My husband is a simple businessman; he is not involved in politics,” saidAfrin Sultana, the wife of the latest victim of abduction, Saiful Islam, 35, who went out of his Siddhirganj residence on business purpose around 9 pm on Thursday. Since then he has been missing. The victim's family claimed that the kidnappers have demanded Tk. 10 lakh as ransom over mobile phone. However, this time around, the victim was extremely lucky that he was dumped alive in front of the National Mausoleum in Savar nearly 26 hours after his abduction. The latest incident happened barely a day after the bodies of Narayanganj city councillor Nazrul Islam, senior lawyer Chandan Sarkar and five others were found floating in the Shitalakkhya river. The seven were kidnapped in broad daylight in Narayanganj last Sunday.
Abduction spree continues across the country with at least six people having been kidnapped in four districts in the past week alone. According to the latest media reports, five of the abductees have been rescued, while a few suspects including two policemen and a police source have been arrested in connection with these abductions. The only positive aspect of all these abductions was that most of them were connected to demanding ransom from the abductees. However, it did not reduce the fear of abduction in the citizens at home and the dread of national degeneration in the citizens living abroad.
So far, the primary information has not revealed any political motives or political identities of the suspects and those arrested. However, in the highly politically polarised society of ours, leaders from both sides of the political divide are blaming each other for the dreadful condition of the society pertaining to the basic human right of its citizens, which is the right to protection and security of life as enshrined in Article 32 of the constitution.
BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia has blamed the ruling Awami League's affiliate organisations -- Bangladesh Chhatra League and Awami Juba League -- for the recent incidents of abduction and murder in Bangladesh.“Juba League and Chhatra League are connected with militants. They have ties with the militants and terrorists,” she said. To make her point that AL has ties with 'militants and terrorists' she went as far as making the ridiculous contention, that “Abdur Rahman (JMB leader) was a relative of Mirza Azam, who is an Awami League leader.” It was known through the media that the victims and the accused in the Narayanganj tragedy are all members or supporters of AL.
The PM on her part is not lagging behind in this race of accusations. In a May Day rally, she blamed BNP for the abductions and killings that are taking place throughout the country. Alluding to the recent threat by a BNP leader the PM further added: “BNP has called for ambush attacks. It is in their nature. They are responsible for the secret killings throughout the country. When BNP was in power, Bangladesh was globally known as a terrorist state. But with Awami League in power, the country is now a role model for development.”
However, in this race of accusations, the onus lies on the government to prove the PM's statements and to disprove the BNP chief's accusations, not the other way around. The primary information as reported in the media does not prove the PM's hypothesis that the BNP was involved in carrying out this spate of abductions or killings. Even had it been so, it is the responsibility of the government authorities to prevent it, to bring those accused of carrying out these heinous crimes to book, and to let the public know if they have any link with or are carrying out the crimes at the behest of the political party the PM is pointing to.
In the wake of an alarming rise in abductions and secret killings, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) yesterday expressed concern over the human rights situation in the country. “The country is at a critical juncture. Fear and anxiety are consuming people and society. We too are anxious and concerned,” said NHRC Chairman Mizanur Rahman.
Fifteen eminent citizens came out with a statement that said: “We are shocked and angered by the abduction in broad daylight and brutal murder of Narayanganj City Corporation Panel Mayor Commissioner Nazrul Islam and his four associates and respected lawyer Chandan Kumar Sarker and his driver.” The statement said the failure of the law-enforcing agencies to investigate abductions, rescue victims and arrest criminals had resulted in this crisis. The social media are full of frustrations of the concerned citizens both at home and abroad that vividly echo the sentiments expressed by the eminent citizens.
Ever since the January 5 general election, the government had ample avenues to boost its dwindling moral authority through better governance. Quite to the contrary, it has miserably failed to do so, even during a lull in the opposition's movement. The mischief mongering of the members of the party's student front, the principal cause of its declining popularity since assumption of the helm of the state in 2009, is continuing unabated, if not worsened. As if that was not enough, the current spate of abductions has put even the government's staunchest adherents on the defensive. And the despair about the future of our society and state only follows. The grave state of affairs naturally leads one to question, who is in control, the government or the abductors?
The writer is Convenor of the Canadian Committee for Human Rights and Democracy in Bangladesh.