August 17, 2015

Bangladesh: Jamaat agents provocateurs let duped foot soldiers languish

Dhaka Tribune, august 17, 2015

Jamaat agents provocateurs let duped foot soldiers languish
Mohammad Jamil Khan, Syed Samiul Basher Anik

A middle-aged Patgram woman, hawking
produce by the roadside, let out a long sigh and spoke about what she called her ill-starred fate.

Working by herself on a rainy morning on the August 15 government holiday, she described the life she and her husband used to lead with their two daughters as simple
and decent.

She said her husband, Sultan, used to work in a limestone crushing workshop.

At the end of 2013, when the country was being racked by political violence, her husband fell ill and left his Tk200 a day job.

That was when the family was visited by people who offered him work that would pay twice his wage and three meals per day.

The men with the job offer were Jamaat-Shibir agents provocateurs hiring down and out day labourers to do their dirty work in exchange for money and three meals a day.

“It was a good package. He was ill so he could not take heavy jobs. He agreed to the work they offered: taking part in rallies and cutting down trees. But at the time we did not know what his actual work was; Sultan hid that from us,” she said.

Their happiness and the relatively good pay did not last long. In early January 2014, police raided Sultan’s house and arrested him on charges of committing violence.

“He is not a criminal. He is a victim. He had no other way to feed his family aside for taking the offer they made,” she said.

Asked whether the leaders of the Islamist party had visited the family after his arrest, she said: “Nobody came to see us. Most of them are on the run.”

“We cannot even approach the court for bail because we have no money and no political power,” she said.

Financially, Sultan’s family is in dire straits.

But Sultan’s is not an isolated incident. The Dhaka Tribune has found that almost every household in Patgram living a hand-to-mouth existence on day-wages is in the same sort of trouble.

Kanak Kumar Sarker, assistant sub-inspector of Patgram police station, told the Dhaka Tribune that many workers’ families were now on the streets because their sole breadwinners are on the run, absconding from accusations in political violence cases.

With their menfolk absconding, the women and children of Patgram have been left to fend for themselves and are not faring well.

Assistant Sub-Inspector Kanak said some weeks ago, the police had received a court order to demolish the house of Jamaat member Mozammel, in the Burimari area.

“When we arrived, we found the house nearly empty. It was a tiny little house. We found Mozammel’s wife and three children in a very bad state because nobody in the household was earning any money,” he said.

Mozammel earlier worked at a stone workshop, but when he was later out of work, Jamaat-Shibir men offered him Tk300-400 a day to be a professional saboteur.

The masterminds who preyed on these day-labourers’ poverty are now beyond reach but the low-income families duped into this line of work are now leading a horrible life, Kanak said.

“We have no choice. These men were involved in sabotage. We are duty-bound to bring them to justice,” Kanak added.

According to Patgram police station, nearly 90 cases were filed during the time of political violence.

Police have arrested several of the accused in the cases but the leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami in the area are out on bail.

By contrast, those with little or no money, day-labourers who took up this line of work for the pay, remain in jail. Others have deserted their families and are in hiding from the police.

A number of families in the Masterpara area said some of the men quietly visited their families during Eid – but they met in nearby localities, fearing arrest if they came home.

The party bosses, however, are nowhere to be found.

The Dhaka Tribune tried to contact Patgram upazila Bangladesh Nationalist Party President Abdul Karim Bhuyan, who faces a number of cases, but without success.

Ruhul Amin Babul, the Patgram upazila Awami League-backed chairman, told the Dhaka Tribune that this was a fact of life in the area. “Jamaat-Shibir men use cash to lure low-income people in the area to commit sabotage.”

Ruhul said: “I have personally spoken with a number of the accused. Some are college and madrasa students who have no political background whatsoever.

“They got involved in sabotage because they were given money and meals to take part in demonstrations and were promised jobs after the present government falls.”

Ruhul said punishing the saboteurs was necessary to deter people from committing such crimes.

“The police must carefully probe the cases and submit charge sheets so that no one dares commit such crimes again,” he said.

Mahfuz Alam, inspector (Investigations) of Patgram police station, told the Dhaka Tribune that the police were investigating the cases on a priority basis.

Police have submitted charge sheets in 36 cases whose trials have now begun, he said.

“We have arrested some of the accused, but many others have been on the run since cases were filed against them,” he added.