Ilias isn’t a ‘hero’, yet people seek the answer

mohiuddin alamgir

mohiuddin alamgir

Government may not answer the question if the agencies or law enforcers are responsible for disappearance cases. Well, people won’t mind much in government’s silence, if they find the disappeared one is back to his home.

In 71 BC although he was presumed killed in battle, the body of the rebel slave Spartacus was never found and his fate remains unknown. After thousand years-in 1945- Subhas Chandra Bose, one of the most prominent leaders of the Indian Independence Movement disappeared after a plane crash. His body was never recovered and his death has long been the subject of dispute. Also in 1945 an Indonesian national hero, Supriyadi was went missing. On 6 October 1945 in a government decree issued by the newly independent Indonesia, Supriyadi was named Minister for Public Security in the first cabinet. However, he failed to appear; to this day his fate remains unknown.

When main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party organizing secretary organizing secretary Ilias Ali who was also a former lawmaker went missing from Banani in Dhaka, all these names came across my mind.

The BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia, on Wednesday said ‘Ilias had been taken away by agencies of the government such as the Rapid Action Battalion, midnight past Tuesday. ‘There are witnesses to the disappearance.’ The chronology of Ilias disappearance is different according to the news published in the media. Media reports say Ilias car was found abandoned close to his Dhaka dwelling in Wednesday early hours. The police found a cell phone in the car, and they came to know that the car belonged to Ilias Ali by tracking his cell phone.

May be Ilias was not ‘brave like Spartacus’ or ‘revolutionary like Subhas Chandra Bose’ but it would still remain whether he would face same fate like them. After ‘crossfire’, to ‘encounter’, by members of the law-enforcement agencies, such disappearances have given rise to a pervasive sense of insecurity and uncertainty among the countrymen. Overall, the increasing incident of enforced disappearances poses serious ramifications on social, political and economic fronts besides indicating an abysmal state of law enforcement and, most importantly, the rule of law.

Ilias Ali
BNP organizing secretary Ilias Ali. His family and party alleged that he is been missing since Wednesday early hours.

They went missing at a time when incidents of ‘enforced disappearances’ and ‘secret killing’ have assumed an alarming height, amid protests by rights defenders, in the country. Many dead bodies were found but there are many others who are missing. Whose family members teeter between hope and loss of all hope?

A significant number of the 22 people who went missing in 2012 were political leaders and such disappearance, which emerged as a trend, is alarming compared with such incidents at any point of time in the past, rights watchdog Ain o Salish Kendra said. Fifty-one people were victim to ‘enforced disappearance’ or ‘secret killing in 2011, the rights group said. ‘We have received reports that a number of leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, BNP-backed student organization Chhatra Dal and even the ruling Awami League went missing,’ Noor Khan, director (investigation) of the rights group, said.

The ASK executive director, Sultana Kamal, said ‘Such incidents were not good for the development of democracy.’ ‘Providing people with security is a responsibility of the state,’ Sultana Kamal said in a press release issued on Thursday that also expressed concerns about the disappearance of the BNP’s organizing secretary Ilias Ali.

Aminul Islam, a trade union organizer with the Bangladesh Centre for Workers Solidarity, disappeared on April 4, 2012. His body, bearing marks of severe torture, was discovered two days later, near the Tangail–Mymensingh Highway. On April 3, Sylhet City JCD assistant general secretary and Iftekhar Ahmed Dinar and same unit leader Juned Ahmed went missing from Uttara of Dhaka.

On November 28, 2011 Ismail Hossain, Shamim Hasan and Masum Hossain, three JCD leaders disappeared from Hatirpul, Dhaka. The family claimed that they were picked by RAB. On December 08, 2011 Ismail’s dead body was recovered from the Dholesswari River in Munshigonj. On October 19, 2011, Nur Mohammad Haji president of Ward 41 Awami League, disappeared from his house at Savar, his whereabouts still remain unknown.

On September 29 KM Shamim Akhter, a former Bangladesh Chhatra Union leader, was picked up from his home in Purana Paltan by men in plain clothes. His wife was kept waiting for three hours when she went to file a complaint at Paltan thana, and was refused. A GD was registered later, ‘without naming anyone as a suspect’.

The BNP’s executive committee member, Chowdhury Alam, also a ward commissioner of the Dhaka City Corporation, went missing in 2010. His whereabouts is still unknown.

They went missing at a time when incidents of ‘enforced disappearances’ and ‘secret killing’ have assumed an alarming height, amid protests by rights defenders, in the country. Many dead bodies were found but there are many others who are missing. Whose family members teeter between hope and loss of all hope?

According to Odhikar, another human rights watchdog of the country, 30 people were reportedly victims of enforced disappearance in 2011 among them 14 were allegedly picked up by Rapid Action Battalion, 11 by Detective Branch police, two by police and three by different law enforcement agencies. Two people became victim of enforced disappearance in 2009 and 18 in 2010.

Both Odhikar and Ain o Salish Kendra said that in most of the cases, the families of the disappeared or the people killed and witnesses alleged that the law enforcement agencies were involved in the incidents.

Enforced disappearances of opposition leaders and activists, and or dissident voices in society used to be a common phenomenon such Latin American countries as Argentina and Chile when they were under dictatorial rule, in Sri Lanka during the secessionist strife launched by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and even Bangladesh during the first post-independence government. While the rest of countries mentioned above seem to have come out of the vice grips of the vicious phenomenon, Bangladesh seems to be slipping back into it.
Disturbingly still, the Awami League-Jatiya Party government has thus far remained largely silent about the increasing number of enforced disappearance despite allegations of law enforcement agencies’ involvement in most of these incidents.

Already, international human rights organisations as the Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances on submitted a letter to Bangladesh’s permanent representative to the United Nations on June 14, 2011 urging the government to take immediate steps to stop enforced disappearances allegedly after being picked up by the law enforcement agencies.

Government may not answer the question if the agencies or law enforcers are responsible for disappearance cases. Well, people won’t mind much in government’s silence, if they find the disappeared one is back to his home.


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