Monday, February 07, 2005


The elusive Bangla Bhai


01. No progress in cases against JMJB
02. Bangla Bhai plans to flee in a week
03. Two more JMJB men held
04. An Accused to Address Tafseer Mehfeel
05. ASSESSMENT: A State in a State of Denial

01. No progress in cases against JMJB
22 murders allegedly by cadres: Lack of witness, evidence is main reasons, police say: Victims' relatives allege negligence
Staff Correspondent, Rajshahi

There has been virtually no progress in investigation into the cases of murder and torture by Bangla Bhai's Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) cadres last year.

Police have given final report in one case and submitted charge sheet in another case, according to police sources.

A total of 22 murders were committed allegedly by JMJB cadres and many people were tortured, according to sources including victims' families.

Police said 'lack of complainant, witness and evidence' are the main causes for slow progress in the probe.

But family members of a good number of victims this correspondent talked to alleged police indifference in probe.

JMJB started its 'operation' in the region with the murder of Wasim, also known as Osman Babu of Palashey in Bagmara upazila on March 31 last year.

Sub Inspector Abdul Karim filed a case as Babu's family did not dare.

Later, SI Sirajul Islam submitted final report in the case saying, "Local people informed that a group of bearded men killed Osman Babu but none could be accused due to lack of witness".

The cases for murdering Abdul Quayuum Badsha, Khejur Ali, Afzal Hossain, Mosarraf Hossain and Ziaul Haque Zia of Raninagar upazila; Sheikh Farid, Diponkor Roy of Atrai in Naogaon; Golam Rabbani Mukul of Kanapara; Ali Akbor of Taherpur in Bagmara upazila in Rajshahi and Saifur of Peergachha in Natore are still under investigation. But there has been no progress, it was gathered from police sources yesterday.

Police filed all the murder cases except hose for the murders of Diponkor and Ali Akbor.

Police said they are yet to find any witness in the cases.

Golam Mustafa, brother of cultural activist Golam Rabbani Mukul who was killed on April 11, alleged that he had gone to file a case accusing 12 JMJB men including Bangla Bhai but police did not record it.

"JMJB cadres circulated Mukul's screams through loudspeaker when he was tortured to death. Yet, police recorded their own case in which no one was accused. They even did not visit the spot for investigation", said Mustafa.

"Badshah and Khejur were murdered after making day-long announcements over loudspeakers and people were asked openly to witness his killing.

"Still, investigators could not find any witnesses", lamented a relative of Badshah.

Police submitted charge sheet against three persons Abdul Kuddus, Zamal and Abdul Kuddus-2-- in the case for murdering Yasin Ali of Maria in Bagmara.

Yasin, reportedly an Awami League activist, was kidnapped and beaten to death by hanging him upside down from a tree in front of Kodapara Madrassha on June 29 last year.

"Police did not listen to me when I told them about witnesses who saw Ammar of Khoirabari, Shahadat of Chapainawabganj and Sohrab Master of Kodapara along with three others killing my brother ", Ibrahim, complainant in the Yasin murder case said. The three others were chargesheeted in the case.

"Police asked me to inform them whenever I see Yasin's killers, but they (police) never came when I called them ", Ibrahim told this correspondent yesterday during a visit to Bagmara.

Dizendra Nath, father of slain Diponkor of Kasiabari village in Raninagar in Naogaon, filed a case. Investigation into the case is still on but nothing has been found. Diponkor was murdered on April 27 last year.

Kasiabari Union Parishad Dafadar Zamir Uddin was killed on the same day, but no case was filed.

Besides, three unidentified youths were killed in Atrai on May 5 last year. Their bodies were found at Basudevpur in Natore.

ABM Golam Kibria, Officer- in-Charge of Bagmara police station said police have nothing to do when there was no complainant and witness to any case.

"In many incidents, police file cases do did not find any witness", he said.

Kibria denied allegations that police refused to record cases or ignored any culprit during investigation.


02. Bangla Bhai plans to flee in a week
Our Correspondent, Bogra

Siddiqur Rahman alias Bangla Bhai is preparing to flee the country within a week, sources in Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) said yesterday.

They said he is likely to fly to a Muslim country.

The sources also said the dreaded JMJB operations commander was staying in Sylhet when the grisly grenade attack on the Habiganj Awami League rally was made killing former finance minister SAMS Kibria and four others.

According to sources, the patrons of Bangla Bhai have advised him to stay abroad for a short while until the shock waves of the Habiganj killing subside.

It has also been learnt that Abdur Rahman alias 'Shai Bhai', the JMJB chief, will stay on in the country and look after JMJB operations.

The sources said, a few days ago, Bangla Bhai was preparing to go to Rajshahi to avenge the killing of three JMJB activists including Abdul Baki of Bogra. But before reaching Rajshahi, he came to know that 66 JMJB operatives had been arrested in the meantime and he might face the same fate as soon as he enters the city.

The sources also said a number of JMJB bomb squads are active in Naogaon and Rajshahi districts. A few days ago, a member of a bomb squad was injured while making bombs at a Rajshahi village.


03. Two more JMJB men held

Staff Correspondent, Rajshahi

Police yesterday morning arrested two more operatives of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) in Bagmara upazila.

Acting on information coughed up by a group of JMJB men arrested earlier, police nabbed Abu Zafar Sardar, 28, and Masud Hasan, 28, at their homes in Ramrama village. They were shown arrested in a case for an assault on police on January 24.

Police said they have squeezed out many important information from the JMJB Bagmara chief Abdus Sattar Master and 24 other JMJB men while they were on a nine-day remand and are now scrutinising and verifying those.

But, Sources said, Mustafizur Rahman Mustaque, reportedly the second in command of the Islamist terrorist outfit, though was also remanded in police custody, is yet to disclose any information.

They said it is so because police have not been interrogating Mustaque as per an order of a top police official.

But Bagmara Police Station Officer in-Charge ABM Golam Kibria denied the allegation.

Meanwhile, Forman Ali, the leader of the 12 Islamist militants arrested in Natore, told police that a middle aged bearded man named Abdul Quaiyum used to be Natore regional leader of Jama'atul Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB).

But Ali could not give any more details about Quaiyum and said he used to meet them only when he thought it to be necessary.

"Our party (JMB) is active in almost all areas in Natore and we do nothing but study the holy Qur'an and Hadith and call people to follow us," a police official quoted Ali as saying.

Ali also told police that they hate NGOs, as "they are spoiling our women and plotting to control our country. We should all resist them."



04. An Accused to Address Tafseer Mehfeel

A member of the Central Committee of Jammat-e-Islami, Imdadul Hoq Gopalganjee, is an accused in a case of 76 Kg explosive recovered from Gopalganj, and he is scheduled to address a religious congregation or Tafseer Mehfeel, as it is locally called. The Mehfeel will take place on 12 and 13 February in the Eidgah at the village Nehalee of Kaliganj upajilla, Lalmonirhat. Organised by the local madrasa-cum-orphanage, the publicity poster of the Koranic Mehfeel is unabashed in declaring the fact that Hoq is an accused in the Gopalganj explosives haul.

It was the Awami League government that linked Hoq to the explosives recovered from the outskirt of a makeshift helipad prepared for the then Prime Minister's visit. At present the case seems to have fizzled out altogether.

In their effort to whip up interest among the general mass, the organisers have taken the issue of the Moulana (preacher) being an accused in an explosive haul. However provocative and bizarre a publicity stunt it may seem, Hoq too reportedly have been enjoying the controversy that it created.

Though Hoq's name is linked to several other cases, the Jamaat-e-Islami had been running a campaign of sorts to put him on the podium. He has been in a sermon-giving spree, and at every occasion he has been introduced as an accused in the explosives haul case.


05. ASSESSMENT: A State in a State of Denial

Aasha Mehreen Amin

If there is one thing consistent about our government, no matter what the ruling party is, it is to be in a state of denial. This is why the New York Times (NYT) Magazine's unflattering story "The Next Islamic Revolution?" has provoked such self-righteous outrage from the government so much so, that it completely refuses to acknowledge even a shred of authenticity in the report. Bangladesh's Permanent Representative to the UN, Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, has sent a rejoinder to the offending publication saying that the story was "baseless, partial and misleading".

The government has even hinted at a customary witch-hunt to find the local sources that aided the foreign journalist who wrote the story. Director General of the foreign ministry, Zahirul Haq, has said that the report is one-sided and could very well be written with ulterior political motives. Haq further added, "to suggest that Bangladesh is becoming a Taliban country is humorous at best and is the result of ill motives". Haq rejected all the allegations put forward in the story, saying, "the people of Bangladesh are committed to democracy and Bangladesh has achieved great progress in social indicators highly appreciated in the international forum." One can only wonder what 'social indicators' are so encouraging as to dilute the significance of the continuous spate of unsolved murders and incidents of violence that take up the headlines everyday.

