For me, the most alarming news of this week was the report published in bdnews24.com on 8th August, about the death of militant leader, Tapan Malitha. He was killed on 18th June this year. According to RAB officials the leader of a banned militant party died in an exchange of gunfire with Rapid Action Battalion in Kushtia early Wednesday, Tapan and his associates were staying at Rikta’s house- a woman that died alike. As the joint forces closed in, Tapan and his men began firing. RAB returned fire. Tapan died in the exchange of gunfire, though others managed to flee the scene.
But according to the human rights watch organization Odhikar’s report, it was not a mere incident of shoot out but a cold blooded murder. Tapan’s brother Akash, who was also killed in a similar fashion later, told Odhikar that “RAB personnel raided Tapan’s house at dawn and shot him dead at close range,They shot Rikta in the head and feet who was also in the house, leaving her dead at the scene.
Rikta’s mother said her daughter was involved in the business of ready made garments and sarees, and there was no case filed against her at any police station. But why did the RAB kill Rikta? May be to ensure that no traces were left behind of their brutality, insensitiveness and their audacity,
According to Ansar Ali, a village policeman, Rikta’s dead body also bore evidence of struggles with her persecutors. It seems that the poor girl did not gave up easily, she fought for her life and alas, she had no God, no Goddess or any sensible law abiding personal in this elite force who never for a moment had thought, what they were doing was illegal, who would feel for that poor girl, would do something to help her. What the trained state authorized killers did was to kill her in a cold blooded fashion.
They are too much proud with their elite tag and they just don’t give a damn about those people who are paying those trigger-happy killers to keep them safe and to protect them. Even though they did not confirm whether Rikta was the wife of Tapan Malitha but they believe her to be a close associate of that notorious criminal and thats why may be it was alright to kill her.
After Odhikar’s report was published, the Police Chief of Kushtia Sadar, Badrul Uddin Sarkar said, “Well at times it happens like that……… ten innocent people might get killed while we try to nab one notorious terrorist” And Captain Mahmud of RAB 12 was quoted by bdnews24.com. “RAB had to get to Tapan at any cost, we had no way out but to kill 10 innocent men in the process”.
Torturing and killing people by law enforcing agency are not an unfamiliar phenomenon in South Asia. Bangladeshis experienced such brutality and killing during its struggle for self determination and liberation in the late 60’s till its freedom in 1971, by the then Pakistani government.
Bangladesh has had a police force ever since its liberation in 1971, it has also had its share of “Special Forces” – elite law enforcers usually employed to thwart the activities of not only criminals but also ultra-left parties and other voices not tolerated by the regime.
First of the elite force was Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini [JRB] which came into force at February 1st 1972.Awami League Government allegedly used it against political opponents. JRB became infamous for extra-judicial execution of about 30,000 leftist opponents, even though there is no official record to prove such claim, till its absorption into the army by a gazette notification dated October 4th 1975.
In March 2004 the ‘elite force’ of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), was created, with the assignment to investigate any offense on the direction of the government and has exclusive jurisdiction in this regard. It can investigate and work for all security purposes. As an elite law and order enforcement agency it has a special focus on curbing organized crime and eliminating ‘top criminals’.
It now seems that the best way to get rid of the top criminals is to kill them in cross-fire. The official press note is always the same, just the names change, The events take place when RAB and police would take a criminal in search of weapons or hide outs and suddenly his companions start shooting at them, intervening their acts of duty, and eventually that unfortunate man dies because he was in the line of fire. This demonstrates the utter powerlessness of the citizen of Bangladesh in the face of extrajudicial killings that is being taken place in Bangladesh.
There are also an alarming number of deaths in RAB custody and few of these can be interpreted as explicitly political. The police have also been killing people in the name of ‘crossfire’ for last several months. According to Odhikar’s documentation, 738 people were reported killed in ‘crossfire’ between June 24, 2004 and December 31, 2006.
76 persons died in jail custody and 6 persons died in police custody in the year 2005 and 62 persons died in jail custody and 12 persons died in police custody in the year 2006
Bangladesh police can perform well if it is founded on valid organizational principle, but unfortunately the out dated Police Act which was enacted in 1861 has given the opportunity to those people in power to abuse and misuse the Police on their own will and interests. Because the government has the authority to exercise superintendence over Police, Bangladesh Police has no institutional and other arrangements to insulate themselves from the undesirable and illegitimate control, pressure and influences.
But the people in power ruthlessly violated the organizational principle of police that resulted in a corrupt and highly politicized police force. Most of the time police was used as a weapon to control and eliminate political opponent.
Let us not bother about the execution performed by RAB and Police in the year 2005 and 2006, because for most of that time they were under an elected government and they, like all other governments in Bangladesh, tried to abuse and misuse the Police and other law enforcing agencies to get rid of their oppositions.
After January 11 2007, we have a military backed care taker Government, who claims that they are working hard to build a society based on social Justice, and according to the report of Odhikar, extra judicial killings continued throughout the 16 months of emergency rule. Between 12 January 2007 and 11 May 2008, 207 people have reportedly been killed by Bangladeshi law enforcement agencies. Among them 103 people were killed by RAB, 74 people were killed by Police, 04 People were killed in RAB- Police joint operation, Joint forces killed 07 person, Army killed 07 person, Navy killed 03 person, Jail Police, Coast Guard, Forest Guard, Bangladesh Rifles, and department of Narcotics control killed 09 person.
In these reported killing, 149 were the victims of ‘cross-fire/encounter/gunfight/shootout’, 34 were tortured to death, 13 were shot to death in circumstances other than ‘cross-fire/ encounter/ gunfight/shootout’ and 11 were killed in other circumstances.
But in fact they are acting like a totalitarian Government, who wants the complete control over its citizen rights and thoughts. So they pressurized electronic and print media to refrain from reporting news or comments critical of the Government. State intelligence and other factions regularly reminded those journalists over telephone to portray positive image of the Government, if they fail to comply with their demands they might face negative consequences.
The Government declared that it had the power to ban or attach conditions on broadcasting so called “provocative news”, documentaries, talk-shows and discussions critical of the government under powers given to it by Article 5 of the Emergency Powers Rules 2007.
From the outset of the August 2007 curfew, the military-backed government declared that journalists would be exempt from its restrictions. Nevertheless, there were widespread, deliberate and organized beatings of journalists by the law enforcement agencies.
Even if Government publicly condemns physical assaults on journalists by its law enforcement agencies, by its attempt to censor media, individual members of the law enforcement agencies is encouraged to breach journalists’ rights.
In 2007 at least 35 journalists were reportedly injured, 13 journalists were arrested, 35 were assaulted and 83 were threatened. 13 legal cases have been filed against journalists and 1 journalist’s house was attacked, 1 journalist was reportedly forced by the Bangladesh Rifles to sign an agreement that he would not publish any news without their prior permission.
Looks like our law enforcing agencies turned into the most organized crime syndicates in our country. Just pick up any local or national news paper at any given day, you will find one instance of information some uniform member had done some thing that is an offense by the law.
The saddest fact is we fear them. We are afraid of them. We tend to keep away from police and other law enforcing agency and this is quite an obvious fact because instead of serving people they demand money for their service, they ask for bribes and they some time forcefully take away all your possessions.
The reputation of our law enforcement agency specially Police and RAB is not good, in stead of upholding the law they utilize every opportunity the get to break this decorum and spread panic among the ordinary people.
Even if they claims, those people who were killed in the so called crossfire, encounter, exchange of shooting, are wanted criminals, but being the member of a law enforcing agency doest not give them the authority to kill people without trial.
I doubt if we count the number of killings by the uniformed law enforcing agencies and also count the number of killings by the un-uniformed criminal, it might happen that killings of the uniformed personnel would outnumber the killings by the un-uniformed criminals.
Behavior of law enforcing agency when their law abiding cover wear offs, Odhikar conducted two fact-finding missions regarding the killings of Ward Commissioner Dulal of Charfashaion Upazila (20 February 2007) and Farid (21 March 2007) of Tazumuddin upazilla of Bhola, under custody of local naval force. The copies of the reports were submitted to the Chief of Naval Staff for information, enquiry and necessary action. Odhikar’s Acting Director ASM Nasiruddin Elan was taken to the Naval Headquarter on 3 May 2007 where a Naval Intelligence Officer with his 3 other associates intimidated and harassed him for preparing those reports and threatened to kill him.
Odhikar’s Kushtia based Human Rights Defender Hasan Ali who carried out a number of
fact-finding missions on extra judicial killings was taken into Kushtia Sadar Police Station on December 4, 2007, where he faced severe physical assault from police.
They are becoming the gang member of uniformed criminals and they don’t have any accountability to public. Their loyalty is only to the people in power. The existing police ordinance does not mandate the police to function as a professional and service oriented organization. There is no existing outline objectives and performance standards and there is no independent mechanism to monitor and inspect police performance. As a non-government agency some human right agency does this job limitedly but their were suggestion by the experts to make Police more humane and more people oriented, but the saddest fact is the long awaited new Police Act may not see the light of the day during the incumbency of the present caretaker government.
Rasel Pervez, prominent blogger in Bangla blog sphere who is famous for his political analysis. Mr, Rasel Pervez completed his MS on Physics from the US and awaiting PHD.