Feud in Awami League leaves 51 dead in 15 years in Bogura

(Top L-R) Shajalal Talukder, Mominul Islam, Majnu Pramanik and Aminur Rahman; (bottom L-R) Abu Hanif, Nazmul Hasan, Shihab Uddin and Takbir Islam

Shahjalal Talukder was the vice president of Awami League’s Ashekpur union unit in the Shajahanpur upazila of Bogura. He was riding a motorcycle on 2 September 2023, but a group of miscreants chased him on the way. He took shelter in a nearby house, but they hacked him to death there.

A murder case was filed following the killing with Sagor Talukder being the prime accused. Sagor Talukder holds no post, but is active in the Swechchhashebok League and he allegedly leads ‘Sagor Bahini’ in the Ashekpur union.

Shahjalal Talukder’s brother Nuruzzaman Talukder told Prothom Alo that Swechchhashebok League leader Shihab Uddin was killed by the Sagor Bahini in 2020 over the control of drug business and extortion, and he gave witness deposition in the Shihab murder case, and for which, attempt was carried out to him once. His brother Shahjalal was also killed for the same reason, he said.

This correspondent stayed in Bogura for 11 days and spoke to district police, Awami League leaders and activists, as well as people involved in politics. It has been learned that 58 leaders and activists of Awami League, its associated bodies Jubo League, Swechchhashebok League and Chhatra League had been killed over the past 15 years. And 51 of them were killed over party feuds as well as over establishing dominance mainly centering party posts, control over narcotics trade, takeover of establishments, extortion in the transport sector and control over "balu mahal" (sand reserves).

Ten of the 51 people killed were from Awami League, 25 from Jubo League, nine from Swechchhashebok League and seven were from Chhatra League. People with knowledge of local politics said leaders and activists of Jubo League and Swechchhashebok League have more tendency to establish dominance and exert control over other businesses than the leaders of the other bodies, which is why more people from these two organisations are killed.

To date, the trial of only a single case has been completed out of all lawsuits filed over these 52 killings, and that one was over the 2012 murder of Khairul Aman alias Rekkat, who was a joint convener of Swechchhashebok League’s Bogura city unit. All of 11 accused in the case were also acquitted. Awami League in Bogura district unit said murder suspects were even rewarded with party positions. The administration took no action either, and even victim families were forced to compromise in some cases.

Ten of the 51 people killed were from Awami League, 25 from Jubo League, nine from Swechchhashebok League and seven were from Chhatra League.

Prothom Alo spoke to Awami League’s Bogura district unit president and lawmaker from Bogura-5 constituency (Sherpur-Dhunat) Mujibor Rahman (Mojnu) and Bogura district unit general secretary and lawmaker from Bogura-6 (Sadar) Ragebul Ahsan over party feud and killings.

Mujibor Rahman said killings are happening, but those are not over party issues. These took place centring personal gains, as well as over distribution and sharing, and those who are involved are criminals.

Replying to a query about both the murder victims and the accused in lawsuits holding posts in Awami League, Jubo League, Swechchhashebok League and Chhatra League, he said one or two people might hold party post, but cannot speak about the posts of the associated organisations.

On the other hand, Ragebul Ahsan claimed killings happened before, but it hardly takes place now. When his attention was drawn to several killings, he said these were of the associated bodies, not of the main party, Awami League, and its responsibility is not of the Awami League either.

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However, several leaders of Awami League’s Bogura district unit allegedly solidify their ‘partisan and muscle power’ with leaders-activists of Jubo League, Swechchhashebok League and Chhatra League.

More killings in two upazilas

There are 12 upazilas in Bogura, and political killings take place more in two of those upazilas – Sadar and Shahjahanpur that witnessed 27 out of 51 killings. Locals said the Sadar upazila is the business hub of the transport sector in this region and extortion is rampant here. There is also the narcotic business. Overall, there are more opportunities for extortion in the town.

On the other hand, Shajahanpur is adjacent to Sadar upazila, and a portion of Shajahanpur upazila falls in the Bogura municipality area where feuds are frequent over narcotics trade, land business and grabbing, extortion and control over other businesses.

Bogura is known to be a ‘fortress’ of BNP. Even BNP leaders dominated the district after Awami League came to power in 2009. Local sources said several leaders of Awami League and its associated bodies got involved in various crimes including extortion in the transport sector, control over the area and grabbing by keeping good terms with BNP leaders at the time.

Following the parliamentary election in 2018, several leaders of the ruling party took control of crime worlds including drug businesses and extortion in Bogura, but killings took place in the past, as well as in the recent past over who among the Awami League will be in control.

Bogura is known to be a ‘fortress’ of BNP. Even BNP leaders dominated the district after Awami League came to power in 2009.

A leader with an important post in Awami League’s Bogura district unit regretted over killings among themselves. Wishing anonymity, he told Prothom Alo, “It is very saddening since we can do nothing even after holding party position. We can take no action against the miscreants in the party.”

An overview of killings

Two Jubo League leaders – Aminur Rahman (Shahin) and Majnu Pramanik – were from Fultala of 13 ward in Bogura municipality in Shajahanpur upazila. Aminur Rahman was killed in 2011 and Majnu Pramanik two years later. Since then, three relatives of Aminur and four of Majnu were also killed.

It has been learned after talking to locals and 13 relatives of Aminur and Majnu that Aminur was a cadre of then-Awam League district unit president Mantaj Uddin, who died in 2019. Following the death of Mantaj, district Awami League joint general secretary Asadur Rahman (Dulu) gave shelter to the family of Aminur. Asadur Rahman was an accused in the murder case of Majnu, who was a cadre of the district Awami League joint general secretary Majurul Alam (Mohon) and he still looks after Majnu’s family.

