Police excesses against public protests take a new form
EVER since independence, law enforcement agencies, especially the police, in Bangladesh have unfortunately gained notoriety for employing brutal tactics when it comes to dealing with public protests including even the peaceful ones. While lobbying teargas shells, along with charging truncheons, at protesting mob is a common practice for the law enforcers, they have not even hesitated to open fire on agitating people on several occasions under successive regimes, elected or unelected, civil or military. Needless to say, falling victim to such atrocious measures by the police or any other law enforcement unit, many people have lost their lives and many more their limbs thus far. However, like all other democratically thinking quarters, we have all along been vocal against such unlawful actions. We remain so as the constitution not only allows all citizens to organise rally and procession to push for their democratic demands and to give vent to their discontent and displeasure with the policies and performances of the government of the day but also prohibits any interference on the part of law enforcers in any peaceful public protest.
It was expected that the incumbent Awami league-led government, pledge-bound to ensure democratic rights of people, would make a difference at least in preventing law enforcement personnel from applying torturous tactics to deal with public protests. Regrettably, however, the incumbents have so far failed to live up to such expectations. To add to the people’s concerns, they have rather introduced some new tactics in their bid to deal with protesting public in recent times. The recent use of chloropicrin-enriched pepper gas by the police, as New Age reported on Tuesday, to disperse schoolteachers demonstrating in the capital Dhaka to press home their demand for the monthly-pay-order benefits from the government for some days now may be a glaring example in this regard. According to experts, chloropicrin is a toxic chemical exposure to which is dangerous for human health, particularly for one’s eye and lung. Worse still, if one remains untreated for long after being exposed to such a spray, s/he may be at risk of losing the organ/s affected. Meanwhile, at least 150 of the teachers mentioned earlier that faced pepper gas spray have got injured while a number of them still reportedly feel pain in their eyes and ears even though they received treatment in Dhaka Medical College Hospital soon after the atrocious incident took place.
It is high time that the incumbents took effective steps to stop police and all other law enforcement agencies from using unlawful means to deal with public protests.
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