Police harassment of road safety protesters must stop

Updated at 12:16am on September 12, 2018

THAT police harassment against anyone judged by the incumbents as critical of the government has become the order of the day has been proved once again in the predicament of Mozammel Haque Chowdhury, general secretary of the Passengers’ Welfare Association of Bangladesh, a non-partisan civil society group keeping road accidents records and suggesting ways and means for passengers safety across the country. In the wake of the week-long school student revolts in July–August against the perpetual killing of passengers for the lack of enforcement of the traffic laws and rules, the government appears more interested in punishing the leading students behind the movement than effectively addressing the killer problem. Mozammel Haque Chowdhury is neither a schoolboy nor had he anything to do with instigating the students to take to the streets en masse. But, who knows, his philanthropic work of publishing regular data of the road accident deaths and, thus, creating public awareness about the road management failures of the authorities concerned might have played an indirect role behind the student rebellions. So the police, politicised on partisan line, has arrested him and framed him in case of extortion — a misdeed that the police themselves are widely accused of — and had him remanded in custody for further interrogation under intimidating circumstances. When the media widely reported about Chowdhury’s reputation as an honest man, the police then implicated him in an ‘explosives substances case’ — more dangerous than the original allegation, which has appeared to be a means of harassment of the political opponents theses days. Notably, the police recently implicated a man in an ‘explosives substance case’ who died much earlier while framed another man in a similar case who was busy performing Hajj in Saudi Arabia at the time of the incident that police mentioned!
Meanwhile, the government picked up 12 road safety protesters, all young students, from their houses in Mahakhali and Tejgaon areas of the capital city on September 5, but has illegally kept silent about the arrests for four days without producing the arrested in the court, until the media voiced the concerns of the guardians of the youths. Again, this is police harassment of the mostly non-partisan youths who took to the streets to stop the untimely deaths of thousands by road accidents primarily because of the mismanagement of the road and transport management. The government leaders had publicly proclaimed that the youths had a noble cause behind the revolt and that they had helped open the eyes of the government on the issue. The police harassment of social worker like Mozammel Haque Chowdhury and that of the young road safety protesters amounts to the government’s betrayal of a great public cause.
While the incumbents need to give a second thought to the repressive measures they are taking against those appearing critical of the government action and inaction, the conscious sections of society need to protest against such governmental misdeeds.