Sunday, October 27, 2013

About a Shibir martyr in Rajshahi and a Refutance of Yellow Media Reports

Rashedul Haque was like any other young man in Rajshahi. He was full of life, energetic, brilliant, active in sports and passionate in his love for his country. What set him apart from many other youth was the unique blend of all these qualities within the framework his strong faith; strong unshakeable faith in the Almighty that stood the test of time and oppression. He was shot by police today at a procession at Kajla adjacent to Rajshahi University (RU) on Saturday afternoon.

Witnesses said activists of RU unit Shibir were going to Talaimari in the city in a procession to participate in a rally of Matihar thana unit of the BNP-led 18-party alliance. As the procession reached Kajla gate, RAB members intercepted it, opening fire immediately in order to disperse the procession. Being resisted, the Shibir men pelted the elite force members with brickbats. 

As RAB continued to fire live rounds on the Shibir activists, Rashedul Haque Rantu fell, victim to the onslaught. Severely injured and bleeding from multiple bullet wounds to the chest, Rashedul died while receiving treatment at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital. 

Rashedul Haque Rantu was son of Aminul Islam Tuku and Rafi Begum. He was a 2nd year degree student of Islamiyya College. His was an associate of Bangladesh Islami Chatra Shibir and was a unit President as well as Finance Secretary of his thana at Dashmari Division of Rajshahi University. This is a video of Rashed at the hospital.

Another Shibir activist and Rajshahi University Research Secretary, Arif Rahman, was sent to Dhaka after his condition deteriorated in the aftermath of being bullet ridden. Doctors have reported of receiving at least 20 activists with injuries such bullet wounds. Chaotic scenes were described by distraught activists where one broke down while describing how his fellow activist received a bullet which entered through his femur, breaking the thigh bone and got lodged into the other thigh, causing immense bleeding.

Yellow journalism regarding incident:

Prothom Alo, a beacon of perceived ‘exemplary’ journalism in Bangladesh, was representative in its yellow nature regarding the coverage of the incident as it attempted to distort facts and present falsehood in a manner that left many a reader shocked. This was the screenshot of the initial news that Prothom Alo reported on the incident with a shocking picture of a 40 something man running around brandishing an AK-47 at everyone around him. The caption was, ”রাজশাহী নগরের কাজলায় শিবিরের সশস্ত্র মিছিল। এরা এই অস্ত্র কোথায় পেল? ওদের কাছে এমন কত অস্ত্র আছে? ছবি: শহীদুল ইসলাম” which translated into English reads, “Armed procession by Shibir at Kajla in Rajshahi City. From where did they get these weapons? How many more weapons of this kind do they have? Photo by Shahidul Islam”.

The news was taken down in a flash as an authentic video was released by Basherkella within a short time of the report. The contents of the shocking video not only blew away the baseless allegations of Prothom Alo, it also gave rise to a number of questions. The video showed a couple of men along with RAB shooting at protesters in Kajla at Rajshahi. The same man who was brandishing the AK-47 in the Prothom Alo picture was seen along with his mates working along with the police. The group working along with the armed RAB squad appeared to be civilians brandishing weaponry in an expert and aggressive fashion. The weaponry used by the unidentified men include a couple of AK-47’s and a shotgun. Let us look at the raw footage of the incident.

As to the question about what could the identity of such mysterious men be is anybody’s guess. Unless we have official answers, the guesses could range from local gangsters to ruling party League men to extrajudicial secret forces provided by the Indian intelligence agencies. For now, the best answer the security forces could garner was that they fired rubber bullets in ‘self defence’. This is a compilation of the yellow nature of the Prothom Alo report in conjunction with the incident.

The questions revolving around the incident are endless, but what remains is the fact that security forces have clearly violated all norms in attempting to carry out another massacre in the name of relatively peaceful crowd dispersion. The fact that the Hasina administration has neared its end gives weight to fears that the atrocities committed now may never see the light of justice. The question remains. Was the right to peacefully demonstrate in a democratic country the sole fault of Rashedul Haque Rantu for which he deserved to be brutally murdered in broad daylight?  

