When the system develops rust, police can see even dead men running
The dead are thought to be free from mortal matters. But are they? Consider Amin Uddin Mollah. The Gazipur man has long since died, on January 25, 2021, to be precise, and yet he "took part" in attacking police personnel with a bomb on the night of October 28, 2023.
It cannot be his ghost, because a police officer "clearly saw" him and 21 other BNP and Jamaat leaders and activists fleeing under the street lights in Gazipur city that night, according to the case statement penned by Sub-inspector Salahuddin of Gazipur's Kapasia Police Station.
In the legal system we live in today, this does not come as a surprise anymore. Over the last 15 years, it has rather become a norm that police would find dead people, migrant workers, hajj pilgrims and patients taking treatment in faraway lands involved in violent crimes in Bangladesh.
The pattern is telling. In most cases, the accused are from the opposition camps. And often, such "ghostly" cases were filed immediately before and after elections in 2014 and 2018. Ahead of the January 7 national election, the pattern is repeating itself.
Thousands of BNP-Jamaat leaders and activists have been put behind bars in crammed prison cells across the country without trial, including many innocent people who, like Amin Uddin, had nothing to do with the alleged crimes but have been implicated anyway. For those who are alive, bail in such political cases is also hard to come by. This is persecution of the opposition through "legal" means.
Such persecution of the opposition using state machinery is distasteful, and brings to light the appalling state of our legal and political systems that have developed corrosion, exposing the vulnerability and fragility inside. When unaddressed, a seemingly banal rust in any structure, state or otherwise, will spread and get deeper over time and the structure will crumble like a termite nest with a stroke of a finger.
What happened in the case of Amin Uddin and dozens of others over the years is very simple. In a superb display of unprofessionalism, what police did is simply copy the names of opposition leaders and activists from their database and paste them in the case statements. There is little accountability, and so there was no need for verification, no need for evidence gathering. In some cases, there is also pressure from the police high-ups to capture opposition leaders and activists.
Had the police updated the database and verified the information, they could have avoided making such blunders. What ultimately happened is that many innocent people have been victimised on political considerations in efforts to scare the opposition and force them into subjugation. At the micro level, this is inflicting sufferings on these victims and their families. At the macro level, it is eroding public trust in police and the legal system that is meant to protect the innocents.
What we are dealing with here is injustice, politicisation of the legal system and violation of fundamental rights of citizens. No society, no nation can call itself democratic and civil when it is possessed by these evils. These are dangerous abrasions in a system, and unless they are cleaned out, police will continue to see dead men running. And the system will one day crumble like a termitary. With the tap of a finger.
[Martin Swapan Pandey is a journalist at The Daily Star]