Fear And Retribution In Bangladesh

Dhaka University student kicking an army man

[Click image above to enlarge]

[Cross posted at E-Bangladesh]

During last week’s mass protests in Bangladesh a demonstrator, possibly a student, lunged toward a Bangladesh army man with his feet raised in anger. The army man was running in fear to escape the fury all around him. A photographer from the Daily Star newspaper captured the moment in a dramatic photograph that has stripped bare the iron fist of the Bangladesh military. The man flying through the air is Bangladesh’s "Tank Man". Just like "Tank Man" today his whereabouts are unknown. The Bangladesh military hunts him.

The BBC has labeled the image the "photo the Bangladesh military cannot stand." To the army the image represents humiliation. So the army struck back in revenge. Students were pulled out of apartments and beaten publicly, journalists were detained and beaten mercilessly, and five prominent university professors were detained and tortured.

Today two of the professors, Dr. M. Anwar Hossain and Dr. Harun-ur-Rashid, were brought back to court to extend their interrogation (torture) period by another four days. Under the military’s watchful eye, the judge ordered them returned to custody for further interrogation. In court the two professors protested of torture, which the judge refused to enter into the record:

The two teachers of Dhaka University, detained in the wake of last week’s violent student protests, told a court on Thursday that they were taken to an unknown place after being picked up, kept there blindfolded and tortured and urged the court not sent them back to the ‘dark room’.

‘We were taken to an unknown place blindfolded, where we were tortured both mentally and physically by the law enforcers,’ Professor Harun-or-Rashid, dean of social sciences of Dhaka University, told the court.

‘The torture we have suffered is beyond description,’ he said adding that he could neither sleep nor take food in the four days on remand

Narrating the torture they allegedly faced on remand, Professor Anwar Hossain, dean of bio-sciences, told the court, ‘We were not at fault, but we have been torture mentally and physically in a dark room—the place where I was taken once before in 1976.’

‘We have also seen others arrested in connection with the university incidents being tortured there.’

He said, ‘We appeal to you [court] not to send us back to the dark room…It will be injustice if we are forced to go there again.’

Tonight they are back in the grip of the Bangladesh army.

Outside court today, the Bangladesh army got what it wanted from the two professors. They both apologized to the army.

Dr. Hossain said:

"It’s an unwarranted incident. Today’s military is not the same as the Pakistani army in 1971. I’m sorry about the attitude shown to the army. Our army has a glorious history. They are symbols of sovereignty, security and unity. We understand it very easily that how they would feel and what their reactions would be if somebody attacks the army in uniform. We also feel dishonoured seeing the insult meted out to an army man in uniform. The attacks on the army meant attacks on the sovereignty of the country. I am deeply sorry for the attacks that made the army feel dishonoured and dented their self-respect. As the general secretary of DUTA and as a guardian of students, I apologise to all, from a respectable soldier to the army chief. There is no shame in seeking forgiveness. It brings glory. I think what I am saying will console the army in their grievances and sadness." [Emphasis added.]

Dr. Rashid added:

"The attacks on the army in uniform are really unfortunate. I seek forgiveness from all in the army—from the army chief to the soldier on behalf of students." [Emphasis added.]

Torture made the professors "apologize" and seek "forgiveness". Torture exposed the Bangladesh military strongman, General Moeen U Ahmed, as a vindictive vengeful man, afraid of the unarmed citizens of Bangladesh.

To dispel any notion that the beatings and the torture being doled out by the Bangladesh military is anything but revenge, Mainul Hosein, the Information and Law Advisor of the Bangladesh military government told the BBC:

"You have seen how they kicked a uniformed man belonging to the armed forces, how they burnt the effigy of the army chief General Moeen U Ahmed. Its Ok as long as they criticize or burn the effigy of us, the civil leadership; but with what plan do they kick a uniformed man or burn the effigy of the army chief? I believe this is a very dangerous plan.” [translation based on Rumi Ahmed]

It is all about the picture.

One hundred and fifty million people are now living under the force of arms. The Bangladesh military has created a climate of fear. It is now ruling by intimidation and by thuggery. Yet it has exposed itself to be fearful and weak. It fears the common man in sandals. It fears the boot – the same boot it uses to torture the citizens of Bangladesh. In all its might, it has managed to beat an "apology" out of two unarmed old men. That is weakness.

Remember the picture.


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11 Responses to Fear And Retribution In Bangladesh

  1. Imran says:

    Sorry man, but this article is pure alarmist scare mongering.

    Have we forgotten all the crap that was around b4 the army stepped in already!?

    We are a nation full of ingrates.

  2. Mash says:

    You are right Imran. All hail the military! All hail torture! Everything is great! This military government is leading Bangladesh to prosperity one beating at a time!

    What was I thinking?

    I apologize to the Bangladesh army from the soldier all the way to the army chief for telling the truth about the suppression of rights in Bangladesh. I now understand that the only way to prevent protests and to suppress the legitimate aspirations of the people is to torture old men.

    All hail military rule! 3:-o3:-o

  3. Imran says:

    Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.

    Get your facts straight before you shout bloody murder.

    1. They weren’t harmless old men, they are hardcore politicians who have on many occassions given inciteful political speeches on campus and there is good evidence to suggest they had a strong hand in inciting the recent spate of violence around the country. How do I know this? Because I know many teachers and professors on campus who are close to these two. They are hardly the innocent old men you make them out to be.

