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Secret killings, gun battles, and solving a national crisis

Shahid Islam

 
Bangladesh had descended into something more dreadful than the eyes can spot and minds can fathom. People within the country, and the observers across the world, are awe-struck by the increased deaths of crime suspects under police custody and the so called gun battles that experts now believe is an euphemism for murder by state of selected people before the law could decide their fate.
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Shahid Islam

 
Bangladesh had descended into something more dreadful than the eyes can spot and minds can fathom. People within the country, and the observers across the world, are awe-struck by the increased deaths of crime suspects under police custody and the so called gun battles that experts now believe is an euphemism for murder by state of selected people before the law could decide their fate.
More alarming is the mass arrest of over 13,000 people during a week-long sweep by law enforcers of which only 179 are claimed by police to be ‘suspected militants.’ Who then are the rest and, why did the police arrest them?
 
Dreadful climate
It’s a dreadful situation grooming under an equally dreadful ambiance, and the world is watching everything. Not only suspected Islamic militants had killed over 51 bloggers, publishers, foreigners and members of minority communities since 2013, the government too has been tactfully overlooking other ruffians and killers from the ruling party conducting similar criminal atrocities across the country.
According to Brad Adams, the Asia director of the Human Rights Watch: “Bangladesh’s security forces are falling back on old habits and rounding up the ‘usual suspects’ instead of doing the hard work of carrying out proper investigations.”
Local media claims: “Many of the victims’ family members had alleged that their family members were arrested by people claiming to be police, but local police stations flatly denied of such arrests having been conducted by them.”    
Until today, the government did not consider the crisis as a political one, and, after years of dithering over a determined pursuit to hitting the roots of increased religious-based terrorism in the country, the Hasina regime now finds itself mired in a much sprawling tangle that has begun to pose grave threats to regional and global peace and security.
Especially in the neighbouring India the increased instances of attacks in Bangladesh on minority communities and selective sufi adherents of Islam is stirring up major concerns and unanimity on how to shield the ethno-culturally diverse India from a major instability spilling across borders from Bangladesh.
This has paved the way for other forms of external meddling   through a sustained Indian campaign. Indian pundits and policy makers have long warned that, ‘any religion - tainted instability in Muslim predominant Bangladesh will spread like a contagion to neighbouring Indian states and far beyond, among the Indian Muslims in particular.’
 
The cry for intervention
That fear is now being steered toward reality. The Indian Express newspaper had reported lately that the general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist, Christian alliance, Rana Das Gupta, had told a PTI correspondent that: “We feel India being a Hindu majority country should do something. We have high hopes on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He should act and take up the matter with Bangladeshi government and ensure the safety and security of Hindus.”
Although Gupta later denied to a Bangladesh TV channel that he’d sought intervention of the Indian prime minister during his chatter with the PTI correspondent, he is however reported to have informed the PTI that “The Hindu community, which is the biggest minority community in Bangladesh, is vulnerable. The fundamentalist and Jamaat forces are trying to wipe out Hindus from Bangladesh.”
What India can lawfully do in Bangladesh under such circumstances is a different matter, especially the Muslims and other minorities in India being more vulnerable in terms of socio-political safety, prosperity and freedom. Yet, there are experts within and outside Bangladesh who believe that an Indian political intervention to stem the tide of rising religion-based bigotry in Bangladesh may have already been underway since the coming to power in 2009 of the incumbent AL-led regime. They think the nation-wide police campaign to nab mostly BNP and Jamaat activists is a policy prescription that matches with the profile narrative given by Mr. Rana Das Gupta as being the perpetrators of the inhuman attacks on minority Hindus.
It’s comforting to learn from sources that the ongoing witch hunt of political dissenters is not liked by many of the concerned law enforcers who think it ‘an act of revenge-seeking that will confound the crisis instead of solving it.’ They are interested in arresting the alleged bigots who the government had accused all along for being the culprits behind the spine-chilling crimes that had rocked the national psyche and globalized the crisis.
 
