For citizens of Bangladesh, the news of fellow countrymen dying some horrible death is not new. Reports of gruesome murders, torture, abduction and rape are strewn all over the paper. There is news about hundreds of people dying in the sea in search of a livelihood. A person can be murdered in the middle of the street, and no one will do anything about it. Compared to these incidents, the death of Felani may seem normal, even insignificant. She wasn't a celebrity, nor was she a "valued" member of the society; she was just a fifteen-year-old girl who was trying to come back home, crossing the border illegally in doing so. So what if she was shot at the border? What if she died? People here die every day.
Hundreds of people are brutally murdered at the India-Bangladesh border every year. But in the case of Felani, we will never forget the shock and sadness we felt when we saw her body hanging from the barbed-wire fences at the border. In Bangladesh, most people have learned to live without basic human rights. But the brutal treatment of Felani broke all limits of tolerance -- an inhumane act that shook the very core of our existence. What was that little girl's fault? What did she do to deserve such a horrible death?
The answer is that Felani was born in a poor family. As a fifteen-year-old, she should have been in school but instead she had to cross the border to find work. Felani's father had already arranged her marriage, so she had to come back home. Even if she had made it back, she would have become a victim of child marriage. But she never made it back; she was sacrificed in the name of "border safety". What were her dreams? Did she have any dreams at all?
Like Felani, most victims of border killings belong to the poorest section of the population. Most of them are not terrorists or smugglers; they're inhabitants of villages close to the border, and they live in extreme poverty. They often risk their lives to cross the border, not for huge financial benefits but just to get through the day. As Bangladesh becomes a lower middle income country, we read and hear about celebrations all over. But despite reaching most of the Millennium Development Goals, poverty still remains an everyday reality for millions of people in Bangladesh.
No effective action has been taken by the government of Bangladesh or India to stop these border killings. Many hoped that the Felani case would finally see justice once the alleged murderer was brought under trial in 2013. However, even after the second round of trial, the court could not find enough evidence for conviction. The accused, who admitted to the shooting in his confessional statement, was acquitted, again.
Of course, the decision is not final, and there remains a chance of appeal. But in the face of an unpredictable justice system, what chance does the poor family of Felani have to attain justice? The government could not provide Felani a safe environment when she was alive. Can it at least do her justice after her death?
The news of Felani's murder created a media hype and outrage two years ago, but most people do not have the energy or the desire to continue supporting a cause. Why would we care about a murder that happened two years ago? Let's celebrate our cricket team's recent success against India instead.
Felani represents the millions of people in Bangladesh whose lives are considered “expendable”, both by the government and by the privileged sections of the population. Without public support and pressure on the government, the Felani trial will most probably end with the killer going unpunished. Just like the media hyped the “Jessica Lal murder case” in India, at this point, we can say that No One Killed Felani. What is being killed, though, is justice, truth and humanity.
The writer is a post graduate student of Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka.