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An Appeal to the International World and Human Rights Organizations

Edit Date:7/21/2010 12:00:00 AM


Shimul Chaudhury
20 July 2010

I am writing this note with a heavy heart to draw your kind attention to the tyrannical rule that is turning my beloved country Bangladesh into a police state. The regime has waged an all-out war against democracy and against democratic institutions. Since it came to power in early 2009, it has been torturing leaders of opposition political parties and has been stifling dissent voices. A previous Awami League government, on 16 June 1975, had closed all newspapers except for four under government control and banned all other political groups. Similarly, the current regime has been thwarting opposition political activities including rallies and has shut down television channels like Channel-1 and Jamuna TV, and the second most widely-circulated vernacular newspaper Amar Desh.

Mr. Mahmudur Rahman, editor of the Amar Desh, has been arrested and severely tortured in police custody (on ‘remand’ of several days) by unidentified people; while on remand he was blindfolded, stripped naked and tortured so brutally that he fainted and remained senseless for many hours. The people in Bangladesh do believe that Mr Rahman has been the target mainly for his newspaper columns where he talked about the circumstances in which about 60 army officers were killed  on 25 February 2009 with alleged complicity of the government and also about the involvement of some very powerful persons, including PM Sheikh Hasina’s son Mr Joy, in various financial irregularities.

On 27 June 2010 during a daylong political strike, the police burst into the house of Mr. Mirza Abbas, former Minister and former Mayor of Dhaka, and beat up his family members including his very old mother and domestic maids. The entire country was astonished at the torture on Mr. Shahiduddin Choudhury Anny MP by ruling party men on the street of Dhaka in the presence of the police. More astonishing is that the police instead arrested Mr. Choudhury and put him on remand for 4 days and then sent him to prison. Many other opposition leaders including former foreign secretary and ambassador Mr Shamsher Mobin Choudhury (who is partially disabled) were tortured on that day by the police and the regime’s party men and then incarcerated. 

On 29 June 2010, the regime arrested the three topmost senior leaders of Jamaat Islam on a blasphemy allegation, which the country people found not only unfounded and pointless but also ridiculous and laughable. Sensing the futility of the allegation, the regime rushed to sue them on some other flimsy cases; and now they are on successive remands (a euphemistic term for torture in police custody in the Bangladeshi political vernacular) of many days each. Two other central Jamaat leaders have recently been arrested despite the country’s High Court rule that ordered the government not to arrest or harass them. One of them, Mr Kamaruzzaman told the court that the maltreatment he received while he was being tortured in police custody in the name of remand could not be expressed in words. While their sons and sons-in-law went to see them in police custody, the police arrested all of them and put them on remand. Hundreds of other mid-level leaders have also been arrested and put on remand countrywide; around 5 thousands Jamaat and Shibir activists have been arrested from rallies and from their homes through nocturnal raids in the recent weeks. Arrests have continued unabated. All central leaders of Jamaat have been unlawfully barred from going abroad.  

The police have not been allowing any meeting, procession, protest rally of Jamaat and Shibir in any place around the country including capital city Dhaka since February 2010. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner recently told Jamaat and Shibir people not to hold any protest rallies. How and where has the police officer got such authority to deprive people of their constitutional and human rights?

Awami League has systematically been brutal in its treatment of rival political parties. On 28 October 2006, its party men killed in broad day light nearly a dozen unarmed Jamaat-Shibir men on the streets of Dhaka. The whole world saw on television screens how Awami hooligans beat up to death ten Jamaat men on the streets of Dhaka on broad day light on that day. 

Recently a number of police personnel entered the chamber of Barrister Abdur Razzak, a Jamaat leader and senior advocate of Bangladesh Supreme Court (who is also the law counsel of the detained Jamaat leaders) to intimidate him. The government is not allowing lawyers to meet the detained leaders in custody. As a result, complications arise in respect of legal assistance and thus the government is obstructing the normal course of the rule of law. Even the family members are not allowed to meet the leaders.

On 9 Feb 2010, a member of the student wing of Awami League named Faruk Hossain died at Rajshahi University; and subsequent media reports suggest that he was killed because of intra-party factional clashes allegedly over money extortion and other illicit interests. There were 12 other political murders in Bangladesh in February 2010 involving the ruling party men, but the government had singled out one incident and used it to continue its renewed wave of repressive measures.

Since the Awami League came to power, thousands of students belonging to Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir of Dhaka and other Universities have been ousted from their dormitories and many of them cannot come to the campus to attend classes. Many of them have been attacked even in the exam halls while the panicked Shibir students were sitting for exams; and that in the presence of helpless teachers. Torture of Shibir students by Chhatra League at the DU campus has become a regular and taken-for-granted incident. Members of the student wing of the regime have established secret torture cells and rape houses at different educational institutions in Bangladesh.

In order to persecute Jamaat leaders, the regime exploits the public sentiment of the 1971 liberation war. If the events of the 1971 war were the main reason for these arrests and tortures, a number of Awami League and Jatiya Party leaders holding ministerial posts in the current government would have been in prison by this time for their role in 1971. One of the incarcerated Jamaat leaders, Maulana Delwar Hossain Saidee entered active political life in the late 1980s. And his arrest explains the extent of manipulation of 1971 events by the regime. 

The main reason for all political repression on Jamaat is its opposition to giving corridor to India at the expense of the country’s national security and independence. Jamaat is also opposed to government’s decision to give India permission to use the sea ports of Chittagong and Mongla and Ashuganj river port. Jamaat and BNP have protested the government’s silence about India’s pernicious plan to build Tipaimukh Dam on the River Barak. Like the existing Farakka Dam, this new Dam will be disastrous for the people of Bangladesh and will increase their sufferings. 

The overwhelming victory of the opposition candidate in the recent election of Chittagong City Corporation (the second largest metropolitan centre in the country) with a big margin made it clear that the regime had lost public support. All these tortures and political oppression point to the regime’s desperation to remain in power mainly with the help of a big neighbouring country. 

The above account gives only a partial picture of the misrule of the current regime. It will require reams of papers and heaps of writers to describe the extent of brutalities and incarceration the regime is perpetrating to leaders and activists of opposition parties including Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Bangladesh Jamaat Islam and their student organizations. All kinds of human rights violation including rapes and unlawful tortures are dragging Bangladesh into a failed state. Repression on opposition political leaders and activists may lead the country to a civil war, which the international world does not want to happen in Bangladesh – a country already beset with so many other problems like poverty and environmental disasters. Under the circumstances, we request all governments to put maximum pressures on the current Bangladeshi regime in order to prevent it from committing further political repression and human rights violations. It is obvious that the regime is heading to a one-party political system perhaps in the model of 1975. If the west turns a blind eye to the regime’s war on democracy for the fact that Awami League is known as a secular party and that it is torturing political leaders and activists belonging to an Islamic party, the people of Bangladesh will have to bear the brunt of all consequences.

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