Prothom Alo could not reach Majurul Alam for a comment. Asadur Rahman, however, denied the allegation and he told Prothom Alo that police released him from the Majnu killing case, and the family of Majnu might say many things, but allegations are not true.

Relatives said Awami League leaders used slain Aminur and Majnu for their gains and they now used their relatives, which is why killings did not stop. Lastly, Forkan Ali, an activist of Jubo League and nephew of Aminur, was killed in February 2021, and several relatives of Majnu were made the accused in the case filed over it.

This correspondent spoke to Surovi Begum, wife of Majnu Pramanik, at her house in Fultala on 30 June. She expressed dissatisfaction over the trial of the murder of her husband. “Big leaders of Awami League used my husband. Yet, he was killed by the people of this party. I do not expect justice either,”

Abu Hanif alias Mister, then organising secretary of Swechasebak League’s Bogura district unit, was killed over ‘extortion and establishing supremacy’ in the transport sector in 2020. A murder case was lodged over the killing, and district Jubo League vice president and ward 9 councillor Alhaj Sheikh was made the prime accused.

Alhaj Sheikh told Prothom Alo, “I know nothing about the killing and the police left my name from the charge sheet.”

Plaintiff Arman Ali, father of Abu Hanif, the name of Alhaj Sheikh has been left from the charge sheet and he dared not file a no-confidence motion to court.

Nazmul Hasan (Orange), assistant secretary for literature and cultural affairs at district Swechasebak League, was killed in January 2020; Mortuja Kawsae (Ovi), a leader of Awamu League’s Sherpur municipality unit, in September 2020 and Mominul Islam (Rocky), joint convener of Awami League’s Fanphor union unit of Bogura Sadar upazila, were murdered in July 2021. All of them died over establishing supremacy and feud over extortion.

Target killings take place more in Bogura, said Sudip Kumar Chakraborty, superintendent of police (recently promoted to additional deputy inspector general) in Bogura. He told Prothom Alo that killings happened centering on various issues including political causes, the establishment of supremacy, sand trade and control over the market lease. However, the figure has dropped in the past two years, and now most killings are taking place over personal feuds, he added.

Target killings take place more in Bogura, said Sudip Kumar Chakraborty, superintendent of police (recently promoted to additional deputy inspector general) in Bogura.

According to the district police, a total of 738 people were killed in Bogura between 2015 and May 2024 with 77 people being murdered in 2023 alone. Police headquarters said an average of 47 people was killed in each district across the country, totalling 3,028 people. In that case, more non-political killings also took place in Bogura.

Names of Awami League leaders also came up in some non-political killings. Two youths were hacked to death in Bogura town on 13 June this year. Syed Sarjil Ahmed (Tipu), general secretary of ward 1 of Awami League’s Bogra Municipality unit and member of Bogra zilla parishad, and his brother Syed Kabir Ahmed (Mithu), general secretary of District Motor Workers’ Union, were made accused in a case filed over the killing.

According to the case statement, two youths were murdered following an argument over parking cars on a road.

Accused murderers also get party posts

Accused in the cases over the killing of the party leaders and activists are also rewarded with posts in the part and associated organisations. Takrir Islam Khan, joint general secretary of Chhatra League’s Bogura district unit, was killed in March 2021. At that time, Chhatra League expelled Abdur Rauf, who was the prime accused in the charge sheet and general secretary of Govt Azizul Haque College, but he became a joint general secretary of Swechchhashebok League’s Bogura district unit, in 2023.

District Swechchhahsebok League president Sajedur Rahman told Prothom Alo there is no opportunity to call someone a criminal until proven guilty in court, which is why he was given a party position.

Asadur Rahman was an accused in Jubo League leader Manju and his nephew Nahid Pramanik, but Asadur Rahman is currently a joint general secretary of Awami League’s Bogura district unit and a member of Bogura Zila Parishad.

Several leaders holding posts in Jubo League and Swechchhasebok League are also accused in various murder cases. Asked about why those leaders were rewarded with party positions, Bogura district Jubo League general secretary Aminul Islam told Prothom Alo they do not have control over many things in many times.

Lawyer Abdul Latif Pashari was involved with student politics in Bogura in the 1990s. He told Prothom Alo on Friday, 5 July 2024 that Bogura is a town of killing and counter-killing. Several leaders of two major political parties, so-called elected public representatives and unscrupulous businesspersons are responsible for this situation. It will not be possible to stop the killings without ensuring justice, strong administrative actions and monitoring from the top level of the ruling party, he added.

‘I realised I won’t get justice’

The family of slain Chhatra League leader Takrir lives in a semi-pucca house in the Maltinagar area of Bogura town. This correspondent spoke to Zahurul Islam, father of Takrir, at their house on the night of 3 July. He told Prothom Alo, “I lost count of the people whom I met to seek justice for my son. I also even went to the district Awami League president Mojibur Rahman. Once he (Mojibur) even told me ‘Is it so easy to get justice.’”

Mujibur Rahman, however, told Prothom Alo, “I myself look after the case at the beginning, and what Takrir’s father said is not correct.”

Zahurul Islam further said, “Mujibur Rhaman told me that ‘the person (Takrir) who has been killed was one of my hands while the person (Swechchhashebok League Rauf) is my other hand; will I sever another hand now?’ At that time, I realised I will not get justice.”

While the father was lamenting for his slain son, the mother Afroza Islam was shedding tears in silence.

*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna