Society needs to protest at bid to doubly deny Biharis

IN VIEW of the questionable role that the police have played since the arson attack in the Mirpur Bihari camp on Saturday, which killed at least 10 persons, including seven of a family, the Urdu-speaking people, virtually holed in different relief camps in the capital Dhaka, are only expected to feel a profound and pervasive sense of insecurity. Not only did the police purportedly play the silent onlooker when a group of people, believed to be loyal to the local lawmaker of the ruling Awami League, set several houses ablaze after locking the residents inside, they have also filed two cases, and allegedly forced locals to file four more, against the camp dwellers in connection with the arson attack and the consequent killings. Then, according to a report published in New Age on Tuesday, the law enforcers swooped on residents of the Mohammadpur Bihari camp during their sit-in and hunger strike in protest at Saturday’s carnage and in solidarity with the demand of their fellows in the Mirpur camp for justice. Meanwhile, the local lawmaker, administration and law enforcement agencies have allegedly continued to be hostile towards, and even issue threats against, the Urdu-speaking community and its leaders.
It goes without saying that the Urdus-speaking community in Bangladesh has generally lived a ghettoised life amid sustained suspicion and fear of the state and society. Certain actions of the state seem to have only deepened such suspicion and fear. For example, according to a report published in New Age also on Tuesday, some 150,000 Biharis, who were given citizenship rights in 2008 on the ground that they were either minor at the time of the liberation war or born afterwards, have not been issued machine readable passports yet, for reasons best known to the Department of Immigration and Passports. The apathy and the antagonism of the authorities since Saturday’s carnage could only further deepen such mistrust and even make them suspect that a plot may be on to deny them justice.
It is not difficult to understand why the administration and the police are acting the way they have done so far; they seemingly do not want to properly investigate the arson attack and killing lest it should point to the direct or indirect involvement of the AL lawmaker and thus invite the wrath of the ruling party and the government. Such instances of giving precedence to the protection of the few over the interest of the many have been galore since the AL-led government assumed office in January 2009. Be that as it may, the perpetrators of Saturday’s carnage must be brought to justice since it has put the nation’s image at stake insofar as protection of the rights of the minority communities — ethnic, linguistic or religious — is concerned.

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