Bangladesh: We, the citizens of Bangladesh demand security...

Ain o Salish Kendra
A statement issued by 115 women in Dhaka, following the assassination of Shah A M S Kibria and five members of his audience (Abul Hossain, Farid, Manjurul Huda Manju, Siddiq Ali, Abdur Rahim) in a grenade attack on a public meeting in Habiganj, Sylhet.
Statement received from WLUML networkers, Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK).
The latest in a series of bomb attacks occurred on 27 January 2005 at an Awami League public meeting in Habiganj, Sylhet. In this attack Shah A M S Kibria, member of Parliament, internationally renowned economist, freedom-fighter, language movement activist, member of Awami League's Presidium, the former Finance Minister and 5 others (Abul Hossain, Farid, Manjurul Huda Manju, Siddiq Ali, Abdur Rahim) were killed.

According to newspaper reports, nearly a hundred persons were injured. The targeted killing of a high-ranking leader of a large political party has shocked people at large. Citizens are now fearful that bomb attacks may occur in the most unsuspecting of public places. They are also distrustful because of the administration’s failure to take action against the perpetrators of previous bomb attacks, or to take adequate security measures. The situation is leading to increasing desperation, and encourages criminality and violence. We think the present situation is highly dangerous for the nation as it signals an absolute breakdown of political and social morals, and threatens democratic spaces.

In the last 5 years, from March 1999 to January 2005, over 140 persons have been killed in 21 bomb and grenade attacks. These attacks have targeted political public meetings, cultural activities, including theatre performances (Jatra and Baul singing), and even homes of political or cultural activists. We do not think that these incidents are unconnected; on the contrary, they appear to be systematic and well planned. This is why these incidents of bomb and grenade attacks are very alarming. We are concerned with the administration’s failure to prevent these attacks, to carry out proper investigations, to make public investigation reports or to bring the perpetrators to justice. What is most alarming is the inefficiency, incapability and lack of a clear political will on the part of the government to stem the tide of political violence.

Information available from different news sources - government and private - reveals that after these bomb or grenade attacks, investigations have remained inconclusive, evidence has been destroyed, enquiry commission reports have not been made public and perpetrators have not been caught. Instead a few arrests made on grounds of suspicion have been a source of harassment, and only once has the accused been charge-sheeted. So far no trial has been held. The inquiry reports that were published after the grenade attack on the Bangla New Year celebrations in 2001 at Ramna, Dhaka, (which killed 10 persons including 1 woman) and the bomb attack on a large Awami League rally on 21 August, (which killed Ivy Rehman and 20 others including 4 women) were incomplete and lacking in credibility. After each such incident the Prime Minister, Cabinet members and high-ranking officials promised to bring the culprits to justice. These promises ring hollow to the citizens of Bangladesh, as successive grenade attacks and bomb explosions have led to the killing of Ahsanullah Master, a member of Parliament from Ghazipur and a popular Awami League leader, several well-respected journalists, such as Manik Shaha and Humayun Kabir and political activists.

In the name of quelling terror attacks and law enforcement, officially commissioned forces such as RAB, Cheeta, Cobra and the police have killed alleged suspects in custody, without giving them the benefit of a trial, and referred to their deaths as "crossfire" killings,. There has been no enquiry into the causes of these “crossfire killings”. On the other hand, the administration has remained passive in the face of the vigilantist killings (of 20 persons) and torture perpetrated by Siddiqul Islam aka Bangla Bhai's and his gang in the name of suppressing Shorbohara members. Bangla Bhai remains at large inspite of an order of arrest from the Prime Minister reported in the media in 2004. Several ministers and relevant police officials have dismissed Bangla Bhai as a figment of media imagination despite clear evidence to the contrary. Irresponsible acts by those in the highest seats of government and the lack of sincere, committed, and sustained measures for law enforcement has created tremendous insecurity for citizens’ and is a cause for deep social unrest. The growing tendency to extra-judicial killings has created an alarming deterioration in the law-and-order situation and is a threat to democratic practice. It has curtailed citizens’ rights to freedom of political participation and cultural activities. We demand an end to this situation. We also demand that the administration take immediate steps to ensure security for all public and private functions, political and cultural activities (such as the traditional Jatra), and women's sports (wrestling, swimming, football), and to create an environment for the practice of citizen’s rights.

We grieve for each life that has been lost, for each life that has been maimed or injured. At the same time, we condemn the terror attacks in the strongest possible language.

We demand:
  • an independent and transparent investigation into each bomb blast and grenade attack (free of government intervention);
  • medical care for those injured in such attacks and compensation for their families;
  • the culprits be identified, proper trials be conducted and those found guilty be duly punished;
  • steps be taken to improve the law and order situation,
  • that law enforcement agencies stop using methods that lead to custodial deaths or other forms of torture and violate Bangladesh’s commitment to human rights;
  • that measures be taken to reinstate public faith in the law, courts, judicial system and in public institutions;
  • a democratic environment conducive to freedom of participation in political and cultural activities (Jatra, Baul singing), for women's sports events (wrestling, swimming, football), etc.