Shahidul’s arrest and questions for govt

It’s the same happening all over again. A group of people in a microbus arrives at around midnight and spreads a blanket of fear. They identify themselves as members of the police’s Detective Branch (DB) and forcefully pick up their targeted persons. Later the police deny any involvement in the matter. Then after several hours or perhaps several days, the detained person is shown to be under arrest and placed on remand.

It was the same about the renowned photographer, teacher and writer Shahidul Alam. He was picked up from his Dhanmondi residence. There was a larger than normal number of people in his case. The CCTV cameras at his residence were broken and the security guards were tied up. Shahidul was traced on 6 August morning and the government acknowledged his detention. Bare-foot, Shahidul was produced before the court in the afternoon. He seemed to be unable to stand up. It was evident that he had been tortured and injured. He was put on remand, indicating further torture. Following a court order, he was taken to hospital. The government filed a petition challenging the High Court order. The matter is under process to be settled in the court.  

The question that first arises is, if a person commits a crime, the government has the jurisdiction to lawfully arrest and interrogate him. Why should he be treated like a thief? Why does the government take up ‘crossfire’, lie over enforced disappearances? Why is the law enforcement so eager to engage in illegal acts? Why is the government so enthusiastic about these unlawful methods?

Two days before his detention, Shahidul went to take photos of the student demonstration for safe roads. He was chased and attacked, but he still tried to take photos of the attacks on the agitating students as he wanted to inform the people about the happenings. He analysed the situation while speaking on an international TV channel. Shahidul gave his own opinion which may differ from others. Is that a crime? Who is responsible if the government’s image is tainted? Those who are sending out miscreants in helmets armed with sticks and machetes, or those who gather news? 

The government could logically counter the arguments in any interview or statement of Shahidul.   The matter could be dealt lawfully rather than with intolerance. If someone is killed or tortured for their statements, that is certainly extremism.    

Students took to the street for last couple of days calling or implementation of various demands. The students recently started demonstrating for safe roads after two students were killed in road crash on Airport Road. Around 5,000 to 7,000 people die in road accidents and four times the number are wounded every year. Unfit vehicles, unlicenced drivers, broken roads and reckless competition cause road accidents. All these problems can be solved if the government is committed to do so.

Students of different schools and colleges burst out in anger to protest against the anarchy in the transport sector over the years while corruption, looting and violence continue unabated. 

The youth force demonstrated on the streets for seven days, not creating chaos or vandalising vehicles. They wanted to see the implementation of their demands which the government assured them. They checked licences, fitness documents and brought order to the roads. The commuters were not disturbed by their activities. Without any payment, they performed the duties of the state. They caught ministers, high police officials and VIPs for driving on the wrong side. They found many drivers without licences and vehicles without fitness.

People suffered due to the sudden and unannounced transport strike enforced by the government-backed syndicate. They want to run the buses and the country without licences. During the demonstration supported by all in the society, ten people including students and teachers died in road crashes. 

School children came under attack by the miscreants in association with the police. The miscreants and police swooped on the unarmed students who garnered support from home and abroad by their responsible, disciplined, peaceful and constructive role. These children raised hope for a better future. When the students of universities joined the protest, more attacks were launched. The attacks took place in different parts in the city on 4, 5 and 6 August.

The miscreants use machetes and sticks, opened fire and harassed girls. Even journalists were not spared. The government protected the perpetrators of the violence. Over 300 students bear wounds from the attack by police and the miscreants. The government is unwilling to identify and arrest the attackers with helmets, machetes and guns. Their photos are available. The government calls the attackers ‘infiltrators’, but will not arrest them.     

The second question is–the rule of law now means that a group of people will publicly roam around with guns, sticks and machetes and kill people, the government will laud them, while those who stand against the injustice, will be killed, picked up, tortured and indicted in false cases. Will the government call this ‘rule of law’?

The third question is, why is the government so frightened? The government seems to be scared for the last couple of days. The government is afraid of students of schools, colleges and universities, any type of different opinions, questions, cameras, journalists, Facebook and internet. This increases the government’s level of intolerance and suppression. In this modern digital age, no information can be confined. This government is proud of digital Bangladesh and has launched a satellite in space. Why is this government afraid of Internet, Facebook and international communication?

The fourth question is, has the government forgotten that there is a constitution in the country? The lawful right of every citizen is enshrined in the existing constitution. The constitution has not given the state the right to pick up a person and torture or kill him. The constitution maintains that every citizen has the right to express his or her opinion. They have the right to protest and to assemble for demonstration. Why is the government repeatedly violating the constitution?   

Surely the government advisers and well-wishing intellectuals have not turned blind. They must try to stop the government. But these intellectuals do not see the government-backed terrorists with machetes, firearms pistols and sticks.

As a result, picking up, torture under custody and in the streets continues. Terrible and inhuman scenes cannot be concealed by propaganda. Is it possible to suppress truth by creating pressure on the media, torturing journalists and breaking cameras? Can the people’s memory and their experiences of brutality be erased?