A policeman in action in Dhaka on 28 October.

Some 81 civil society members have issued a joint statement expressing concerns over the accuracy and objectivity of the information presented in a recent press briefing by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the political protests in Bangladesh.

They argued that some of the observations made in the OHCHR statement are not based on facts and should be revisited. Describing the violences as unprecedented, they said categorising them as ‘political protest’ might explicitly encourage the perpetrators to carry on with their heinous activities.

Economists, former vice-chancellors, retired secretaries, police officers, cultural activists, and journalists are among the signatories. They earnestly requested the OHCHR to further verify facts and figures about the issues.

The signatories refuted the OHCHR allegation against the police for carrying out attacks on protesters with rods and claimed that the cops only used batons, tear shells, rubber bullets, and sound grenades as per law to disperse the extremely violent attackers. Hence, the OHCHR statement is not based on facts.

Against the OHCHR allegation of indiscriminate raids and arrests, the signatories claimed that the police showed their utmost patience while maintaining law and order on 28 October.

In the statement, the signatories said, “We came to know from the statement that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was closely monitoring with concern the violent incidents taking place in Bangladesh since BNP-Jamaat’s programme on 28 October. It appears to us that some of the observations of the statement are not based on facts and hence should be revisited.”

They said the very title of the notes, ‘Bangladesh Political Protests’ does not reflect the facts of the incidents. Hence, they shared their perspective in detail about what actually happened on 28 October and afterwards for better understanding.

According to the statement, though all the miscreants who attacked the residences of the chief justice and other judges were identified as BNP activists, the statement does not reflect the actual situation. Even while doing so, it seems that the benefit of doubt has gone to the perpetrators by saying ‘opposition protesters allegedly attacked’. Moreover, the statement reflects a wrong perception against the ruling party by saying ‘who are thought to have been ruling party supporters.’

The death of 11 people, particularly six opposition party members, claimed in the notes to have died during the violence is misleading. In fact, two garment workers, Russel Hawlader and Emran Hossain, who died in a separate incident, one Jahangir Alam was an Awami League leader and was killed by the BNP people in Lalmonirhat on 29 October, another person named Shameem, who died in stampede near the BNP’s rally venue on 28 October, was not involved in politics as claimed by his father, Yusuf.

Urmee Bhuiyan, daughter of another deceased Rafique Bhuiyan, whom BNP claimed to have been killed by police attacks, told the media that her father was not amid violence and died of brain hemorrhage after falling from a rickshaw in the city’s Segunbagicha area.

Police constable Amirul Haque Parvez was brutally killed on 28 October near the BNP rally venue at Paltan and a bus helper, Nayeem, was burned to death while he was sleeping in the wee hours of 29 October by the ‘opposition protesters.’

About an opposition activist Abdur Rashid’s death, The Daily Star wrote, ‘BNP man fell to his death.’ Quoting eyewitnesses, most mainstream media said he met his death by falling from the rooftop of an under-construction building while fleeing after setting fire to a bus in the other part of the city on 29 October.

Jubo Dal (youth front of BNP) activist Jilu Ahmed was severely injured on a highway in Sylhet about 235 kilometers from Dhaka on 31 October while his speeding motorbike crashed into a tree after attending a violent party procession. He later died in hospital while undergoing treatment.

“From various sources, we came to know that Billal Hossain and Rifat Ullah were among around 1500 unruly people of BNP who formed a violent unlawful assembly, and attacked the Police on duty. Both of them got injured and died while undergoing treatment at around 8:30 am on 31 October in Kuliarchar of Kishoreganj district,” they noted.

They further asserted that the whole nation is shocked at the unprecedented attack on the residences of the chief justice and other Supreme Court judges. Despicable attacks injuring around 35 journalists also shocked the nation. Police have already identified the attackers, masked or unmasked, involved in the incident and found their clear connections with the BNP.

Video footage of the policemen being beaten and chopped to death also shows some attackers wearing masks. The OHCHR surmised that the attackers who were masked were ruling party men. It is erroneous and deserves keen observation, the statement added.

All the media published the news with pictures and videos about one Robiul Islam, member secretary of Dhaka-South Jubodal (BNP), setting fire to vehicles on 28 October wearing a vest with the word ‘PRESS’ printed on it, it noted.

