What about our human rights? : Victims of rights violations during BNP-Jamaat govt hold rally in Dhaka

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Published on February 13, 2023
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Three generations of human rights violation victims – under the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami governments – brought out a rally in Dhaka today to highlight the ordeals faced by the families.

The focus of the rally was to provide a wholesome perspective on phases of human rights violations in Bangladesh to address the “one-sided narrative that gives the impression that the current government is responsible for all human rights violations in the country.”

It is unfortunate that many global organizations like UN agencies and Western powers often buy into this narrative peddled by certain groups with vested interest, the rally organisers were of the view.

“BNP-Jamaat and their international allies make much of the few cases of human rights violations during the present government. Conveniently, they overlook the long history of unthinkable human rights violations during the BNP-Jamaat regime. Their unwillingness to even listen to the other victims says all there is to say. What about the three million Bengalis killed and quarter million women raped during the Liberation War? UN has not yet recognized the 1971 atrocities as genocide,” Tarana Halim, president of Bangabandhu Sangskritik Jote, said from the rally.

Families of those killed during the largescale atrocities perpetrated by Pakistan army and their local collaborators during the Liberation War were in the rally. Other participants included families of senior Awami League leaders – killed after the brutal assassination of the Father of the Nation in 1975 – and victims of extra-judicial killings and hangings by the first military regime headed by General Ziaur Rahman, founder of BNP.

Freedom fighters joined the rally along with family members of assassinated AL leaders like Khairuzzaman Liton (Rajshahi mayor) whose father Qamruzzaman was murdered in a jail along with three of his cabinet colleagues.

The second generation were victims and family members who suffered atrocities at the hands of BNP-Jamaat cadres during 2001-2006 and represented minorities, women, opposition activists.

The third generation were victims of BNP-Jamaat violence over the last decade.

“In 1975, the Indemnity Ordinance was formed to protect the killers of Bangabandhu. In 1979, Ziaur Rahman amended the constitution to make it into law. We will make your [victim families’] unheard voices heard. The international organisations must listen to your voices documenting BNP-Jamaat’s atrocities,” Tarana, also a member of AL Central Executive Committee, said.

“After the assassination of Bangabandhu and his family members, my father alongside three other top AL leaders were ruthlessly shot to death inside prison,” Rajshahi Mayor AHM Khairuzzaman Liton recalled.

“At the behest of General Zia, these killers broke into the prison and killed my father. From assassinating the Father of the Nation and then eliminating top AL leaders who were close associates speak of a mindset that clearly stood against the spirit of the Liberation War and plunged the country into a pit of communalism. Our rights were trampled by Zia to solidify his grip on power,” added Liton, a presidium member of AL.

During Zia’s regime, over 1000 armed forces officers – many of whom were freedom fighters – were hanged without any trial under the pretext of a purge. Families of such war heroes are still trying to locate the remains of their dear ones. At the rally, they questioned the obvious “double standards” on part of the so-called rights bodies for their selective approach to rights issues.

Kamruzzaman Lenin, who lost his father during the purge under the Zia regime, said: “These extrajudicial killings were executed from a political viewpoint – the ideology that opposed the country’s independence. I still don’t know where my father’s remains are.”

“You can’t be selective in raising rights issues and claim your organisation is free of bias… the whole definition of human rights encompasses abuse of rights issues as a whole but being selective clearly unravels a hypocrisy,” he added.

The families turned out at the event in Dhaka’s Shahbagh today under the banner of ‘What about our human rights?’

Several victims of BNP-Jamaat violence during 2001-2006 also attended the event – demanding trial of the perpetrators, citing scores of victims as the country witnessed communal attacks, murder of AL activists and leaders, systematic elimination of progressive writers and liberal thinkers during the time.

A survivor of the August 21 grenade attack narrated her ordeals and recounted how the then BNP-Jamaat government backed the killers, making a mockery of the victims’ right to justice.

Another group comprising survivors of arson attacks – during 2013-2015 – also attended the event and called for exemplary punishment of the attackers, referring to the selective bias of some rights bodies as their demand for justice went unheeded for years.