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Social media is in a state of froth about the beating to death of 10 year old Rajan at the hands of callous murderers. The Minister is huffing and puffing and promising swift and certain justice. However, no one is spending a New York minute to ask, how is this possible? How come ordinary people, like the much-maligned suspects, can so casually torture someone to death in broad daylight? What kind of society permits that? There is absolutely no introspection, but just huffing and puffing.

The reason they can bind a ten year old to a post and then torture him to death is the same reason that allows the mullahs to murder Avijit, or party apparatchiks can kill seven people in Narayanganj with the help of Police and RAB. There is the sense that they can get away with murder and mayhem without consequence. There seems to be societal permission for these senseless murders by the callous murderers who are well-off and/or connected.

The rule of Law is selective and fickle in Bangladesh. The Rule of Law jumps into action when there is enough publicity, enough gruesome videos on the internet, or someone important is the victim. The sense of impunity pervades the class of privileged and wealthier folks. You do not have to be very wealthy, just a bit will do. Political connections are golden too.

There has been no equivalent hue and cry about the casual and callous murderer Bakthiar Alam Rony, the son of an MP from the ruling Awami League. You see huffing and puffing against the powerful may have consequences, but not so if the outcry is directed towards the ordinary murderers who may also mistakenly believe in impunity, because they see the selectivity and arbitrariness of the Law.

These murderers may have felt the same sense of impunity. They may have little money, because one of them works in Saudi Arabia as a chauffeur. The sense of impunity for even the marginally well-off is a long standing tradition in the land of my father. Sylhet is the land of Londonis – the expatriates in England (we call them all Londonis). They have gathered a little money working day and night in the UK restaurant industry, factories, and convenience stores.

However, when they return to Sylhet for a brief respite, they are kings of the realm. They marry women who maybe 50 years younger than them, they beat people for not showing respect (these are based on my personal experiences and no we cannot fact-check these events), and in general they simply assume impunity comes with the seal of being a Londoni!

I presume the same things come along to the expats from the Gulf and Saudi. Hence, they can video-tape murder and upload it to the internet for entertainment.

There is a long and shameful tradition of beating young kids in Sylhet, the land of my father. Children are not cherished in the poorer sections of the society. Parents have kids that they cannot support, send to school, or even look after. The kids come in an unplanned manner, “Allah’r Issa re baba,” and they there stay unplanned. A lot of them get into trouble in the neighbourhood out of hunger and necessity, and some out of mischief. I got into a lot of trouble because I was stealing the fish from Shahjalal’s catfish pond in the middle of the night, so we could have a picnic with the neighbourhood boys.

If I was not slightly, ahem, connected, I am sure the mullahs would have bound me to a post and cast the devil out of the little infidel. So, yes there is mischief and maybe some petty crime, which are never policed and dealt with. The result is that there is deep-seated unconcern about these children. More often than not, they are beaten by adults who feel the power of impunity and who believe that the Law does not work.

The “Bhodro Lok” class sometimes takes on these kids as household help. There disappears any hope for their education and a chance of better life for these children. They toil away sixteen hours a day, eat last, and sleep on hard marble floors. I have seen this so many times among people I actually care about, that it has simply made me numb. The redeeming thing that the “Bhodro Lok” class say, is that these children are eating regular meals and they should be grateful.

I know one family in Dhaka that has many of these kids working in the household. They do things like wash small garments and clean the floors and toilets. In one case, a ten-year-old sits outside the office of the Boro Sahib in case he is needed for, say, getting a cup of tea or some trivial errand which may require, God forbid, the Boro Sahib to move 10 feet.

This poor kid sits there for eight straight hours with occasional bathroom breaks. There is simply no way the developing brain of a ten-year-old can handle the monotony without getting into mischief.

Besides the particular predicament of the “unplanned” life, there is also the value of life issue. We value life in an abysmal nature. To wit, look at the Rana Plaza disaster. That disaster did not happen because someone went out of their way to kill a thousand people.

No. It happened because we value lives of the working poor as peanuts compared to, say, a little more profit. We keep the building going because they represent enormous value to the owners. If we value lives of adults pitifully, we value the lives of the young poor with total atavistic disregard.

In Sylhet we used to call the young poor “Tifil”, which is a perversion of an Arabic term for young and pitiful. We perverted it again to mean young and useless. Once you name and categorise a whole group of people by their economic situation and age, you are then free to use and abuse them. They are now the “other”, and not a part of you.

I am all for severe punishment for the murderers of Rajan. I say, “Hang ‘em High”, but I also want the same legal system to hang Rony and all the other murderers. Law cannot be selective. In that case, it is not Law at all, but a tool for mayhem based on class and connection.
I hope that as transparency becomes more prevalent, the application of Justice will become universal without regard for class, money, and political connection.

Kayes Ahmed is a businessman running multi-national operations from Colorado, USA.

12 Responses to “No tears for thousands of other Rajans”

  1. John Balao

    I deeply commiserate with the family of Rajan on the tragic death their son and brother. He was the epitome of goodness, honesty, innocence, courage and dignity. Despite his horrendous sufferings in the hands of sociopaths and savage men Rajan endured all the pain and accepted his fate without any sign of hatred against his murderers. He pleaded for mercy and justice, and even asked his tormentors to deliver him to the agents of the law, if indeed they believe he committed a crime they accused him of. Rajan never cursed, never blamed anyone, never lied, never implicated anyone falsely and intentionally if only to satisfy the irrational demands of his psychopath torturers. All he asked for was to stop the extremely painful beatings and in his final moments before he breathed his last; he asked for a cup of water to quench his thirst.

    Rajan was not only a victim of barbarity of adult men whose depravity is beyond human imagination and description, but also to a large extent he was a victim of greed and corruption of those in power. If only the political leaders of Bangladesh do their sworn duty as mandated by law, and adhere to what they promised to deliver children like Ranjan would not have dropped out from school and compelled to work under harsh conditions to earn a living. If only the political leaders unite and work together to uplift the poorest of the poor in Bangladesh and provide them sustainable livelihood women will not work in brothels as prostitutes, children will not become unsuspecting preys of criminals in the streets in Sylhete and elsewhere begging from people especially foreigners for food or alms. It is about time for the policy makers in Bangladesh to have a serious introspection and think what is best for the nation. The welfare of the nation must come first always over any other interest or considerations that only serve the interests of the few-the oligarchs.

    Mr. President Hamid and Madam Prime Minister Sheik Hasina, the world is closely watching you. There is no doubt that with your combined brilliance, expertise, experience and political will you will be able to propel your beautiful country, Bangladesh to its proper place in the ranks of newly industrialized countries in Asia.

    I implore you in the name God and the entire humanity, to bring before the bar of justice the perpetrators of these heinous crime of murdering and torturing Rajan and all the children like him. Moreover, use your extensive powers vested in you by law and the Constitution to implement immediately projects that will benefit the poor through sustainable livelihood development, ensure that their human rights are not violated with impunity by Bangladesh security forces, and more important please stop the violence against the people in Bangladesh, allow dissent, political grievance and genuine democracy to flourish. Observe the rule of law and respect the dignity and rights of the citizens. These are best legacies you will leave your great nation. Long after you are gone you will be remembered as heroes.

    I am not from Bangladesh but when I saw the heartbreaking story of Rajan I wanted to immediately reach out to his family and condole with them. I search for a way to get in touch with them through this website of one your major dailies. From where I am we are starting a fundraising for Rajan’s family.

    To Rajan, wherever you are and no matter if we don’t know each other we are with you. We are proud of you for what you have done for your family. You are our hero and yes, your exemplary life no matter how short and insignificant in the eyes of others has brought us the light of goodness and the sense of divinity that only comes from God. Rajan you are indeed the child of God. Rest peace in the kingdom of God Almighty in the company of the angels and the prophets. Biddae niccchi, shubho jatra, khoda hafez. As a Catholic Christian from another part of the world I pray for you the eternal repose of your soul, my little brother and friend.

    • Kayes Ahmed

      John:

      This is a very heartfelt and empowering note you wrote. The thing about child abuse and neglect is that it is deep seated in the culture. The PM and the Politicos will scream and holler as long as the cameras are lingering. After that they are all vamonos! The only way to make change in the long-term is reporting these abuses. There is an old proverb “Sunshine is the best disinfectant”. Transperancy is the key. I have no faith that the givernmnent or the PM will do anything. It is better that we do something. Do you have the fund raising website adress to share?

      Kayes

  2. sundar swapan

    yes, this govrnmnt has totally failed to improve the law and order situation in this country rather due to their misrule it has deteriorated further compared to what it had been before they came to power. misrule and awami rule bears almost the same meaning. people have to take the decision about whether they will be satisfied with better economic performance accompanied with severe misrule or the contrary. awami government seems to be complacent with the praise of the international community for their economic performances.

    • Kayes Ahmed

      Thnak you for reading my rants. I apprecaite any encouragement that you guys give me.

  3. Alok

    Dear Kayes.

    I agree fully with your views. The ditto happens in India.

    Regards
    Alok

    • Kayes Ahmed

      Arshad:

      Eid Mybarak. It is not a tragedy Abdul. This is man made and a simple crime.

      Kayes

  4. Enam

    Great article. Brings to the fore many unspoken status quo about people in sylhet. Don’t worry, once the UK benefit system stops supporting the taxi drivers & alcohol sellers in restaurants, their momentary power in Sylhet will reduce.

    • Kayes Ahmed

      Enam:

      I think you got me wrong. I really want Bengaldeshis (Sylhetis) to thrive and make boatlaod of money. Being a LONDONI is mindset, like being a Boro Sahib is mindset. When little money starts to distrot your ineraction with people then you are in trouble. The Londonis work very hard in London and elsewhere. They send a lot od remittances and they really are not on the dole. I think you have a mistaken idea. What I object is that when they get back toi say Sylhet they act like they are better than anyone else or as Americans would say, “their shi* don’t stink”.

      Thank you for reading.

      Kayes

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