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Concerns for civil rights in Bangladesh and a consistency check!

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


Shimul Chaudhury
12 March 2010

In February 2010 only, thirteen political murders occurred in Bangladesh and almost all involving people of the ruling party, Awami League (AL). Twelve of those murders went largely unnoticed and without any significant punitive measures by the legal regime. The government obviously chose the death of Faruk Hossain of Rajshahi University (RU) on 9 Feb. 2010 to undermine the political credentials of Jamaat-Shibir (JS) people and to launch a country-wide crackdown on JS leaders and activists.  Their houses have been raided, offices burnt down and educational institutions attacked. Many JS people (male and female) have been arrested simply because they possessed Islamic books including the Qur’an which are by no means banned by the government, while dozens of them were arrested from peaceful rallies against state repression. 
Many Dhaka University (DU) students had had to leave University dormitories earlier and rent private houses in the vicinity in the wake of Awami League’s assumption of power in late 2008. This was because they had been regularly intimidated and tortured in their residential halls for their supposed involvement in the student wing of Jamaat. Then, after the RU incident of 9 Feb. 2010 , the police at the behest of the government arrested many of them from those private houses which were targeted for nocturnal raids. Pushed out by Chhatra League (student wing of AL ) cadres and then arrested by the police from their rented houses, their address is now prison. They may have found it difficult to understand the links between their sufferings and the incident at a remote place, RU. The view of respectable DU students being paraded in front of media cameras while their waists were tied tight was an affront on the collective sense of dignity of all belonging to the University. Unfortunately, the DU authority failed to seek legal remedies for the sufferings of these students or to condemn such inhumane treatment by the police. 
The AL regime’s continuous crackdown has gone on unabated since it came to power this time in late 2008, and it has exacerbated with the issue of Faruk’s death at RU. According to media reports, police’s role while he was killed has remained mysterious; and Jamaat-Shibir (JS) people have categorically denied having anything to do with the death of Faruk. However, the way JS people have been apprehended and tortured in police custody and by people linked with the regime has dwarfed the records of all such political crackdowns in Bangladesh ’s recent history. 
Under the circumstances, the silence of the civil society within the country and of the rights groups – both local and international – provokes a consistency check on their concerns for basic human rights and civil liberties. If an Islamic political party were not the target of these state surveillance and repression, we must have seen by this time a lot of local and foreign media coverage and outcries of the rights groups internationally. Except for a mild ‘statement’ from Amnesty International, we have not seen any concerns of international organizations or foreign missions in Dhaka about the months-long political tyranny in Bangladesh . This reticence of the advocates of human rights questions their doctrinal commitment to the principles of human rights and political freedom. 
Let me mention another fact: rights groups and UN affiliated bodies are overly vocal on the issue of Chittagong Hill Tracts, but totally quiet on the issue of continuous killings of Bangladeshis by Indian border security forces. While, within Bangladesh , they remain silent about the sufferings of Jamaat-Shibir people, they maintain a similar policy when India violates the sovereignty of Bangladesh either by killing innocent Bangladeshis or by intruding in Bangladesh again and again. The above facts make its enormously clear that dominant human rights groups and foreign missions in Bangladesh are not consistent in their concern for civil liberty issues. I believe educated Bangladeshis understand that Bangladeshi national politics is hugely influenced by the interests of a powerful neighbouring country and by West's Islamophobic attitude. Bangladeshi political parties that refuse to bow down to the dictates of this regional and global hegemony are more likely to experience torture and crackdown. And here lies the test of patriotism for the Bangladeshis!

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