    2. Lets not forget that the Army has done more in the last 6 months to stamp out the systemic corruption that has been crippling our country than any other so called ‘democratic’ party.

    It seems fairly pointless to take to the streets to protest against the Army just for the sake of protesting against the Army.

    The Army’s position is no less democratic than the self-interested parties we’ve been ‘electing’ to power over the last couple of decades.

    Atleast the Army has taken action in the right direction: towards establishing a stable Bangladesh where people can voice their concerns without having to take to the street and beat up their fellow brothers and sisters.

    Surely that is the Bangladesh we fought for in 71 and not one where we grow bored whenever there is a lull in the constant violence, and so take it out on each other at every bloody given opportunity?

  4. Mash says:

    Ok, Imran, let’s talk some facts.

    On your first point, you say:

    there is good evidence to suggest they had a strong hand in inciting the recent spate of violence around the country.

    Show me the evidence. “Evidence” is not the army chief saying an “evil force” orchestrated the protests. Your standard of “evidence” seems to be that they gave speeches in the past therefore they are “guilty” now. That kind of “evidence” is the foundation of most autocratic purges.

    Even assuming your “evidence” is valid, explain to me why that justifies torture of these men and others.

    On your second point, you say:

    Atleast the Army has taken action in the right direction: towards establishing a stable Bangladesh where people can voice their concerns without having to take to the street and beat up their fellow brothers and sisters.

    Explain to me how exactly suspending fundamental rights, making criticism of the army a crime, torturing people, locking people up without charge, holding summary trials with no due process creates a “stable Bangladesh where people can voice their concerns without having to take to the street and beat up their fellow brothers and sisters”. How exactly are people allowed to voice their concerns?

    Finally, since we are dealing with facts. Tell me how the army has “done more in the last 6 months to stamp out the systemic corruption that has been crippling our country than any other so called ‘democratic’ party”? What I see is that the army, just like the last time it took over, has further corrupted the institutions by showing the people that the rule of force is supreme. Explain to me why the army has now placed their own personnel in nearly all, if not all, administrative branches of the government. What does the army know about running the cricket board? Or why do army men need to lead diplomatic missions overseas? It seems quite plain these are the “spoils of war” – nice plum position to get rich on. Isnt that what they were accusing the politicians of? Tell me how this is not corruption.

    I think I have my facts quite straight. I see that the army reacted last week by beating students and journalists mercilessly, by arresting and torturing academics, by picking up and beating the editors and owners of newspapers and TV stations. They have detained 250,000 people according to HRW. You may think all this is in the “national interest”, but I don’t.

  5. Mash says:

    Oh, Imran, I forgot to mention something quite funny, and some may even say quite corrupt. The army chief, Moeen U Ahmed, recently promoted himself from Lieutenant General to full General. I believe this is the first time the position of army chief has been elevated to a four star general in Bangladesh.

    Imagine that, giving oneself a promotion just for the heck of it. I wish I could promote myself like that. I guess its good to be the king.

    That’s called “CORRUPT”.

  6. Mash says:

    More from the “evidence” category. BDNews24 just flashed breaking news declaring “JC yet to find instigation by teachers”. The story begins:

    The head of the judicial commission investigating the violence at Dhaka University has said he has found no evidence of any teacher instigating the incidents, in the accounts of the seven witnesses examined so far.

    “No information or evidence of instigation by any teacher has yet been found in the accounts of the seven witnesses whom the commission examined,” said Justice Habibur Rahman Khan, head of the one-member judicial commission, Saturday.

    “But what will come up in future cannot be predicted,” he added.

    You can read the entire story here. Even the commission appointed by the government is saying there is no evidence – yet! :d

    In the meantime, army investigators are busy beating “evidence” out of the university professors.

  7. Asif says:


    We all want something good about it. But not pointing out the faults or suppressing the analytical part of the brain is not going to get us any where. Can you give us two examples of systemic changes which is going to sustainable in the long term? If that had happened, I will be the first one to cheerlead it.

  8. Imran says:

    Whatever dude, its fairly common knowledge on campus what these ‘old guys’ get upto.

    I’ve been to some of their talks, and its essentially ‘please go cause a riot, its good for the country, really’.

    And don’t waste anymore of your life replying, cause I’m done with this thread.

    Your sources don’t impress me. My sources are my own senses.

  9. Mashrur says:

    I am not bothered whether the teachers were involved with the students or not. Why in the first place, supporting student protest should be considered as crime?
    In our country, whoever gets power, restrict the opposition, it was never democratic or fair for the opposition. And this military regime is no difference. And, in this kind of situation, what is the appropriate language for the opposition?
    If, for example, students did not do any violence, just put a written complain to the authority, what would have happened? Nobody has that kind of reliance on the authority. This is why we see violence as language for the oppressed, when they cant express themselve by any other means. I criticize violence itself, but not in that simplistic way. What more, do you think only students were violent? What about the military when they started it in the first place? What about the thousands of incidents in the streets of the cities, where military do what ever they think is right to do? I feel that is the rule of terror, and that is violence.
    If we did not have that situation where we are not terrified to complain and criticize, and where our criticism had fair effect, we would have never had to go to the streets, act mad and burn cars.
    And Imran was referring to the previous regimes and was trying to put a comparison with the current military regime. This seemed to me like, someone is asking me, what do you prefer, what kind of beating, in which style? As if I have the option to choose from bad to worse, no just option is available to choose from!!!
    Before finishing my comment I want to thank Mash for the nice blog, and his factual comments.

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