True, it may be a little premature to say that Bangladesh has become the latest hot spot for a Taliban revolution. The majority of the population does not subscribe to a militant form of Islam, one that is intolerant of other religions or one that advocates extreme violence to make a point. On the contrary, most Muslims of this country observe their religion and are at the same time tolerant to people of other faiths. It is also true that the NYT Magazine story deliberately avoided comments from moderate Muslims in the country who make up the majority of Bangladeshis.

But to claim that the threat of religious bigots, whatever the political motive they may be nurturing, do not pose as a serious threat to the secular principles on which this nation was formed, is ludicrous in its stupidity and dangerous in its intransigence. It is a bit like the mother of a psychopath refusing to admit that her son has been a 'bad boy' even after he has been caught red-handed slicing up his victim.

Take Bangla Bhai. Leader of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB), a militant organisation that wants to establish a Taliban-like rule in the country, Bangla Bhai has successfully established a reign of terror over villages in the northeastern region. Reports of torture and cold-blooded murders by this group continue to pour in with chilling progression. Last year, the Prime Minister gave orders for his arrest but this terrorist who changes his name at the drop of a hat, still manages to be out of the grips of the law enforcers. Plus, it is more than obvious that Bangla Bhai has enjoyed the support of ruling party members as well as the police. Which is why he still has full control and power over his lackeys who are continuing his work of terror and intimidation. Under the guise of religious uprightness-- something that in this country cannot be questioned or challenged.

It is rather funny that while the RAB's (Rapid Action Battalion) weeding out criminals with their 'caught-in-the crossfire' methods, continues with hyper-efficiency, they have made no headway in catching Bangla Bhai. According to news reports, the JMJB has killed at least 15 people and tortured and maimed many others. JMJB cadres have also been circulating leaflets calling for Muslims to prepare for jihad against 'infidels'. Recently the State Minister for Home, Lutfozzaman Babar told reporters that Bangla Bhai would be arrested as soon as he is found, but when talking to the BBC radio he said that the government did not 'officially' know of Bangla Bhai's existence. Babar said that the only news of Bangla Bhai (who also goes by the name Azizur Rahman and sometimes as Siddiqul Islam) the government had was from the newspapers.

The local police high ups have also played this game of denying his existence and then saying he would be arrested if found.

The government's ambivalence regarding this mercenary is mystifying. It is not clear whether it is because of his 'cleansing' of leftwing extremists or his attacks on AL leaders or his proclaimed zeal to establish Islamic rule of law, that has made the ruling coalition look the other way while he continues his criminal activities. His motives might be far from religious but the fact is that he is using the banner of religion to continue his terrorist activities.

There are, indeed, innumerable other reasons for the Western Media to be paranoid about a rise in Talibanism in this otherwise obscure, poor, overpopulated region. Many of the terrorists' targets-- a Pahela Boishakh celebration at Ramna Botomul, an Udichi function in Jessore, cinema halls in Mymensingh, the British High Commissioner, Dr Humayan Azad, jatra performances-- all represent opposing values from those prescribed by religious fanatics. Intelligence operatives have expressed their opinion that many of these terrorist attacks were the work of religious extremists but the investigations never progressed due to pressure from the authorities.

The attacks on Hindus and Ahmadiyyas are on face value, examples of religious bigotry. Of course there may be political ramifications to all these acts but the indifference of the government as regards investigation of these crimes (don't forget their agreeing to ban Ahmadiyya books) does indicate a tacit tolerance for this kind of religious extremism.

Nothing could be more dangerous for this country. We know of instances of women not being allowed to vote because a local religious leader thought it to be un-Islamic, of women being denied the right to work to earn a living, of women being forced to wear burkas and men being forced to keep beards. From time to time evangelical tirades advocating a repressive, medieval form of religious rule abound in places of worship. True they are sporadic events and are not representative of the social structure of the entire country. But they are happening.

No matter how small the area where such incidents take place, no matter how few the numbers being intimidated (compared to the general populace), these are incidents that, if allowed to continue, will take on uncontrollable proportions. Unless the government makes honest efforts to eradicate these elements of fanaticism, unless it punishes terrorists like Bangla Bhai, it has no business making indignant remarks about 'politically motivated stories by the western media to destroy the image of the country'.

If you want to say Bangladesh is not a hotbed of a Talibanesque revolution then prove it. Nipping fanaticism in the bud would be a most prudent start.