We demand justice for the murder of meritorious student Rashedul Haque Rantu at the hands of this oppressive regime.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Martyr Rafiqul Islam's blood cries out for justice in Bangladesh

Mass demonstrations were held by Bangladesh Islami Chatro Shibir, the largest Islamic students organization in Bangladesh, throughout the country on the 10th of October in demand for the release of all detained leaders including its central President Mohammad Delwar Hossain. Hundreds of thousands of students participated in these demos and photos and videos (Khulna, Jessore, Sylhet) in the aftermath of the demos were testimony to their peaceful nature despite the mammoth size of many such demonstrations.

Any democratic government would have welcomed such peaceful demonstrations and given an ear to the demands of any such movement, especially taking into consideration the fact that the movement to peacefully call for the release of a popular student leader was undertaken by the students themselves. But alas, the autocratic government again proved that it was just another wolf in a sheep’s clothing when it ordered police and security to actively disperse such peaceful public displays using unjustified brute force. The results were shocking as police suddenly turned on peaceful students with batons, rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition. Democracy was left with gouged out eyes as bullets rained freely on innocent young protesters. Precious blood flowed, yet again.

As he was returning back from one such demonstration at 3 pm in Dorshona, Chuadanga, Shibir associate Rafiqul Islam fell prey to police firing, paying the ultimate price for standing up to injustice. He passed away after a live bullet by police left him dead on the spot. Bright red blood spill out gushing on the street as martyr Rafiqul Islam breathed his last. Innalillahi wa inn ilaihi raajioon. Rafiqul Islam was not the only victim of this particular incident of police brutality. Five more students were bullet ridden, among whom Shibir activist Abdullah was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

Look at the picture below. Do you see a terrorist? An armed radical ? A rapist ? A murderer ? I see an enlightened college student who did not back down from demonstrating against injustice. I see innocence.

About the martyr:

Rafiqul Islam, the 178th martyr in the history of Shibir, at the time of his martyrdom/ shahadah was an examinee attending the 1st year final examinations in Economics. He was a student at Chuadanga Government College. Eldest son of Delwar Hossain of Boalia village of Sadar upazila of Chuadanga, Rafiqul Islam was an associate of Chatro Shibir and the president of the local Boalia unit of Shibir.

Propaganda by biased media:

Prominent secular media such as Shomoy TV, BBC Bangla, Ekattor TV along with a host of like-minded outlets in a bid to do a cover up, broadcast misleading and utterly despicable news on the incident under the headline, “Vandalism of a Puja shrine by Shibir, one dies by police fire.” This is in spite of the fact that Rafiqul Islam was shot beside Dorshona rail crossing on Chuadanga-Jessore road. It was understood through simple investigation that there were no Puja Shrines within 1.5 km of the place of the incident. So why such despicable falsehood? On whose orders did additional police superintendent Salahuddin order the police to fire on innocent peacefully demonstrating students? Time will come when such instances of judicial murder will see justice insa’allah. We wait for that day in the hope that such murderers in uniform and public offices will not be spared. May Allah accept the martyrdom of brother Rafiqul Islam and grant his family the patience to persevere in times of such hardship and heartbreak. May they see justice soon. Ameen.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Another Tribunal Leaks: Will the World care???

It has now transpired that the verdict to be delivered today by the Tribunal against Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was prepared in the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs.  A copy of the verdict that is to be delivered today by the International Crimes Tribunal-1 was recovered from a computer in the office of the Secretary-in-Charge of the Ministry of Law of Parliamentary Affairs, Abu Saleh Sheikh Zahirul Haque. What is more surprising is that the verdict was being drafted from 23 May, 2013, when the prosecution was still examining its witnesses.

A total of 23 charges were framed against Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury in relation to offences committed during the liberation war of 1971.  The prosecution produced witnesses in relation to 17 of the charges. From the copy of the verdict obtained from the Ministry of Law, it appears that Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was found guilty of 9 of the charges and acquitted of 8 of charges.

No witness was produced in relation to  6 of the 23 charges and as such Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was also acquitted of all 6 of these charges.

The 9 of the 17 charges on which Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury was guilty are  i) Charge No.2 (Maddhaya Gohira genocide), ii) Charge No.3 (Murder of Nutun Chandra Singha), iii) Charge No.4 (Genocide at Jogotmollopara) iv) Charge No.5 (Murder of Nepal Chandra and three others), v) Charge No.6 (Genocide at Unsuttarpara), vi) Charge  No.7 (Killing of Satish Chandra Palit, vii) Charge No.8 (Killing of Mozaffar and his son, viii) Charge No. 17 (abduction and torture of Nizamuddin Ahmed) and ix) Charge No. 18 (abduction and torture of Saleh Uddin).

