Friday, 2 December, 2022
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Out Of The Box

Questioning Human Rights Situations in Bangladesh: Practise Before You Preach

Dr. Rashid Askari

While Joe Biden’s government along with its parasitical European allies and power-starved Bangladeshi political pawns are making allegations of human rights violations against Sheikh Hasina’s government, Sheikh Hasina remains the centre of attention on both the national and international political scene. She keeps making her impassioned pleas for peace and security at regional and global forums. Her speech at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on September 23, 2022 is an appropriate answer to the accusations of human rights violations made by her detractors at home and abroad. Sheikh Hasina’s speech asking the world leaders to act faster and more effectively to solve national and global problems besetting the 21st century life was very much on point and therefore won international political acclaim. At this moment in time when the Russia-Ukraine war, effects of climate change and the Rohingya crisis are posing major threats to global peace and showing no signs of abating despite all UN efforts, Hasina’s speech has struck a chord with peace loving millions in the world. Her role in defusing the Rohingya crisis is widely acknowledged.

That a Prime Minister, who set a shining example of how to save a people suffering from gross violations of human rights by sheltering them in her own country and sharing food with them, is herself a violator of human rights sounds preposterous especially when the accusations come from people who are accused of the same crimes. Who are these people? Some power-hungry political parties of Bangladesh who took over the helm after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and subsequently were abandoned by people. Their hands are heavily stained with the blood of innocent people. They were criminals against humanity, killers of Bangabandhu, of our Liberation War ideals, of democracy and rule of law. They and their allies are now trying to grab the slightest chance of coming to power. Joe Biden government, sceptical of the chance of retaining Bangladesh’s allegiance in this cut-throat world of geopolitics, is trying to use these disgruntled power-starved Bangladeshi people and parties as its political pawns to put pressure on Sheikh Hasina to comply with the US scheme of things.   

The report of ‘Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh’ given by the UN Working Group, which has stirred up a debate, smacks of bias and inaccuracy. Many on the list are still alive and kicking and the list includes two Indian citizens which is a grave and glaring error. One such person is “a top secessionist leader from Manipur who is living with his family in his ancestral home in Bangladesh after serving his jail term in India,” ( India Today, September 20, 2022).

The UN Working Group has also identified one Sanayaima Rajkumar, Chairman of a Manipur-based extremist group called United National Liberation Front (UNLF) as a victim of ‘enforced disappearance’ in Bangladesh. But the fact of the matter is that his real name is Rajkumar Meghen who had operated in Bangladesh with full knowledge of the then BNP-Jamaat government and fled Bangladesh and took refuge in Nepal after Sheikh Hasina’s assumption of power in January 2009. Sheikh Hasina unleashed a crackdown against northeast Indian rebels, arrested a few top leaders and handed them over to Indian authorities.

The UN Working Group report has other limitations too. It seems to have placed too much reliance on facts and figures provided by NGOs which are financially supported by Western donors and therefore tend to dance to the tune of their masters. They did not conduct surveys like enforced disappearances out of their own pockets. The report was given without proper verification of the information procured from weak and unreliable sources. Besides, the United States did not talk to Bangladesh government before publishing the report which amounts to interreference in other countries’ internal affairs. The US government was expected to meet these standards of taste and decency in regard to this sort of politically sensitive issues.

There arises another relevant question as to who has authorised the US government to probe into the cases of other countries’ alleged human rights violations and publish reports. What is the international law in this regard? Did any UN organisations assign them to this job? Or they have assumed responsibility suo moto for the protection of human rights to save the planet. But the question remains: Are they themselves free of the charge of human rights violations? Let’s check.

According to the reports of the Western media like The Guardian and BBC, there are cases of gross human rights violations in the USA. The way George Floyd, the 46-year-old black man was murdered in broad daylight by a white police officer, Derek Chauvin was horrific. After Floyd was arrested on mere suspicion of using a 20-dollar counterfeit note, the policeman knelt on his neck while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face-down in the street. With the policeman’s knee on his neck, Floyd complained about having claustrophobia, breathing difficulties and fear of imminent death, but to no avail. After a few minutes, he lay motionless and was found with no pulse. But the policeman did not lift his knee from Floyd’s neck despite repeated pleas from bystanders.

Though the white murderer Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 22.5-year imprisonment because of the popular uprising called “Black Lives Matter (BLM), it could hardly reduce cases of human rights violations in the US. In an article entitled “Not enough has happened…” published in the Washington Post on June 17, 2021, the writer refers to a black American’s cry of anguish: “Very seldom do we get justice when brutal, murderous white police officers kill African American ... people … We got justice that felt different.”

If the American themselves say that they get justice ‘very seldom’, then should these self-proclaimed custodians of justice poke their nose into other people’s business? Practise before you preach.

 

Dr. Rashid Askari is an academic, columnist and former vice chancellor of Kushtia

Islamic University, Bangladesh