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Volume 6 | Issue 06 | June 2012 |


Original Forum

Managing Expectations in Public Expenditure for Development
-- Ziauddin Choudhury
Anchoring inflation in budget
-- Asjadul Kibria
Proposals for Agriculture Sector
-- Fahmida Khatun
National Policy on Women's Development
2011 and National Budgets

-- Dr Pratima Paul-Majumder
Dinner not Going to be Cheap Anytime Soon
-- Olinda Hassan

Colourful Six Cities of Six Seasons
-- Mokaram Hossain


Photo Feature

Dhaka: A City in Peril

Making a ghost of a City

-- Tawfique Ali

Ship Breaking: Environmental and
Human Disaster along the Coast
-- Syeda Rizwana Hasan

Disaster Sufferings: Who's Accountable?
-- Dilruba Haider
Conversation with Bangladesh
-- Interview with Hillary Clinton
Death of Carlos Fuentes: a Buried Mirror?
-- Razu Alauddin

Our Friend Joe O'Connell (1940-2012)
-- William Radice


Forum Home

What our law enforcers are capable of

RIFAT MUNIM questions the role of law enforcers in the recent spate of killings through enforced disappearance and demands investigation into all such cases. .

Our law enforcers can do so many things and display so much courage that one will have to hire a chronicler in order to record all their feats in a befitting manner. For a start, they can hunt down suspects, real or imagined, and cripple them for the rest of their life or torture them to death flouting well-defined judicial practices and norms. They can spray bullets into a suspect's car and kill everyone inside the vehicle without allowing them any chance of self-defence and yet they won't face any charge, leave alone be sentenced to imprisonment. Quite the contrary, they'll be hailed as saviours, and with their machismo proven, as our nation's heroes.

Now one may ask how a brutal as well as extrajudicial act such as killing unarmed people ever amounts to heroism. As much valid as this point may sound, one has to keep in mind that gone are the days of peace and calm; gone too is the valour coupled with patriotism required of one to protect one's countrymen from injustice at the hands of criminals or colonizing armies. A different wind is blowing now, a very unsettling wind that has turned everything topsy-turvy. To borrow one of Jibanananda's lines, 'today those who are blind see a lot more than those who are not'. Hence, killing unarmed people having been equipped with heavy arms and weapons is no more a criminal act. Instead, it has become an epitome of heroism. And why not? Though not permitted by law, these heroic acts of theirs are defended and exalted by none other than our so-called protectors, our esteemed political leaders. How can we forget our complacent home minister's assertion that her trained Police, Rab and DB boys are innocent? In reply to a lawmaker's query in the parliament on March 14, 2012, she claimed that it is the victims of extrajudicial killings, not her boys, who are the criminals. Didn't she imply that the tag 'criminal' justifies the sinister murders? One wonders whose protector she is. The people's or the law enforcers'?

Matt Carr /getty

The pampered boys of our home minister, however, say otherwise. Many of them, especially the more sensitive ones of the lot, were in fact shocked to see the media paint a horrible picture of the extrajudicial killings, which they think is a distortion of truth. What is the truth? The truth, they say, stares in the face: they were shot first. So what they did was done only in self-defense. This they call 'encounter', like the one in the recent Narsingdi case where six men were shot dead on the spot. However, what makes the story utterly inconsistent and therefore bizarre, is that not a single Rab or policeman has ever been found bullet-hit or even injured although they are the ones being shot at first. Conversely, it's always the victims who bear brutal, telltale marks of torture or bullet wounds. Then consider the other type. They will arrest someone from his house and torture him to death and label that too as 'encounter.' But in either case, there are witnesses bearing testimony that the victim was caught unawares or taken away unarmed and killed later. Then how could an unarmed person open fire on a band of heavily armed heroes? The answer, dear readers, is blowing in the wind.

The victims' families, who are already traumatized enough to be verging on paranoia, refuse to file any case against the ministers' good boys. Evidently, they don't want their other son to meet the same fate. So better back away from everything and live with your mouth shut. But the question remains how unarmed people could open fire. As media has brought this issue to the fore, the good boys could no longer continue their shooting spree. So they resorted to a new technique whereby there would be no proof of their involvement in the deaths!

With this new technique they can turn the day into night and vice versa, so to speak. They can make a living person disappear in the blink of an eye. Although they are uncannily silent about this feat of theirs, it has been termed 'enforced disappearance' whereby they will abduct someone, kill him and dump his corpse in a river or far-away place with barely any clue left to the killers' identity. Or they can catch totally innocent persons and prove them heinous criminals. In an auspicious evening when you are spending quality time with your children, they can barge into your house and detect arms from under the ground or somewhere else even though you have not seen one in your entire life. What is this if not magic?

There is but one big difference. They are not as impeccable as Copperfield or Jewel Aich for that matter. Therefore, a few technical hitches happen at times and bring to light the real tale behind the façade of magic. The case of DU student Abdul Quader needs no repetition. The recent case of some RAB men's robbing a Pir's mazar in Chittagong is still vivid in our memory. However, they have been playing flawlessly as far as the magic of 'disappearance' is concerned. To cover it further up, their superiors stepped in and played the 'criminal' card again, saying that incidents of 'enforced disappearance' were caused by the victims' long-standing feuds and the law enforcers have nothing to do with it. A wind of change is indeed blowing, a saddening wind that is turning everyone blind.

In spite of the blinding wind and the usual humbug from our leaders journalists have known the truth for a long time now; common people are just catching up. Everyone now knows for a fact they are killers on the prowl, being protected by the government itself. Only their motives vary along with their techniques. If they or their protective bosses have any alternative view to it, they will have to prove it. And the only way to prove their innocence is by initiating investigation into all cases of disappearance and find out the real culprits. Unfortunately though, not a single case of 'enforced disappearance' has yet been properly investigated which is why the murder mysteries still remain unresolved; and which is also why our conviction remains unchanged.

Instead of being protectors of the people, this government has become the protector of its errant, unscrupulous law enforcing men who themselves are the biggest flouters of the country's law. What else is required to prove a government's utter failure in ensuring good governance? Will the bosses still continue to protect their deviant boys or initiate investigation into all the disappearance cases? Or they are too short-sighted to realize that the blinding wind can run its course for a few years only to be replaced by another gust of a changing wind.

Rifat Munim is senior editorial assistant, The Daily Star.

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