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Let rab inquiry be meaning full.


The government’s decision to inquire into the matter of the extra-judicial killings by the Rapid Action Battalion must be taken with a grain of salt. That is because the authorities still do not seem ready to accept the fact that there has been much violation of human rights by RAB where the killing of suspected criminals in alleged encounters is concerned. That the pattern of the killings has been one and the same has regularly aroused the worry of citizens, to a point where questions have arisen as to whether RAB has been working as a body independent of the government machinery. If it has not, there then comes up the more ominous question of who or what powerful organisation is behind its operations. When, therefore, the government informs the country that it will launch an executive inquiry, whatever that means, into extra-judicial killings (if any!!!) by the elite force, one is somehow not convinced that such an inquiry will lead to any positive result. We say that because it is fairly obvious to people that this entire move for an inquiry seems to have been influenced by the concerns expressed by outsiders, especially the foreign diplomatic community in Bangladesh, about RAB operations. The matter is now one of the government’s trying to refurbish its reputation in the global community.
The country is of course happy that people outside have been sufficiently alarmed about the killings committed by RAB personnel as to warn our authorities about the implications of such operations. Indeed, their concerns have also been ours, for quite a few reasons. In the first place, the manner in which people taken into RAB custody have systematically been murdered — always in the midst of an ‘encounter’ where no member of the elite force or no associate of the arrested individual seems to have been injured or lost his life — has always made a mockery of people’s intelligence. In the second place, that such means of eliminating people are a violation of the due process of law has never entered the imagination of many of our ruling politicians, to the extent that some ministers have even offered the obtuse explanation that killing a criminal (without of course proving that he is a criminal) is considerably more important than ensuring his rights as an individual before the law. The point here is that no matter how we look at the issue, the clear thought is that the ways in which the RAB personnel have been going around (and the police too appear to have been taking a cue or two from them lately) dispensing of men they take into custody throws up the frightening prospect of an organisation operating beyond and above the constitution of the country. It is in such light that the government’s stated intention to inquire into the extra-judicial killings takes added significance. On an equally serious plane, the very idea that the government has now chosen to go for the inquiry, so many months after people first began to voice their apprehensions about the modalities of RAB operations, raises the question of whether the inquiry will turn out to be a meaningful affair. When even the minister of state for home tells the country that there are no godfathers or bosses of crime in the country now, we wonder if the authorities are inhabiting a world of make-believe.

The facts are clear before us. Any inquiry into RAB operations must take into account the objective realities, which essentially is a questioning of the way in which ninety six individuals have so far died in ‘crossfire’. The inquiry will not amount to much if it does not take into account the sentiments of the families of the dead men as well as the feelings of human rights bodies over the issue.