Answer is national unity
Curiously, it was also learnt that, due to orders from ‘secret power hubs’ that be, many of those branded accused are being killed in the name of fictitious gun fights before enabling the alleged persons to avail the due process of law.
What then are the choices before the government? Shall it allow an internationalization of the crisis, as many western powers – ­including the USA ­had vouched for too long for a ‘joint effort’ to tackle the menace of religious fanaticism, or, should it slam shut its doors to the world outside and keep trying the ‘miserably failed’ solutions that not only failed so far to nab the culprits and thrust them before the scrutiny of law, innocent political activists and leaders of the dissenting camps have been the main victims of such ‘scorch earth’ measures.
Notwithstanding what the ruling party loyalists and the mouthpieces may or may not say, the regime of Sheikh Hasina is finding it harder to answer if there were thousands involved in committing the crimes of recent targeted killings? If not, someone shall answer why thousands of innocents are either in custody, or not traceable?
It’s also time to recognize by the government that the crisis poses serious social, political and security threats to the nation and an all party solution shall be looked for without delay, by convening a national dialogue to build consensus across parties, ideologies and ethnicity.

 


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Geo-political rivalry: China, India & Japan focus on Bangladesh!

Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi

 
One of objectives of ‘Asia pivot’ policy of USA has been to target China as a military ally of Russia and keep the Asian nations away from Chinese influence. Washington has been able to put pressure on Russia not to dominate the nations in Asia with military tie ups.  In this respect, there is a stiff competition and even conflict among China, India and Japan to keep Bangladesh away from China.
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Dr. Abdul Ruff in New Delhi

 
One of objectives of ‘Asia pivot’ policy of USA has been to target China as a military ally of Russia and keep the Asian nations away from Chinese influence. Washington has been able to put pressure on Russia not to dominate the nations in Asia with military tie ups.  In this respect, there is a stiff competition and even conflict among China, India and Japan to keep Bangladesh away from China.
Obviously USA backs its NATO ally Japan in its efforts to bring Bangladesh to the US control by investing more than does China in the country. USA has managed to coerce a shaky Sri Lanka looking for profitable economic ties with Beijing to move away from her and ‘listen” to New Delhi by using the ‘War crimes against Tamils’ card.
 
Eye of the storm
Since Sri Lanka is eager to save the so-called Sinhalese war criminals it is also seeking help from Delhi by jointly inaugurating a cricket stadium in Colombo by Indian Prime Minister Modi and Lankan President Sirisena for ‘image building’ abroad.
New Delhi, as Washington’s new “strategic partner” and Beijing’s rival, now plays for America and claims that China is encircling India under its “string of pearl strategy.” And in line with Washington’s “pivot” against China, Japan is backing up US provocations in the South China Sea and supporting the territorial claims of Vietnam and Philippines.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invited Bangladesh Prime minister Hasina to attend last month’s outreach meeting during the G7 Ise-Shima Summit in Japan. Abe promised Bangladesh that he would release $1.5 billion this year from a $5 billion loan agreed during his visit to Bangladesh in 2014.
After curtailing Russian influence the world over, the US regime has been making strenuous efforts to contain China in Asia. By using his black background, Obama has played well to cut Bangladesh and Sri Lanka from China funded projects and made India as the beneficiary.
China, however, remains Bangladesh’s main supplier of military hardware, its largest trading partner and continues to make large investments in the country. Since 2010 Beijing has supplied Dhaka with five maritime patrol vessels, two corvettes, 44 tanks, and 16 fighter jets, as well as surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles. Dhaka has also ordered new Ming-class submarines that will join the Bangladesh fleet later this year.
The cash-strapped Hasina government in Dhaka, however, is seeking more investment from China. China too has substantial interests in Bangladesh. It is already involved in upgrading Chittagong port and also won a $705 million contract for a two-lane tunnel under the Karnaphuli River.
 
Impact of Asia pivot on Bangladesh
Meanwhile, Dhaka has become highly dependent on Chinese investment. In addition to the $705 million Karnaphuli tunnel project, the Hasina government in early May has also approved the $4.47 billion Padma Bridge rail link project. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which was initiated by Beijing, recently granted a $66 million loan for two power distribution projects and the improvement of transmission lines in Bangladesh.
Chinese investors are also keen to shift labour-intensive industries, such as garment manufacturing and others to Bangladesh in order to exploit its cheap labour. Bangladeshi wages ­in all sectors ­are about one-fourth of those in China and half of that in India.
Like the port at Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Gwadar in Pakistan, Sonadia in Bangladesh (though yet to be finalized against joint US-Indian opposition) was to be part of Beijing’s “string of pearls” strategy­, a series of Chinese-funded port facilities across the Indian Ocean to safeguard its shipping from the Middle East and Africa. China is heavily dependent on these sea lanes for importing energy and raw materials.
Thus Bangladesh has become the focus for increasing geo-political rivalry between China, India and Japan- the latter two backed by the US. Recently, Chinese investment bids in Bangladesh reportedly have been outflanked by Indian and Japanese corporations over port and power plant projects.
In line with Washington’s “pivot” to Asia, India and Japan are attempting to undermine Chinese influence throughout the region.
Seemingly on instruction from the White House, Indian government is attempting to strengthen political relations with Bangladesh and undermine Chinese influence. Delhi’s interest in Dhaka is part of its US-backed “Act East policy,” and aimed at aggressively promoting its interest in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea. Transit routes through Bangladesh would provide a direct land route from India to Burma and Southeast Asia.
 
Delhi’s active role
Indian PM Narendra Modi visited Dhaka last year June and signed agreements including a deal ending four-decade border dispute between them. The Land Boundary Agreement demarcated borders and river water sharing between the two countries. Modi also promised a $2 billion line of credit and the release of a previously agreed $800 million. A total of 22 agreements were signed, including on maritime security and the establishment of special economic zones in Bangladesh.
Indian businessmen attending the Bangladesh Investment and Policy Summit in Dhaka in January promised to invest over $11 billion in various infrastructure projects, including a gas pipeline from the Indian state Orissa to Bangladesh and an LNG power plant. But any noticeable progress is absent.
According to media reports, India’s state-owned Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) is soon to sign a $1.6 billion power station construction contract with Bangladesh after undercutting China’s Harbin Electric International Company. The 1,320MW thermal power station will be located in Khulna district, southern Bangladesh. It would be the largest foreign project by an Indian power company.
The BHEL agreement further highlights India’s efforts to undermine Beijing’s economic and strategic influence in Bangladesh and the region under Washington’s “pivot” to Asia, directed at preparing for a possible war.
Bangladesh industry has grown rapidly over the past decade but the country does not have a deep-water port. Recent years has seen intense competition between India, Japan and China for various seaport contracts in the country. Bangladesh lacked a deep-water seaport because many powerful players are pushing for too many contending plans.
India was concerned that the planned Sonadia port would have increased China’s presence in Bay of Bengal, close to Indian bases in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. This low-lying archipelago of 572 islands is strategically important for India as surveillance and monitoring stations.  In 2001, India created Tri-service Andaman Nicobar Command investing $2 billion to safeguard its interests in the region. Its facilities monitor shipping through the Malacca Strait.
 
Deep sea port
Bangladesh had previously agreed to assign the Sonadia seaport development to China. However, Hasina did not sign the scheduled agreement when she visited Beijing in 2014 because of Indo-US pressures. Japan would build a new port in Matabari, a few kilometres away from Sonadia. Beijing said it wanted to develop another port at Payra. Last month Bangladesh, signed a contract with a Dutch company to build the Payra port.
China had carried out extensive feasibility assessments and agreed to provide 99 percent of funds to build Sonadia near Chittagong, the country’s major port. When Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina visited China in June 2014 it seemed the multi-billion project would go ahead. While no agreement was signed, Chinese state media reported that “both sides expressed willingness to have further negotiations.” Bangladesh, however, later admitted that the port deal would not proceed because “some countries, including India and the United States, are against the Chinese involvement.”
The Indian media has reported the power station deal as a “second setback” for Beijing, following the failure of a long-planned Chinese deal with Bangladesh to build the huge Sonadia deep-sea port. It became clear last July that Bangladesh was moving to shelve the proposed Sonadia port after it signed an agreement with Japan to build a deep-water port in Matarbari, just 25 kilometres from Sonadia.
In 2005, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that China’s plans for Chittagong harbour were part of Beijing’s “string of pearls” that also involved a Chinese-built port at Gwadar in Pakistan, and facilities in Myanmar, Cambodia and the South China Sea.
Bangladesh’s Hasina government decided to build another port in Payra, to the west of Chittagong and much closer to the Indian coastline. While the project was first announced in 2013, the bill to establish the port was passed by the Bangladesh government on March 2. 
 
