The ugly smell from the Sagar-Runi murder case continues to rise and it’s probably going to get much worse. This painful, unsavoury and ultimately cruel episode refuses to die down no matter how much it is tried by the powerful. Ever since the dual murder took place, it has become the most sordid manifestation of just what is wrong with Bangladesh governance. It’s not just a law and order failure but says much about the general decay of the state. We don’t think this could have happened in any other country in South Asia except Pakistan where most systems have given away due to the Afghan conflict related issues.
No matter what, the facts of the case and how it was suppressed will come out one day — filthy dribble by filthy dribble — but by then whatever little confidence people may have in the institutional process of justice delivery — so badly damaged already — may well be entirely gone. We don’t deserve this, this we have got in the name of Bangladesh.
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Ever since it became obvious that someone or a certain group/s was trying to pervert the course of the investigation particularly after Shahara Khatun’s ‘solution within 48 hours’ remark, the pressure was high on the police. So the police leaked a lot of information to the media hoping that it will understand that the fault is not theirs. Maybe much if not most of the information were false and self-serving but who is to judge that? In the absence of any official action, it’s such information that led to a huge mine of (mis)information feeding public interest in the event. This will not go away even if people think there should be no speculation. It’s the suppressors who are responsible for the mess.
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To this have been added the ATN channel owner Mahfuzur Rahman’s remarks that the murder was caused due to the extramarital affair of Runi and there is also a video footage which explains the issue. As expected there was an outcry and call for punishment of Rahman mostly by the journalists. But till date nothing has happened to him and the authorities have not made any response to his remarks which is a mystery.
But it has sparked off more rumours and speculations including on the contents of the tape. Some are saying it has intimate scenes which will damage the reputation of the couple while others are saying that it contains interview(s) identifying the killer(s). As the facts have not been known such speculations will come flooding in.
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The management of this case by the government has been suicidal as far as the government’s trust and confidence is concerned. It was not just the police who was involved. As things got almost comically absurd regarding progress of the case, the RAB got involved, the supposed solver of all crimes, fair means or foul. They dug up the hugely decomposed bodies and found god-knows-what when it was already established that both had had died of knife wounds. But one wonders why RAB was brought in since it’s not an investigating agency but a pursuit and arresting one. Meanwhile the courts also got involved and issued directives and declared itself to be very keen about the solution. Till date nothing has happened.
Nothing has happened except bringing down the prestige of all the agencies and institutions involved whether it’s the court police or RAB indicating all three are ineffectual.
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But this case, the supreme symbol of what is wrong in the Bangladesh governance system is not the only example by which we can track what is going on. Professor Abdullah Abu Sayeed affair is a good reminder of how the MPs can get together and attack a man of integrity and achievement without any basis or proof. What shocks most is that the AL MPs used the BNP-Jamaat leaning daily Inquilab as a source for their information to hurl abuses at the honourable and respected Professor.
Having asked for his trial and then later having been proved wrong and scolded by the Speaker, they have chosen silence when they should have apologised to Prof. Sayeed. They could also have pondered if anybody from the outside can ruin their reputation when they are quite capable of doing it themselves. Just ask what people think of them now.
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So attacks on media are halal because it really doesn’t matter how law enforcement works once the system starts going belly up. It’s also easy to blame every critic as anti-social, anti-liberation and anti-state knowing this gets all cheers and scares people. Even when people critique a part of the energy policy the critics are described as ‘anti-state’. This means the government and the state are perceived as the same.
But it’s the deeper malady that scares us which is centred on national elections and agitation. Effectively, politics has been banished to the street from the parliament and while one provides form, it’s the street that is supplying the content. What happens is that when the parliament exists but matters are decided on the streets of political activism, the official, legal and systemic architecture that holds up the state begins to totter. It means we have not really graduated into a system where debate and discussion supported by the rule of law prevails over stones and bonfires. Since that is not the case it seems we are not up to parliamentary democracy.
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The responsibility of having functional parliament may be too much for us and our leaders who have so little experience in governing by the rule of law. One is therefore not sure if we can have legal process based arrangements for any aspect of governance. So whether it’s running the parliament or running a murder investigation, we can’t do it following due process. The problem is in the system which we neither understand nor like. Both one-party rule and the subsequent martial law fattened by over 20 years of a boycotted parliament have robbed us of any capacity we may have developed in this direction. Why have a parliament with debates and rule of law which we are so uncomfortable with when governments changed on the street. The street suits us and the dysfunctional parliament is good for looking good but which one-party always boycotts when not in power.
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Will the Sagar-Runi murder case be solved? Many think most likely not because too much time has already been spent in not doing anything. It has involved far too many people and even if now things come out too many questions can be raised about who suppressed the facts and why. But without a clear disclosure the system will suffer from further damage.
In the end, in this land of broken law and order systems, economic anarchy and political chaos where everything can be bought or organised, it’s luck rather than a legal protection and safety system that keeps us alive till we are brought down.
The Sagar-Runi murder crisis began long before the killers’ knives were plunged. It began the day we bought the idea that political convenience is more important than the value of the state.
Afsan Chowdhury is the Executive Editor of bdnews24.com.