Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Felani, Limon Victims Of Unjustified Use Of Force

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina is reportedly very much dismayed by the ' rubbish politics' that some of her cabinet ministers, advisers and other party leaders have resorted to over the shootout of teenager college student Limon which caused the amputation of one of his legs to save his life.    She has reportedly advised her ministers and advisers last week to refrain from making unnecessary comments on the shootout as it has severely damaged her government's image because of their irresponsible statements.    The Prime Minister's anger is no longer a secret. The state-run news agency BSS last Wednesday ran a story quoting a source close to the Prime Minister on Limon's innocence. However, the news item was withdrawn five hours later as it appeared to be carrying conflicting views with the stand taken by other agencies of her government.         Ministers causing problems    This is how ministers and senior government officials are causing more problems for the Prime Minister rather than helping her sort out critical issues. In Limon's case, RAB personnel have shot him taking him to be a terrorist as news reports said without slight verification of his involvement with a local terrorist group.    The incident has caused a nationwide furore mobilizing public opinion against extrajudicial killings, mainly by RAB personnel in the name of fighting terrorists. It has almost assumed an international dimension now bringing external pressure on the government to reign in the activities of the elite force.    However, since RAB has caused the Limon incident, government leaders have come out this time rather blindly in support of the shootout to establish that Limon was a terrorist and therefore the shooting was justified. Besides, local RAB unit which was involved in the incident and police also came out in support of the shootout.         RAB DG's statement    Director General of RAB, Mokhlesur Rahman, on April 11 said Limon Hossain is the victim of a 'shootout' between RAB and criminals. "He just became the victim of the incident," he said. But now police and RAB investigation framed charges that Limon was a terrorist. It was further reinforced by an investigation commissioned by the Home Ministry saying Limon's involvement in terrorist activities has been established.    Home Minister Advocate Sahara Khatun and State Minister Shamsul Haque Tuku later made open statements, saying Limon was a terrorist. Even Prime Minister's defence adviser retired Major General Tarique Siddiqui, who is also her family relative, made a statement last week saying that not only Limon but also his father was also involved with local terrorist groups and the RAB action is therefore justified.    He further accused the editor of a leading Bengali daily for ' orchestrating conspiracy' against the elite force and working to tarnish RAB's image at home and abroad by his newspaper's extensive reporting on the Limon incident. He said the government has information that this editor is involved in promoting terrorist activities and he may be arrested any time. But the government is going slow.    Limon's case has been taken over by the Human Rights Commission. Its chairman Prof Dr Mizanur Rahman has announced that the commission would provide him all legal support to see that the case moved unimpeded. Many more such organizations have also lined up support behind the cause of the poor rural boy who used to contribute to his family's livelihood by taking up hard physical labour while also attending to classes in the local college.    In the backdrop of such developments, the Prime Minister seemed to have gathered the truth. Reports sent to her by relevant sources said Limon was innocent and was a victim of unjustified use of force by the elite force which caused him to lose his leg.    Sources said she is supportive of rehabilitating the victim and his family including the state support for his treatment as per the ruling of a High Court bench. The Prime Minister's views came out in a report of the state-run news agency BSS last Wednesday quoting a senior official at her office. BSS chief editor however, justified the removal by saying it lacked authenticity.         Felani "is not Bangladeshi"!    Not only Limon's case has become a big embarrassment. Last week Home Minister advocate Sahara Khatun made yet another comment in New York on the ill- fated teenage girl Felani sparking public outcry. Felani was shot dead and kept on hanging in the barbed wire of the border fence by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) in January this year. She was crossing the border from the Indian side with her father to return to their village home in Kurigram district.    At a time when the Limon issue is causing big embarrassment to the government, criticism is also pouring in as to why the government has failed to lodge a strong protest with the Indian government on Felani's killing, Home Minister Sahara Khatun said that Felani was, in fact, not a Bangladeshi citizen. She made the comment apparently to justify the failure of the government to lodging a strong protest.    It may be pointed out here that when the Felani incident took place, the Home Minister's sympathy was very strong and she publicly expressed express grief her killing and offered financial support to the family. The then IG of Police Nur Mohammad personally visited her village home and handed over the condolence message along with a sum of Taka 300 ,000 to the bereaved family. If it were true then why is she saying now that Felani was not a Bangladeshi national?    It is true Felani was living in the India and her father was working as a labourer at a brick field in Delhi. After the incident, India instead of sympathising with them evicted the entire family from their Assam household and pushed them out of the border. The Bangladesh authorities received them and helped them rehabilitating in their village home. One wonders why then Sahara Khatun this time said that Felani was not a Bangladeshi national.    Is it to circumvent criticism of the government' s failure to protect its national? The Felani case is a cross border issue, Limon's case is a domestic matter; however, both of them are victims of unjustified use of force by security forces.