When police are politically used, chain of command suffers10 November 2014 Editorial Desk
The recent loggerheads between National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Dhaka Metropolitan Police over the remarks of NHRC's chief about the police excesses at least lights the last hope to defend general people against the police oppression. Though, no authority either the Constitution or the police code bestows the force to fire on anyone regardless of his/her political, cultural or religious affiliations, police in the country has been used as tools of ruling elite to materialize their whims by violating all laws, including the Constitution. Police has emerged as an indomitable goon of the government over the years that has made them unaccountable, audacious, rights violators and oppressors of the masses. We do not yet forget Limon Hossain, who was shot by RAB personnel and now bullet-wounded Nafis -- both of whom symbolize the police brutality, although hundreds of Limon and Nafis died in brutal police attacks, gun-point fire, extra-judicial killings, tortures and custodial deaths. We hope the loggerhead will bring to the fore the dialogue on police reformation .
The over excess conduct and ruthless behaviour of the force must have originated from some causes and certainly it was politicization. And NHRC chief Dr Mizanur Rahman's observation on that causation is nothing but recruitment of police personnel on a regional basis. He said the police personnel of a certain district seem to be above the law -- they are becoming increasingly audacious and have virtually collapsed the chain of command of the force. His remark seemed true as we see that the DMP spokesman lambasted Mizanur and criticized his visit to Nafis, who was shot from point-blank range and arrested by the force, claiming that the rights body has no right to visit anybody in police custody without securing court permission, though under the NHRC law, 12 (1) (Ga), allows the Commission to visit hospitals, prisons, educational institutions and childcare homes without permission from the authorities concerned.
The majority of people are anxious over the possible bogging down of the spirit of the Liberation War - democracy, good governance, accountability, equality, freedom and rights. Police seem above the laws and they are able to kill anyone according to their whims, as Mizanur said. According to law the police have no right to shoot at anybody even if he is linked with an outlawed outfit. Nafis said he was watching as a bystander at a rally organised in protest at Mohammadpur after Juma prayers on Oct 17. Suddenly, the police appeared and started firing indiscriminately. Nafis fell on the ground after being shot in the leg. Then the police shot at him again from point-blank range in a brutal manner which was seen in several incidents across the country in the last three years. The victim is now undergoing treatment in DMCH in police custody as the shooter, also a policeman, filed a case against him for attacking the police. The police is perhaps, doctoring a make-believe story.
The bold voice of the human rights chair against the brutal shooting of police and other law enforcers brings hope that there is someone in the country who still believe all powers in the Republic belong to the people (Article 7). Police in the country are growing arrogant and showing disrespect for laws and the rights of the citizens.
Dr. Mizan said that the law enforcers behave in a way as if the people have become their slaves -- it is not compatible with the notion of a civilized country.
The NHRC chief said police are now shooting at people from point-blank range and harassing them by lodging cases on charges of political violence, criminal offence and drug-related issues to swell their bags, all these are an open secret business of the police. Earlier, another law enforcing agency Rapid Action Battalion was found involved with the 7-murder case in Narayanganj, but the investigation report is in limbo. Prior to the known murder, thousands of accusations of extra-judicial killing, custodial tortures resulting in deaths, forced disappearances, and the violation of laws were raised and the government response was that the police had the license to kill. When RAB restrained from committing murder after widespread criticism, police has taken up the responsibility to run the killing machine of the executive.
The culture of impunity has come from political use of the police. People's police have largely ceased to be people's police. Nobody can be blamed if he or she says that the police are being used as a force to defend the government and not the people against the law breakers. The same allegation is labeled against RAB also. Instead of being law enforcers, they are being used politically to the advantage of the government.
We shall urge the police and RAB to behave as law enforcers and not as political forces. They must not forget that Bangladesh is a free country and they are the forces of an independent country.