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Police move vexes people

Bangladesh on 17 December 2015
Location : Bangladesh | Source : Daily Star.

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police has come up with some dubious forms, asking house owners and tenants in different areas to fill in those with personal details, creating confusion and panic among the public.

Police say they are doing it for security reasons.

Three types of forms -- for house and flat owners, tenants, and mess owners and dwellers -- are available at the DMP headquarters and different police stations in the capital. Police members have also been going door to door, providing forms and collecting information, said DMP officials.

The move came a month ago, following an official order, in efforts to take additional security measures in the wake of the recent spate of targeted attacks and, particularly, to check militant threats, according to police sources.

However, city dwellers are baffled by this sudden, unannounced step.

Talking to The Daily Star, some said they feared that their personal information might not remain confidential and that they could be used to harass them.

Moreover, the forms do not bear the police monogram, meaning people have no way of knowing that these are actually police forms.

Apart from names and addresses, the forms seek passport, driving licence and national ID numbers.

A Dhanmondi resident said some cops went to their building several days ago to distribute the forms. His flat owner gave him one to fill in, but he said he would return it to the cops without filling it in.

He said he did not trust police, given the widespread allegations that some of its members often harass people, torture citizens in custody, extort money from them and even kill them.

“I have a hunch that my personal details will not be safe,” he said, asking not to be named.

A private company employee, who lives in Mohammadpur, said he did not share his information with cops because of his past experience.

He claimed once he sought help from the police when he was in trouble, but police did not do anything.

THE DETAILS

The form for house and flat owners asks for 17 types of information with a photograph.

These are the individual's name, father's name, date of birth, marital status, the type of house, present and permanent address, religion, occupation and workplace address, educational qualification, cell number and email ID, national ID number, passport number, contact person, names and details of domestic help, driver and security guard (along with their photos).

The tenant's form asks for 15 types of information and a photograph and the one for mess owners and dwellers 13 types of information and a photograph.

CENTRAL DATABASE

Police officials said collecting citizen information was part of their plan to create a central database.

It was seen in the past that militants took shelter briefly in the city, committed crimes and then fled. With the database, it will be easier for the police to catch the criminals, said Abu Bakar Siddique, officer-in-charge of Shahbagh Police Station.

Asked if police launched any campaign to inform the public about the initiative, Muntasirul Islam, deputy commissioner (media) of DMP, said there was no formal publicity. But he claimed police have been informing people about the plan in various meetings and seminars.

But what about people's loss of trust in the police? Muntasirul called on people to “have faith in them and help them”.

'NOT MUCH TRUST'

Nur Khan, director of Ain o Salish Kendra, said there should have been an announcement from the government before police started collecting information from citizens.

Police also should explain to the people the purpose of the initiative and how the information would be handled, he added.

“People are already panicked. Moreover, they do not have much trust in the police,” he told The Daily Star by phone.

National Human Rights Commission Chairman Mizanur Rahman said law enforcers maintaining a citizen database was not unusual in developed countries. And citizens in those countries have no problem with that because there is rule of law there.

 “But here in our country the context is different. There are allegations that police often harass people,” he said.

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