Prothom Alo: The incidence of death in mob beatings has suddenly increased. Why is this happening?
Anu Muhammad: Such situations emerge when there is no accountability of the government. Often mob beatings are carried out, targeting someone in particular. But nobody has right to kill anybody, no matter what allegations there may be. The common chant during such public lynching is, "Kill, because the police will just release the criminals."
Public confidence in the law enforcing agencies has fallen drastically. The law enforcement agencies kill suspected extortionists, drug traders and rapists in crossfire to restore confidence. This crossfire cannot restore confidence. People simply follow suit. They arrive at the conclusion that if someone is perceived to be an offender, they can be beaten to death. State brutality reemerges in the society.
Prothom Alo: Can we compare the mob beatings with the law enforcement's crossfire?
Anu Muhammad: Basically, there is no basic difference between the two. The way ‘crossfire’ and ‘gunfights’ are taking place, the very existence of the judiciary and the administration is in question. The same story and rhetoric is repeated to explain the crossfire. Such killings take place when the victims are in custody. After they are killed in crossfire, we are informed that they were supposedly implicated in several cases. Over one thousand people have been killed in this manner. No investigations were carried out.
Even the media failed to investigate these incidents. According to the statements of the victims’ families, false allegations are brought against many people. The deceased is not only the victim of death but also the victim of dishonour after death. Out of fear, none can bring charges against anyone in this regard. There was the case of Limon who was shot by law enforcers. They accused him of being a terrorist. Limon survived. Had he not survived, he would have been listed as a terrorist. The state agencies have the scope to wield illegal power and influential people in the society use this. They can have their opponents killed in crossfire.
Such killings were carried out by the state agencies in different places. There was the sensational seven murder case of Narayanganj. As the criminals will not be brought to book and will be released, it seems justified to kill them. Justice is not done because of the influence of certain powerful people and directives from the top. Ministers and high officials justify crossfire. Persons killed in crossfire are identified as criminals. The criminal is hurriedly killed in crossfire to shield influential people. Nayan Bond is the latest such instance.
Prothom Alo: All sorts of brutality including rape of children, lynching and killing in broad daylight are increasing. What does this portend?
Anu Muhammad: It proves that the state has failed to control criminals.
Prothom Alo: Unrest and unease have increased in the society. What is the reason?
Anu Muhammad: People feel insecure, they are afraid to go out and send their children to school. Whom can they depend upon? Normally people depend on the government, but now they are afraid of the government and its agencies. The government is pardoning murderers, backing those involved in share market scams and destroying the Sundarbans. The government has turned the national election into a farce. The people can no longer depend on the government. People see no remedy ahead.
Prothom Alo: There is no political resistance either. How can that be revived?
Anu Muhammad: The lost of political strength has increased public insecurity. People simply depend on fate. People must try and gain strength for resistance.
Prothom Alo: Can the civil society and intellectuals play any role?
Anu Muhammad: The main crisis is that a section of civil society and intellectuals has compromised for the sake of personal benefit. Some of them have merged with the government for personal gain.
Prothom Alo: Can you write and speak independently?
Anu Muhammad: I want to write what I believe, but it is difficult. There is no open restriction, but the media is frightened to publish things. We are barred from holding discussions in many places. If the media is scared and barred from publishing the truth, then a dangerous situation emerges and rumours spread. Rumours cannot be quelled by force. If the truth is under threat, rumours are inevitable.
Prothom Alo: In what direction is Bangladesh moving? How can we emerge from this situation?
Anu Muhammad: The country is hostage to the politicians who are not accountable to the people. Both ‘development’ and ‘politics’ are now matter of force and propaganda. The government is running the country with the help of law enforcing agencies and advertisement agencies, ignoring the people. The institutions are being destroyed by this authoritarian rule. The government is using force so that people do not ask questions. If this continues, the dangers will grow in the future. Intellectuals and civil society leaders have surrendered to the terrorists and authoritarians, the ruling politics is bankrupt. Despite all odds, we see potential in our youth. We want to see them as our possible hope.
Prothom Alo: Thank you.
Anu Muhammad: Thank you.
*This interview, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.