Who killed Abrar?

Nasir Uz Zaman | Published at 12:00am on October 13, 2019

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— Apu's Cartoon

Recently a student of BUET is murdered by activists of ruling party in a residential hall of the university that shocked the nation. This cannot be considered as an isolated incident as ruling party student wings are used to control the campuses and that come at an expense of dead bodies of young students. Nasir Uz Zaman blames the culture of impunity for such crimes and argues that banning student politics is not the solution  

The killing
ABRAR Fahad, a second-year student of electrical and electronic engineering department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, was beaten to death on early Monday at his university residential hall by activists of ruling Awami League affiliated student organisation Bangladesh Chhatra League.

According to media reports, he was killed six hours after BCL leaders and activists of the university unit picked him up to ‘interrogate’ over his alleged involvement with Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir. Dhaka Medical College Hospital forensic medicine expert Sohel Mahmud told the media that Abrar was beaten to death by blunt objects like bamboo sticks or cricket stumps.

An accused, Ifti Mosharraf Shakal, biomedical engineering batch-16 student and the deputy social welfare secretary of BCL campus unit, has already confessed to his involvement in Abrar killing and said that Abrar with his mobile phone and laptop was taken to the room 2011 around 8pm on October 6. There they checked the phone and laptop and beat him to know his involvement with Shibir. The confession showed how brutally Abrar was tortured for several hours and killed at that night by the BCL cadres.

Isolated incident?
THE incident of Abrar murder is not any how an isolated incident. If someone notes down the violent activities by BCL cadres in the last ten years, a gruesome picture will come up. According to media reports, about 33 students were killed and about 1,500 students were seriously injured by BCL cadres from 2009 to 2014 in different educational institutions. From 2014 to 2018 about 129 students were killed. In 2018, about 31 people including students and civilians were killed in the hands of BCL cadres.

Abu Bakar, a student of University of Dhaka, was a victim of a clash between factions of BCL at AF Rahman Hall in February 2010 and he was killed in the clash. According to autopsy report, his head was hit with blunt objects.

In the same year, a student of University of Rajshahi and also a BCL activist Nasrullah Nasim was killed in a scuffle over ‘food token’ of the organisation’s iftar party on August 15. He was bitten and pushed off from the second floor Shah Makdhum Hall.

Zubair Ahmed, a student of the English department of Jahangirnagar University, was tortured, stabbed and killed by BCL cadres in a political conflict in January 2012.

In the same year, a tailor Biswajit Das was killed by BCL activists of Jagannath University. The assailants killed him by hacking him repeatedly with sharp weapons in broad daylight. Like Abrar’s murder, the assailants claimed that Biswajit was an activist of Shibir.

Last year, in the quota reforms movement and in the road safety movement BCL cadres also violently assaulted many protesters. In the road safety movement, young protesters and journalists were assaulted with blunt objects and sharp weapons. The cadres seriously injured school-going children, teenagers and journalists. Tariqul Islam Tareq, a student of RU and a protester of the quota reform movement, was seriously beaten by BCL cadres of RU unit with hammer, iron rods and sticks at the campus. Tareq was seriously injured and two bones of his right leg were broken.

Ehsan Rafiq, a second year student of disaster management and science department of DU, was brutally beaten up by some BCL men on February 2018 over a calculator. Like Abrar and Biswajit, the assailants tagged Ehsan as Shibir. His right eye sustained serious injury.

And now Abrar has become the latest victim of BCL cadres’ violent activities — unhealthy power practice. For decades, this unhealthy power practice of ruling party affiliated student organisations has been continuing in campuses to dominate students and to serve self and the ruling party’s interest. To get control over residential halls as well as over the students, the power practice of the cadres includes ragging, controlling seat allocation, students’ mandatory attendance in political programmes and so on. Also, in fascist space, different opinions are not tolerated and as a result of such practice of the cadres bring immeasurable sufferings to general students. As the cadres have affiliation with ruling party, somehow, they are seemingly above justice and could continue their unhealthy power practice.

Culture of impunity
IT IS said that no one is above or below the law. But in reality we experience the opposite. Let’s have a look in the history of the justices delivered against these brutal incidents.

In Abu Bakar’s incident, 10 activists of BCL were accused for the murder, but all of them were acquitted on all counts. Abu Bakar’s family members did not even know about the verdict and the DU authorities did not take any further steps to ensure justice for him.

10 accused of RU BCL activists and leaders were arrested in Nasrullah’s incident but all are out on bail now.

In the case of Zubair, the Dhaka's Speedy Trial Tribunal-4 sentenced capital punishment to five assailants and life term imprisonment to six others. Last year, the High Court upheld the life term imprisonment of two convicts and acquitted four others who were sentenced to life term imprisonment. Among the five criminals who were sentenced capital punishment, four are still absconding. 

Though the eight assailants were sentenced capital punishment in Biswajit’s case but after filing an appeal to the High Court, six of them were relieved from the capital punishment. Two fugitives have not been arrested yet.

In the road safety movement, though several media published reports identifying some assailants but no steps are taken yet to arrest the assailants. Among the assailants of Tareq, there was Abdullah Al-Mamun, a BCL cadre of RU unit, but from law enforcing agency or from the university authority no actions have been taken against him or the assailants.

In Ehsan’s incident, it is reported on media that the BCL cadres lived in the hall though the seven were suspended. But Ehsan has to leave the country for his security purpose.

On the one hand, it is seen that the victims are not getting justice and on the other hand the criminals are escaping through legal loopholes. As a result, such practice has already created a culture of impunity. If there exists such culture of impunity, it is not much unusual for a criminal to continue crime. It is an obvious question of the people that how many ruling party affiliated people were brought under justice? If the security and justice cannot be ensured for all how can the incidents like the murder of Abrar could stop? Abrar is a symbol of the victims of the culture of impunity not only for the campus but also for the nation.  

The movements
THE murder of Abrar has not only stunned the students of BUET but also the nation and sparked a country-wide protest against injustice. Students of BUET and other institutions demanded justice for Abrar. If the murderers of Abrar could be brought under justice, Abrar himself might get justice but it will not be all. To stop murders like Abrar, breaking the culture of impunity is a must. It is a must to raise voice against abuse of power.

It is not possible to raise voice against any form of injustice without being politically conscious. Healthy political practice could help the students to recognise their rights and the root of present gruesomeness. Here standing against student politics will not do justice to next Abrar or Abu Bakar or Nasrullah or Zubair or Biswajit or Tareq or Ehsan or the several thousand victims but standing against unhealthy practice of student politics will do.

Nasir Uz Zaman is a member of the New Age Youth team