THE police having so far arrested 13 people in a case that the police filed on April 6 night against more than 4,000 people, including 88 being named, on charges of attacking the police and government offices at Saltha in Faridpur brings to the fore a few issues for all, especially the government authorities, to ponder. The police filed the case after the police had clashed with the local people at Saltha on April 5, in which one villager died and at least three others became critically wounded. During the clashes, the police charged at people with truncheons, fired tear-gas shells. The police are also reported to have fired rubber bullets and blank shots to contain the people, who protested against the 11-point directives that the government imposed, beginning on the day, under a partial lockdown for seven days across the country as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19. The police and the local administration, however, sought to say that the mob protest was triggered by rumours that some people died in police firing and that the administration was carrying out anti-Islamic activities.
While the way the government, the police and the local administration for that matter, handled the mob, even though instigated by rumours, appears to be high-handed, it also appears disparaging that the people that the police arrested in the case were mostly local leaders and activists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, Jamaat-e-Islami and Hefazat-e-Islam and some other groups in the opposition. The arrest of mostly Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders and activists reeks of a gross political misconduct. And the arrest and the harassment of Bangladesh Nationalist Party leaders and activists in the area are reported to continue. The police, thus, appear to be acting more as a wing of the ruling party rather than a government agency, which is tasked with deterring crimes, arresting anyone standing in conflict with the law and produce them in the court of law for justice. Besides, when 4,000 people are accused in the case on charges of attacking the police and local administration, the government should naturally look into if there has been any problem with the police and the local administration. The police appear to come to play as a tool of the government to corner people, parties and groups in the opposition camp and as a force to deal with issues that should have been done in other ways keeping to the due process of law.
The police and the administration should learn how to handle mobs, more especially so when they are instigated by rumours, and how not to use every chance they can lay their hands on to the political gains of the government, which, as the manager of the state, should keep off such practice of high-handedness. The government must, in such a situation, pause for moments, look inward, do some soul-searching and take the right path in dealing with opposition, of any kind, and stand corrected.
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