Maelstrom of competition
Dhaka is also considering an Indian proposal to build the $15.5 billion Payra port project. China and some European governments have already expressed interests in it.
New Delhi is currently building a transit route to the Northeast India through Bangladesh using rail, road and waterways. The Northeast Indian states are currently connected by the narrow Siliguri Corridor or Chicken’s Neck.
Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan’s recent high-profile trip to Bangladesh May 28–30 further highlights the intensifying geo-political rivalry in the region. Chang, who was accompanied by a 39-member delegation, met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, President Abdul Hamid and senior defence officials, including the Bangladesh army, navy and air force chiefs.
Hasina told Chang that Bangladesh wanted to strengthen its cooperation with China in the fields of economy, agriculture, and infrastructure. She also said that her government would continue working with Beijing on the Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor to increase trade and economic activity in the region. Chang said China wanted to “expand strategic relations with Bangladesh,” including deepening bilateral cooperation and increasing military exchanges and personnel training in new equipment technology.
USA pushes other countries seeking some favour from Washington or NATO to absolute submission, by making them do exactly what the Pentagon-CIA-Neocons wants. India and Japan are acting on the US bidding. By insulting and belittling Pakistan after having misused it for terror wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere to kill Muslims, USA signals to India that it has wound up Pakistan ties in favour of its ‘terror victim’ partner.
The intense competition over infrastructure investment and other projects in Bangladesh show that every country in the region is being drawn into the maelstrom of war tensions created by the US drive against China. That India wants to be seen as an ally of the super power on terror gimmicks is understandable.

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Nepal reeling under controversy over constitution

Abdur Rahman Khan

 
Members of Federal Alliance, a coalition of Madhesh-based parties protesting near the prime minister’s office in Kathmandu.
The new constitution as promulgated by an overwhelming majority of the sovereign constituent assembly of Nepal have created a sharp polarization among the political parties.
With over 85% of lawmakers in the 601-strong assembly are in favour of the constitution, there is no questioning the legality or the credibility of the new charter. However, the pro-Indian political parties representing Tarai-Madhes, the fertile flatlands of Nepal along the Indian border have been vehemently opposing the constitution on a number of grounds.
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Abdur Rahman Khan

 
Members of Federal Alliance, a coalition of Madhesh-based parties protesting near the prime minister’s office in Kathmandu.
The new constitution as promulgated by an overwhelming majority of the sovereign constituent assembly of Nepal have created a sharp polarization among the political parties.
With over 85% of lawmakers in the 601-strong assembly are in favour of the constitution, there is no questioning the legality or the credibility of the new charter. However, the pro-Indian political parties representing Tarai-Madhes, the fertile flatlands of Nepal along the Indian border have been vehemently opposing the constitution on a number of grounds.
The contentious issues
At the heart of the current dispute is the demarcation of new federal boundaries. If the federal boundaries are settled to their satisfaction, Madhesi leaders are ready for compromise on all other fronts.
The longer both sides don’t compromise on the Madhes deadlock, the more the radicals’ hands will be strengthened, fears political analysts.
Tarai-Madhes parties, along with some other small ethnicity-based outfits, believe that the new constitution perpetuates discriminations against traditionally marginalised groups like Madhesis, Tharus and Janajatis. They object to a host of constitutional issues: from what they call ‘unequal’ citizenship provisions and a lack of proportional electoral representation to an ‘exclusionary’ state apparatus.
The Madhes-based parties want two contiguous, east-to-west plains-only provinces spanning the whole of the flatlands bordering India. Only in such provinces where native Madhesis and Tharus are in a majority, they reason, will there be no discrimination against them. Madhes-based parties are demanding that there be one state with Madhesis in the majority and another state where the Tharus are in a plurality. (As per the 2011 national census, Madhesis make up around 36% of the national population while Tharus constitute around 7%.)
But the three major political parties – Nepali Congress, the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxists-Leninists (CPN-UML) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre) – who were behind the new constitution, were of the view that such Madhes-only provinces are impossible. Such demarcations, they believed, would have been resisted by other ethnic groups who also claim these areas. Nor were such plains-only provinces economically viable, they argued.
A middle-way solution could have been to break up disputed districts like Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari so that hilly settlements fell under hill provinces while the settlements with major Madhesi/Tharu settlements came under the two proposed Madhes provinces. But that would still entail creating two contiguous Madhes provinces, which meant that the two provinces would effectively control Nepal’s access to India.
 
