What the police did and didn't do after 28 October

Let’s look at the records of what the police did and didn’t do since BNP’s grand rally was disrupted on 28 October. Police filed 36 cases concerning BNP’s rally, a day after the event.

A total of 1,544 persons including top BNP leaders have been accused in these cases while, the number of unnamed accused amounts to several thousands.

The charges are killing police and exploding crude bombs with the intention of killing police, obstruction of government activities, vandalism of the chief justice’s house, arson, snatching away police weapons, etc.

Three days later there were reports that without finding the BNP municipal unit president and district BNP unit organising secretary in Kishoreganj Aminul Islam Ashfaq, police picked up his twin sons Shahidul Islam Anik and Maksudul Islam Abir. 

A week later, another report appeared stating that police had filed a case against BNP’s former legal affairs secretary advocate Sanaullah Mia with Rampura police station on charges of throwing crude bombs at the police in Mouchak. Another accused of this case is Md Nasir Rahman and sub-inspector Md Abdur Jalil is the plaintiff.

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But the thing is that advocate Sanaullah Mia died three and a half years ago while Md Nasir Rahman died last year. Such news was heard outside of Dhaka in Moulvibazar’s Juri also. Lokman Hossain who died six years ago, has been accused on charges of attacking police and obstructing government activities there.

There are also expatriates and journalists among the thousands of accused. For example, police has accused Burhan Mia of Phultala in that case from Moulvibazar’s Juri. He has been living in the United Arab Emirates for the last two years. Two other accused of the case, Naeem Ahmed and Zayed Ahmed of Hamidpur village lives in France and Saudi Arabia respectively.

Five journalists named on the list of accused in a sabotage case filed in Magura’s Mohammadpur are Daily Ittefaq’s upazila correspondent and press club Mohammadpur vice-president Md Mehedi Hasan alias Polash, Daily Khoborer Alo’s upazila correspondent Md Wahab Biswas, Daily Lok Samaj and Daily Janata’s upazila correspondent Md Tarikul Islam Tara, Daily New Nation’s upazila correspondent Md Rafiqul Islam alias Rafiq Master, and Daily Darpan’s upazila correspondent and Md Russell Mia alias Russell Molla.

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Police reported in the case statement that there was a public rally and explosions between 11:45pm on 31 October and 12:30am on 1 November. However local residents don’t know of any such incidents. Apart from the journalists, there are 199 other accused in the case as well.

Besides that, police has arrested 12 to 13 other people on charges of setting a bus on fire. However, according to police and news of different media outlets, most of them were caught red-handed and handed over to police by the public.

For example, a video went viral showing a sugar-laden truck being set ablaze on Dhaka-Chattogram highway in Lalpool bridge area of Feni sadar upazila on 2 November early morning. Police arrested Jubo League leader Nurul Uddin Tipu (35) based on that.

Now, let’s focus on what police didn’t do. In Natore and Rajshahi, masked miscreants have inflicted serious injuries on nine BNP and Jamaat men by beating, stabbing, shooting and severing the tendons on their hands and legs.

It’s not that the incidents of murder or attacks are happening at night only. BNP leader Saiful Islam told Prothom Alo that he was attacked and shot right in front of his mother and teenage son. Police didn’t arrest anyone in connection to these incidents.

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Five people including three students of Titumir College in Dhaka went missing after the grand rally. At least two of their relatives told Prothom Alo that they were produced before the court after eight days of going missing.

Aside from that, family members of Mirza Shakil, acting general secretary of Chhatra Dal in Uttara East Police Station area of Dhaka city alleged that he (Shakil) has gone missing.

Family members stated that law and order enforcement agency members clad in plainclothes picked him up from Azampur area in Uttara on 7 November. There are eye-witnesses to confirm the incident.

Though there’s an obligation to produce detainees in the court with 24 hours, it wasn’t followed in case of these students. Where were or are they and in whose custody?

During Awami League’s demonstration and protest rally in Nandail upazila of Mymensingh on Sunday, former parliament member Major General (retd) Abdus Salam’s son-in-law Zahid Hasan’s bodyguard, Qamruzzaman brandished weapons to create an atmosphere of fear.

Earlier, cultural affairs secretary of Dhaka city north Jubo League unit Aolad Hossain alias Lakku got down on the street wielding firearms during garment workers demonstration in Mirpur’s Pallabi area. Police didn’t take any action against any of them either.

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In short, what’s missing from police’s action is accountability. They are not being held responsible. On what grounds top BNP leaders including secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir have been arrested actually?

Exactly what role did they have in killing policemen and blasting cocktail as an attempt to kill policemen, obstructing government activities, vandalising the chief justice’s house, arson and snatching away police’s weapons?

How many people were actually involved in the killing of policemen or the vandalism of the chief justice’s house? Would their number amount to even five thousand? If not, why arrest so many people? Why there are names of deceased, expatriates and elderly people on the case statement? Who are the people involved in the assassinations and attacks?

Bangladeshi police force is highly skilled. They arrested several accused within 24 hours of a Jubo League leader being murdered in Gaibandha. Then why can’t police arrest the killers when an opposition leader is killed?

According to fire service and civil defence records, ‘miscreants’ have torched total 154 busses between 28 October and 14 November. There are thousands of accused in these cases, yet why do they fail to present conclusive proof against them except for only 12 to 13 people?

Where were the Chhatra Dal leaders and activists who went missing as claimed by their families, for the weeklong period before being produced in the court?

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Aminul Islam, a leader from the Lalbagh area spoke during the blockade. Despite consenting to the interview, he then withdrew it fearing arrest. He gave approval to meet his wife, Monowara Sultana who works for a private firm. Frustration was evident in her voice. Aminul was arrested once in August and has just come out of jail in October. He didn’t return home again after 28 October.

Monowara said that an Awami League leader lives opposite of their house. He informs the police if Aminul is spotted around the house. Police knocks at their door even at 2:00 or 3:00am in the morning. Her 80-year-old father-in-law and 15-year-old son stay awake the whole night. Why do people have to face police scrutiny just for being involved in politics, she questioned.

Two police personnel spoke in connection to her question. Their names aren’t being disclosed for obvious reasons. A policeman posted in front of BNP’s locked down office in Naya Paltan area said, ‘There are tigers in the Sundarbans. If you go near them they might feast on you. So, you won’t go to the Sundarbans just out of the fear.” That means the police now think of themselves as tigers.

When questioned, ‘why do you think that the police is accusing deceased, expatriates, senior citizens and sons without finding their sons?’ he replied, “What can I say! I have nothing to say at all!”

*Sheikh Sabiha Alam, assistant editor at Prothom Alam [email protected]

* This opinion appeared in the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Nourin Ahmed Monisha