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      Volume 10 |Issue 38 | October 07, 2011 |


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Human Rights

Dangerous Liasons

Akram Hosen Mamun

Two photographs published in national dailies, one of a cop stamping on the throat and chest of a man, another of two Chhatra League activists trampling on the face of a student fallen on the street, are telling of the aggressive nature of our law enforcers and the dehumanising environment that prevails in the educational institutions for higher studies. It is instructive also to take account of the fact that incidents like these are inevitable outcomes of a corrupt and an inherently evil system that runs our politics rather than isolated instances of deviant behaviour.

The file photo shows Patrol Inspector Abu Hazzaz's barbaric treatment of a picketer during the September 22 hartal by BNP and its allies, Photo: Star File

According to reports, the man trampled under the boot of police officer Abu Hazzaz, works in the Islami Bank Hospital. His name is Yousuf Ali. His landless family lives in Nilphamari. He has been sentenced to one year in prison for alleged picketing during hartal hours on September 22, by the mobile court's nirbahi (executive) magistrate, Sheikh Kamal Hossain. The kind of court that dealt Yousuf Ali's case has been criticised by analysts since 2009 when it was formed, for its highly bureaucratic and military nature that defies even the most elementary standards of a functioning democracy. First of all, any witness or a lawyer for the accused is deemed superfluous in the proceedings. And the court either depends entirely on the 'confession' of the accused, or if a crime takes place in the presence of the magistrate, then s/he can sentence the accused to a maximum of two years in prison. Even though the terms and conditions of the whole procedure seem farcical enough, the case against Yousuf Ali didn't even meet those. According to reports, the proceedings took place at the office of the assistant police commissioner. But when renowned journalist Mijanur Rahman Khan called, SI Golam Hafez of Motijheel Thana, he said that no such event took place there. It is evident that Sheikh Kamal Hossain, the magistrate was not present at the scene. This leaves us with the only option of assuming that Yousuf confessed his 'crimes' to this bureaucrat. However, the photographs published in the newspapers and the mobile phone videos, show that the man was being beaten continuously, as he was taken into the van. Even if he confessed, it's not hard to imagine what induced the confessions. Hence, it was important to consider the credibility of his statements and question of whether the proceedings of the case had done justice to Yousuf Ali.

In a discussion of the parliamentary committee on the home ministry, the dignitaries of the ruling party were quick to come up with the clichéd but convenient conspiracy theory, asserting that the whole thing was a set up and aimed to smear the 'image' of the government. While in power, both major political parties—identical in nature and ideologies but poles apart in rhetorical flourishes—always apply this and other ridiculous theories to justify violence and oppression on dissent. Using the law enforcers and elite forces for political ends has also been consistent throughout our history, across the spectrum. Even a brief look at the number of people extra judicially killed by law enforcers since the independence of the country will suffice for an understanding of how the governments and the regimes have made the most of the law enforcers. But we will not go into that here.

Coming to the other photograph, when Jagannath University students were demonstrating for continued government funding for the university, the Chhatra League activists must have anticipated that the protests would harm the 'image' of the government. Like the cops, they might have deemed it their responsibility to protect law and order by teaching the protesters a lesson. Hence the attack on students was for a good cause. But the trouble is, even to someone who is aware of the gradual terrorisation of higher educational institutions over the decades, the photo taken by a Reuter's journalist of Chhatra League activists smashing the face of a protester, is simply stupefying. The lawmakers could have come up with the usual explanation: terrorists belonging to oppositional parties have infiltrated Chhatra League and bullied the students. Since the president of Chhatra League was also present there, they probably refrained from doing that.

Our horrors are compounded when we see that cases are filed against 15 journalists who study at Jagannath University. To deter the protesting students, Prof Mejbahuddin Ahmed, the vice chancellor has threatened to file “more cases if demonstrations continue.” The state's reckless oppression of dissenting opinions and the presumably sophisticated intellectual's sour remarks on his students and press defies credibility.

The late writer Ahmed Sofa, observing the degradation of student politics through terrorisation, lamented in the mid 90s, “We need the universities for two reasons: the ruling party needs terrorists to secure their position and the opposition needs terrorists to confront them. Even the smaller political organisations harbour terrorists to secure their existence as political parties.” Needless to mention that the environment in the universities is much worse now than it was in the 90s, and the consistent trend of using student politics for exerting and retaining power has left surreal effects in our educational institutions.

In the universities, armed confrontations among student wings of different political organisations over the control of residential halls and share of graft money, have been regular headliners in the last couple of years. Driving non-aligned students out of the halls because they don't populate the organisational showdowns in 2011, clash between rival factions over graft money and concentration of power ending up in gunfight, terrorising the town of Jessore in 2010, fight for control over residential halls leaving a non-aligned third year student Abubakar dead and beating up the administrative officials and academics in the universities of Chittagong and Mymensingh have been the biggest achievements of Chhatra League in the last couple of years. One could go on with the list, but it's terribly dismal to have our highest educational institutions in such a state. Besides, one has to be an amnesiac to forget all these occurrences in such a short span of time.

Coming back to police officer Abu Hazzaz, Authorities have closed him on charges of non-professional behaviour. Looking at contemporary history, one may realise that he had been rather unlucky to be photographed like that. For, numerous others are enjoying complete impunity from prosecution after doing worse. It's time we understood that if there is a culprit that has to be tried, it's our understanding of the very concept of politics.



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