Saturday, March 30, 2013

What really happened in Feni on the 29th of March? The myth of secret meetings

A recent item in the news was the arrest of several people from a mosque at Feni. Police and pro-government media hailed it as something of a revelation. News reports of such media applauded the police raid of a secret meeting of Jamaat-Shibir activists, and sung their (miserable) odes to the bravery and efficiency of the police administration. 

According to the UNB, police arrested 24 Jamaat-Shibir activists from a mosque at East Kalidas village in Sadar upazila on Friday the 29th of March. Sadar upazila Jamaat secretary Abdur Rahim and publicity secretary Harunur Rashid were among the arrested. Police received secret information that a group of Jamaat-Shibir activists were holding a secret meeting inside a mosque. A team of police from Bogdadia outpost rushed to the spot and locked the mosque from outside while the Jamaat-Shibir men were in the meeting inside the mosque in the morning. Later, another team of police from the town rushed in and brought the Jamaat-Shibir men to Feni Model Police Station. Police said they were in a secret meeting for planning to commit subversive activities. They further said that a case was filed against the arrested.

Other reports told a different story, a more reality based one. The Daily Sangram, through its report, proved that the incident was just another case of the prevailing mentality of political witch hunts to demean and breakdown any political opposition in the country. A drama of political persecution was revealed. Few of the arrested had anything to do with Jamaat-Shibir. The police had instead, set a terrible example by arresting musallis from the mosque. The report said that as Musallis started to pack the mosque to take part in the Friday prayers at 12 pm in noon, some Awami League miscreants, came out and locked the mosque from outside. They went to the police station and gave news that Jamaat and Shibir activists were in a meeting inside the mosque and were planning to commit subversive activities. Police came to the premises, opened the lock and arrested about 30 people from the mosque. Among the arrested was Farhadnagar Union Jamaat president Mawlana Mohammad Musa, whose house was in fact adjacent to the doorstep of the mosque. Sadar upazila Jamaat secretary Abdur Rahim, who had come to meet with him, was also among the arrested.   

Twisting facts and statistics are what have characterised the present government in Bangladesh. There is no reason anymore to believe that what we are being fed by the government and pro-government is the authentic version of events. After all, they have been successful in turning a nationwide massacre of more than 150 people killed by security forces into a #blamejamaat event. History should not be written anymore by the tyrants. Its time its written by free minds.

The Khulna saga: Tendon cutting by AL and my thoughts

The political scenario in Bangladesh is often mired by violence. Sometimes terrible violence. Violence that makes a sane human being question the existence of the rule of law. One such practice that has recently come to the forefront in Bangladesh is the barbaric practice of tendon cutting. Tendon cutting, in all its sadistic glory has been used as a tool by the Awami League in two ways. One has been by widely practicing the cruel technique in opposition party clampdowns and clashes, while the second way has been the to shamefacedly blame opposition activists for carrying out such ghastly acts.  This is not to say that other parties are never involved in such acts, but to say that the practice of tendon cutting by Awami League and Chatra League cadres in both instances of infighting and clashing with the political opposition is so high that other parties fail to come anywhere near in terms of propagating this barbaric practice.

Just last Thursday, Awami League cadres attacked and killed opposition leaders in two separate incidents in Khulna. The incidents took place during the second day of the nationwide strike/hartal called by the 18 party grand alliance. Two BNP leaders were beaten to death and tendons of their feet were slashed at separate incidents at Torkhada and Dumuria upazilas in Khulna by cadres of the Awami League and Jubo League.

The deceased include BNP party affairs secretary of 4 no. ward of Modhupur Union of Torkhada upazila Bulu Mollah and Gazi Nasim Uddin Sumon, vice president of Dumuria upazila Jubodal.

Bulu Mollah was called away from his house, beaten to death and tendons of his feet were cut. And Sumon was badly beaten by the Juboleague and later handed over to police. He died in police custody.

Police have yet to file a case in either incident.

Hartal has been called in Khulna this Sunday to protest this violence, which as usual, has gone over the head of the police administration, since none of the culprits in this regard have been caught by the police. Its probably safe to say that the killers will go unpunished.

Battered and bruised with the sorrowful and grim thoughts that such events bring to the mind, my heart screams for justice to be served. Unfortunately, how possible will that be in the rapidly deteriorating Bangladesh of today, I cannot say. 

