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In Memoriam 28 October 2006

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


Shimul Chaudhury
05 March 2010

People who were behind the broad-day-light killings of nearly a dozen unarmed men on the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh on 28 October 2006 are in political power in Bangladesh now. For this very reason, perhaps, not many newspapers write  features on the cruelty and crude brutality of the occurrence. There is another more obvious reason why many people especially the so-called secular intellectuals in Bangladesh and abroad will remain oblivious to that tragic day: the people who were murdered on the streets of Dhaka on that day were ‘Islamic’ belonging to a religious group. Nowadays, such murders do not seem to draw much pity or make big headlines. Some credit goes to two former “leaders” – George Bush and Tony Blair – who began the twenty-first century with unlawful killings of humans in their hundreds and thousands. These days killing the Muslims globally and the people belonging to Islamic parties in Muslim lands locally are taken-for-granted matters. Even in non-Muslim countries with a better law and order situation, killing a Muslim does not seem to stir much public furor. In 2009, in the city of Dresden in Germany a Muslim woman of Egyptian descent was first teased, harassed and then killed at broad day light in courtroom. The Western media including the secular ones in Muslim countries did not give adequate focus on that unlawful killing. Apparently, the blood of the Muslims is considered cheaper than that of their fellow human beings. 

On the eve of the handover of power from the BNP-Jamaat ruling alliance to the caretaker government, like other political parties, Jamaat organized a big rally in Dhaka to celebrate peacefully the successful power handover. Jamaat’s rally was at the north gate of Baitul Mukarram masjid while Awami League gathered at Paltan for a different purpose, and in a different manner. The latter wanted to defy the outgoing BNP-Jamaat alliance and demonstrate its brawn power. Many newspapers used words like “clashes between the activists of the outgoing ruling alliance and the opposition.” But actually what happened should not be described in such simple terms. 
Awami League chairperson who is the Prime Minister of Bangladesh now had told her party men to bring 'logi-boitha' (pole-oar) to their rally on that day. Her party men brought – together with logi-boitha – fire arms, knives and other lethal weapons for purposes the people of Bangladesh did not understand until they actually saw Sheikh Hasina’s men in action. Without any provocation whatsoever, her party men first attacked Jamaat-Shibir people who were caught on their way to the Jamaat rally. The whole world saw how the professional Awami hooligans beat up to death about ten Jamaat-Shibir people on the streets of Dhaka on broad day light. Then they attacked the Jamaat-Shibir rally and tried to kill its senior leaders. Such killings were unprecedented on the streets of Dhaka for decades. For the post-1971 generation, those killings worked as a vindication of what their parents told them about the lawlessness and ruthless murders committed by the Raksi Bahini during the BAKSAL regime after the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.   

The killings of 28 October 2006 had its digitalized Awami flavor. As usual, Awami League tried to put the blame of the killings on the scapegoat Jamaat in two ways. First, they hired few local reprobate father figures who in a dispassionate and frosty fashion claimed some of the dead bodies of their own sons’. When this did not work, Awami League went for the digital option. They simulated some pictures in computer and printed big posters which they pasted on the walls of Dhaka and exerted a futile exercise of scapegoating. Thus Awami League did not spare the bereaved families whose grief was still permeated by shock and disbelief. 

On 28 October 2006 I was in Dhaka, as I went to Bangladesh for spending few weeks with my family members. I met many so-called intellectuals and Dhaka University professors who claim to be the moral authority in the country and are usually loud in claiming their share in the independence of the country in 1971. Unfortunately, I did not find any of them at least regretting for what happened on the streets of Dhaka on 28 October 2006. Some other secular intellectuals who took note of it dismissed it as political clashes. However, had the casualties belonged to a secular party and the killers been ‘Islamic people’, the media coverage, the international ruckus and the reaction of the Islamophobe intellectuals in Dhaka would have been completely different. Who knows, it could incite another military adventure as in Afghanistan and Iraq. I believe condoning such killings as Awami League perpetrated on that day makes none of us safer. Such exercise of muscular power is contagious and may turn to anybody within or without the Awami League. I am not a member of any political party in Bangladesh. I have written this piece, as I still carry the traumatic memory of the brutalities in Dhaka on 28 October 2006. The question of justice may seem irrelevant, as Sheikh Hasina – who told her party men to bring 'logi-boitha' (pole-oar) – is the Prime Minister of Bangladesh now. I pity Bangladesh!

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