to their feet and hey.. they’re alive!

    This is the lies and propaganda that Hefazat are spreading on the internet by taking pictures of people pretending to have been killed but they are really alive.

  • Samiul Hossain

    Criticizing other religion publicly is an offense and laws should be made to stop it. A very legitimate demand. But along with it there were 12 other demands and many of which contradicts our constitution. This is a democratic country and runs by constitution not by Hadith and Quran. And in democracy putting restriction on people’s free movement and freewill is also a grave offense.

  • Isha

    i really wonder why I see a certain amount of bias! none of us will never know for sure, and it is heartless to see people talking about numbers as if it is this numbers which matter, every single life matters, every single person who died had a life ahead of them. if the police let them stay till night, what was really the harm in letting them be till dawn, using other means other than runner bullets and sound grenades which are so violent, that too in complete darkness!?!

  • Rubo

    It is possible to kill 2,500-3,000 people within half an hour. But it impossible to remove 2,500+ bodies , load them into trucks , take them to another place , digging a big/mass grave and bury them before sunrise, that means all within two hours and not a single person witnessing all these. There are people in Bangladesh who want to believe in such huge number of deaths just for the purpose of their political bias without using their basic common sense.

    • Niloufar Naseem Sarker

      There are so many photos.Let them even photo shop law enforcers loading the trucks with dead bodies.Lets go find the ground where these were buried.Biased people believe that there is conspiracy by the law enforcers.It’s a shame we are equating them with Pak army.

  • Sabina

    That was a typo and I didn’t bother to correct it.

    Minors who commit crime when they are of little age. You must have read few days ago in BBC , in Saudi Arabia , a boy who is now an adult is going to be paralyzed by the state because he stabbed his friend when he was 12 years old. His friend became paralyzed because of his stab .Since the boy is adult now, the state decided to make him paralyzed as well . I was referring to minor’s punishment.

    • Niloufar Naseem Sarker

      That’s called eye for an eye.

  • safi

    After a few hour the area was quite clear and the press weren’t allowed to video it.According to the people who saw the incident from their window the awami did this in front of the police without being interrupted by them.Besides do you think the people who studied the Qur’an their whole life could burn it in purpose.And the trees that were cut down…. could the hefajot do it under a rain of fire because those were finely cut down which requires an electric chainsaw which no one had,

  • Niloufar Naseem Sarker

    Have you seen Ganajagoron Moncho participants going on a rampage ,even once ?So you think they were 100% correct in burning the holy Quran.Now we know where you are coming from.

  • Niloufar Naseem Sarker

    They acted with violence. That’s the reason.

  • Niloufar Naseem Sarker

    LOL.So all the burning seems to be prayer to you.There should be limit to ones delusion .By the way have you seen any women participating ? Oh, I guess we should allow men to represent us.

  • Niloufar Naseem Sarker

    How would you have law enforcers tackle anarchy? So now we are so democratic that we will tell them what to do. Who are you to question how many people were killed in 1971? Even one was too many.

  • GodsFavAtheist

    Fascist, autocratic, fabricate, dismayed !! Big words buddy!! Look, lies will be debunked. Keep flailing. It will only help to roast you better.

    • Niloufar Naseem Sarker

      Unbiased media reporting is not liked by partisan people .That’s the truth.

  • GodsFavAtheist

    Man, I am pretty sure most of the so called activists are just following their madrasa leaders. They don’t want to get beaten up. They don’t want to go to jail. Most probably just walked away as fast as possible. But then again, all my info is based on what the social media has claimed so far.

  • Sabina

    It is easier to say than do things in real life. Everybody is busy in condemning government actions. But nobody has any solution . Nobody knows what they should have expected to see the next day, and nobody has any idea how government should have handled the situation. I feel people are blaming government unjustly .They are blaming government in wholesale manner because they are unable to pinpoint the exact fault of government during this operation.

    I don’t think the ruling party has any monopoly on oppressiveness and coercive activities. All other parties share it as well :)

  • Niloufar Naseem Sarker

    What ! Now you are equating unbiased reporting by DS with Paki paper. People like you think operation to remove the Hefajat is like 25th March ’71. Read the history of BD & do some soul searching before denigrating our independence. Do I need to tell you who does?

  • Ridoy Roton

    The report is analytical but seems defending to me! The closing statements leads to think it to be one sided/biased. Sorry, that was the feeling I developed as I had gone through the report.

    The report tried to prove that killing were around 20 in number and NOT 2500 (?). But what if I would be one of those odd 20s!! So, this is not the
    number, but the act by law enforces which; requires judgement to decide whether aggressive action that leads killing are necessary. And, if
    necessary, what would be the “RULES OF ENGAGEMENT OF WEAPON”?

    International standard (Bangladesh law enforces’ know from UN Peace Keeping) is that firing against protesters if necessary MUST BE AIMED AND BELOW THE KNEE AND SHOT TO HIT – AND NO BLANK FIRE. Dhaka Police Commissioner said that there were no lethal weapon used against the protesters and it was done similar to other developed countries including UN. And what is UN
    standard that I just mentioned above.

    From the above factual perspectives, it can be deduced that persons killed out of law enforcement action SHOULD have bullet injury below west line except few exception. BUT MAXIMUM PEOPLE OUT OF TOTAL KILLED (in this report about
    20) HAD FETAL INJURIES AROUND ABDOMEN, CHEST AND HEAD ??? Who is responsible for such injury for which lethal weapon are need – This
    major aspect was absent in the report.

  • Ferdous Jalil

    Are you absolutely sure that the H-I people burnt the Quran? (You misspelled ‘Quran’ four times…ergo, I really don’t think you are thinking straight as to who might have actually burnt the Quran.)

    • Julfiqar

      If you could google ‘Quaran’ , you can get numerous websites with this spelling. It’s a noun I guess. The English translation website that I used to understand Quaran is :

      I guess both the spelling are correct. The more appropriate spelling is Qur’an. If you consider this spelling as standard then your spelling is wrong as well as you dropped the( ‘ ) mark.

      However, I said what I have seen in various newspapers and tv channels. One bookshop owner was crying in front of the camera and what he was saying is that he told them not to burn the books several times as in that hit parade of books, there were Qur’ans. But they didn’t listen to him and burn all of his books. When they were on rampage their logical minds were not working.

      One more thing, if thinking straight means not to call ‘black’ as ‘black’ then I don’t want to think straight. Thank you for your feedback.

  • Ferdous Jalil

    The government not only supported Gonojagoron Moncho, it even organized and funded it!

  • Ferdous Jalil

    When HI came to Dhaka the first time last month there was no incidence…now the allegation is that they carried out vandalism…I think vandalism was carried out by people faking HI (most likely by AL, BNP thugs)…there are video footage to corroborate to that!

  • Ferdous Jalil

    AL had the mandate to steal money from the Padma Bridge, screw up the Stock market, give people’s money, in thousands of crore, to Hallmark, Bismillah group, alltex, etc!

  • Mohammed Khan

    Thank you I voted for you. allah is great. Joy Bangladesh

  • Isha

    Excuse me, your comment was quite cynical, for your kind information I know since I work near shapla chattar and I was there till afternoon, and what happened in the evening does cannot be justified, the breaking and the looting! But you have to ask who are responsible for the anarchy? Who were really all the people? I’m sure the people who were responsible for this burning and looting faced the least harm, and another point..whoever you are, don’t be so blind, you are trying to justify that the loss of life does not count for anything, mind you I am against Hefazat but among them were many innocent people and they WERE INJURED!

  • Fugstar

    I think this piece of PR work for the government will be good evidence in the international court, when your publication’s role and complicity in the massacre will be investigated.