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Dhaka Tribune

The war of brutal videos and our handicapped conscience

Update : 24 Apr 2013, 08:22 AM

Several brutal videos of public lynching of different political activists are making their rounds in the social media scene of Bangladesh. Of the several gruesome videos available, one clip, shot in October 2006, shows the killing of a Shibir activist at Paltan during the infamous Logi Boitha rally called by the current prime minister.

Several people were beaten to death that day, this one just happens to be recorded. It is clear from the audio narrative of the clip that one of the parties involved in the current conflict, Shibir, is mourning this death of their activist and alleging that AL activists committed this heinous and gruesome act at the direct order of Sheikh Hasina. Jamaat-e-Islami and their allies often bemoan this and have long been demanding justice for this mindless public lynching. In the last 7 years, no Awami League, 14 party, and so called pro 71 forces activists and leaders were seen to express sorrow at this killing and demanding justice. It seemed many even enjoyed the logi boitha killing as the elimination of a poisonous snake. Although the video clearly shows the perpetrators, no attempts have been made to bring them to justice.

Another such video shows how a local government leader, Upazilla Chairman Sanaullah Noor, was chopped to death.

Noor, belonging to the opposition party, brought out a rally at the main thoroughfare of the upazilla. In broad daylight, in front of thousands of onlookers and dozens of journalists, a few dozen activists of the ruling party, armed with hatchets, axes, sticks, knives attacked the procession.

As the procession dispersed, the attackers converged on the leader. As could be seen in the video, the attackers kept beating Noor, even when he fell down, bleeding profusely and begging for his life. It was also reported that at one point, some attackers used knives to cut major blood vessels in his arms and tendons in his legs. According to news reports, the group of assailants was led by Zakir Hossain, a local AL leader. At one point in the video Zakir is seen chasing a journalist who had been attempting to take photos of the killing. Nearly a dozen journalists were brutally beaten during this event and were admitted to local hospitals. Before any investigation or charges could be brought up, a statement from the ruling party claiming that the killing might be a result of BNP’s infighting, buried any hope of a fair investigation or any justice.

The suspected lead killer remained free of any harassment of law enforcement agencies. It was reported that he used state-backed power to rig the results of the election for upazilla chairman which went vacant after the death of Noor. And over the last two and a half years, the state was not seen taking any tangible steps toward investigating the murder.

The last video that caught my attention was taken in Fatikchhari, Chittagong. Islami Chhatra Shibir enforced a general strike and the local unit of the ruling party organised an anti-hartal rally.

The rally met resistance from Shibir activists, and altercations began – police remained inactive despite requests by rally-goers to intervene. Apparently the AL rally, was overwhelmed by Shibir activists who were re-inforced by local villagers. All the motor bikes belonging to the AL activists were burnt to ashes before three AL activists were trapped in a local school and subsequently lynched – they were beaten and chopped to death in a fashion similar to the other two men in the other two videos.

Their cries for help, were clearly audible in the background. However, unlike the other two killings, this stirred the emotions of our prime minister, the whole pro 71 brigade and secular liberals.

Social media scenes as well as print media scene were filled with heart wrenching laments. Mainstream newspapers published multiple follow up stories of the event and about the identity of the perpetrators. The PM as well as many of the commentators immediately compared the brutal Fatikchhari lynching with Pakistani army brutality in 1971. The whole brunt of the state swept heavy-handed over the locality and, under curfew, combing operations were conducted and every single possible suspect including the local government chairman were arrested and sent to police torture/interrogation cells. And in a complete reversal of roles – BNP, Jamaat and their allies remained quiet about the killings.

As the AL, and centre left secular liberal forces and pro ‘71 Chetona brigade felt rather happy about the first two lynchings described earlier, the centre right conservative spectrum secretly felt satisfaction at this horrendous act.

In 1994, killing groups of Rwandan Hutus, supported by the Hutu-led government and army, took up machetes against their ethnic Tutsi neighbors. They started chopping men, women and children to death. By the end of the week, 500,000 to 1m ethnic Tutsis were dead. In Bangladesh, except a small proportion of religious and ethnic minorities, 90% of the population are not divided by any ethic, religious or language barriers.

We are all more or less homogenous with regard to culture, religion, race, creed, language. Yet an artificial division is driving us towards this Hutu-Tutsi type bloodthirsty animosity. In the Rwandan conflict a big chunk of the victims were moderate Hutus who tried to bring some sense and refused to take part in the mindless brutal chopping of their Tutsi neighbors.

In Bangladesh we are also seeing intense polarisation, forcing moderates to be with or against a side. We are letting our political faith triumph over our basic human instincts. Ultimately, humanity loses out.

Rumi Ahmed is a blogger and political analyst.  


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