Aftermath of shocking and sham Felani verdict
There are other hindrances, the most serious of which is total disregard for the life of Bangladeshis on the part of the Indian Border Security Force. The most appalling and the most inexplicable is the apparent disinclination of the Bangladesh government to pursue the matter any further to facilitate and ensure real justice, writes Omar Khasru
THE impact of the travesty of justice in the Felani verdict by a specialised Indian Border Security Force court lingers on. The ruling coterie ostensibly wishes for quick and sure-fire end to all the hullabaloos regarding this. Apparently, the current regime would rather have this sordid issue fade from collective memory than do anything that would discomfort their last remaining good foreign friend and big neighbour.
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), among a few other Indian human rights organizations, was incensed by the Felani verdict. It wanted to bring a public interest lawsuit in the Indian Supreme court against the BSF perpetrator of the heinous crime and ghastly murder.
The West Bengali civil rights group MASUM has been acting, protesting and raising its voice against state repressions of custodial violence and custodial rape, torture and death, illegal detention and enforced disappearance from police custody, serious infractions by law enforcement agencies similar to those in this country. MASUM also protested against BSF murder and torture, extrajudicial killing and police firings.
According to BBC News, two human rights activists, the chief of MASUM, Kiriti Roy, accompanied by retired Justice Moloy Sengupta, were all set to come to Bangladesh to collect evidence and necessary documents required for the public interest court case. They also wanted to talk with Felani’s family members and others regarding the case.
Guess what? For some inexplicable reasons, the Bangladesh government refused to grant them visa. The government obviously does not want to pursue the matter or stir the people’s strong emotions or the hornet’s nest any further.
Mr Roy expressed similar opinion. From the outright rejection of the visa and the message from the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in Kolkata it is clear that they do not want anybody to take any action about Felani murder, he stated exasperatingly.
It is fascinating and somewhat revealing, according to BBC news, that since 2009, Mr Roy has visited Bangladesh once or twice every year, the last time in March of this year. Each time he was granted visitor visa without any hassle. This is the first time that the Bangladesh government has declined to issue him a similar visa without mentioning any specific reason. This would give credence to his statement and general public conviction that the Bangladesh government is not interested to prolong the Felani issue.
This may seem shocking and despicable but this has been the stance of the government right from the beginning. The appalling image of the upside down body of young Felani hanging from the barbed wire aroused the conscience of enlightened, caring and compassionate people. There, however, has been a conscious and deliberate attempt on the part of the regime in power to blur and erase the image and dilute the impact.
I have written about the blasé attitude and shabby indifferent reaction of some ministers in a previous article. It is worth repeating. This sort of incident is routine, happens regularly and the state has no serious concern about this, said the LGRD minister, who is also the general secretary of the ruling Awami League.
The then home minister Sahara Khatun stated that Felani was not even a citizen of Bangladesh (Prothom Alo, May 29, 2011). The implication being if Felani was not a citizen of the country, why then would the government care about her life or death?
Since Fenali’s death, the Indian BSF has murdered dozens of other Bangladeshis in the border region. Felani was one of 214 Bangladeshis killed at the border crossings between January 2009 and June 2013 during the rule of the current Awami League-led government (New Age, September 7, 2013), with lax or non-existent official protest.
While regular and persistent border attacks on Bangladeshis continued, LGRD minister Syed Ashraful Islam on January 21, 2012, over a year after the January 7, 2011 death of Felani, said the government was unperturbed by these border developments. And the head of the government asserted that the border killings will not mar the close link between the two friendly countries.
Due to lasting horrendous image of Felani’s suspended body and intense pressure from foreign governments and human rights groups abroad, the Indian government finally resorted to a trial of the murder of Felani more than two and a half years after the brutal and ghastly killing. The sole accused was found innocent in a show trial and eye wash proceedings.
With the public discontent and despondency and collective shock and despair on the farce verdict, the government, for a change, expressed quick and dejected reaction, what with the election just around the corner.
The law minister and the home minister both mentioned that they were disheartened by the acquittal of the accused Amiya Ghosh. The Human Rights Commission chairman, generally looked upon as a government crony, also chimed in with dejected opinion on the verdict.
The foreign minister was in Las Vegas, the gambling capital of the US, for rest and recreation in the midst of her prolonged US trip and was not available for instant comment. On her return to Bangladesh, she said in a news conference at the Foreign Office on September 12, a week after the September 5 sham verdict, ‘We’ve sought information about the trial process — from Indian authorities…. If we don’t get justice, we’ll appeal.’
The prime minister is yet to make a public comment. She evidently has other fish to fry, such as convincing a sceptical public and antagonistic opposition that a free and fair election is possible under her tutelage with her remaining as the head of interim government and her ministers and MPs also remaining unprecedentedly in office.
The problem is that the General Security Forces Court verdict, sort of like the army court martial outcome, is not open to an appeal. The BSF may conduct a review but the plaintiff or accuser, namely Felani’s family, or the Bangladesh government cannot lodge an appeal with the Indian High Court or Supreme Court.
With this in mind, the West Bengali human rights group, MASUM, was in the process of initiating a public interest lawsuit, similar to a civil rights court case in the US, to get a semblance of justice and possible reprisal. Unfortunately, it seems that our government is not at all keen to facilitate the matter.
According to BBC News, a frustrated Kiriti Roy, chief of MASUM, said that since they were declined entry into Bangladesh, they will now try to get Felani’s family the necessary visa to travel to India so that they can extract the crucial information and evidence for the public interest lawsuit. It will be interesting to see if Felani’s family will be granted Indian visa or the authorities there will act in the same indifferent, uncaring and insensitive manner as their Bangladeshi counterpart.
In the meantime, the BSF chief, Suvash Joshi was on a two-day official visit along with his entourage to talk with the high officials of the Border Guard Bangladesh in Dhaka. At a joint news conference at the end of the two-day conference, Mr Joshi expressed the hope that justice will yet be done in the Felani murder case (Prothom Alo, September 10).
Frankly, the proof would be in the pudding. We have repeatedly heard in the past from successive BSF chiefs that Bangladeshis will not be shot at with deadly bullets at the border and killing of unarmed Bangladeshis will cease forthwith. Subsequent shooting and killing have rendered these pledges into empty promises and false pretences.
Despite constant pledges to rescind the ‘shoot to kill’ policy at the border, they fire at ‘criminals violating border norms;, said the BSF director general. Will the latest BSF assurance that Felani will receive proper justice be any different?
Given the unpleasant past records, one has to take this with a grain of salt. This was the first time in 66 years of Indian independence from British colonial rule that a trial was held for border killing by the out-of-control BSF. Unfortunately, it turned out to be an unfair trial with a disgraceful verdict. According to BBC news, the accused BSF soldier was released immediately after the verdict.
There are several built-in resistances to a just verdict. The first and foremost is the out-of-control BSF attitude which is prone to shoot to kill with impunity. The second is the reluctance of the Indian authorities to prosecute the killers. The third is that the only time a trial took place, it was done under a lesser section 304 of the Indian Penal Code which stands for involuntary manslaughter rather than section 302 which is for wilful murder. And only a constable was put on show trial rather than any superior officer who might have given the order to shoot.
There are other hindrances, the most serious of which is total disregard for the life of Bangladeshis on the part of the Indian Border Security Force. The most appalling and the most inexplicable is the apparent disinclination of the Bangladesh government to pursue the matter any further to facilitate and ensure real justice.
The saddest part of it all would be is that the Felani murder and the shocking verdict, with a series of other pressing issues and urgent and critical crises around and in the offing, will slowly but surely fade from collective memory. It will then be listed in history as another case that did not receive proper consideration and fitting justice.
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There are other hindrances, the most serious of which is total disregard for the life of Bangladeshis on the part of the Indian Border Security Force. The most appalling and the most inexplicable is the apparent disinclination of the Bangladesh... Full story