Against the backdrop, the signatories said, “In assessing police actions vis-à-vis the atrocities committed, we request the OHCHR to take in view that residences of the chief justice and other Supreme Court judges were attacked, mindless attack on the journalist, severity and brutality with which policemen were beaten to death, the central police hospital was vandalised and set ablaze, dozens of vehicles were set on fire, the central and biggest police lines of Bangladesh Police were attacked, innocent people were burned to death.”

The signatories are – Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, economist and environmentalist; Sarwar Ali, freedom fighter, trustee of Freedom War Museum and executive president of Chhayanat; Kamrul Hasan Khan, freedom fighter and former vice chancellor (VC), Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU); KH Masud Siddiqui, former secretary and former member, Bangladesh Public Service Commission (PSC); Mohammed Nurul Huda, former inspector general of Bangladesh Police (IGP), secretary and columnist; Mustafizur Rahman, former VC, Bangamata Sheikh Fojilatunnesa Mujib Science and Technology University; Ujjwal Bikash Dutta, former secretary and former PSC member; Ramendu Majumdar, actor and stage director; Kanak Kanti Barua, former VC of BSMMU; Hassan Mahmood Khandker, former IGP and ambassador; Ambassador Abdul Hannan; Nasiruddin Yousuff Bacchu, freedom fighter, writer, and cultural activist, Saurendra Nath Chakrabhartty, former senior secretary; Sirajul Hoque Khan, former secretary; Mozammel Babu, president of the Editors Guild; Aparup Chowdhury, former secretary, Mofidul Hoque, trustee of the Liberation War Museum; Asaduzzaman Mia, former commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP); Ashoke Kumar Biswas, former secretary; and Kazi Reazul Hoque, former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission; Proshanto Kumar Roy, former secretary; Nasir Uddin Ahmed, former secretary; Subir Kishore Choudhury, former secretary; Abdus Samad, former senior secretary; Ambassador Suhrab Hossain; Molla Waheeduzzaman, former chairman of the Privatization Commission, Muhammad Samad, pro VC of Dhaka Univeristy; Lt Col (retd) Quazi Sazzad Ali Zahir; Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, former principal secretary; Ashok Madhab Roy, former secretary; Ambassador AKM Atiqur Rahman; Benazir Ahmed, former IGP; Tanvir Mokammel, filmmaker; Ambassador Golam Muhammad; Mohammad Sahidul Hoque, former senior secretary; Abdul Mannan Choudhury, former DU professor; Ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad; Kashem Humayun, journalist; Jahangir Alam Khan, economist; Osman Gani, freedom fighter and publisher of Agamee Prakashani; Ambassador Chowdhury Ikhtiar Momin; Ambassador Mahbub Uz Zaman; Muhammed Sadique, former secretary and former PSC chairman; Atiur Rahman, former governor of Bangladesh Bank; Iqbal Mahmood, former chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC); Rubana Huq, VC of the Asian University for Women (AUW); Ambassador ATM Nazrul Islam; MA Quader Sarker, former secretary; Sunil Kanti Bose, former secretary, Nasima Begum, former chairman of the Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh; Shamol Kanti Ghose, former secretary; Monjurul Ahsan Bulbul, journalist; Fazlul Hoque, former secretary and PSC member; Dilwar Bakth, former senior secretary; Nasir Ahmed, poet and journalist; Jesmin Ara Begum, former district judge and former member of the National Human Rights Commission; Mazharul Islam, publisher of Annaprakash; Farida Yasmin, president of the National Press Club; Shyamal Dutta, general secretary of the National Press Club and editor of Daily Vorer Kagoj; Manjurul Islam, CEO of DBC News; Ikbal Arsenal, former president of SWACHIP; Deen Muhammad Nurul Hoq, former DG of Health; Nurul Amin, Department of Public Administration at Jahangirnagar University; Boren Chakraborty; Pijush Bandyopadhay, cultural activist; Nizam uddin, architect and writer; Ambassador Shahidul Islam; MA Mannan, Former VC of Bangladesh Open University; Nuzhat Choudhury; Mamun-Al Mahtab; Nojibur Rahman, former principal secretary; Rashid Askari, former VC of Islamic University; Morshedul Islam, filmmaker; Selina Afroze, former secretary; Paban Chowdhury, former secretary; Harun-or-Rashid, former VC of the National University of Bangladesh; Shamsul Arefin, former senior secretary; Khondaker Showkat Hossain, former secretary; Iqbal Habib, architect; and Masuduzzaman, writer and professor at Dhaka University.