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Panic grips Satkhira over joint forces drive

Mohiuddin Alamgir . Satkhira

Joint forces’ drive following atrocities of Jamaat-e-Islami in Satkhira caused panic and dissatisfaction among people because of law enforcers’ excesses indiscriminate fire killing people and bulldozing houses of opposition men.
Panicked over police wrath, the people of Satkhira, even lawyers, human rights activists and socio-cultural activists, do not dare to make any statement on joint forces’ drives.
The police refused to give the number of people killed in the drives by the joint forces, comprising Border Guard Bangladesh, Rapid Action Battalion and the police, since December 15, 2013, when the drive started.
Locals alleged that at least six people — a van driver, a BNP leader and four men of the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Inslami Chhatra Shibir.
The houses of a number of BNP and Jamaat men were destroyed using bulldozers in Agardari, Baikary, Mahmudpur areas under Sadar upazila and Bishnapur area of Shyamnagar upazila.
Spot visits in January 22-24 found that at least five houses of political activists had been destroyed using bulldozers at Agardari, Baikary and Mahmudpur.
 ‘Political activists are being killed in “cross fire”, houses are being bulldozed, but we cannot protest in fear of wrath of administration and the police. If we criticise the inhuman and illegal activities we will be branded as Jamaat activists,’ said a Human Right Defenders Forum Satkhira district member.
‘Whoever are arrested in the drive, they are branded as Jamaat activists,  even after BNP leader Anwar and rickshaw-van puller have been branded as jamaat men after their killings,’ the rights activist said.
Locals expressed their dissatisfaction with the bulldozing of houses.
The two-storey house of local BNP leader Anwarul Islam at Kashimpur of Agardari was bulldozed in joint forces’ drive. Spot visit revealed that two rooms on the ground floor were completely destroyed and balcony and rooms on the first floor were also demolished in parts.
Anwarul, also Agardari union parishad chairman, was killed in ‘crossfire’ on December 30, 2013.
The house of Jamaat leader Abdul Khaleque at Baikary was found demolished and rubbishes were found to show that there was a house.
While New Age went there on January 24, an Awami League activists, threatened not to snap any photograph of the demolished house and talk to anyone. Neither the ruling party man nor any locals, however, disclosed his identity.
The house of another Jamaat activist Abdul Gaffar, also Bhadra union parisahd chairman, was partially damaged.
All the three houses were found abandoned and none lived there.
Jamaat men Jahangir Morol and Sayeb Babu were killed when the joint forces carried out drives in the strongholds of Jamaat in the district. Jamaat people tried to put up resistance against the drive by keeping logs on the road. As the joint forces proceeded after removing the logs, Jamaat activists hurled crude bombs at them and the law men fired gunshots.
On January 14, Shibir activists Anarul Islam and Chhoton were killed in ‘clashes’ with joint forces at Debhata and Satkhira Sadar upzilas respectively.
The police claimed that in both the incidents, the joint forces fired shots at unruly Shibir activists, as they put up barricade on roads by placing logs and started hurling brickbats and crude bombs at the joint forces triggering fierce clashes.
Rickshaw-van puller Hafizul Islam was killed on 24 December, 2013, when joint forces opened fire to disperse Jamaat and Shibir men who blocked the road at Jhaudanga-Gobindakathi .
‘The people of Satkhira know what is going on in the name of joint forces’ drive,’ said satkhira Jamaat publicity secretary Azizur Rahman.
Azizur said that they did not attack the police rather their activists were killed in ‘police firing’ during the drive.
Satkhira BNP organising secretary Tazkin Ahmed Chishty said that the administration was carrying out drive ‘targeting opposition activists.’
Both Azizur and Tazkin alleged that Awami League, Juba League and Chhatra League men were accompanying joint forces in the drives and vandalising, and demolishing houses.
Satkhira Awami League general secretary Nazrul Islam, however, said, ‘None of the Awami league and fronts organisations accompanied joint forces.’
He said, ‘All killings are unwanted. Joint forces drive was necessary to quell the situation in Satkhira and stop Jamaat atrocities and killing.’
Rights activist Madhab Chandra, who works with Ain o Salish Kendra in the district, said that human rights were being violated during the drives, but ‘the had to fire in protection of their lives.’
Satkhira superintendent of police Manjurul Kabir refused to give statistics regarding killing and arrest in the joint forces’ drive.
Satkhira deputy commissioner Nazmul Ahsan said no bulldozer was used in drive.’
‘The law enforcers did no excesses and there were no incidents like crossfire. They might have taken steps to ensure their security as well as life and goods of people during their drives,’ Nazmul added.

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