And Allah knows best.

Five die by police fire on the 29th of March

The 29th of March was not a special day by any means in Bangladesh. There was no call by opposition BNP-Jamaat for any special program for any agitation. Nor was there any call for hartal or procession. It was Friday. Yet, 5 people died. All of them were killed after being fatally shot by police.

Three people were killed in Chapai Nawabgonj. Upto 50 people were injured as police opened fire on villagers in Shyampur area under Shibganj upazila early Friday. The incident occurred as villagers obstructed police when the law enforcers started raiding different houses of area to arrest 'accused' activists in connection with violence after the verdict of Allama Sayedee. Jamaat has called for dawn to dusk hartal in Chapai Nawabgonj on Sunday. More details can be found here.

In Sirajganj, two people were killed and 45 others, including two journalists and three cops, injured in a triangular clash involving villagers along with BNP-Jamaat activists, Awami League activists and police at Kalyanpur Bazar village in Belkuchi upazila on Friday morning. Of the injured, nine sustained bullet wounds.

The deceased were identified as Jamaat activist Faridul, 19, son of Abdul Majid of Sarbatulsi village, and Shibir activist Yunus, 18, son of Abdul Hamid of Kalyanpur village in the upazila. Faridul and Yunus succumbed to their injuries on the way to Ullapara Upazila Health Complex. The other injured were admitted to different hospital and clinics

Witnesses said the activists of BNP, Jamaat-Shibir along with the villagers tried to release Jamaat leader Habibur Rahman, an accused in an alleged vandalism and arson case, from the custody of police at Kalyanpur Bazar when the law enforcers were taking him to the police station after arresting him from Mabupur village around 10:30am, triggering a clash.

Soon the ruling party men joined the clash. A chase and counter chase took place during the melee. At one stage, police fired 143 rounds of teargas shells, 25 rounds of bullets and rubber bullets to bring the situation under control, leaving 47 people injured, including nine with bullets. The injured in the brutality of police action also include BTV and My TV district correspondents.

Hartal has been called in Sirajgonj for half day on Sunday.

Analysis of the situation should not be difficult on following the reaction of the media outlets associated with complicit pro-government coverage. The reaction of outlets such as Shomoy TV and Ekattor TV was that of disbelief and outrage. Few of them could relate to the fact that hundreds of people had turned out to support the side of the opposition. Their official stance was that of blaming jamaat for everything ranging from starting all this mess way back in 1971 until now. Sad was the fact that although they were vociferous in voicing concerns on the Jamaat involvement in the violence, there was not an ounce of regret or outrage over the extra judicial killings carried out in the name of the law. It leaves one to wonder whether deaths of human beings are after all, fodder for prime time news.

Shaheed Rumi Squad: When hunger-strikers turn out to be Biryani-khors

An organization called Shaheed Rumi squad has been staging a hunger strike in front of the gate of the National Museum at Shahbag to demand for the ban of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Chatra Shibir. Made up of a few left leaning youths, the organization has presently attracted some university teachers, thinkers and political activists. Witnesses have stated that the activists act as part of the hunger strike for a few hours during the day. Afterwards, during meal times, some of these ‘hunger strikers’ go to the various canteens in the student halls of Dhaka University for no other reason than to eat. Furthermore, secret feasts are regularly organized at various popular restaurants in Dhaka for the ‘hunger strikers’. Even though the hunger strike started with seven youths, they presently number at sixteen people. Behind them is observed the support of powerful sections of the government and several political organizations.     
On the other hand, the hunger strike continues in front of the main gate of the National Museum, which has blocked the entrance to the institution. Moreover, all around Shahbag, police barricades have been erected, which in addition to creating hurdles to the free movement of people, have also blocked access of visitors coming from various parts of the country to the museum. Attendance to the museum has significantly dropped as a result, leading to a situation similar to that of the Bangla Academy Ekushe Book fair, where attendance and sales were also severely affected.

It is mentionable that the Shahbag movement started on the 5th of February to press home demands for the execution of all war criminals. It propagated with a number of grand rallies in various places of the country. A prime demand of these rallies had been to ban Jamaat-Shibir politics by the 26th of March.

However, observing no action by the government in this regard, an organization called Shaheed Rumi squad decided to start a hunger strike from about 10 pm on that very day. They started with seven activists, a number which has since increased. Witnesses have confirmed that these hunger strikers stay for a few hours on the stage at Shahbag, and then go about to have meals at various canteens of the student halls in Dhaka. Then they come back to the stage. Witnesses report them as even going to the Faculty of Fine Arts for this purpose. The hunger strikers have also being reported to hold feasts at popular restaurants in Dhaka. Such incidents have been reported by both sources from eyewitnesses and those close to the Rumi squad.

Exclusive source: 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Police shoot three dead at Chapai Nawabgonj; 50 injured

At least three people were killed and over 50 others injured as police opened fire on villagers in Shyampur area under Shibganj upazila early Friday. The incident occurred after villagers obstructed police when the law enforcers started raiding different houses of area to arrest accused people in connection with violence after the verdict of Allama Sayedee.

Hartal has been called by the 18 party alliance on Sunday at Chapai Nawabgonj District to protest the deaths.

The deceased were identified as Oliullah (23) , Motiur (25) and Robiul (24). Among the deceased, Rabiul hails from the village of Babupur while Matiur hails from the village of Gopalnagar.

Locals said that units of police, RAB and BGB arrived at Shyampur union at 3 am to conduct a joint operation to nab accused in police cases filed against villagers for their alleged role in arson of Palli Bidyut Samity Office in violence which occurred after the verdict of Delwar Hossain Sayedee. On hearing the news, local residents grouped together and denounced the operation.

Shortly, at one point, clashes erupted between the law enforcers and the villagers. The clashes took turn towards a more deadly note in the morning when the law enforcers opened fire and killed 2 people on the spot, injuring many others. Another person died on his way to the hospital.

Additional police, RAB and BGB forces have been deployed in the area after the incident. Police have stepped up their operation to search for the accused villagers.

In protest of the incident, locals put barricade on Chapainawabganj-Sona Mosjid road. 

Confirming the truth of the incident, Chapai Nawabgonj ASP Circle Matiur Rahman said, “ Jamaat-Shibir with the aid of the villagers turned violent against police who went to arrest criminals at Shyampur.”

However, he could not say whether any casualties had occurred at the premises of the incident.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Judge fails to stand up for justice, dismisses defamation case against bloggers at Barishal

The judicial system in Bangladesh has delivered yet another judgement. A judgement of complicity, not a judgement of conscience. A judgement of not delivering justice. For the second time running, of court of the judicial system in Bangladesh has dismissed a defamation case filed against bloggers who are alleged to have written blogs and posts on social media that defamed Islam, Allah (SWT) and his final prophet Mohammad (SAW). After a court dismissed a case against 8 bloggers for hurting religious sentiment and Islam defamation at Chittagong on the 6th of March, another court at Barisal did the same today, on the 27th of March.

As reported by UNBconnect, a Barisal court on Wednesday dismissed a blasphemy case filed against eight bloggers, including Shahbagh Ganajagaran Mancha spokesperson Imran H Sarkar. Chief Judicial Magistrate Masudur Rahman passed the order, saying the allegation brought against them was not proved by evidence, said court sources. The other accused in the case were bloggers Asif Mohiuddin, Arifur Rahman, Omi Rahman Piyal, Arif Jebtik, Ibrahim Khalil, KM Mahdi Hasan and Biplob.

Earlier on Monday, the 25th of March, Advocate Sultan Ahmed Khan, a leader of BNP-backed Jatiyatabadi Ainjibi Forum, filed the case with the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court under Sections 295 (Ka) and 109 of the Penal Code. After hearing, Judge Masudur Rahman fixed Wednesday for passing an order in this regard.

The complainant had said he lodged the case as the accused intentionally hurt his and others’ religious sentiments by defaming the ideology of Islam, Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (SM), his family members and followers.

Imran, also Bloggers and Online Network Activists convener, was leading the blasphemy activities whereas his grandfather was executed by the liberation forces as a collaborator of the Pakistani occupation forces, Sultan had told the court. 
This mentality is reminiscent of a complicity that can only be explained by a judicial system plagued by politics. Had the judiciary attended to the case, the country could have been purged of the plague of malign atheism. The bloggers could have even been proved innocent through a fair trial. But rejecting a credible case on supposed grounds of 'lack of evidence' leaves a lot of room for speculation and speaks of complicity bordering on the verge of absurdity and cowardice.
Compare this character to the heartless face shown by the courts against opposition activists, allowing police to even take schoolchildren and female activists on multiple instances remand to 'extract' information, and you will have a fair knowledge on where the country is heading towards in terms of looking up to judiciary as the protector of human rights. The failure of the justice department to stand up for truth and justice has left the common citizen without any guardian or guarantor of his rights. Consequently he stands up for his rights and demonstrates for them, Police, protector of 'public property', arrest the citizen and the courts are only too happy to give the police all the support they need. The cycle continues; vicious, relentless, ruthless. 

