Hero Alom assaulted, what will the DMP commissioner do now?

Ashraful Alam alias Hero Alam, a candidate of the Dhaka-17 by-polls, was attacked by people wearing boat badges while visiting a polling centre.
Tanvir Ahammed

The candidate of Dhaka-17 by-polls Ashraful Hossen alias Hero Alom was beaten and a group of people wearing 'boat' badges were seen attacking him as if hitting a snake or an animal. They were seen pulling at his white panjabi, trying to shove him to the ground, kicking him and holding sticks at his head. Hero Alom was seen trying to get onto on a rickshaw, but having been chased again, he got off the rickshaw and started running. After that, he live streamed from a hospital.

This was the situation of Dhaka-17 by-polls, but the role of the police has stirred discussions on social media.

Prior to the polls, Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner Khandker Golam Faruq met with others about the law and order situation during the by-election to Dhaka-17. After a two-and-a-half-hour meeting, he told journalists, "I give a hundred per cent guarantee. You observe the election on 17 July and see whether you find proof of my neutrality. If you don't find the proof, I will step down as DMP commissioner."

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According to Prothom Alo report, the attack on Hero Alom happened in the Banani Bidyaniketan School and College centre around 3:15pm. Prior to this, the Dhaka Metropolitan Police said in a SMS sent to the journalists, “Honorable DMP commissioner Mr Khandker Golam Faruq, BPM (Bar), PPM, will go to Banani Bidyaniketan School and College voting centre around 3:15pm to cast his vote and visit the centre.”

That means the attack on Hero Alom took place within an hour of arrival of the ‘honorable DMP commissioner’ in the polling centre. Police were also surprisingly silent amid the noise and shouts during the attack on Hero Alam outside the Banani Bidyaniketan centre. Would it be wrong to say that the police have handed over Hero Alam to the people wearing the 'boat' badges?

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Video recordings inside the centres prove it. A video of the daily Ittefaq shows several people surrounding Hero Alam. They are shoving him around and trying to beat him. A journalist rushed to the on-duty police and was heard saying, “Hero Alom is being assaulted, why you aren’t looking into it?” Then a policeman approached Hero Alam. The policeman placed his hand on Hero Alom’s shoulder and walked him towards the gate of Banani Bidyaniketan. The policeman then handed over Hero Alom to the group of people wearing the 'boat' badges and entered the centre again.

Journalists then asked this police official, Hero Alom is being beaten, won’t you look after it? In reply, the police official said, “I am responsible for inner cordon, not the outer cordon. My responsibility is inside the venue, not the outside.”

It is the duty of police to provide security to election candidates. When a situation on a possible attack on candidate Hero Alom arose, the responsibility of the police official deployed in the inner cordon was to provide security keeping the candidate inside the polling centre or call for more forces to take Hero Alom outside the centre with police escort. But, this police official set a rare example of neutrality by handing over an election candidate to the people wearing the 'boat' badge, saying “we are not responsible for outer cordon”.

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According to the Representation of the People Order, the police will be under the authority of the election commission. Police have apparently been handed over endless power to conduct elections in a free, fair and neutral manner. Police can arrest anyone without a warrant, apply force and take any measure including enforcement of power for the sake of a fair election. This Order also states that any member of law enforcing agency fails or neglects duty willingly or without any reasonable cause will face fine or imprisonment.

Following the attack on Hero Alom, Faecbook users started looking for the DMP commissioner in social media and they are reminding him that he said he would step down. Will he take action giving the responsibility on the police official and his associates who were deployed in the inner cordon or will he himself take the responsibility to keep his promise?

Sheikh Sabiha Alam is an assistant editor of Prothom Alo. She can be reached at [email protected]

This article appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna