Friday, May 18, 2007

My angst over the gruesome killing of Cholesh Richil, a minority community leader

SHABBIR AHMED

Because of the folly of a few politicians who wanted to rig the election by questionable means our motherland, Bangladesh, went through a period of turmoil and turbulence before the current government under Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed took over power. The people of Bangladesh including the expatriate Bangalees were happy to see the change of the government. It was anticipated that Bangladesh would be governed by a well-educated and well-experienced person like Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, who would uphold the rule of law and human rights in Bangladesh. As far as I remember, he himself expressed his determination in his first speech to maintain the human rights and rule of law for the people of Bangladesh. Unfortunately, there occurred a number of disturbing incidences in Bangladesh while the government is headed by a western-educated individual like Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, who seemingly appeared to be committed to prevent any violation of human rights.

One of the disturbing occurrences is the killing of Mr. Cholesh Richil (a Garo tribe leader) by the combined forces consisting of army, police, and rapid action battalion. Dr. Zafar Iqbal wrote a sub-editorial on the gruesome killing of Mr. Richil by the combined forces in vernacular newspaper, Prothom-Alo, a few days ago. It is difficult to control emotion for the victim, Mr. Cholesh Richil and to control anger against those who committed the crime by killing him mercilessly. The description of the killing given by Dr. Zafar Iqbal exposed the sadistic and animalistic nature of those individuals, who killed the minority community leader from Madhupur area of Mymensingh district.

Dr. Zafar Iqbal’s sub-editorial indicates that Mr. Richil was returning from the wedding ceremony of his nephew while he was picked up by forty armed persons of the combined forces. They took him to their camp where they tied the victim to a window grill. An officer ordered his people to give Mr. Richil a lesson. Following the army boss’s order, nine people started beating Mr. Richil in an inhuman and brutal fashion. At one point, Mr. Richil started throwing blood through his mouth and became unconscious. When he got his conscious back, the killers started to beat him again. Then, they poured hot water through the nose of the victim. The killers did several things that include: taking his nails off from the fingers, inserting nails in his hands and legs, and gauged his eyes. Dr. Zafar Iqbal knew about many more torture unleashed upon Mr. Richil but these were so brutal, sadistic, and animalistic that he preferred not to mention them at all. Finally, the hapless victim died in the hands of his killers of the combined forces. We saw and heard about these brutalities by the Pakistani military in 1971 but in 2007 Mr. Richil was tortured and killed by the combined forces of his own country Bangladesh, which receives 100% of its funding from taxpayers such as Mr. Richil.

There are ample reasons why the combined forces targeted the Garo community leader. Read on and you will learn more on this. Originally, Mr. Cholesh Richil antagonized the fundamentalist alliance government under Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI). The government wanted to establish an Eco-Park in Modhupur, where Garo tribe people lived. It was planned to evict about twenty five thousand Garo tribe people systematically from Modhupur. Mr. Cholesh Richil organized the Garo tribe people and subsequently led a protest rally on January 3, 2004. The police forces under then fundamentalist government fired shots mercilessly at the rally. One person died and many tribal people were wounded. Subsequently, the government filed five thousand cases against the Garo people in Modhupur police station. In almost all the cases, Cholesh Richil was named as an accused. Under protest from different quarters along with the tribe people, the government stopped building the Eco-Park. In the emergency rule under the government of Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed, the works on building the Eco-Park resumed. Mr. Cholesh Richil again organized the tribe people and protested. As a consequence, he was picked up and later killed by a group of people belonging to the combined forces.

In a Bangla vernacular newspaper it was recently mentioned that the forest department officials in Madhupur has adversarial relationship with Mr. Richil. The Garo community leader opposed indiscriminate cutting of the trees in the nearby forest. In all likelihood the forest officials were illegally cutting the trees to pocket the money. Therefore, they also targeted Mr. Richil for harassment. It makes sense why the government forces had arrested the minority community leader.

In another development, in the SAARC summit, Asian Center for Human Rights sent the description of this brutal killing to the participating heads of the governments of the member countries. The head of Bangladesh government Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed should know about the brutal killing of Mr. Cholesh Richil. Since the home ministry and the government as a whole is under his control, it is our expectation that Dr. Fakhruddin Ahmed would take necessary steps to bring those into justice, who committed such a gruesome murder and crime. If he remains silent and indifferent, then there will be enough reasons for people to doubt about his sincerity in terms of establishing human rights and rule of law throughout Bangladesh. Anyone can evaluate him as a man full of words but not full of deeds. He should act because for a few bad people, the principle of the armed forces and the law enforcement agency people of Bangladesh should not be questioned in the whole world. The inertness on Dr. Fakhruddin's part will not enhance the sagging image of his government and the country as a whole.

In the past, while the newsman, Tipu Sultan was beaten by Joynal Hazari’s goons, the newspapers took an active role to protest and raised funds for the victim. Even some of the expatriate Bangalees took very praise-worthy steps to collect funds. It is a mystery for a relative silence of the media and other organizations on the brutal and gruesome murder of Mr. Cholesh Richil. I sincerely hope that Mr. Richil’s ethnicity is not the reason for this deafening silence and indifference on the part of mainstream newspapers. I hope that all will come forward and will raise their strong voice to protest the killing of an innocent man, who was killed so brutally and mercilessly. #

SHABBIR AHMED is an engineer in Jacksonville, Florida. He graduated from BUET & obtained M.S. in Mathematics from the Univ. of Tennessee and Ph.D. in civil engineering from the City Univ. of New York