Labour leader Shahidul Islam

The police couldn’t arrest any other accused in the case filed over the killing of labour leader Shahidul Islam in Tongi of Gazipur.

The leaders of the Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation have alleged police are playing a biased role.

They claim that the police didn’t let them include the name of the mastermind behind the killing.

And now the law enforcement agency is making a dilly-dally over the arrest of the accused in the case.

Shahidul went to the Prince Jacquard Sweater Limited in the Shataish Baganbari area of Tongi on the night of 25 June as the workers didn’t get the salary-allowances before the Eid as promised.

He met with the workers there and was attacked after he left the factory. He was taken to a hospital in Gazipur in a critical condition.

Later, he died there while undergoing treatment on that very night. Shahidul Islam was the president of Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation’s Gazipur unit.

The following day, on 26 June, Kalpana Akter, central president of the Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers Federation lodged a case over the incident as plaintiff mentioning names of six accused and seven unnamed accused.

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Certain Md Mazharul was made the prime accused in the case. Police arrested him on the same day after the case was filed. Mazharul is the general secretary of the Garments Workers Trade Union Federation’s Tongi West police station unit.

Md Ripon, organising secretary of the organisation, is also among the accused in the case. Three other leaders of this organisation- Sohail, Rasel and Akash were also accused in the case. Apart from them, another one named ‘Manager Hanif’ has been made accused in the case.

According to the case statement, there had been a labour unrest in the factory (till 25 June) over Eid bonus and the salary for the month of June. The owners had promised to clear the dues by 25 June. However, the workers didn’t get the salary-allowances even after 25 June.

Hearing that, Shahidul and his associates went to the factory and explained to the workers what should be done to get their dues. Later, they came under attack as soon as they left the factory.

Locals Md Mazaharul, Sohail, Rasel, Ripon, Akash , Manager Hanif and others carried out the attack.

OC asked to omit Kamrul’s name

The leaders of Shahidul’s organisation say the attack was led by Hanif. Hanif is a close associate of local influential housing business owner Md Kamrul. Md Saifuddin, owner of the Prince Jacquard Sweater Limited, bought the land for his factory from Kamrul.

According to local sources, Kamrul and Saifuddin are close friends. And the attack was carried out at the order of Kamrul's manager Hanif.

The eyewitnesses and factory workers say Shahidul and other leaders of the organisation came out of the factory after calming down the workers. Shahidul met Hanif outside the main entrance of the factory. They were seen talking. At one point Hanif called up his associates and attacked Shahidul.

Speaking to Prothom Alo in this regard, Kalpana Akter, the plaintiff of the case, said, “We repeatedly tried to name Kamrul as an accused in the case. However, the OC didn’t listen. It’s clearly biased role from the police.”

She further said, “The OC asked to drop Kamrul’s name. At one point, we had to file the case accusing only Hanif. All persons involved in the killing are locals. The police can arrest them if they want. Despite that, no one is being arrested, which is quite frustrating.”

Rejecting the allegations, Tongi West police station’s officer-in-charge Md Shah Alam said, “They only said Kamrul’s manager. They didn’t know his name. It was us who told them the name. Besides, Kamrul Islam was not at the spot during the incident. He is not affiliated with the factory either. We are investigating the case considering all aspects.”

OC Md Shah Alam further said, “Police have questioned factory owner Md Saifuddin over the incident. He claimed that he didn’t know anything about the incident.”

Housing business owner Kamrul claimed that he doesn’t have any manager named Hanif. He doesn’t have any ties with the factory owner.

Prothom Alo tried to reach Md Saifuddin over the phone several times for his comment. However, he didn’t receive it. He didn’t even respond to text messages.

Police points to organisational feud, leaders deny

Utpal Kumar, sub-inspector of Tongi West police station and the investigation officer of the case, said, “Shahidul’s rival organisation Bangladesh Garments Workers Trade Union works in Tongi. The feud rose between the two sides as Shahidul suddenly went there to work on behalf of the workers. And Shahidul was killed for this."

However, the leaders of the two organisations denied the allegation of the police. Tuhin Chowdhury, president of the Bangladesh Garments Workers Trade Union Federation, said there is no rivalry between the two organisations.

Kalpana Akter, president of Shahidul’s organisation, said the same thing.

She said, “The killers were the men of the owners. It is quite clear now. Shahidul was killed deliberately to deprive the workers from what they deserve. There is no dispute between the organisations.”

*This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu