The quote “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it” seems to have been the motto of Adilur Rahman Khan, a former Deputy Attorney General of the BNP-Jamaat coalition and the secretary of Odhikar before being incarcerated.
Adilur’s organisation, Odhikar, in a report titled “Assembly of Hefazate Islam and Human Rights Violations” published on June 10, claimed 61 Hifazat activists died in the law enforcement operation aiming to evict the Taliban like Hifazat-i Islami from bustling Motjheel area of Dhaka on May 6, 2013. But, when approached, Odhikar initially could provide the account of only thre deaths. Later, the organisation refused to provide any further discloser citing security reasons. The refusal led to the arrest of Adilur Khan.
On the death figure, on May 6, 2013, Daily Amar Desh, citing Hifazat leaders, reported, death toll to be between 16 and 24. On May 11, Human Rights Watch citing independent sources put the death toll at 50 which also included several law enforcing agency members killed by the Hifazat activists.
Adilur’s arrest have made a big hue and cry among the human rights organisations and merchants across the world. Dubbing him as the champion of human rights, the human rights organisations have demanded his release.
Now, let’s look at how committed Adilur had been in defending human rights while serving as the deputy attorney general under the BNP-Jamaat regime. Since 1990s, four elected and one unelected governments have ruled Bangladesh. Among all these governments, the BNP-Jamaat led coalition government of the 2001-06 period broke all records of human rights violation.
The post-2001 election violence led by BNP-Jamaat cadres against the Hindus, killing many members of the community, raping children including 16 years old Purnima Rani Shil, evicting many Hindu families from their ancestral homes, crossed the limits of uncivilised acts one can think of.
Then, a series of bomb attacks by the militant outfits JMB and Harkatual Jihad, aimed at obliterating opposition voices, killed one former-minister, several senior opposition political leaders, one elected representative including many opposition, cultural, and progressive activists.
Never did before, in the post-1971 period, so many senior political leaders and intellectuals got killed in atrocities patronised by the government. As table 1 shows, a total of 113 people died and 1458 injured of a bombing campaign perpetrated by two militant groups the JMB and Harkatul Jihad between 2001-06. Both organizations were created under the auspices of the leaders of BNP-Jamaat coalition.
For example, on January 27, 2004, former finance minister ASM Kibria was brutally killed in Grenade attack in Habiganj of Sylhet.
On May 24, 2004, the Awami League MP Ahasanullah Master was assassinated by the BNP activists.
On February 27, 2004, Harkatul Jihad militant brutally stabbed Dhaka University Professor Humanyun Azad in front of the Bangla Academy.
On May 14, 2004, a grenade attack injured the former British Ambassador Anwar Chowdhury at the Shrine of Sufi Hazrat Shahjala in Sylhet.
On December 24, 2004, Professor Yunus of Rajshahi University while survived several attacks by Jamaat-Shibir cadres eventually had to succumb to brutal attack by the same group belonging to the coalition government.
On August 21, 2004, a heinous grenade attack on the opposition rally killed 24 Awami League leaders and activists including the member of the presidium, Ivy Rahman. The attack severely injured the current prime minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, former Dhaka City mayor Mohammed Hanif and more than hundred party leaders and activists.
Fact of the matter is that Adilur Khan served as the DAG under the BNP-Jamaat coalition government even while being aware of such egregious violation of human rights during the coalition government. But, he did nothing! He utterly failed to take any initiative to ensure credible investigation to find the masterminds and culprits behind the attacks. Many of the cases had never addressed and resolved before the BNP-Jamaat coalition left political office. Even, he is accused of being instrumental in fabricating cases against the activists of the anti-government and fundamentalist movements. To hide/protect the perpetrators of August 21, 2004 grenade attack, the George Miah drama was staged during his tenure. Renowned historian and Dhaka University Professor Muntasir Mamun was charged with bombing incidence at a Cinema Hall in Mymensing and jailed. Renowned author, journalist, film documentary producer Shahriar Kabir was jailed in sedition charges.
In addition to bombing campaigns killing hundreds and injuring thousands, as table 2 shows, extrajudicial killings, border killings, journalist killing and death in political violence were the highest during BNP-Jamaat government of all post 1990s governments. The regime ranks even worse when considering yearly average of human rights violation.
One may ask how a deputy attorney general can ensure justice going against the mighty state apparatus. But, his inaction speaks louder than rhetoric. As a DAG, Adilur Khan may not have been effective in ensuring justice in a rather predatory state. Yet, he knowingly continued to serve under the predatory state while such violation kept going on. His association confirms his complicity.
How could a man of conscience, claiming now to be a human rights defender, not protest such relentless campaign of terrorism aimed at disseminating activists of opposition political parties and progressive movements! Is this the political ideology? If political ideology triumphs over human conscience, then his conviction for human rights must have been fake. Did Adilur Rhaman Khan ever protest the atrocities committed by the goons of the same government he was representing? Is there any record showing his sincere efforts in prosecuting the creators of Bangla Bhai and bringing the masterminds behind the bars? Had he been unable to do so, did he offer to resign from his position?
Adilur Khan seems to change his position as political wind shifts. When he was a lawman of the country, he condoned the atrocities against his opposition. Now, out of power, he clads in humane garb, proclaiming himself as the champion of human rights. Adilur has engaged in a campaign of falsehood. He speaks of human rights of the BNP-Jamaat-Hifazat coalition, but not of those died during 2001-06 when Adilur Khan was a lawman of the country. Using a human rights organisation as his political pulpit, serenely standing on it, he keeps spreading false and distorted information. By spreading lies, he seems to plan to replace the perception of the people, by erasing their memories off the atrocities perpetrated during BNP-Jamaat regime, with a fake perception of egregious violation of human rights against the Taliban like fundamentalist group Hifazat-i Islam.
No doubt, Adiulur has been doing all these to maximise his personal and political agenda: a dishonest trait of any human right activist, but a great trait of a business person. By failing to act against the human rights violation of the opposition when he had some power to do so and later by promoting falsehood when in opposition, Adilur Khan has lost his credibility and moral rights to claim himself to be a champion of the human rights.
Yet, I demand that Adilur Rahman not be subjected to unlawful detention, torture and harassment, which he failed to extend to the victims of his regime. Don’t make a martyr out of him. Don’t repeat the mistakes he and his regime made. Let him give a chance to repent. Doing so would be immensely beneficial to promote democratic values and human rights.
ABM Nasir is an associate professor of Economics at the North Carolina Central University, USA.