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     Volume 6 Issue 22 | June 8, 2007 |

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Human Rights

Qayum Bahini's Reign of Terror

Hana Shams Ahmed

Residents of a little village called Ashkor in Agoiljhara, about 40 kilometres away from Barisal are on the verge of leaving their ancestral land out of frustration and fear. A group of about 25 youths, under subtle protection from the local authorities, have for some time been intimidating these simple village people. This group led by Qayum Mollah, a former Chattra Dal cadre and a resident of a neighbouring village Baro Paika, has unleashed a reign of terror on the small Hindu minority community of this village. Their thuggish behaviour went fairly unnoticed until a series of incidents brought it to the fore.

Nomita Bollov was not intimidated by Qayum's men and filed an official complaint against Qayum Mollah.

On May 5, 2007 15-year-old Nomita Bollov came under attack from Qayum when she was about to cross the open space in front of her house to her own room. Qayum grabbed Nomita and brutally raped her. Qayum tried to stifle her screams with her orna but Nomita's father (Upen Bollov) and uncle (Amal Bollov) had already heard her screams and caught Qayum red-handed. Nomita lost consciousness and Qayum was locked up in a room. When Amal called up the local police station, the police asked him to go to the station, which is about six kilometres away from their home. Moments later Qayum's goons broke into Upen's house and took Jharudash Bollov (Nomita's 80-year-old grandfather) by the throat and slashed his arm with a sharp weapon. They freed Qayum and rushed to the police station while they silently waited for Amal. Actions taken by Agoiljhara police at this point are rather irregular; Amal Bollov is asked to go and buy some white paper to write the complaint. As soon as he steps outside Amal is severely beaten up by Qayum's goons and taken back to the police station where Qayum's father Sultan Mollah files a hijacking case against him. The police completely ignored the first case that Amal had gone to file; instead they arrest Amal under section 54 according to the verbal complaint from Sultan Mollah.

Although this is the first time such an incident has come to light, this certainly is not the first time it has occurred. Twenty-two-year-old Bithika who used to study in a woman's college in Barisal was forced to leave Agoiljhara and go to India with her family when Qayum and his men relentlessly harassed her. At about the same time a 17-year-old girl Monika, who was studying for her SSC examinations was also forced to flee her country of birth and go to India when harassment from Qayum's 'bahini' got unbearable. As the poor Hindu minority people of the community did not dare to go up against the powerful hooligans working hand in hand with the local police, the intensity of their reign of terror continued to escalate. Anima Biswas, Jyotsna Biswas and Seema Halder all teenagers, had to put an end to their education because of the harassment they faced from Qayum and his goons while going to school. Sixteen-year-old Kanchon Bollov was also forced to leave the area about year ago while she was studying in the 10th grade at a local school.

Upen Bollov's burnt down kitchen.

Unfortunately Qayum's men did not take lightly to Amal Bollov's courage to speak up against the attack on his niece. That very night while Haralal Bollov was asleep in his shop, completely unaware of what had happened, Qayum's men knocked on his shop and asked to buy some cigarettes. When Haralal opened his shop they beat him up mercilessly in front of his wife, who screamed for help to no avail, and dragged him away and locked him up. On May 19, while another of Nomita's uncles, Govinda Bollov was working at his paddy field, Qayum's men attacked him without any warning and beat him unconscious. Some others in the meantime went to Upen's house and vandalised the place and burnt his kitchen to the ground. When some of the women of the Bollov family went to complain to the police, they were stopped by Qayum's men. The women went back and took another route to the police station. Instead of taking their complaint the police shoved and pushed them out of the station and asked them not to 'put up an act'. When the women learned that the police had arrested the severely injured Govinda Bollov instead of taking him to the hospital they understood that they had come to complain to the wrong party. Terrified of what might happen to them, they went back to their village.

When the incidents were reported in the local newspapers and lawyers from Ain O Shalish Kendro intervened a case was finally filed at the police station and three of Qayum's men and him were arrested. They were soon released on bail and they started threatening the Bollov family once again. On May 23, Qayum was arrested once again along with 15 others by Additional PS Mashruq Rahman and OC Yunus Hawladar suspended for neglecting his duties. On May 23, the additional DIG Mosharraf Hossain took evidence from hundreds of villagers about the activities of Qayum's men. For the first time in their lives they spoke fearlessly.

Rabindranath Halder, a former ward member has been witnessing the augmenting terrorist activities of the infamous Qayum Bahini for years. “No one has ever dared to speak out against Qayum's people because they are so illiterate and so poor,” says Halder, “and we are all Hindus and scared about our own security. There's nothing we could have done because the police were on their side.” Halder says that he cannot even begin to say the number of ways the villagers in the area were harassed. “They were all leaving one by one, unable to bear the persecution. They would come and cut off the paddy from someone's field one day and nothing could be done against them. The path that the girls in the area used to take was Qayum's men's area. And they were always teased and harassed on the way to school.” Although Qayum and some of his men have been arrested Halder still does not feel completely secure. “Some time will go by and he will be out on bail to make people's life unbearable again. And some of his goons are still roaming around the villages. They are just as bad as Qayum. We are Hindu and we are afraid,” laments Halder, “we are hostages in their hands.”

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