Differences are widening
Many top Congress and UML leaders openly feared that such Madhes provinces could use their geographical advantage to blackmail the centre. These fears have been heightened after the recent border blockade that the Madhesi parties imposed with India’s support – or the other way round, as many in Kathmandu believe – and which brought the country to a standstill. The three big parties would like the hill provinces to have at least one point of access to India, which is not an unreasonable demand. But the Madhesi parties contend that such ‘gerrymandering’ will once again put the marginalised Madhesis and Tharus at a disadvantage in their calculus with the centre.
So this is where the federalism debate has been stuck. There is now more talk of an imminent government change as other political parties, even those in the government, are increasingly unhappy with Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. His government has become synonymous with corruption and misrule; he has failed to tame runaway inflation, officially pegged at around 10% but unofficially many times that; earthquake victims are yet to get substantial help; and there has been no headway in talks with the protesting Federal Alliance that includes the Madhesi parties. In fact, of late it has appeared that Oli’s only goal is to somehow keep his coalition intact.
Biswas Baral , a Kathmandu-based journalist apprehends that the deliberate delay in settling outstanding constitutional issues could prove expensive. With each passing day, the level of polarisation between the Pahadi (hill) and Madhesi (plains) communities is increasing. The inhabitants of the hill regions have been told by Oli and company that the Madhesi parties are intent on dividing the country, in cahoots with the Indian establishment. In this narrative it is only Oli’s resolute stand not to compromise on national sovereignty that has kept the country intact thus far.
 
Settlement time running out
The Madhesi people of the plains seem to be increasingly feel, albeit with promptings from across the border, that it is futile to talk to Oli, who is “anti-Madhes”. As the deadlock continues, the radical forces in the Tarai are rousing locals with tales of the callous Kathmandu establishment that continues to treat Madhesis as second-class citizens. Attitudes are hardening on both the sides.
The federalism dispute, however, is not as intractable as it is being made out to be. One of the problems is the ruling UML party, whose core constituency is up in the hills. Since it does not have much stake in the Tarai – unlike Congress which has a big base in Tarai-Madhes – the UML can safely play the anti-India nationalist card to cultivate its Pahadi (hilly) constituencies. The UML has tried to project itself as the one and only defender of Nepal’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. It also tries to paint the protesting Madhesi and Janajati outfits, in ways both subtle and obvious, as secessionist forces working for India.
Madhesi parties too have fanned anti-Pahadi sentiments among Madhesis, often trying to deflect the blame for their own failures. After all, the Madhesi parties could not do much for common Madhesis during their repeated tenures in government. The sight of protesters affiliated to these parties taking to the streets with spears and axes during the recent Madhesi uprising also gave a lie to their claim that their protests were completely peaceful. Their relationship with the Indian establishment also remains murky.
Analysts say, whatever the reasons behind the prolonged deadlock – the ‘callous’ Kathmandu establishment unheeding of marginalised groups or the ‘divisive’ ethnic agenda of Madhes-based parties, or both – one thing is for sure: the longer the deadlock continues, the more the hand of radical forces in Madhes will be strengthened.

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 Ullemas’ fatwa should contain bold and unbiased directions

Mohammad Ali Sattar

 
I trust that all Muslims will know that anything that is harmful and destructive to any creature and society should be ‘haram’ (forbidden) in Islam. From the teachings of the Prophet to the glorious instances of kindness, support, tolerance and piety shown by the followers of the messengers – we have come to learn that Islam is indeed a religion of peace. Again Islam is a faith that stands against any injustice; Islam is for equality and mutual respect. Islam is against deprivation and oppression.
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Mohammad Ali Sattar

 
I trust that all Muslims will know that anything that is harmful and destructive to any creature and society should be ‘haram’ (forbidden) in Islam. From the teachings of the Prophet to the glorious instances of kindness, support, tolerance and piety shown by the followers of the messengers – we have come to learn that Islam is indeed a religion of peace. Again Islam is a faith that stands against any injustice; Islam is for equality and mutual respect. Islam is against deprivation and oppression.
When more than hundred thousand Islamic thinkers and religious leaders have come out with fatwa (religious edict) that terrorism is prohibited in the religion and that killing of non-Muslims is not permitted etc., it is but telling us the same old thing that we have been saying and writing about. It is certainly no new message or anything that is not agreed upon.  The world knows it well as there has not been more research, writings and speeches than on the Holy Quran. 
 
