by William Gomes
(March 25, Dhaka, Sri Lanka Guardian) Police carried out atrocities in revenge of the humiliation of a police officer of Biral Thana in Dinajpur district. The victims included men, women, children and the elderly. They suffered severe injuries and the women victims were sexually molested and abused. The police perpetrators remain unpunished due to the culture of impunity and the absence of legislation to protect the people from torture. The police have filed at least one case against the villagers and are harassing them. To-date no proper investigation has been carried out.
Mr. Lutfor Rahman, chairman of the Forokkabad union council said to Srilanka Guardian that on 8 March 2011, at around 1am a group of plain clothed persons knocked on the door of Mr. Shahjahan in Duptoil village under the jurisdiction of Forokkabad union council of the Birol police station in Dinajpur district. The strangers claimed to be from the police. Shahjahan's family, who were aware of an incident which occurred the previous night when a group of robbers claiming to be police robbed the house their neighbor Mr. Suresh Mohuri, suspected that their house was about to be attacked by robbers in the same manner. The family decided not to open the door mentioning the previous night's robbery. The strangers continued to knock on the door demanding that Shahjahan accompany the "police" to locate the house of Suresh Mohuri. Upon hearing this refusal the strangers, who were actually from the police shouted at the family in abusive language. The family, who were still uncertain of the true identity of the strangers then called to their neighbours on a cell phone that they were afraid of a probable attack by robbers.
The villagers came out of their homes with sticks and bamboos and as they were approaching Shahjahan's house they saw some people running toward a vehicle parked on the road. They chased the suspected robbers, who switched off the headlights of their vehicle after reaching an open place named Sotighata in the middle of their way and stopped there. The vehicle restarted driving and stopped again at Chhetra Bazar, which strengthened the people's suspicion about a potential robbery. A few of the agitated villagers hit one of the fleeing persons with a stick resulting in the person being injured in the head. The villagers then found that the vehicle, which had been parked, belonged to the police and that the group who had knocked on the door of Shahjahan's house were also policemen.
Soon after, the chairman of the local government unit, Forokkabad Union Council, Mr. Lutfor Rahman and Acting Chairman of Birol Upazilla Mr. Md. Anwarul Islam arrived at the scene. Lutfor immediately sent the injured police officer, who was identified as Mr. Md. Haider Ali, Sub Inspector of Birol police station, to Birol hospital by the vehicle of the Upazilla chairman. The public representatives controlled the villagers and helped the rest of the police team comprising of Constables Md. Muzibor Rahaman (Constable ID No. 1048), Mohammad Isreal Haque (Constable ID No. 277) and Driver cum Constable Mohammad Rashedul Huq (Constable Number 268) to leave the village for the Birol police station Said Mr. Lutfor Rahman, chairman of the Forokkabad union council.
Later the same morning, at 9:15am, SI Haider Ali filed a complaint (Case No. 7, dated 8 March 2011) with the Birol police against four named persons and around sixty unidentified villagers under Sections 148, 341, 332, 333, 353, 307 and 34 of the Penal Code-1860. The four persons, who were made accused in the case, are 1) Md. Anwarul Haque Uzzal, 2) Md. Shahjahan Ali, 3) Md. Jewel Islam of Duptoil village, and 4) Md. Mamtaz Ali of Mokhlespur village of the Birol police station.
Meanwhile, three police vehicles carrying two platoons of riot police led by the Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) of Sadar Circle Md. Mokbul Hossain, Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Birol police station Mr. A. K. M. Mohsin Uz Zaman Khan arrived in the village. Soon after the Superintendent of Police of Dinajpur district Mr. Siddiquee Tanzilur Rahman joined them.
The police tortured the people including passers-by, farmers, students of the school and college, children, women and the elderly on their way to the village and after arrival in the village. They also sexually molested young girls and women during the attack on the people. The police indiscriminately tortured the visitors in the wedding ceremony of a Muslim family and a child feeding ceremony, as a ritual, of a Hindu family during that period. A large number of people of different ages including women and children have asserted that they were brutally tortured by the police. Local human rights defenders also found marks of injuries caused as a result of police torture on the bodies of the victims.
Mr. Azhar Ali, an elected member of the Forokkabad union council said to Srilanka Guardian that while returning home from his daughter's school he saw one police van and a truck load of police approaching Duptoil village. At one place where the road was not suitable for a bigger vehicle the riot police were taken in a small police van and moved inside the village. The ASP of Sadar Circle Mr. Mokbul Hossain, whom Azhar met on the way, asked Azhar to wait in the local bazar for a discussion with the police regarding the incident of the previous night. Meanwhile, Azhar received information from the villagers that the police started beating people randomly in the village. Immediately, he informed his colleagues of the union council including the chairman Lutfor Rahman and rushed to the scene. When he arrived at the village he saw people running around to and fro in fear of police torture. Three women suggested Azhar not to go inside the village where massive torture was going on. He also witnessed that the SP and ASP were themselves beating people with the sticks in their hands. When he requested the police to stop torturing the people the police turned their attention to Azhar and ill-treated him. He witnessed that the male police were openly molesting young girls and women. Whenever a good-looking girl was found the police molested the girl and said rudely, "This one is for me to marry!" Later, the chairmen of the Birol upazilla and Forokkabad union council arrived at the scene and insisted that the police stop beating people. This was finally done after long aggressive debates with the SP and other police officers.
Mr. Balikanto (28), a day labourer of the village, showed his injury in his left leg, which had bruises and swollen wounds. He stated that he was beaten by the police while he was returning home for food from a field after finishing an irrigation job in the morning.
Mrs. Mina Begum (24), a housewife, reported that her five-year-old daughter, Afia Farzana Tania, was confined in a police cordon and slapped by the officers while the girl was returning home from school. Tania begged the police to release her saying that she was hungry. In response, the police attempted to slap her again and forced her to stay in confinement. Tania's parents were worried about the child as she had not returned home despite the fact that school time was already over. They approached the school and learned that the children left on time for their homes. Then they went to area controlled by the police and found their daughter crying. When her father requested the police to release his daughter they attempted to arrest him. Following the intervention from the public representatives Tania was released after around four hours. Tania has been in a highly nervous state and has developed sleep disturbance and appetite loss since the incidence.
Mr. Shudhangsu Chandra Roy (30), an agricultural labour, was caught by the police from the field where he was working. The police beat him and confined in their cordoned area for hours. When he claimed that he had not engaged in any kind of violence the police threatened to shoot him dead. Shudhangsu remained silent in the custody of the police until he was released in the afternoon, again due to the intervention by the public representatives.
Mr. Niranjan Chandra Roy (16), an agricultural labourer, was also caught from the field by the police. He was beaten about his legs and confined for hours. He sustained bruising to his left knee and leg due to the torture by the police.
Mrs. Basonti Rani Roy (21), a housewife, told that her family arranged the ritual of feeding a child according to the Hindu religion on 8 March 2011. A number of relatives, neighbours and friends were visiting her house as invited guests. Her brother and nephew, who came to participate in the ritual in her house, were arrested by the police. Hearing about this news her husband Hemonto Kumar Roy went to the police, who released the two relatives but tortured and confined Hemonto himself. Hemonto's father Sotin Chandra Roy went to the police to requesting them to release his son so that he could attend the guests at his house. Hemonto's father was also brutally beaten and confined as well. Basonti and all of her relatives then went to the police and demanded the release of her husband and father-in-law and asked why the police tortured and confined them. The police saw Basonti's niece, a beautiful 17-year-old girl, and said, "We will not let this girl to get married elsewhere. This one is for some of us to marry." The male police officers improperly touched various parts of her body despite repeated protests by the girl and the relatives.
Mr. Hemonto Kumar Roy (28), a village doctor, who had a ritual of feeding his child at home, said that the police went to the Muslim neighbourhood first, and then later went to the Hindu neighbourhood. As soon as he told them that he was an inhabitant of the same village they started beating him and then arrested him. The police confined and publically molested a young girl, who was a daughter of his in-laws. The girl was only released when her relatives asked the police to talk to a senior police officer, who happened to be an uncle of the girl.
Mr. Sotin Chandra Roy (55), the father of Hemonto, (mentioned earlier) told that when he learned that the police had arrested his son, Hemonto, he went to request the police to ask them to release his son. Instead, the police tortured him, beating him with sticks all over his body. Sotin showed his the bruises and swollen injuries to legs, thighs, back and right hand. He demanded justice for the humiliation of him in front of his relatives.
Mr. Abdul Wahab (56), a farmer of Duptoil village, told that on the way to his irrigation farm the police stopped him and asked him to describe the incident of the previous night. Wahab told that he heard hue and cry among the villagers shouting: "Robber! Robber!" And later, went to sleep when the sounds disappeared instead of participating in anything as he is an elderly man. He told the police that when he went to offer his early morning prayer he learned from his neighbours that police were beaten the previous night as suspected robbers. The police then took Wahad to another place and started beating him with sticks on his legs and hands. He appealed to the police not to beat him but they police pushed him into a police van, which was driven a few kilometers. Later, in the afternoon, due to intervention by the public representatives he was released from the van and threatened not to disclose to anyone else about what happened to him. Showing the signs of bruising and the swollen areas of his legs and hands Wahab told that he lost his memory after the torture, which was unimaginable at this old age.
Mrs. Shahida Banu (35), wife of Mohammad Shahjahan whose door was knocked on by the police in the previous night, told that the police blamed her family for the attack on the police as it was a suspected robbery. The police searched for her husband and son who were not at home at that time. The police ordered Shahida from her shop, which is adjacent to her house, and tortured her by the order of the SP. The police also tortured Shahida's uncle-in-law, an elderly man, for terming the police as robbers the previous night. The police raided Shahida's house and took away a motorbike. She was confined for hours in the police van and was only released in the afternoon as a result of intervention from the local government representatives.
Mr. Srimonto Chandra Roy (23), a shopkeeper, was stopped by the police when he was driving his motorbike to go to his shop. They beat him with sticks on the legs and back indiscriminately. Due to intervention by the local government leaders he was released but, the police warned that there will be further consequences if the story of torture is shared with anyone else in future.
Mr. Selim Ahmed (17), a college student, stated that he was stopped by the police when he was going to his private tutor's home in the Dinajpur town. The police beat him on the legs and confined him in the police cordon. Later, another policeman allowed him to go considering him a student. Selim showed bruises and marks of police torture when he was interviewed.
Mr. Sumon (27), a farmer of Duptoil village, told that the police called all of the farmers and labourers who were at work in the fields. They asked Sumon and others about the incident of the previous night. As Sumon replied that he did not know anything about the incident the policemen brutally beat him causing bruises and swollen injuries to his legs.
Mr. Lutfor Rahman, chairman of the Forokkabad union council, described the background and the story of torture and sexual violence by the police against the inhabitants of the village in details. He asserted that he witnessed the police beating people and molesting the girls and women. He also told that the SP of Dinajpur district police and the ASP of the Sadar Circle of Dinajpur directly participated in torturing the people randomly, which was also testified to by the victims before the Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of police of the Rajshahi Range on the following day.
While communicated with the high police officials regarding the matter , police officials denied to talk regarding this matter saying that the matter is under investigation.
Human Rights activist Dipal Barua urged to the authorities of Bangladesh to launch a thorough investigation into the matter asking them to identify the alleged perpetrators and prosecute them for the crime and the blatant misuse of police authority. He also said the victims must be protected from any further attacks or harassment by the police and any fabricated cases by the officers.
Human Rights watchdog Asian Human Right Commission (AHRC) has already written separate letters to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment and Violence Against Women calling for their intervention into this matter.