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Living in Fear

Edit Date:7/24/2010 12:00:00 AM

“Suffocating” seems to me the right word to explain how we are here in Bangladesh now. Bangladesh – an “Independent”, “Sovereign”, “Democratic” nation where everyone is supposed to have the free will to express their opinions, views and thoughts. However, the ground reality in the country now tells a totally different story. Mainly for the fact that major international news agencies are maintaining a ‘strategic’ silence about the current Bangladeshi regime’s human rights violations, people from outside of the country may not get the full picture of what is going on. We the insiders feel threatened to speak up! So the conscientious people of the world have few avenues to know about how we are in Bangladesh. 

One peaceful night in the first week of this month (July 2010), a relative of mine, sleeping in his house, suddenly wakes up by the banging of his door. A group of “policemen” (as they identified themselves) raided the house and wanted him to come out. His sisters managed to hide him out and asked them to break the door if they had proper search warrant. They didn’t have any, and so they left. The police couldn’t produce any allegation or warrant against him. Yet, they are in continuous search for him. He managed to escape, and still is not known how and where he has been living. His hand phone being switched off, even his family can’t contact him. He is yet to know what he had done for which he has to face this. 

Another relative’s neighbor lives in one of those modern apartments of today with high level security. Police came to their house one night in search for their third son who is known to be a Shibir leader. They couldn't find him, so called out his elder brother, telling him that they had to talk to him and assured that he won't be harmed. He came out in his sleeping dress and was caught in that state! Moreover, we hear he is being taken to remand (torture in police custody)! We all know what inhuman treatment they have to face in remands. His parents looked forward to getting him married. His job, future, career, dreams – everything has now come to a sudden halt and bounced backward. WHY? For being a Shibir leader’s brother? Is this what is democracy? Being alleged for the “crime” of being a brother of a leader of an organization of “opposite viewpoint”? 

Conversely, we remain dumbfounded and speechless when we see that the Chhatra League (pro-government student organization) leaders kill each other in broad daylight, move openly with arms around university campuses, threaten the lives of thousands of students. And yet they go uncaught and receive free licenses to kill and rape! 

Some of the students of our university have been held from their residences or university hostels – while their exams are going on. In one of the cases, when the hostel warden went to the police station to free a student, the warden was told that they could not free the student because he is known to be linked with Shibir, a lawful student organization!

A thousand other cases are happening everyday. Another cousin told me that his friend, who was hardly involved with Shibir, was caught with similar allegations. Though he managed to get bail after spending Tk. 80,000.00, his loss was irreparable. His new job was gone and so did his engagement: who would want their daughter to be married to a guy who visited prison?

Every night we sleep with the fear that police might pay a visit and arrest someone of the family. Yet, we can hardly talk about what is going on, as they might be “hearing”. We hardly talk over the phone. At home we hardly raise our voices. We hardly go out without compulsive reasons. And such political issues are totally "out of the subject"; if we discuss these, we know that we will have to suffer the consequences. 

I believe living in Bangladesh with faith in Islam has become a great trial now. Bangladesh is now more like Egypt during Jamal Nasser's reign. If you talk about Islam, you are a Shibir, a war-criminal and your only place is that jail which is already holding inmates several times its capacity. 

While going past a cemetery the other day, it seemed to me those underneath it are at a much better place. Over-ground in Bangladesh is "suffocating" for us. 

Who knows, maybe I will be held for allegations of “war-crime” for writing this small piece! Nothing is impossible for “them” now. Yet it is “they” who talk about human rights, about democracy, about freedom, about peace and solidarity, and mostly, about INDEPENDENCE! 

Yet, we live, with prayers to Almighty, and hope – that He is watching from above. It’s this prayer and trust in Him that keeps us alive, amidst all fear and oppression. Maybe He has stored some best moments for us and is waiting, and so are we. 

- Mrinmoyee Rahman, July 17, 2010, Bangladesh

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