QUITE a number of sensational abductions followed by grisly murders near the capital city have shaken many. Although fearsome crimes of such type including gory murders have taken place in built up areas including the capital city in the preceding years, the most worrying part is now that the accusing finger for complicity is pointed at the very organisation that is supposed to protect the people from fear as also the actual occurrence of crime.
It is also disturbing that many well-meaning decent citizens along with a sizable segment of the continually suffering common folks have begun to detest the unpalatable but stable relationship of a number of our politicians with the bullies and rogue elements of the society. Looking back, one would find that politics did enter into a situation in which hired thugs who perpetrated violence were assured of protection from criminal prosecution.
A decade back very few felt ashamed as politics acquired a pejorative connotation by the fact of its manifest association with conflict and violence. The civil society stood incapacitated by the stimulation of politics based on division and acrimony. In Bangladesh, unfortunately, we have witnessed violence that has been purposive. In our situation, we have seen political motivations ranging from local turf wars to more ugly and vulgar race for quick riches; from teaching a rival group a “lesson” to dangerously polarising communities into voting blocks.
Against the background of the ghastly incidents at Narayanganj and elsewhere, affecting all segments of our socio-economic existence, could one suspect if our concern for democracy amounts to merely a false consciousness or worse, is it a crude legitimisation of the so-called politically driven conflict? Should we look for the roots of our present predicament in the phenomena of social exclusion, economic marginalisation, contests for power and other contingent factors?
There is no denying that the modern state has to remain prepared to take responsibility for ensuring the safety and security of its citizens. In the modern democratic world police are required to do far more than simply maintain order. They need to maintain order peacefully, remaining answerable to the public for the manner and scope of their actions. The emphasis on crime prevention meaning broadly 'community safety' obliges police to work with local and community groups. Policing is a state run task, and is now overtly concerned with welfare of society.
The police has to remain a 24 hour emergency service, available when all other services are out of hours. The preventive role of police will grow rather than diminish. Since crime occurs at any hour of the day or night and in any place, police are required to be available 24 hours a day everywhere. A modern police service should attempt to fulfill all requirements made of it by the public and others; this includes functions demanded by members of the public in their requests for police attendance at all sorts of incidents.
In the above backdrop, let us recall some unsettling incidents of the not-too-distant past. One may recall the tragic death of Dr. Milon in late November 1990 in Dhaka. This death was the result of the then government's letting loose of veteran criminals, at times from prison, by means of shady deals executed through so-called political operatives. Although this modus operandi did not succeed in quelling the political movement, it left a deep scar and doubt on the bonafides and propriety of accepted political protests of a constitutional democracy. The sad and bitter memory left behind was one of a government or authority that did not care a bit about legality and civility, and the anaesthetising conviction that organised violent counter-action with readiness to sacrifice life and property, was the only alternative to effect political change.
It does not take a discerning observer of the socio-political scene to be convinced that under circumstances as narrated before, it is quite difficult for the saner and more sensible elements of the young population to join movements for social change. Since nature abhors a vacuum, it is only practical that vacancies resulting from the unwillingness of the desired lot are automatically filled in by the ill-motivated desperados. The situation turns vicious and the training ground for constitutional politics witnesses detestable wheeling-dealing. Brawn takes precedence over brain at the formative years. No wonder, therefore, that our national level politics gets afflicted by this syndrome.
In present circumstances, however, we have to admit that the elite law enforcement outfit called Rab, despite grave malfeasances of some of its officials, has served the nation very well. While indulging in institution bashing we must not lose sight of the sterling achievements of Rab in terms of recovery of huge caches of firearms and ammunitions, illicit drugs and substantial busting of terror networks. The prime issue relates to policy goals of law enforcement and subsequent strategies and tactics of operation.
The government has already taken stern disciplinary action against suspected delinquent officials. Criminal proceedings under the law against all the culpable individuals need to be initiated and completed in a fast track mode to instill public confidence in the vital state organ and sworn officials of the republic. There is no virtue in lawless enforcement as the so-called spectacular results finally prove to be illusory and destructive. Elitism that operates within the dictates of law is not likely to breed indefensible arrogance. Law enforcement efficiency must mean the continuous enjoyment of public trust and confidence.
The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.