Recent so-called gunfights against drug dealers and traffickers in the name of “Anti-Narcotics Drive” or “War on Drugs” has worsened human rights situations in Bangladesh. It has spread fear and agony among citizens as many innocent and ‘Targeted’ people are being shot in the name of such ‘War’. When PM Sheikh Hasina Equated ‘War On Terror’ with this ongoing ‘War against Drugs’ by calling Elite Force (RAB) to combat Drug Trade with the same Fervor as happened in ‘Anti-militancy Operations’, RAB began its special operation on 14 May and killed in so called ‘Gunfights’ 128 persons till 2nd June, 2018. A “List’ has been made and listed people are being shot during this operation. But in many circumstances the ‘listed’ persons are being mistaken and many innocent people are being shot. Many victims have made allegations against RAB and Police that they have demanded ransom to free alleged smugglers going to be executed.
There were many operations against Drugs in recent decades in the world. Recently President Rodrigo Duterte of Philippine killed ten thousand people in that country to terminate drugs business in the country. And his Style of mass killing of drug dealers and addicted is called ‘Duterte Style’. Although Bangladesh has its own ‘Model’ stated by Home minister Asaduzzaman khan. Actually ‘War on Drug’ is not recent phenomenon. From the time of President Nixon, War on Drug has prevailed through these years. To eliminate ‘Public Enemy number one’ as Nixon said it, war on drugs has become popular in combating drug abuse, drug business and trafficking in various countries of the world. From USA, Colombia, Mexico and other Central American countries to Philippines it has become popular tool for killing extra-judicially and in many instances ‘killed’ people were innocent and Anti-government party Activists or ‘Anti-American’ Militants.
RAB was Instrumental from its very beginning for Extra-Judicial killings. In its very first years, it killed hundreds of people extra-Judicially and sometimes those killed people were innocent. The same mechanism is being used in recent years by ruling AL Regime to eliminate Anti-Al segments and it included Police even BGB in its suppressive measures. There were enforced Disappearance and custodial torture for Anti-Al people, massive anti-militancy operations through the country in many ‘Militant Astana’; but now it is very complicated. Who is the drug dealer? Who will determine his fate, RAB-Police or Judiciary? Is there any ‘Due Process’ for these ‘Popular Enemies’ or they will be killed indiscriminately in the Guise of ‘Gunfights’? The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh says otherwise. In the Article 35(5) of the constitution it is stated- ‘Every person accused of a criminal offence shall have the right to a speedy and public trial by independent and impartial court or tribunal established by Law’. So in this ‘War’, there is no “Due process of Law’; consequently there exists no rule of law which makes this country a Police State. There is no fixed system or mechanism by which ‘The Drug dealers’ will be accused of; rather it is indiscriminate selection or “List’ made by RAB and LEA, which is endangering many innocent people’s lives.
Take the example of a farmer named Abdul Aziz of Satkhira District. He was killed in ‘Gunfights among Drug Dealers’ as police said. But his family members claimed that he was called by a police ‘Source’ in the evening of that night and they found his dead body in a field of nearby village. His family claimed that he was an innocent farmer who supervised his lands. There was no case against him and he was not involved in Drug Dealings.
In this ongoing Drive against Drug dealers, Godfathers are being untouched. Specially Abdur Rahman Bodi, Rulling party AL MP from Teknaf was reported as Godfather of ‘Yaba’ and drug dealings across Bangladesh. But he is out of net and now he is making ‘Umrah’ in Mecca. Ridiculous! But the opponent of his activities Md Ekramul Haque was killed in a ‘Gunfights’ with RAB. He was president of Bangladesh Awami Jubo League of Teknaf upazila of Cox’s Bazaar District and municipality councilor of Teknaf. There was no drug dealing case against him but he was called by a major in the very night of his killing or Planned ‘murder’ you may mark as. The poignant part is ‘Audio clip’ of the conversation over phone among daughters of Ekram and his wife. They were hearing his muffled cry over the phone. He was being taken away from place to place and they heard the sound of shooting. Nothing left but the dead body with the painful mourning of his two daughters.
In line with earlier operations of same mechanism such as joint drive of RAB and LEA against Government’s enemy, be it militant or Anti-Ruling party Activists, claiming of money from detained person’s family by threatening of killing that innocent is prevalent in this operation. Two Innocent persons named Shamim and Monir was killed in a ‘Gunfight’ with police in Fulgazi of Feni District. Police demanded two lakh Taka from Shamim’s family and one and half lakh Taka from Monir’s family. They were killed in that Night in a “Gunfight’. And even after getting three lakh money as claimed by Police, a man named Rezaul Islam was re-arrested by police and again they got five lakh Taka from his father but the man was killed in a ‘Gunfight’ in Tongi of Gazipur District.
In the midst of this Anti-Drug War Senior Joint Secretary of BNP Rizvi Ahmed has alleged that in the name of Anti-drugs Drive Anti-AL Activists of BNP and other parties are being killed by RAB and LEA. After not getting claimed money they are killing innocent people. In the case of Monir this arrest-money claiming-gunfight was evident. His sister Rezina begum said that her brother was involved with Bangladesh Jatiotabadi Chatra Dal, Student wing of BNP and police repeatedly played the game of Arrest- money claiming- discharge. They paid police many times but now it is ‘Gunfight’, no escaping from this brutal game of extra-Judicial killing. This type of anti-AL activists killing mission is now increasing as Government make people think that it is eradicating the most abominable enemy of the society. Although free and escaped ‘Godfathers’ are big question mark. Yunus mia, former ward Councilor of chunarughat Municipality was killed by police in gun firing. He was a leader of Bangladesh Jatiotabadi Jubo Dal and it is suspected that he was killed for being Anti-AL Activist.
In this Anti-Narcotics Drive, some people are being killed for mistaking of his name with another one. RAB was searching for Habib Sheikh but Police Source Musharraf Hossain made Habibur Rahman arrested by giving ‘False Information’. He was killed by RAB in a ‘Gunfight’ in Barisal Colony of Chittagong. This indicates indiscriminate Killings and Bloody plotting of Police and RAB. It is reported by Human Rights Activist Groups Such as ODHIKAR and ASK that, In Rulling AL Regime From 2009 till 2nd June of this Year, 1601 persons were killed by RAB and LEA in ‘Crossfire’. And here comes another feature of this Extra-judicial killing Game, Media. Media played very ‘Selective’ role in portraying those ‘crossfire’ and ‘Gunfights’ which was made against Anti-AL elements. Even they repeatedly encouraged such type of popular killings by making ‘Media Trial’. They made someone Criminal in the Eye of People and RAB took away that Criminal’s life. So brutally staged! And that type of ‘Media Trial’ is playing Key role in this ‘War’ also. If you look carefully, with the commencement of this ‘War’, Media played the role of ‘Popularization’ of Drug Dealers killing by reporting grugs and Yaba dealings in a very specific way. And investigative report of a TV channel made Ekramul’s Killing Justifiable by inserting his name in the ‘List’ of drug dealers although some newspapers blatantly opined against this Brutal killing game.
Obviously, Drugs and Yaba are Threat to our Society. But Government should take specific measure to Stop Drugs Trafficking through safe channels protected by government officials, ruling party MPs, leaders and activists. There should be allegiance to ‘Due Process of Law’ as stated by The Constitution. And drug dealers should be punished by eligible Court, drug addicted should be rehabilitated and drug dealings should be annihilated by taking Gradual effective measures. In no way, extra-judicial killing is acceptable.
The writer is an undergraduate student at the University of Dhaka.