Sunday, February 13, 2005

BANGLADESH: Rethink the ‘crossfire’ issue

+ Let us not keep talking about principles, or what go by the norms of the rule of law. Undeterred criminal terror with obscure political face, or backed and protected by vested interest groups in the sea-food- and shrimp-rich south western districts of greater Khulna had long been a reality. ‘Operation Spider Web’ met with its grandest failures when the terror-groups slipped through the police-net in the south-western district of Khulna. And in the above context, the above campaign’s failures cannot be covered up by the RAB’s so-called crossfire killings.+

13/02/2005

Rethink the ‘crossfire’ issue

The issue is crossfire deaths again. It is not because there are routine statements coming from the signature-happy ‘intellectuals’ or ‘eminent citizens’, or because some political leaders are crying foul. The crossfire stories of arrest of a ‘criminal’ who gets killed in the course of leading the RAB to his den are spread too thin to stick and the entire works stink. It is simply and summarily extra-judicial. It will be presumptuous again to say that the broad masses who are looking the other way despite the rights questions are not as conscious as our ‘intellectuals’ or politicians are. They also care.

Speaking for ourselves, as we have said before, such deaths are unacceptable to us. The Rapid Action Battalion’s law-enforcing or crime-busting duties, including its operations against the so-called underground lumpen terrorists, fronting as the so-called Marxist-Leninist parties, need to be brought under a legal framework. We further insist that the framework puts the premium on the accountability of the RAB and conforms to the rights of a citizen under the universal declaration as also our own constitution. The point that cannot be missed is that the crossfire story cannot repeat every time and everyday verbatim or word for word. The deaths and the charade, both unfortunate and untenable, can also lead to serious legal complications as had happened with the Operation Clean Heart. The latter had been granted post-facto indemnity, post-haste that was.

Let us not keep talking about principles, or what go by the norms of the rule of law. Undeterred criminal terror with obscure political face, or backed and protected by vested interest groups in the sea-food- and shrimp-rich south western districts of greater Khulna had long been a reality. ‘Operation Spider Web’ met with its grandest failures when the terror-groups slipped through the police-net in the south-western district of Khulna. And in the above context, the above campaign’s failures cannot be covered up by the RAB’s so-called crossfire killings. These are extra-judicial killings, though not technically custodial. But such loopholes do not confer on the RAB men the right to kill at will. The taste of blood, as has happened with some of the outlaws crying class struggle, can indeed lead to a pathological thirst when impunity is assumed or otherwise granted. There is something very, very wrong with the scripts of the home ministry. Doing public relations on what palpably is daylight murder is un-enviably a dirty work that the government should stop doing.

Criminal terror in the south-west and the north-west, on the one hand, and in the south-east, particularly Chittagong, on the other, varies in their respective support bases, as also in the economics of criminality. In the south and the north western parts, underground or what is known as outlaw terror, puts on the veneer of class politics. In the north-western region, particularly Rajshahi, it produced its antithesis of Bangla Bhai vigilantes. The former is now lying low; the latter is on the run, hopefully, government and the local administration permitting.

In the south-west, criminal terror of the outlaws centre around shrimp-cultivation interests, and in some cases forestry resources. But mostly, the terror-men are now the practiced professionals on hire. Even individuals at the political party level use them or buy their services to settle scores. A large number of them are also deeply involved with the smuggling syndicates whether in the south-west and the north-west or in the south-east as in Chittagong. And they have been emboldened by the administration’s failures to bring to trial several murder cases, not to speak of the clandestine trading in arms and drugs.

The answer to all these is not crossfire deaths. The answer is good and firm governance.