Chitalmari victims made accused: What does this indicate?

Prothom Alo illustration

The prerequisite of law is to take action against someone who has committed a crime. But what can be the logic behind filing criminal cases against the activists whose houses were burnt and were attacked for crimes that did not even take place? What does the incident of Chitalmari at Bagerhat indicate?

According to a Prothom Alo news, it was learnt that some of the local BNP activists of Chitalmari went to a public gathering of their party in Khulna. Awami League people beat them up for this. Later, on 11 October, a case was filed in Chitalmari Police Station under the explosives act, citing a bomb explosion on the other side of the canal. Among the accused two are Jatiya Party leaders while the rest are activists of BNP and its affiliated organisations.

According to eyewitnesses and local residents, more than a hundred activists of Awami League and its affiliated organisations attacked and vandalized the houses of BNP activists. Later, they returned to the market with a procession. Then someone exploded a crude bomb.

On 25 October, upon arriving at the spot, signs of the attacks on three houses including the one of Wahid Sheikh was visible. Ax marks were seen everywhere- on the doors and windows of the house, and the metal fence. The wooden windows were broken by the stick. The signs of attack are also evident inside the house. Beds, refrigerators, cabinets, fans, dishes—everything was vandalized. A large rainwater reservoir in front of the house was also destroyed.

Accused number 7 of the case, Tanveer Sheikh of Kananchak village told Prothom Alo that the people of Awami League were already threatening him for joining the BNP rally in Khulna. Apart from this, he was repeatedly threatened as he posted a picture on Facebook recently. Due to that he complained about the matter to an elder of Chhatra League leader Mahbubur. Enraged by this, Awami League people beat him and his uncle in the market on 10 October evening. Later, he was locked in the market and his father's office was vandalized.

Attacks on opposition party activists and filing absentee cases against them is nothing new. The number of such cases increased manifold during the recent strike. But what happened at Chitalmari of Bagerhat shows the ultimate lack of rule of law.

According to Bangladesh law there is no embargo on anyone about joining any gathering of any party. Yet the Awami League activists have been beating BNP activists there. When the demand for redress occurred, they did not just stop by vandalizing the houses of BNP activists, but also even filed cases against the victims. The plaintiff in the case said that the people got angry and disciplined the activists of BNP. Those who have the least faith in the rule of law cannot make such statements. If another group of people get angry and attack the house of Awami League activists, then what will be the situation?

Let there be a proper inquiry into the Chitalmari incident. Why will not any legal steps be taken against the people who attacked the houses of BNP activists? The duty of law enforcing agents is not to condone the misdeeds of any party or harass the activists of a party by filing absentee cases against them.