Unacceptable police actionseditorial
THE photograph, published on the front page of New Age on Monday, which shows a Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal leader hanging from the ceiling at a police station and being tortured by the police, paints a rather telling picture of the state of fear, anxiety and brutality that has gripped the country over the last few days. It began with the sudden and unexplained disappearance of M Elias Ali, a frontline leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which sparked off angry reactions from the opposition, all forms of speculation at all levels of society, and a general sense of fear and anxiety. During the hartal on Sunday, while the capital Dhaka remained quiet enough, according to the BNP, as many as 726 of their activists were detained on the first day of the hartal, of course including Mahmudul Haque Tito, the torture victim in question in the picture, whom the police detained for allegedly hurling a crude bomb at them. With more hartal now on the cards and the opposition pledging not to back down until Elias is discovered, the real victim, however, are now the ordinary people, who will suffer immensely, as the government/ruling party and the opposition have a showdown with each other on the streets of the country.
Police brutality in trying to contain or curb opposition activists, has become a grisly feature of most hartals and political programmes in the country, getting worse with time. In fact, according to most statistics, political violence accounts for the highest number of human rights violation victims in the country at the moment. On Sunday, once again, there were reports of police brutality from all around, stepping on to the opposition’s constitutionally protected right to protest, and of course, the opposition responded in kind, perpetrating similar violence in return. But the individual instances of crude violence such as the one inflicted on the JCD leader at Khulna is particularly disturbing, once again attesting to the degree of lawlessness law enforcement officials have resorted to in trying to protect the partisan interests of the party in power. Such violence reflects badly on the government, the country, society at large and adds to ordinary people’s fears and anxiety. Law enforcers breaking the law is the same offence as any criminal breaking the law, if not more, and therefore the government must do more than ‘closing’ them. It calls for serious disciplinary and legal actions so that such scandalous behaviour is not repeated in the future.
There is now uncertainty and more violence on the cards. While the disappearance of Elias is indeed an important issue, and the opposition is well within their rights to exercise their constitutionally-guaranteed rights to call for hartal, for how long ordinary people will have to bear the brunt of their reaction and the violence perpetrated by both sides, remains a pertinent question. The lives of ordinary people have been brought to a standstill, and the government, instead of trying to violently curb the opposition’s reaction, must immediately try to resolve the issue, in a lawful manner.
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