The police have bought 12 Acoustic Hailing Devices (AHD) at a cost Tk 50 lakh each for the purpose of driving away protesters. Although it is a non-lethal weapon, the AHDs give out a piercing sound, which, health experts say, can seriously damage hearing of people within a 1km radius. AHDs allow law enforcers the option of scattering crowds without going anywhere near them. The high pitch sonic beams are supposed to be administered following specific guidelines, i.e. operators of these devices are not supposed to emit a sound that crosses the 130 decibel threshold. Health practitioners claim that sound emitted at a level over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.
While the police are undoubtedly very happy with the performance of these devices since it saves law enforcers from directly engaging with protesters, how sure can we be that the safety measures will be adhered to when using AHDs? Our police have not demonstrated any willingness to follow rules when using conventional crowd-control measures and people have been paying the price for their heavy handedness.
Rights activists are not wrong when they claim that Dhaka is hardly a place where such devices should be used. The device, in fact, was designed for use in conflict zones and has been deployed militarily in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq to drive people out of war zones. So, in the event that an AHD ends up in the hands of a law enforcer untrained in its proper use, how many people are going to end up with impaired hearing is not known. We cannot support the use of such devices, especially where there is ample reason to believe there are grave health risks involved and hope authorities will reconsider their deployment.