Bangladesh government orders shoot on sight policy against protesters

Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir had spoken out. His true nature was laid bare for the world to see. Defying the basic constitutional rights accorded to all Bangladeshis to be able to demonstrate, gather and express their opinion, the government of Bangladesh has given legitimacy to an ongoing and prevalent illegal practice that has been only too well documented. It comes in a thinly veiled roughly worded package too. Banglanews says that the law enforcing agencies have been directed to ‘shoot-at-sight’ the persons involved in arson attack, vandalism and other subversive activities during hartal hours. The decision was taken in a meeting of heads of law enforcing agencies with Home Minister MK Alamgir at his Banani residence Tuesday. Wishing anonymity, a person, who attended the meeting, said decision was taken also to take action against the instigators of the violence. 

This decision has been has been widely denounced by almost all news agencies, who have published the news in all its dark glory. Starting with a big disapproval from top vernacular daily Prothom Alo, the news also featured on news dailies like Ittefaq and Naya Diganta and online portals such as banglanews and RTNN. However, news outlets such as bdnews, Daily Star and other pro-government media outlets have kept quiet. As a countermeasure, the Daily Star published news that the Home Minister had denied issuing such orders. 

MK Alamgir said, “Civil and criminal procedures would be taken against the persons involved in arson, vandalism and sabotage in the name of hartal.”
In contrast to the Daily Star claim, banglanews further reports that when asked about whether human rights would be violated by shoot-at-sight, the minister said human rights wouldn’t be violated if any action is taken against these persons for the sake of majority people. The Naya Diganta and Prothom Alo reports have added that they have talked to multiple sources at the meeting and on the ground who confirmed that the orders emanating from the meeting had been to shoot hartal supporters on sight.

The impact of such news is simple: its a death blow to democracy and human ideals that we have been so proudly marketing to the outer world. The official role the police earlier was to use baton-charge and tear shells along with physical charging to disperse any illegal protests. With this directive, police now have the license to shoot and kill, and wipe off their conscience with the tissue of protection of public safety, be it the public that they are shooting at. 

What is this country coming to? Where is the end to all this?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Shibir Independence Day rally fired upon by Police in Dhaka

At least 21 activists were bullet ridden in clashes following police obstruction of a peaceful rally of Chatra Shibir on Wednesday morning at Moghbazaar in Dhaka.  

The bullet ridden activists were reported to be all Shibir activists. This was claimed by multiple sources from Shibir itself.

According to various sources, Shibir activists and leaders brought out a procession at Moghbazaar as part of their daylong activities on 26th March, the Independence Day of Bangladesh. The plan was to conclude the peaceful procession at Hatirjheel.

However, at a certain point police obstructed the procession and started firing upon the peaceful activists. News agencies report the use of tearshells, rubber bullets and empty bullets. In the mayhem that followed, 21 activists were bullet ridden. Various news media have also reported that at least 5-7 activists have been arrested by the police. Many have been reported injured, with some media claiming up to a 100 activists injured

On this issue, banglanews reports Ramna thana OC Shah Alam as saying that Shibir took out a ‘flash’ procession in the city. At this time police obstructed the rally, after which Shibir activists took on police by throwing bricks and stones at the law enforcers. In response police used empty shells, rubber bullets and tear shells to disperse the activists. However, the official could not say whether this led to any injuries among the protesters. However, he added that police had arrested 7 people from the procession.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bangladesh: Of political witch hunts chasing the ghosts of 71

The developing culture of a political witch hunt in Bangladesh has reached new heights. The victims of this witch hunt are people of flesh and blood who have made their own personal choices. The choice to not follow the path of secularism, materialism and blind political bickering. The choice to follow religion and inculcate its values in their daily lives. The choice to choose Islam as their way of life. The choice of political Islam. 

Supporters of Jamaat-e-Islam and Islami Chatra Shibir not only face hurdles during demonstrating peacefully or expressing their views in public, they are also victims of a wider political witch hunt that seeks to isolate and ostracize them from the community, label them as undesirables, throttle their means of existence, all towards that grand scheme to eradicate them from the annals of history. 

Defying logic, common sense and any viable explanation, supporters of Jamaat-e-Islam and Islami Chatra Shibir are regularly discriminated against in common spheres of life in Bangladesh. Known members of the parties have been subject to discrimination in attaining government posts. This has been ensured by a police verification methodology of government job aspirants by which political affiliations are deemed more important than criminal records. Affiliation to Jamaat or past history with Shibir can stop your promotion or earn you baseless notoriety in the long run in many a place of work, be it private or public. It can stop your aspirations to run for leading posts in an institution. Simply put, it can terminate your career and destroy it.

What I have stated above is not a joke. I personally know of exceptionally brilliant university students not getting faculty posts due to being Shibir associates, Jamaat activists having to close their business institutions due to their affiliation, Jamaat sympathisers being relieved of government duties for being, well, Jamaat supporters. A recent example of such an incident was the triumphant allegation of banglanews24 that the P.S of Finance Minister A.M.A Muhith was involved with Shibir in his student life. He was subsequently removed from his post and relegated to obscurity. Some papers say he was made an O.S.D (Officer on Special Duty), meaning his job was effectively terminated.

So what is wrong with being a Jamaat or Shibir supporter? Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami is a registered political organization in Bangladesh. Similarly, Shibir is not outside the realm of the law. Jamaat has democratically participated in elections of Bangladesh since their inception. Jamaat has had ministers in the cabinet. Jamaat and Shibir are politically and practically democratic in a sense that makes most political parties in Bangladesh look like dynasties. The clean slate of Jamaat in terms of corruption in government is legendary to say the least. The only allegation? Jamaat supported the 'other side' during the war of liberation in 1971. 

However, is that a valid reason for all this oppression? 42 years have passed since the liberation war. Formers supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami have not only acknowledged Bangladesh, they have also created a new political party (Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami) in line with principles and guidelines of this country, in order to do politics for the welfare of its citizens. Shibir was created in 1977 to work for spreading the message of Islam among general students. Many Shibir activists have matured and entered mainstream politics through the Jamaat-e-Islami. To them, 1971 is not the issue of tomorrow, its a thing of the past. Its a chapter that needs to be learned from and left behind, not cherished in order to hate and oppress. Unfortunately, the power hungry, with the power of ignorance, materialism, unfounded hatred, emotional blackmail and lack of political and personal ethos, have kept up their act, seeing Jamaat and Shibir for who they really are, harbingers of truth and change, champions of the underdog, usurpers of the corrupt.  

As a result, a country has suffered. A generation has lost momentum. Bangladesh is still stuck in 1971.    

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sheikh Hasina and her 'foreign friends':The drama

Ahead of the country’s Independence Day, Bangladesh has awarded another batch of around 69 individuals and organisations, including 13 from Pakistan on Sunday in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the Liberation War in 1971. They include Cuban revolutionary and former president Fidel Castro, former British prime minister the late Harold Wilson and former chief minister of West Bengal the late Jyoti Basu.
This was the sixth phase of awarding of foreign friends and organisations after conferring of ‘Bangladesh Freedom Honour’ posthumously on Indira Gandhi on July 25, 2011.
The President had been giving out these awards in the previous phases, but since Zillur Rahman died recently, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended the ceremony as chief guest and handed over the honours. This time, 203 foreign friends were invited to receive the awards, but only 69 could attend or were represented by someone close to them. More than 200 'foreign friends' have already being awarded the recognitions since the process began last year.

It is mentionable that such awards come at a time when the country is going through a difficult time in its history, notably in the human rights arena. In this regard it is mentionable that in recent weeks, more than a hundred people were killed in clashes that erupted after peaceful demonstrators were attacked and fired upon by security forces and ruling party cadres. The protesters have been demanding the unconditional release of Delwar Hossain Sayedee, who was given the death sentence on the 28th of February for his alleged role in perpetrating war crimes against the innocent Bengali population throughout the liberation war of 1971. His lawyers, along with a plethora of both international personalities and organizations such as HRW, Transparency International, Amnesty and the United Nations, have expressed their concern over recurring irregularities and demanded a fair and just trial for the accused.

To any keen eyed observer, it won't require rocket science to understand motives of the government behind such awards, especially in light of recent events. The failures of this government have been sky high. It has set records in human rights abuses such as political killings, forced disappearances and oppression of the media and the political opposition. Prices of food and fuel have risen beyond people's means and corruption has become part of the character of the service provider. Police have been used as a tool of oppression. Criminals have been provided impunity. The President has even pardoned the same criminal twice. 

If one looks at the trend over past weeks, one will realize that the political situation in the country has been going down a manhole. Foreign relations have deteriorated. The government has desperately tried to fight back the tide of its waning popularity, and has cooked up the 'foreign friends' drama as a result, even letting its anti-Pakistan mania/obsession lie below the radar for a bit. The hollowness of such awards is evident considering that even today, Bangladesh is host to many freedom fighters who are still subject to discrimination; who still live in destitution; whose families still reside in dilapidation.  Its high time the government of Sheikh Hasina sets aside such self serving interests and listens to the voice of people for a change.

Inu, Minister of (Bakwas) Information

Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu is notorious for his attention seeking character. I once remember the man suddenly walking into a seminar I was attending on campus in a prestigious university at Dhaka when Inu suddenly entered the venue and later demanded that he be given floor. Those were the days of the caretaker government under Fakhruddin when politicians used to be on the run, in fear for their lives. Times have changed, and with it the character of politicians.

Hasanul Haq Inu has kept up the facade of an immaculate and strong worded politician while endeavoring to discredit his political opposition at every moment possible. Not to be outdone by his sneering political buddy Suranjit Sengupta or the rock faced Know-it-All Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, Inu has tried to keep up a high profile among government officialdom since taking office in September 2012.

He has regularly called press conferences to outline policies of the government in general and policies of his ministry in specific on current issues. Sadly, such press conferences of his have actually been flooded more by rhetoric than information. The press conferences have underlined his deep hate for the political opposition in Bangladesh, and his disproportionate remarks and opinions have made headlines, less for their objectivity, and infinitely more for their pure outlandishness. Then again, it could just be another class act to seek the attention of those who matter in order to gain another term in office in perhaps bigger and better positions.

His comments after taking office reflect such tendencies. Take the example of him leading the pack in saying that existing law could be used to ban Jamaat and Shibir, despite comments by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the need for ministers to refrain from making such comments. Inu has been on the forefront in inflammatory criticism of Khaleda Zia, leader of the opposition, calling her the unofficial ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami. In addition to his rantings, he is regularly heard by media and countrymen to refer to Jamaat as a terrorist outfit. Unable to do anything constructive recently, he has resorted to allegations that BNP is involved with 'media terrorism'. In his spree for attention grabbing, he has made statements such as 'Government won't tolerate abuse of Islam', in which he has given his own twisted views on the subject, saying that it was not the atheist bloggers who were responsible for abusing Islam through their inflammatory and defaming remarks on the Prophet and Islam in general. According to him, abuse of Islam was being carried out by media who had uncovered such information, specifically Amardesh, Naya Diganta and the Daily Sangram. Accordingly, they rightfully required to be banned. But oops, Inu had to hold back his words there, regrettably informing media journalists that current laws did not yet allow so. In a bid to add some spice to the political vendetta he initiated, Inu in his latest statements, asked Khaleda Zia to hand him lists of true war criminals and true atheists. 

Khaleda Zia, to her credit, has refrained from answering such bizzare and childish queries.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami's Reply to the Statement of Human Rights Watch on 1 March, 2013.

Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami’s Reply to the Statement of Human Rights Watch on 1 March, 2013.