The file containing the verdict was found in the D Drive of a computer located at the 6th floor of the Secretariat Building of the Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs. In this drive there was a folder entitled ‘Alam’ within which there was a subfolder ‘Different Courts n Post Creation’ within which there was another subfolder titled ‘War Crimes Triubunal’. In this subfolder there was yet another subfolder titled ‘Chief Prosecutor – War Tribunal’. This subfolder contained a file titled ‘saka final – 1’ which contained the draft verdict against Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury. When the verdict was finalised the name of the file was changed from ‘saka final – 1’ to ‘ICT BD Case NO. 02 of 2011 (Delivery of Judgment) (Final)’.

The folder titled ‘Alam’ belongs to a computer operator (by the same name) of the Secretary in Charge of the Ministry of Law.

The properties section of the file containing the verdict shows that work on the verdict began on 23 May, 2013 at 12.01 in the morning, when the examination of prosecution witnesses was still going on. The file size is 167 KB and contains 164 pages. The verdict has been prepared over 2587 minutes.

The copy of the verdict obtained from the Ministry of Law evidences the Tribunal’s dissatisfaction with the attitude of Salahuddin Quader Chowdury. The Tribunal noted that  Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury never rose from his seat when the Tribunal exited and that he would directly addressed judges as either Chairman Sahib or Member Sahib.

Download the report:

But wait.......

We aren't even surprised anymore. The world has had enough gawking at the expense of this tribunal. It started as early back as mid December 2012 when the Economist published "Skypegate" scandal first broke onto the scene. In a first reaction, the presiding tribunal judge was forced to resign. In any other country such serious allegations would have materialized into the abortion of such politically motivated show trials. In any other country, the law would have had checks and balances. But this was apparently not to be, as the judges gave death sentences on whimsical impulses, politicians changed laws in the middle of the trial processes and prosecution turned defence witnesses disappeared mysteriously without a trace, only to reappear even more mysteriously detained in a neighboring country. 

Human rights organisations and watchdogs are like barking dogs. They seldom bite. The repeated calls by organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international fell on deaf ears as the government of Bangladesh proceeded on with the show trials, emboldened by the fact that no body actually cared for the fact that the trials in Bangladesh repeatedly violated international standards or that anybody who spoke out, whether newspaper editors, human rights activists or politicians, were jailed or simply ceased to exist, courtesy of extra-judicial killings by forces such as the little discussed elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).    

So what can the verdict be:

Where the same panel of muppets decreed that veteran politician Abdul Kader Mollah be hanged based on a loosely garnered charge no. 6 against the uncorroborated testimony of a 13 year old, it is foolish to expect anything less than a death verdict. We wait for exuberant animal calls from Shahbag and angry retorts from the BNP camp. Jamaat and Shibir can lay back and watch the show for now to check whether BNP is anything more than a tape recorder playing blaring music.

Never mind that this was a draft copy. It can easily be altered any time. We shall probably find out an alternatively worded copy read by the judges today. But the verdict simply points out the mindset of the tribunal. It was institution created to prove selected ones guilty, even if innocent. 

Recent opinion polls also give us a notion as to the public perception of the tribunal and trials in question. In the first poll undertaken by Org-Quest Research Ltd commissioned by Prothom Alo last February (It was never published - apparently because it was considered too sensitive) 43% supported the demand that Molla be given the death penalty and 55% were against it, (supporting either life imprisonment, a shorter level of imprisonment or acquittal). 2% had refused to answer. When the results were considered in terms of whether they lives - 63% of urban residents compared with 37 percent of those living in rural areas supported the sentence of hanging. This would suggest that there a death penalty decision is not widely popular in Bangladesh, though a significant minority do support it.

The second opinion poll, undertaken by Nielsen/Democracy International in April 2013 - subsequent not only to Molla's verdict and the pro-hanging Shahbag protests but also the ICT ruling imposing a death penalty against Sayedee showed that when those who knew about the tribunals were asked about the fairness of the process, 63% thought that the trials were unfair or very unfair and 31% though they were fair. Those who thought that the trials were not fair divided into 41% who stated that were simply 'unfair' and 22% who that the trials were ‘very’ unfair. 

In this choreographed show of the survival of the fittest and beastly game of political annihilation, this is no more a quest for justice. Shut down this farce. Shut down this tribunal.