Political violence takes increasing toll on livesIqbal Mahmud
Incidents of killing in political violence between rival parties and in intra-party conflicts have increased considerably in recent times. Several sensational murders were also committed in the capital and other parts of the country in last few months.
Figures provided by human rights organisations suggest that the number of deaths in political violence have increased in the last year of the Awami League-led government. Experts said increasing criminalisation of politics was a major cause of such killings.
In August alone, political violence resulted in at least 18 deaths and hundreds of injuries in different parts of the country.
Human rights watchdog Ain O Salish Kendra reported that political violence had claimed lives of 258 people in the first six months of the current year while the figure for the entire 2012 was 84.
Md Ashraful Alam, chairman of Criminology and Police Science at Maulana Bhashani Science and Technology University, said activists of a ruling party, towards the end of its tenure, showed an increasing tendency towards earning more at any cost, which often resulted in bloody intra-party conflicts.
‘We have seen some killings in recent times which resulted from intra-party feuds,’ he said.
He feared that the country might witness a situation like 2006 if political violence continued in the run-up to the elections.
Police statistics showed that 2,057 people were killed between January and June this year, but did not categorise the nature of the deaths.
Nehal Karim, who teaches criminology at the department of sociology of Dhaka University, told New Age that usually the last phase of a government in this country witnessed turmoil ‘since we have rarely had smooth transition. ‘Some opportunist politicians tend to use the situation to eliminate their rivals,’ he said.
He, however, said that it was often difficult to define all these incidents of violence as purely ‘politically motivated’.
‘Some people consider politics as a means to achieve their own interests. In several cases, leaders and activists of the same party are found engaged in bloody conflicts over extortion and tender or establishing supremacy,’ said Karim.
In the latest such killing on Saturday, a local unit Juba League leader, Shah Alam Rocky, 25, was stabbed to death near his house at Pallabi in the capital.
His family alleged that Rockey was killed by some Juba League activists as they had disputes over control of garment waste trade.
Three local political leaders and activists were killed in Laxmipur, Satkhira and Pabna districts on August 26 and 27.
On August 26, M Bahar, joint convener of Korpara union unit Swechchhasebak Dal in Laxmipur, was shot and stabbed to death and Abdul Bari, an activist of Ishwardi upazila unit Juba Dal, was shot dead in factional feuds. On August 27, unidentified miscreants hacked Robiul Islam, general secretary of Shibpur union unit Awami League, to death at Satkhira.
Last week, Muktar Hossain, 40, joint secretary of Sramik League’s Dhaka city ward 23 unit, was stabbed to death by unknown assailants in a dispute over control of drug peddling in the area.
On August 16, Sheikh Alamgir Hossain, 48, joint secretary of Debhata upazila unit of Sramik League, died from injuries he had sustained in an attack by Jamaat-e-Islami men during hartal on August 13 in Satkhira.
In one of the sensational ‘political’ killings of recent times, Dhaka city unit Juba League leader Reazul Haque Khan Milky, 42, was shot dead in front of Shoppers World at Gulshan in the capital on July 30.
The Rapid Action Battalion arrested six men in Uttara, including Juba League city’s unit leader Jahidul Islam Tarek, for their suspected involvement in the murder.
Within 24 hours, however, the prime suspect Tarek and his associate Shah Alam were killed in ‘crossfire’ with the battalion at Khilkhet.
About four hours before Milky’s killing, a city unit leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party was shot dead by unnamed gunmen at Hazaribagh in the capital. Jasim Uddin, also a trader, was a leader of BNP’s city ward 22 unit.
On June 24, two people, including a young boy, were killed when clashes broke out between Juba League and Chhatra League in a dispute over a railway tender in Central Railway Building area in Chittagong.
Statistics from rights watchdog Odhikar said that 322 people were killed in political violence across the country between January and June 2013 – the highest casualties in a six-month period since 2006.
‘A number of factors are involved in such killing,’ said Nehal Karim. ‘Rivalries between political parties and organisations, factional fighting, business interests and corruption and the culture of impunity have worsened the situation,’ he said.
Inspector general of police, Hassan Mahmood Khandker, told New Age that the police did not think that incidents of killing in political violence had increased alarmingly. ‘It is true incidents of killing are taking place, but this does not prove that law and order has worsened. Rather the situation has improved considerably in the last few months,’ he said.
The IGP said they hoped that political parties would act responsibly in the coming days adding that the law enforcement agencies would respond with proper measures to tackle any situation.
Rapid Action Battalion director general Mokhlesur Rahman told New Age that they did not have any information suggesting an alarming rise in political killings. ‘We do not know the motives of all murders. Unless we have that, we cannot term it political killing,’ he said.
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