Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Crime and Policing in Bangladesh – A Personal Account

For the last few months I have been pondering about the role of police in preventing and reacting to crimes in Bangladesh. It all began with my own experience in April 9 of 2005 when I got a call from my sister, a gynecologist, stating that a powerful BNP leader’s criminal cadre had broken into our family compound in the Khulshi area of Chittagong. I simply could not believe that such a horrendous crime could happen; surely not in ours when we had all the legal title, registration, deeds, documents, possession on those properties for nearly half a century, with all bills, taxes and revenues paid.
All the calls from my family members to the local thana simply met deaf ears: no one would come to stop land-grabbing. Within hours of that fateful day, sixteen tenant families who had lived in eleven one-storied (bungalow-type) homes, built by my parents in the late 1950s and early 1960s, some for nearly 25 years were all evicted by the goons of a former Rajakar by the name of Jaker Hosain Chowdhury. I was told that he was an ex-madrasa employee who had been able to allure a powerful BNP-MP and his son to aid in this land-grab (the latter two had failed to grab a minority owned property just a few weeks earlier). Jaker raided our compound with more than a hundred armed terrorists. The local police simply watched and did not do anything to stop them. No notice was ever served on our family as to why they were intruding. Might was the right of the day!
Having lived in the western world for more than a quarter century, it was shocking news to me. I still have the nightmares when I think about how those evicted tenants were crying in that rainy day and asking my mother – a retired college professor who had a major heart surgery just three months before, who lived in a more fortified six-storied house “Aranika” in the same compound -- to help against the goons. She could not, and nor could my father. Our unarmed security guards were no match against the armed goons.
Jaker’s land-grabbing goons also terrorized some of our neighbors, including a very old retired doctor, locking his family up with all the utility connections shut off. They were also given the option to either pay an exorbitant amount of extortion money (of several million Taka) or the choice of being evicted. Because of the failing health, the retired physician complied to settle by paying money, while we did not compromise. Thus, began our ordeal, which was to continue to this day.
After contacting Mr. Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, then Bangladesh’s Ambassador to the USA, I flew to Bangladesh and sought help of the BNP government ministers and officers to stop the crime. But nothing seemed to work. The terrorists had sealed their grab by even bringing in the Ansar to protect them. Just imagine the audacity of power of a politically-connected land-grabbing criminal! The terrorists threatened my family and other tenants living in the Aranika. But the local police won’t even accept any GD from us. When questioned by the media, they would say that their hands were tied. The BNP leader and his APS – Abu Bakr Siddiq -- were making calls from the Prime Minister’s Office to the commissioner’s office not to meddle in the land-grab, since it’s now the leader’s son’s property! How wonderful!
Based on the Ambassador’s suggestion, I met the BNP leader in his office in the PMO. I sought his help to remove his son’s goons from our property. He declined under the pretext that he and his son had nothing to do with the land-grab. And this, despite the fact that everyone from our six-story home Aranika had seen his son Fayyaz with his Pajero car several times in our compound. His in-laws’ families in the Sobhan Baagh apologized to me seeking forgiveness since they have no control over the BNP leader. As a sociopath, he did not have any problem denying his involvement. But everyone from the media guys to officers in the Police knew about his involvement. [Incomplete ... to be continued]

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