Wednesday, 20th March, 2013
The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (“Jamaat”) notes with dismay that Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) has alleged that its supporters have been involved in ‘lethal’ and ‘unacceptable’ acts violence. HRW has also indicated that Jamaat should issue a public statement to its supporters to stop the violence. It is understood that in issuing the statement HRW relied on newspaper reports from Bangladesh.
Jamaat would like to clarify that its members have not instigated the recent spate of violent clashes with the police. Nor are the protests all over the country organized by Jamaat. The vast majority of protests are by ordinary Muslims who have come out on to the streets to protest the death sentence passed by a controversial International Crimes Tribunal against Mr. Delwar Hossain Sayedee. Sayedee, as an Islamic thinker, has a popularity beyond his political identity.
Jamaat would like to point out that due to political repression and mass arrests of its members and followers, its political activities have been severely restricted. On 19 September 2011, its Central and Metropolitan Offices were forcibly closed by the police and have remained closed ever since.  Its Ameer (i.e. President) is in jail. There are warrants of arrest issued against the Acting Ameer and he is now in hiding to avoid custodial torture. The party’s Secretary General is in jail. The two people who were subsequently appointed (one after the other) to replace him have also been arrested and are now in jail. The third person appointed is now avoiding arrest in fear of custodial torture.  Of the 7 Assistant Secretary Generals, 6 are in jail. 12 of the 16 member Executive Committee have been arrested. Of the 6 City Ameers in the 6 metropolitan cities, 2 is in jail, while the remaining 4 are in hiding.
At the grass-root level, the situation is far worse. 54 of the District Ameers in the 64 districts of Bangladesh have been arrested. The rest have warrants of arrest issued against them. All of the sub district (or Upazilla) Ameers in the 493 Sub Districts of Bangladesh have warrants issued against them and are now in hiding. As such the leadership of Jamaat is either in jail or is living in fear of arrest and torture by the police. Jamaat no longer has effective control over its members and supporters. Even the issuer of this rejoinder is evading arrest in fear of custodial torture. As such it is inconceivable that Jamaat is in a position to instigate the clashes all over the country which began on 28 February, 2013.
A number of anti-Jamaat newspapers such the Daily Star, the Prothom Alo and the online news portal BDBNEWS24 have been making  unsubstantiated allegations that Jamaat has been burning temples. These newspapers have been supporting the call for banning Jamaat. Moreover, they have indiscriminately described all protestors against the verdict by the International Crimes Tribunal as members/supporters of Jamaat. The news provided by most media outlets in Bangladesh are now biased towards one view or the other. Independent and fair reporting is almost no longer possible by the local media.
It should be mentioned here that although 3 madrasahs (Islamic religious schools) have been burnt in northern Bangladesh, Jamaat has encouraged restraint amongst its supporters not to highlight the issue. Jamaat has also issued a statement that it was not involved in any attack on temples.
Jamaat would like to take this opportunity of informing HRW that around 120 people have been killed over the last 4 days, half of whom were killed on 28 February. Five of the dead were policemen. The rest were innocent civilians including women and children, all of whom died from bullet wounds. Women protested with their brooms and brought their children along. Live ammunition was used to disperse crowds, as the government was keen to show that the trials are universally acknowledged as fair. The only weapons used against the police (who were dressed in full riot gear) were brick bats. As such the police action was unnecessary and disproportionate. In many cases (reported on a number of television channels), the police were only attacked by angry mobs only after they had run out of ammunition.
Such action by the police is a continuation of the custodial torture and killing of member and supporters of Jamaat. Over the past couple of months the police have been randomly picking up member/supporters of Jamaat and have shot at them at point blank range (while in their custody) in full view of the media. The images of such point-black shooting have been documented and archived and are now available on the internet .
These custodial shootings have been authorized by the Police Administration including the Police Commissioner for Dhaka Metropolitan Police, Benzir Ahmed.  Mr. Ahmed had in late 2012 ordered his officers to shoot Jamaat men on sight. This has been reported in a number of national daily newspapers including Ittefaq  Bangladesh Pratidin , Naya Diganta , Amar Desh  and Manabzamin 

Although we note that HRW has objected to the use of the word genocide, the scale (120 dead in 4 days) and nature of the police actions in over 20 districts of Bangladesh clearly indicate that murders as crime against humanity have taken place. Supporters and followers of Jamaat and opponents of the International Crimes Tribunal have been systematically targeted by the law enforcement agencies. The police have been selecting members of Jamaat and shooting them. All this should be seen against the backdrop of the government move towards eliminating Jamaat and its institutions, to which HRW has referred to in its statement.
We hope international organizations such the HRW will not shy away from correctly identifying the action of the police in Bangladesh as a crime against humanity.  We believe that any delay by international community in making a proper assessment of the situation will encourage the police to be more violent and continue with their actions in violation of national and international law.
Finally, we thank HRW for protesting against the violations of human rights in Bangladesh.