South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

The High Court yesterday directed the government to immediately close two Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) officials following widespread allegations of their attempt to implicate a Satkhira businessman in a false arms possession charge.

The two officials are Operation Commander of Rab-6 (Khulna) Maj Kamruzzaman and Deputy Assistant Director Delwar Hossain

The HC bench of Justice AHM Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Justice Md Delwar Hossain ordered Kamruzzaman and Delwar to appear before the court on June 8 to explain the incident.

A team of Rab led by Kamruzzaman and Delwar reportedly went to Natuardanga village in Sadar upazila of Satkhira and tried to implicate Shafiqul Islam, owner of a shrimp enclosure, in a false arms possession charge on May 22.

Agitating villagers confined the Rab team to Shafiqul’s house for over five hours following the incident.

The court yesterday directed the home secretary to form a probe committee to investigate the incident within 10 days and submit a report.

The government has also been asked to submit a report before the court on what steps it has taken following the incidents and to ensure safety of Natuardanga villagers.

The HC bench issued a rule upon the government to explain in two weeks why it should not be directed to take action against Kamruzzaman and Delwar for their failure to perform their duties of protecting the fundamental rights of the people.

The HC came up with the order and rule upon a writ jointly filed by rights organisations Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, and Society of Justice.

The home secretary, inspector general of police, director general of Rab, commander of Rab-6, Kamruzzaman and Delwar were asked to comply with the order and reply to the rule.

Advocate Manzill Murshid appeared for the petitioners, while Deputy Attorney General Nazrul Islam Talukder was present for the state.

Arms planted

The Daily Star finds how an innocent fell victim to shady law enforcers, Rab dragged into controversy in Satkhira

Shariful Islam from Satkhira

Now it appears certain that firearms were planted inside a Satkhira businessman’s house three hours before a controversial arms recovery drive by Rapid Action Battalion there on May 22.

The search at dead of the night at the house of shrimp businessman Shafiqul Islam, also a ward unit Awami League leader, who has a long track of good family reputation, left the Rab men to face unprecedented public wrath.

However, it’s not certain yet who placed a bag containing three shutter guns through the window of a room. Shafiqul’s wife Nilufar Begum first discovered the bag, which her husband threw outside.

Family members and neighbours say they later saw a Rab man push the bag inside the balcony through the grill.

Though the Rab high-ups have yet to confirm who kept the firearms inside the house, they are now certain Shafiqul has nothing to do about it. They suspect someone planted those and informed the elite force to put Shafiqul into trouble.

“I woke up after Rab personnel knocked on our gate around 12:30am. As I earlier heard the story of plot to harass innocent people, without a second thought I ran to ensure that all my windows were shut,” Nilufar told The Daily Star.

She added when she found one window was still open, she went to shut it and saw the bag on the floor. She took it to her husband, who opened it and found the guns inside.

“I ran upstairs and threw the bag outside, and the Rab members must have heard the thud. After about two hours of kicking on four grill gates, one broke down around 2:30am and soon a Rab man put the bag into the balcony,” said Shafiqul.

By that time around eight people gathered around the house and three of them claimed to have seen the Rab man putting the bag inside.

“As we shouted out simultaneously ‘Rab is putting something inside the house’, another Rab man collected the bag and ran outside. Later they handed the firearms to police,” said Anisul Islam, a neighbour.

Rab later called Anisul to make him a witness and take his signature on the seizure list.

Anisul said he can clearly remember every detail of that moment including the bag lying on the balcony facing towards east.

Nilufar said as she shouted with others and asked the Rab man about what he was putting inside, he hurled a spade handle at her and used abusive language.

As Nilufar was talking, her four-and-a-half-year-old son Asif Al-Ekram in juvenile accent said, “I saw police [Rab] hurled a spade at my mother.”

Ekram was so upset with the Rab action that he just trembled and could not even cry as the crime busters continued kicking on the gates for two hours. He even said he saw Rab men beating his uncle Zia.

Anisul and another neighbour Samad said Rab men gave them a blank sheet of paper and asked them to sign on it, but they refused.

Further controversy surrounds Rab due to some legal discrepancies as they did not prepare a seizure list on the spot in front of two local dignitaries though it is mandatory for the law enforcers.

Rather, they handed over the firearms to the police and Officer-in-Charge of Satkhira Police Station MA Hashem later filed a general diary in this regard.

Even the GD is flawed as it only mentions handover of the firearms. Mysteriously, there is no mention of the place from where those arms were seized and whether any seizure list was prepared in presence of two witnesses.

Another GD filed by Rab Deputy Assistant Director Delwar Hossain says the firearms were recovered from the house near the balcony grill and signatures of two Rab members were taken on the seizure list.

Local investigators suspect Rab did not put the arms inside the house initially. After discovering the thrown bag outside, they might put it inside the balcony in the one-storey house in Natuardanga village eight kilometres west of Satkhira town.

Shafiqul, joint secretary of Shibpur union AL, suspects chairman of a nearby Union Parishad with whom his family has a long-standing rivalry might be responsible.

Rab sources say on the basis of information from a local source they launched the operation led by Maj Kamruzzaman of Rab-6. As Kamruzzaman did not verify Shafiqul’s identity and records before the drive, he came under serious bashing from the Rab high-ups.

The sources add the elite force is now desperately trying to find out who misguided them and whether anyone of the raiding team was involved.

Local sources believe certainly someone tried to put Shafiqul into trouble.

Shafiqul is the son of Rupchand Sarder, a wealthy man with good reputation, from Alipur village. Shafiqul has also the reputation of being a good man and his reputation led people from nearby villages to rush to his house for his help during the controversial operation.

“We came in aide of Shafiqul as we know that he is innocent. He always extends his help when we need it. We never believe such a good man can possess illegal firearms,” said 60-year-old Abdul Gaffar of the same village.

Many other villagers echoed the same.

Sirajul Amin said Shafiqul’s family is rich and owns around 600 bighas of farmland. He did not need to keep any illegal firearms as he can afford to keep licensed ones, he added.

OC MA Hashem said during his service with Sadar police no case was filed against Shafiqul. He said he needs to check whether there was any case before his time.

Local sources say two cases were earlier filed against Shafiqul centring land dispute with rivals.

Contacted, Rab Director General Hassan Mahmood Khandker said they have given emphasis on the matter and already formed a two-member enquiry committee headed by Additional Director General Col ASM Jahangir Alam.

The team has already visited the spot and talked to the family. If Rab members are found guilty, they must face punishment, the Rab chief said.

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