It is time for a policing of the police. For years on end, news about the insensitivity of a force whose job is to provide security of life and property to citizens has increasingly added to the worries of citizens. It has now come to a pass where not even the supplications of a five- year-old child, his passionate appeals to the police to stop beating his father, matter. Before a traumatised Rabbi, the police beat his father. The beating would not stop until the life went out of the father.
We speak of Sujan, of the brutal manner in which his home in the city was raided and the vile way in which he was beaten in his bathroom before being taken to the Mirpur Police Station and killed in medieval fashion. The medieval, one might add, is not merely in the torture Sujan, a trader in garment waste, was subjected to. It was also in the despicable way in which he was brutalised before his wife and child. Here were three helpless individuals being humiliated by the machinery of the state. In the end, that machinery put the life out of one of them.
The need now is clear and urgent. Sub-inspector Jahidur Rahman Khan, who put Sujan through all that undeserved punishment and who clearly has shamed this nation by his inexcusable behaviour, must be brought under the pale of the law. It will not be enough to "close" him, in police parlance. Neither will it satisfy citizens to be told that investigations are on into the allegations against the SI. This SI has insulted the uniform he wears and has humiliated the department he serves. It becomes the responsibility of his superiors to see to it that he pays for his criminal act in the same way that it becomes the responsibility of other senior, responsible police officers to take action against any of their subordinates who have wounded, maimed or pushed individuals like Sujan to death.
As we write, we also remain aware of the pain Sujan's family goes through. His widow Momtaz Sultana Lucy has alleged that Sujan had been paying between Tk 5,000 and 25,000 a month to local thugs and the police. Such allegations are not uncommon; and suspicions of a nexus between local goons and corrupt policemen have always been there. It now becomes the job of the state, through constituting a proper, high-powered inquiry committee, to go into Lucy's allegations, indeed into similar accusations made by others in recent months. The patience of citizens wears thin.
This is not the first time that a citizen has died through police brutality. Reports of perfectly healthy men being detained by the police, taken to police stations and then emerging as corpses have constantly landed on newspaper desks. And the result? Hardly anything of consequence. Rare is the instance when a police officer patently guilty of causing a citizen's death has been punished in adequate measure. Rare too is the instance of aggrieved families being able to come by justice once their sons and brothers and fathers and husbands have died at police stations or at hospitals after they have thoroughly been brutalised by men who, as law enforcers, have cheerfully chosen to be law-breakers?
Action must be taken swiftly against SI Jahid. There are allegations against him of being responsible for the custodial death of a young man in Pallabi in February this year. And now the 35-year-old Sujan is dead, because of Jahid's brutality. The additional deputy commissioner of police (Mirpur division) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police heads a three-member probe committee to look into the circumstances leading to Sujan's death.
The circumstances are out in the open. A young man has his home invaded by the police, beaten up before his family, taken to the local police station, beaten up even worse and dies. Will the committee take notice? Does the ADC need more information?
Custodial deaths are a broad hint of the collapse of civilised order in a state. And in conditions where citizens must live in endless fear of the police, the truth is writ large: it is an entire nation which remains intimidated by the very forces that must guarantee its safety.
It is time to call for sweeping reforms of the police. The cliche that the police are friends of the people has lost meaning. A wholesale change in the police department, in its hierarchy, is called for. If senior police officers cannot keep their subordinates on the leash, if they cannot penalise them against charges of corruption, they must leave or be asked to leave.
There are good, well-meaning, professional policemen around. Unfortunately, it is the bad ones around them, with their ugly behaviour, that have the upper hand. Must these bad eggs remain in the basket?