The death of the President of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh yesterday on the 20th of March covered all headlines. A nation came to a standstill to express its grief. Zillur Rahman was a well loved personality besides being the President and the reaction from all walks of life confirmed that. However, this attention came at a price. A price of conscience.
Elsewhere in Sylhet, a gross violation of human rights occurred. A man lost his life. The media payed their quota of lip service and their job was done. None of government controlled or government sympathetic media cared to explain the circumstances of his death or the nature of the violation of rights in the incident. Golam Rabbani, a Jamaat activist, was shot in the head when police fired upon a procession to 'disperse' it. The procession was in support of a strike called by Jamaat-e-Islami, in Sylhet division demanding release of the party’s city unit ameer Advocate Ehsan Mahbub Jubayer who was arrested last Sunday. Looking at the wound, its clear that no simple rubber bullet could have penetrated the skull. It was a clear injury propagated by a close range gunshot. So much for the myth of harmless tear gas and rubber bullets that police officials in Bangladesh regularly dissipate. Fifteen others, including five policemen, were injured in the clashes as police fired at the procession brought out by Jamaat-Shibir in support of hartal in Biswanath upazila on Wednesday morning.
The martyred, Golam Rabbani, 25, was an activist of Jamaat-e-Islami and son of Muhibur Rahman Nizam of Pakhisiri village of the upazila.
Police say that they fired into the procession in order to prevent the Jamaat-Shibir activists from attacking a rural electric station. They said that the activists had gathered together to attack the Bishwanath rural electric station and were in fact throwing rocks at it with the intention to vandalize the establishment. This view, however, was negated by AGM Mohammad Omar Farooq, the zonal officer of the station, who said that the station was closed during the clashes and was not subject to any attack.
Two bullet ridden activists including Golam Rabbani were rushed to Sylhet Osmani Medical College Hospital (SOMCH) where doctors pronounced Rabbani dead.
The namaaj-e-janaza of martyred Golam Rabbani was held at Sylhet today where thousands attended his funeral. Jamaat-e-Islami has called for a strike in Sylhet on Sunday to protest such gross violations of human rights and demand that the responsible police officials be brought to justice within 48 hours.
Its an ethical obligation of the media to be forerunners in denouncing acts of oppression by the state. In any free society, the coveted role of the media is to be a champion of human rights, not defender of government abuses. Unfortunately, in the above case, most media in Bangladesh have championed the latter.