How long will it take to put an end to extra-judicial killings?
Retired Major Sinha Mohammad Rashed’s killing is tragic, terrible, and in no way justifiable.
It seems extra-judicial killings like this are not only part of a never-ending show in Bangladesh, but also a stumbling block ultimately contributing to the growth of the country.
If you have followed the news, you may have noticed that retired Major Rashed was killed by the police in Cox’s Bazar on July 31. While visiting Teknaf for a video shooting for his Youtube channel, Major Rashed was shot and accused of carrying 50 yaba pills, marijuana, and two bottles of alcohol.
Looking at the history of extra-judicial killings in Bangladesh, the police seem to be responsible for the greater proportion of fatalities. According to a leading human rights organization of Bangladesh, Odhikar, 4,002 extra-judicial killings occurred in Bangladesh from 2001 to (June) 2020. Police topped the list, accounting for the deaths of 54% (2,163) of the victims in this period.
Suleman, a 35-year-old man, was killed in 2018 in crossfire by police. “They (police) said they will let me go if I can give them Tk50,000 or they will kill me,” Suleman had said to his family. Kalam, a 50-year-old man, was killed in the same year. A witness who saw Kalam being taken from his home said: “We saw on television that they claim to find drugs and arms with him, but in reality, there was nothing with him when he was taken out.”
A long list of unlawful activities like these has seemed to deny any semblance of justice to the victims’ families. These unnatural deaths highlight the fast-deteriorating law and order system in our country. Without significant reform, people will lose whatever trust they have left in the local judiciary and government.
Once the law itself is involved in unlawful killing, covertly endorsed and supported by those with higher designation in society, chaos is the inevitable result. People will no longer trust, abide by, or rely on the authorities, resulting in lawless anarchy. People will have a sense of inequality, as in George Orwell’s Animal Farm -- “All citizens are equal in the eyes of law, but some are more equal than others.”
A country without justice is wilderness. Talented people do not grow on trees -- the government must uphold and maintain justice and security for all in order to ensure stability and progress. When officers and civilians alike are murdered in this way, we lose or at least discourage the next generation of leaders.
In addition, if impunity, injustice, and extra-judicial killings cannot be remedied, all efforts to make Bangladesh economically wealthy will be in vain. People receiving no justice for loved ones lost in crossfire or similar incidents cannot rely on the government, resulting in diminished devotion to the country and eventually leading to apathy.
Failing on this question of morale, the country will turn into a failed state, as bright minds leave the country, or leave the world forever as victims of extra-judicial killing.
Having seen the long list of unjustifiable murders, will anyone risk coming back to a place where the chief judge of Bangladesh has to fear for his life, regardless of the charge?
One of my seniors, Tanvir Hashem, who currently works at the Royal Bank of Canada, emigrated from Bangladesh a couple of years ago. He was an established banker at Eastern Bank Limited, yet he decided to leave this country. “Where life is uncertain, there is no point of living in that country,” he had said.
Therefore, it is important that the government take strong action to tackle extra-judicial killings. Albert Einstein said: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” As it stands now, it is only people who make a country’s social, academic, and economic progress, and until this culture of systematic extra-judicial killing and abuse of power is uprooted, the country’s development remains a dream.
It is time to make Bangladesh a better place to live in. We want justice for Major Sinha, justice for all, and for justice to be an integral part of this country.
Mahde Hassan works for the British Council of Bangladesh as an invigilator. He can be reached at [email protected]