Fatwa and rule of law
This fatwa is the outcome of the recent spate of killings (especially of the non-Muslims) across the country. We welcome the united effort by the great number of ullemas to have signed up against an issue that indeed is threatening the social fabric of the country. While this is creating a panic in the minds of the public it is also spreading a discontent among the non-Muslims (minorities) against the very creed of Islam.
Farid uddin Masoud, chairman of Jamiatul Ulama, addressing the press conference while highlighting the fatwa also remarked that extra-judicial killings are also forbidden in Islam. He stressed on the need to raise awareness about these issues. That is exactly what is required. I couldn’t agree more with him when he said this. 
Think of it. Whatever good we want to do to the people and the society we need to awake the people about the benefits of the program. Be it a social, economic, political or education matters – first the people should know and understand the benefits of such programs. Only then they will come to accept it and abide by the rules.  When they abide by rules and volunteer to help implement the project then only we can expect a sustainable advancement of the scheme. There would be absolutely no obstacles to finish the project and continue reaping the benefit. 
When we speak of the religious decrees we speak of probity and morals of a human being and the society. People who rule and are ruled both form the basics of the society. They all need to abide by the rules of morality. The responsibilities lie with the ruler(s), who has the obligation of making laws, ensuring justice and equality – the cornerstone of the economic infrastructure and establish all that is legal. A prosperous society is only possible through hard and sincere work and commitment. 
 
Rules against all ills
As citizens of a country (society) we also have our duties and responsibilities towards each other and the state. Here also we need to support the honest and prudent individuals as our leaders. We need to respect the laws that they make. We must make the social mechanism peaceful and less complicated. We need to help build peace and tranquility within the fraternity. 
As we also require standing up against injustice and oppression, to be honest in dealing with the minority and make sure that they don’t feel insecure in our midst.  All the above points are in conformity with Islam, therefore, all that is good for you and others are preaching of Islam. 
Our religious leaders and thinkers should also make their views known about blogging against Islam and any other religion, degrading the prophets, insulting faiths of both the majority and the minority, and promoting perversion of all sorts in the name of free thinking and liberal mind.
The wholesale corruption in state machinery down to the local bodies and individuals should also receive utmost attention of the Ullemas and they should take up the task of raising awareness against all ills of the society irrespective of caste and creed.
To work for a better society doesn’t need to be a militant or a suicide bomber. On the same breath, it doesn’t allow you to be a coward and retreat from the truth. To be precise we want directions on leadership qualities, do’s and don’ts of a leader and administrator, responsibility of the state towards its citizens, importance and value of justice, bribery, and many other issues that need constant deliberation.
 
The writer is a freelance journalist. Email: malisattar@outlook.com

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Crossfire is not the right way to defeat militancy

Faruque Ahmed

 
The killing of accused Faifullah (Fahim) in police encounter in Madaripur district while under police remand and a similar gunning down of the suspected killer of blogger Avijit in the capital’s Khilgaon area within two days invariably showed extra-judicial killings are on rise denying people’s right to fair justice.
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Faruque Ahmed

 
The killing of accused Faifullah (Fahim) in police encounter in Madaripur district while under police remand and a similar gunning down of the suspected killer of blogger Avijit in the capital’s Khilgaon area within two days invariably showed extra-judicial killings are on rise denying people’s right to fair justice.

In fact in the views of many police encounters seem to have taken a new turn on the back of the sharp rise of militants’ target killing. One estimate suggests militants have killed at least 13 persons over the past three months raising public panic with the murder of the wife of a senior police officer in Chittagong.

 
Police acted illegally
Contrary to it, over 17 persons were killed in police shoot outs in 13 days as news reports suggest showing how killings and counter killings are at work threatening public safety at all level.
Meanwhile the weeklong police crackdown, believed to have been hastened following the killing of the wife of a senior counter-terrorism officer saw indiscriminate arrests in a massive scale throughout the country. Over 14,000 people have been arrested in one week in the drive but the police claimed that the number of suspected terrorists were only below two hundreds.
The whole country was swept by police action and the human plight from such massive arrest is visible everywhere. Jails are overcrowded with more than twice of their nationwide capacity. Lower judiciary is overloaded with the cases of the detainees while police were accused of minting money from the misery of the large number of arrested people.
Former police Chief Nur Mohammad believes the crackdown has failed to yield good result, except causing harassment to innocent people. He said only a small number of people arrested in the special drive were suspected criminals.
“You can’t just arrest whoever you want. But unfortunately this is happening as we have failed to ensure accountability of police, he said.
The former IG said while arresting someone on suspicion, police must say why they are suspecting the person. He wondered who will take the responsibility when thousands of people are being arrested without specific charges and are being made to suffer.
Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission Dr Mizanur Rahman has raised similar question saying mass arrest is against the law and police can’t detain a person without specific ground. In fact such arrests have also sidetracked the recent Supreme Court order that said arrest must be followed by a warrant of arrest issued by a court of law.
 
It has become a cliche
Dr Mizanur Rahman in a news paper interview last week has called for a pro-active judiciary to protect people from police arrest, torture and harassment. In his view it is high time that the higher judiciary should embark upon role of judicial activism to protect people’s constitutional right to life, liberty and property. They must be protected from undue harassment.
What appears quite terrible is the rise of killing of accused in police encounters. The way it has been practiced by the law enforcing agencies in recent time suggest that it has become secret killings of the other dimension. One cannot be blamed if they call it summary execution of the accused by police.  
What appeared shocking to most people is the killing of college student Faizullah in police encounter while the lower court had granted police a 10-day remand of the boy to dig out the identity of the militants who had attempted to kill a teacher of Madaripur college. The attack was similar to other militant attacks and while  two other members of the gang were able to flee, Faizulalh was apprehended by people while trying to escape.  
People wondered why the law enforcers killed him while he was a source of valuable information to expose the militants and the identity of people sheltering them. Since he was apprehended, he could never escape punishment through a proper trial. By killing him police have defeated the purpose of the remand.
In fact police simply can’t avoid its responsibility of killing a person whose protection was their business in the interest of investigation as entrusted to them by the court. But this has become a common story that police tell after every encounter. It says as before, that police had come under attack from the cohorts of the accused who were waiting to snatch him and at one stage, police had to open fire and the accused in police custody was killed in crossfire. Others however escaped unhurt.
 
Transparency & accountability needed
Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon, MP, told parliament last Tuesday that such police action only shows the weakness of the force in handling the rising militancy. However, while he didn’t mention, others say that police must improve their capacity by upholding professionalism instead of allowing them to act as the ruling party’s armed cadres.
Senior lawyers have also raised question as to why the lower court granted remand to hand over the boy to the police. The Supreme Court Order has clearly forbidden police remand for a first timer facing criminal charges. The point is that had the lower court not ignored the directive of the apex court and the police had acted professionally, the accused would have survived to undergo trial and the nation could know who those crime gangs are destabilizing the society.  
Slain blogger Avijit’s father Prof Ajoy Roy was shocked to find that the prime accused of his son’s murder in the city was killed in a police encounter. He said police had earlier informed him that all accused persons in his son’s murder had left the country.
But they got them this time in the city and killed the prime accused instantly. He wanted the trial of the killers not that police will kill them. It deprived his justice and the accused person’s family has similar complaint of denial of justice. He wondered why police have killed him intentionally.   
More troubling questions were raised when the so-called killer’s family said their son was Mukul Rana not Shariful Islam as police claimed his identity with several other names. They said he was arrested by plain clothed men in Jessore identifying them as DB police four months ago. 
Now the question is whether police have chased the right man or killed the wrong one. In fact there is a total lack of transparency and accountability from the police side. In the maintenance of law and order, transparency and accountability matter most but absent in these cases.
Many believe that killing in crossfire is not the remedy to rising militancy. Its cause must be addressed politically. Moreover, mass arrest and random killing may  only create public anger along with fear as more and more innocent people will fall victim to indiscriminate police harassment and torture. 
Police must treat people as their protector to defeat the militants by isolating them from the society instead being isolated from people.

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BJP 2-yr rule: Economic slowdown, social divide and value erosion

Pushkar Raj in Melbourne

Countercurrents.org
 
The BJP has completed two years in office recently showcasing its achievements with public money followed by the national executive meeting of the party. The prime minister has congratulated his government for its achievements of ‘development’ of the country. In reality, however, while the Indian economy has underperformed in the last two years as compared to a recent past, socially and institutionally too the country’s performance tumbled downwards which is a matter of concern not a celebration. The Indian economy grew on an average of 8 percent in 2004-14, while it has grown by 7.5 percent in the last two years - still short of 0.5 percent that the country recorded during the previous congress government’s tenure (World Bank- India data and trading economics.com).

 

Full Story

Pushkar Raj in Melbourne

Countercurrents.org
 
The BJP has completed two years in office recently showcasing its achievements with public money followed by the national executive meeting of the party. The prime minister has congratulated his government for its achievements of ‘development’ of the country. In reality, however, while the Indian economy has underperformed in the last two years as compared to a recent past, socially and institutionally too the country’s performance tumbled downwards which is a matter of concern not a celebration. The Indian economy grew on an average of 8 percent in 2004-14, while it has grown by 7.5 percent in the last two years - still short of 0.5 percent that the country recorded during the previous congress government’s tenure (World Bank- India data and trading economics.com).

 

Statement of facts

Even this growth, 7.5 percent, is phony as it is capital than job driven. Irrespective of inflating statistics of foreign direct investment crossing $35 billion, 2016 added merely 1.55 million jobs in the economy, lowest since 2009 when 2.49 million jobs were created; while in 2011, 7.04 million jobs were created (Labour Bureau, Government of India, The Hindu, 31 March 2016).
On the contrary, the government has been lacking in redistribution of fruit of economic growth amongst the most needy of the society- the landless farmers, in the grip of drought and desperate for work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The government could only provide for 40.1 days of work to poor during 2014-15, lowest since the scheme was launched a decade ago. The creation of 48.6 man-day’s work in 2015-16 is encouraging but it is still under 54 man-days work generated in 2009-10 (Ministry of rural development, government of India).
Socially, the debate on personal matters such as eating and saluting has divided the country on communal lines. Hindu rightist forces are busy debating whether meat found in Dadri was mutton or beef neglecting the fact that a citizen of India was lynched by a mob instigated on an issue that concerned his personal eating choice. Under the new regime, the national debates are being ignited and fought on ‘mythological’ grounds with emotional spins while the top political leadership chooses a casual silence.
Consequently, there is a general discomfort amongst liberal sections of intelligentsia within the country and abroad over growing religious and social intolerance in public and private life in India. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in its latest report stated that religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India in 2015.
 
Erosion of values
Based on religious and social freedoms available to citizens in the country, India was placed in the company of Turkey and Russia under tier 2 countries barely escaping being clubbed with Pakistan and Egypt! It is a serious commentary on erosion of secularism as a value in our political and social life despite its being part of the preamble of the constitution. The Fraser Institute, a think tank based in Canada that gauges personal freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of a country gave India 9.14 points over 10 in 2012 while it could score only 7.36 points in 2015, pointing to a sharp rise on control over citizens’ private life by the society and state.
On the governance front, some of the major institutions of the country declined in their credibility and integrity during last two years.
While government has not paid any attention to the Chief Justice of India’s public disappointment over pending cases and judicial reforms, it was quick to appoint another retired chief justice of the Supreme Court as the governor of a state, apparently, a lower position under the constitution. Besides, credibility of the Judiciary and prestige of office of the governor also suffered due to allegations that the appointment had something to do with the said justice’s judgment quashing the second FIR against the ruling party’s president (The Hindu, 4 September 2014).
Police continued to touch new lows with its abysmal functioning in the country, more so recently in the capital of the country. Delhi police’s embarrassing spectacle was on show during the JNU ‘sedition’ case when it exhibited poor understanding of law (it could never convince others if there was a legal case made out against the accused under sedition given the Supreme Court’s ruling on the said section), and inexcusable failure to protect the accused in its custody. When the prime minister talks about improvement in governance, it should also mean reforms in an institution that supervises implementation of laws of land. If the police itself are oblivious of legal nuances then talk of governance is a delusion.
 
Institutions undermined
The image of Army as an institution suffered due to appointment of its retired chief as a junior minister in a government headed by a party known for its exclusive agenda and minority bashing. Though constitutionally there might not be a restriction for assuming such a position, but it strikes a blow to the confidence of minorities especially in J & K and Assam (with a sizable Muslim population) where Army is often called upon to assist civil administration.
In field of bureaucracy, there is no progress on 2nd administrative reforms commission report submitted in 2009. Even a ban on oral instruction from political bosses and superiors and fixed tenure in posting ruled by the Supreme Court has not been implemented. All that has happened is reconstitution of appointment committee of cabinet that has enabled the prime minister office to centralize control of bureaucracy.
Institutions such as Film and Television Institute of India, Central Board of Film Certificates, University Grants Commission, Sahitya Academy and central universities, to name a few, have seen questionable appointments and whimsical functioning. Predictably, in governance rank released by the London based think tank, Legatum Institute, Indian rank in governance slipped to 53rd position in 2016 from 49 in 2015 (www.prosperity.com).
As the BJP continues to wage an aggressive propaganda of development and strategy of social divide, social and political institutions of the country are likely to further stifle, weaken and erode. It would be interesting to see how this moribund social and political structure that is being fashioned by the party will support economic growth and prosperity that the Prime Minister is promising!
 
The writer is a Melbourne based independent researcher and writer. Formerly he taught political science in Delhi University and was the national general secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) @pushkarraaj

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