At least 255 people have so far been killed in the countrywide ongoing anti-drug drives in the last five months, with law enforcers still busting drug gangs and recovering huge amount of narcotics, particularly Yaba, almost every day.
Physicians, academics and health rights activists have emphasised creating awareness, especially among the youths, and ensuring environment friendly to children and engaging them in sports, games and cultural activities to check drug abuses in society.
They are of the opinion that only arrests and killings of ‘drug peddlers’ would not address the menace and term the deaths in the drives ‘extrajudicial killings’, calling for an end to such killings.
Over 40,000 suspected drug peddlers and addicts have so far been arrested and produced in courts in drug related cases, home minister Asaduzzaman Khan said in a programme earlier this month.
RAB began the anti-drug drive on May 4 and the police on May 17 at the directives of the prime minister.
On May 15, two suspected drug peddlers were killed for the first time since the drive began, allegedly in gunfights with RAB, one each at Narayanganj and Kushtia.
And until October 20, at least 255 suspected peddlers and addicts were killed, mostly in ‘gunfights’ with the law enforcers, according to newspaper reports quoting accounts of RAB and the police.
The latest ‘gunfight’ victims are Tipu Sheikh, 45, of Pabna and Abu Bakr, 42, of Jashore who were killed in gunfights in Pabna and Jashore respectively early Saturday.
On Tuesday, RAB arrested six drug peddlers and seized 48,800 Yaba tablets from their possession at two places in Dhaka while Dhaka Metropolitan Police arrested 39 suspected drug peddlers and addicts and seized 331 Yaba tablets, 100 kilograms of hemp, 99 bottles of liquor and 476 grams of heroin from their possession, RAB and DMP officials said.
According to police, some of the peddlers were killed in ‘gunfights’ with rival groups over sharing money and some were allegedly found dead.
But family members’ accounts differed from what police and RAB said.
Some of the alleged peddlers were picked up by people in plain clothes, said their families and later police and RAB officials said that they died in ‘gunfights’.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan claimed time and again that there were no extrajudicial killings during the anti-drug drives and that they had been killed in ‘gunfights.’
He said that illegal drug business always involved firearms and when law enforcers tried to arrest the peddlers, they opened fire and locked in ‘gunfight’.
He said that the anti-drug drive would continue until the drug menace was brought under control.
However, the killing of Akramul Haque, a ward councillor of Teknaf municipality in Cox’s Bazar, in what RAB termed a ‘gunfight’ on early May 27 was largely criticised as unverified audio clippings of conversations between Akramul and his family members, provided by his wife on May 31, suggested that he was murdered.
Rights organisation Odhikar secretary Adilur Rahman demanded an end to the extrajudicial killings as it was illegal and unacceptable. ‘Punish the drug peddlers under due process of law,’ he urged the government.
According to RAB, a total of 83 suspected drug peddlers were killed in gunfights with RAB between May 15 and October 16 while they arrested 9,345 suspects.
During the same period, the elite force seized 56.62 lakh Yaba tablets, 16 kilograms of heroin, 52,000 bottles of Phensedyl, 2,400 kilograms of hemp and 12.88 lakh litres of local liquor, RAB officials said.
A senior RAB official said that drugs were coming in from different places as the peddlers were changing their strategies against the backdrop of drives but they were being tracked down and drugs were seized and the peddlers arrested.
He said that a few members of police were also found involved in drug business.
‘The government is now busy arresting the addicts and peddlers. But they are doing nothing for creating awareness,’ National Health Rights Movement chairman Rashid-E-Mahbub told New Age.
‘We have to create environment friendly for our children. There should be adequate space for games and sports as well as cultural activities. The children should be engaged in these activities,’ he suggested.
Bangladesh Association of Psychiatrists general secretary Professor MA Mohit Kamal stressed the need for creating awareness in society. ‘We have to create awareness beginning with the family. It is duty of all of us to save our society from being ruined,’ he said.
He, however, said that the government should be ruthless in dealing the drugs traffickers.
Dhaka University’s Clinical Psychology professor Mohammad Mahmudur Rahman stressed the need for resisting the drugs in the borders as Bangladesh produced none of the contraband drugs.
‘Killing and arresting is no solution to the menace. Law enforcement agencies will have to do their job properly and honestly and the youths will have to be educated about the bad effects of taking drugs,’ he said.
‘Of course, we need to provide our children healthy entertainment and cultural activities so that they do not feel frustrated, the main reason behind taking drugs,’ he said.
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