Officer-in-charge of Teknaf police station, Pradip Kumar Das, who has recently been relieved of his duties over the killing of former army major Sinha Md Rashed Khan in police firing, was conferred the highest police award, Bangladesh Police Medal (BPM), in 2019.
To receive the award, Pradip highlighted six of his achievements to the police headquarters. In each of the feats, the defendants were killed without exception.
For several years, the killings taking place in the name of gunfights are not being stopped and there are not visible government steps in this regard. Rather, a culture to legalise such killings is prevalent in the state.
Pradip Kumar had spent most of his 25-year career in Chattogram region. He joined Teknaf police station about two years ago. Since then, more than 150 ‘gunfights’ have taken place in the area under Teknaf model police station.
The OC came into discussion after his latest video message in which he threatened to set the drug traders’ houses on fire and attack them to free Teknaf of drugs by 16 December this year.
The six incidents he mentioned to win the award resemble action movies. It has all the elements- robbers, terrorists, yaba traders, drugs, weapons, shootouts. The police headquarter selection committee commented that, police inspector Pradip Kumar Das led the anti-drug drives at yaba trade epicenter Teknaf thana unarmed. He risked his life to detain the yaba traders named on the home ministry list.
The crucial drives mentioned by Pradip took place between 24 October and 30 November 2018. In the first of them, armed drug traders opened fire against police when they were conducting a drive at Sabrang union parishad in Teknaf on 28 October, according to Pradip. The police, in retaliation, opened fire on the drug traders too. Two men, Hasan Ali, 35, from Uttar Jaliapara, and Md. Hossain, 28, from Najirpara sustained bullets and died in the incident.
Pradip further wrote, police detained bullet-hit yaba trader Mofiz Alam from Moheshkhalia Para in the second gunfight, on 24 October. Mofiz was taken to hospital for treatment where the physician declared him dead.
In the third drive, on 18 November, police went to Bhulu Majhi’s house with yaba trader Farid Alam, from Dakkhin Lengur Bil, and armed yaba traders opened fire on them. Farid was killed by the yaba traders’ shots, according to the OC.
Regarding another gunfight on 30 November 2018, Pradip wrote, police detained bullet-hit Habib Ullah, an alleged yaba trader, and had taken him to hospital. The physicians at the hospital declared Habib dead.
Following Habib’s death, Cox’s Bazar Awami League organisational secretary Naznin Sarwar Kaberi shared a video on Facebook. In the video, Habib’s wife was heard saying that her husband was picked up from home and killed. She demanded justice. Naznin wrote a post in Facebook on Wednesday demanding probe over the ‘illegally amassed’ wealth of OC Pradip.
Prothom Alo published a report on gunfight, harassment, vandalism and enforced disappearance in Teknaf on 28 August 2020. On the following day, Pradip Kumar called a meeting at Teknaf model police station. He delivered a speech there advocating ‘crossfire’ or ‘gunfight’. In a video of the meeting he was found saying, “No journalist here could say there has been any injustice in our work wherever there has been crossfire."
Regarding the crossfire procedure, he said when details of the defendants including names of family members are received, assistance is sought from local powerful persons like guards, 'dafadars'(NCOs), and so on. If police consider that the accused would never leave the yaba trade, they take ‘action’.
Human rights activist Nur Khan Liton told Prothom Alo, “For several years, the killings taking place in the name of gunfights are not being stopped and there are not visible government steps in this regard. Rather, a culture to legalise such killings is prevalent in the state. We see the word 'shooter' being used among several forces. Sometimes the persons who excel in the controversial deeds are awarded.”
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten here in English by Nusrat Nowrin.