From the statements and speeches of Awami League leaders, it seems that the leaders and activists of the party called BNP are docile elements with no strength or capacity to carry out a movement that keeps up the heat on the street. That is why they sneeringly call BNP’s marches ‘death marches’ and its mass rallies ‘mourning rallies’.
On the other hand, the manner in which the police and the local leaders of the ruling party are filing a deluge of cases against BNP leaders and activists, one would think BNP is the most violent and aggressive party, carrying out sabotages one after the other. So what is the truth?
Before explaining the reason behind the flurry of cases before the election, we can look into a couple of instances. On the night of 29 August, Jamalpur town BNP organising secretary Mominur Rashid was detained. The next day he was shown to be arrested on charges of sabotage. On 2 September he was accused in another case. The case statement read that Mominur had gone to a certain field in Jamalpur town on 1 September with intentions of sabotage.
If the DB police case s to be taken into cognizance, that would mean Mominur came out of jail and held a secret meeting to plan the sabotage. The fact is, however, Mominur was still in jail then, and still remains in jail. Earlier the police filed several cases against persons who were long dead. These are instances of a few police officers overly enthusiastic in displaying their professional duties and efficiency. The members of the police force as so skilled that they can make an imprisoned BNP activists carry out sabotage. How ridiculous!
At least 30 cases have been filed against over 2000 BNP leaders and workers in Jamalpur, on charges of violence and sabotage. Prothom Alo’s Jamalpur and Sarishabari correspondents spoke to the local people there. While the cases were filed on charges of damaging vehicles and sabotage, nothing of the sort took place there. There had even been no gatherings at the sites of the so-called incidents. So how were the accused picked up from those places? Yet the police have threatened the local people and made then into witnesses, forcing them to sign papers to this end.
One of the witnesses, Md Ruhul Amin, told Prothom Alo, “I know the plaintiff of the case, SI Nazrul. He called me over mobile phone to come out of my house and then told me to be witness in the case. I first refused. I said that as nothing had happened there, wouldn’t I get into trouble? He (the SI) told me, if there is any problem, I am there,”
We would be much obliged if the SI kindly told us under what section of the rule of law the “I am there” clause exists. I do not know of any departmental action being taken against such officers.
A few days ago, another report in Prothom Alo said, hundreds of BNP men have been arrested in the districts where the police have obstructed the party’s programmes.
Cases filed where there have actually been no incident, are called “fictitious” cases. Previously in the villages and small towns where there were altercations among neighbours, one side would file false cases against the other. Such fictitious cases have now entered politics.
The term ‘fictitious case’ was heard quite a lot during the 2018 election. I visited Cumilla, Tangail and a few other places to observe the pre-election situation. The ruling party was at the height of their campaigning. If the leaders or candidates of the opposition tried to hold a rally, cases were leveled against them. Their homes were raided. If anyone was asked about the election, they all had one thing to say, “The election is already over, no need to wait for 30 December.” When the results of the election are fixed before the election takes place, then no one feels the need to go to the polling centres. That is how it was in the 2018 election.
According to a report by Prothom Alo correspondent Asaduzzaman, before the 2018 election, the police filed innumerable cases around the country. In the three months (September-November) before that election, in Dhaka city alone there were 697 cases filed on charges of sabotage. In September 2018 alone, there were 575 cases. These cases filed under the Explosive Substances Act and the Special Powers Act then caught on the name of ‘fictitious cases’.
Like back then, this time too ‘fictitious’ cases are being filed, according to BNP leaders and activists, with motive of driving them away from their homes.
What is motive behind these new fictitious cases and the revival of old cases against the BNP leaders and activists? Is this a strategy to draw BNP to the election, or a ploy to keep them away from the election?
The difference this time is that leaders and activists of the ruling party are becoming plaintiffs too. The police and the ruling party men are working in collusion. From 17 November last year till 30 May this year in Dhaka, 40 cases were filed by Awami League leaders. A total of 1701 leaders and activists have been named in these cases. There are another 2575 unnamed.
Such unnamed or unidentified accused persons are a ‘new addition’ to fictitious cases. Cases are filed wherever the BNP people are active in the movement. Alongside fresh cases, ‘sleeping’ cases are being revived too. BNP claims that the government and the ruling party have filed 140,000 cases against their people. The number of the accused totals almost 4 million. If 4 million leaders and activists are involved in sabotage, killing, terrorism and such, just imagine the power of such a party.
We feel that by filing all these cases, the government is striking fear within Awami League rather than BNP. A mid-level leader of BNP asked when they would be able to carry out their politics as they had to spend two or three days a week in the court verandahs. Before they would have to appear in court after every one month, now they have to turn up twice a week. A photo published in Prothom Alo showed the Jamalpur BNP leaders and workers coming to court for anticipatory bail. Not all are granted bail.
The forthcoming election has unleashed all sorts of speculations in the political arena. While both sides have ostensibly taken inflexible stands, sources say there are talks going on behind the scenes. At least the leaders of the two parties are appearing before the foreign diplomats. If some sort of understanding is reached about an election-time government, will BNP be able to contest in the election with 150,000 cases hanging over the heads of 4 million leaders and activists?
Under such circumstances, the questions making rounds on the political arena are, what is motive behind these new fictitious cases and the revival of old cases against the BNP leaders and activists? Is this a strategy to draw BNP to the election, or a ploy to keep them away from the election?
* Sohrab Hassan is joint editor of Prothom Alo and a poet. H can be contacted at [email protected]
* This column appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir