is Afraid of
he has terrorised a vast community, after death he is remembered
for his unscrupulous, inhuman methods of killing and torture,
but how did a criminal like him remain out of the noose of the
law for so long!
and documenting physical reality and the series of events that
go to change its course through time is something that modern
man has every right to take pride in. But too much of attention
to some phenomena inks our ability to judge the importance of
an event or two with a funny hue. It questions the judgement
to set priorities. Ershad Shikder who became a phenomenon, courtesy
of his homicidal exploits is a case in point.
It is one
thing to report on a psychopath convicted of killing 24 of his
fellow men, and it is an altogether different matter to feed
on the voracious appetite of a newspaper reading public. The
recent surge of knowledge about Shikder that spilled all over
national news dailies had more to do with catering to the readers
thirst for real-life horror tales than reporting. Some newspapers
even went over the details of his last days spent in jail. The
man who has terrorised a vast community in the southern district
of Khulna, whose crimes make a mockery of our quest for a rational
world, set most of the vernacular dailies to go for regal treatment
-- a lead that spread across the full length of the front page.
The occasion was his death sentence, which was carried out a
minute past midnight on Monday, May 10, which was Tuesday according
to normal count.
killer walked the gallows much to the relief of many. His execution
put an end to a long legacy of killing and torture. In a country
where there is no guarantee for petitioners to get justice,
and perpetrators stalk the citizen holding important public
posts, sympathy for a man wasted at the gallows is hard to come
by. It is not even given a thought. But curiosity of the public
seems superfluous. Shikder certainly is a case that exemplifies
the rise of a common man to the top, with crime as his only
currency. But he is not the only criminal who reigns over this
land. There are many still on the loose, enjoying their fruits,
sharing them with the people at the helm.
at best can be termed as the classic case of a psychopath who
managed to endear himself to high-ups. His mentors, the power
brokers at the mantle of politics, have found in him a crony
who would go to unthinkable lengths to get his own way. The
list of his beneficiaries was long and no one ever made an effort
to take the lid out on stories of people who also gained considerably
from Shikder's crimes. Though, one or two names have been mentioned
as quoted by Shikder's sister during her recent encounters with
journalists, the scenario still remains incomplete.
would not have gone this far without political clout. At least
this fact surfaces from the recent spree of reportage. Not that
Shikder played in the hands of the politicians. Rather he became
a monster who befriended, exploited and even bribed the people
in power to remain eternally out of trouble. Law enforcing agencies
backed out while probing into crimes where he was involved.
Though in the end, he got caught, he will be remembered for
being on the wrong side of the law for a long period of time
without getting caught. Forever connected with the people in
power, he hopped political platforms as if they were stepping-stones.
Shikder, like many other perpetrators, always, as a rule, made
sure he belonged to the party in power. It made things easier
for him. He
the Jatya Party in the eighties, then joined the newly elected
BNP in 1991, and again jumped to AL when it came to power in 1996.
This track record is no unique feat; there is a contingent of
perpetrators who has this similar knack. It keeps them out of
Erhad Shikder did remain clear off of any brush with the law
until he surrendered in 1999. Later one of his recent crimes
-- the murder of the Jubo League leader -- put a final bent
to his cases that landed him squarely inside the noose of justice.
Many newspaper reports clearly point at the nexus between him
and the police. From the day he was poised to take Khulna jetty
under his control, the law enforcing agency was simply bought
off to clear his way. And with the authority looking the other
way, he went wayward. His ascend became unstoppable. "He
killed, kidnapped, and did whatever it took to exterminate his
enemies who stood between him and the jetty," wrote a Daily
Star report. It also says that he made 550 crore taka in the
last twenty years. His palatial house, in Sonadanga, Khulna,
took Tk four crore to build. As a criminal who expanded his
exploits in Khulna underworld, his rise crushed many lives and
fed the appetite of the opportunists hungry for money and power.
He got involved in the whole spectrum of crimes, including trafficking
in drugs, gold, border pillars, gems, arms, counterfeit banknotes,
women, children. He continued all this alongside blatant acts
of robbery and extortions, which he often banked on to fatten
He did it all. But this very man has also inched his way into
political power. His empire of crime enabled him to encroach
on the corridor of power. It is during the regime of Hussein
Muhammad Ershad that he roped in the echelons of the military
ruler's Jatyo Party and he was elected commissioner of ward
No. 21 of Khulna City Corporation. He was re-elected commissioner
even after the fall of the autocrat. It was in 1991 that he
joined the BNP, an act that let him continue with his crimes.
In Bangladesh, it has become an abiding norm of so called democratic
governments to flourish on sullied ground. The toppling of a
dictator did not change much. A case like Shikeder is a proof
that misrule continues under a changed cloak. Until the day
of his arrest, he held his post as commissioner; such is the
extent of corruption that mars our political culture.
In 1997, Shikder joined the AL, allegedly by bribing some of
the big guns of the party that came to power in 1996. At that
point the unusual happened. His crimes began to translate into
newspaper stories with catchy headlines. And it was at this
juncture that an 'expel order' was issued from Sheikh Hasina,
the then Prime Minister and the president of AL. It is this
expel order that dislocated the gangster who was so far had
no trouble in keeping many a political leader wrapped around
Police filed a case against him only after he was abandoned
by the party in power. It was after a clash with the AL backed
group in Khulna jetty No. 4 that Shikder went into hiding. As
a criminal, whose past is tied to about 50 killings, he was
hanged for one of the most sensational murder, the killing of
Jubo League leader Khalid on May 16, 1999.
Ershad found himself trapped as all negotiations with the ruling
party leaders of his locality failed. Relatives of Ershad said
to the reporters that some Khulna-based AL leaders advised him
to surrender and promised an early release. He surrendered to
the Sonadanga police on August 11, 1999. Soon his trial began
and the local court convicted him of seven murder cases. His
path to the gallows was paved from the day the highest court
of the country upheld the verdict of the lower court and the
death sentence became a certainty when President Iajuddin Ahmed
turned down his 'mercy petition'. But what happens to the beneficiaries?
Will they be brought to justice as adversaries to crimes? These
questions will always remain unanswered, as the politics of
our country is structured to protect the people who form the
upper crust of society.
If Ershad Shikder's sister, Selina's claim is correct, this
hardened criminal, in his last bid to dodge justice spent a
fortune on some of our fellow countrymen. Selina said to a reporter
that after his arrest he spent crores of taka bribing six politicians,
a dozen journalists, a number of police officers, and to top
it all, 35 businessmen. According to her claim, two of the politicians
belong to the BNP and four to AL and two of them have been killed.
Selina stressed that she had even lobbied with the political
godfathers for her brother's release, but they drove her out.
"A leader in Bagerhat was given seven lakh taka and a
car, and a leader in Dhaka was given eight crore taka,"
Selina claimed to journalists. Will this ever be investigated?
The answer is NO in capitals, had this been otherwise it certainly
would have unmasked the somewhat camouflaged networks of politicians
and their brethren. There is no hope for this kind of debunking
phenomenon, at least for now people seem more interested in
what Shikder was like and what he did to whom.
It is not mere speculation to say that any effort to shed light
on the people who provided the dreadful man with handles to
thrive on would shake the very foundation of current politics.
It would become obvious that most politicians, to varied degrees,
are coloured with the same hue, though they profess to hold
different beliefs. With beliefs they are vocal and loud, but
with underhanded matters they are discreet. Shikder was the
opposite. He was a cold-blooded murderer himself. He must have
been the double 'Y'-chromosome man, who needed to handle things
personally. Most politicians rule by proxy of such men who take
to violence as ducks to water. It is the nabbing of the people
who acted like doting guardians of Shikder that might bring
about the real change in the criminalised political scenario.