Reform of Rab is a must

Bangladesh on 09 May 2014
Location : Narayanganj, Bangladesh | Source : The Daily Star Image Source: Flickr User Rajiv Ashrafi

We are supposed to be happy at seeing rapid action taken against the three Rapid Action Battalion officials whose names have surfaced in connection with the gruesome kidnap and murder of seven persons in Narayanganj.

But we cannot really feel a sense of relief because Narayanganj is only the tip of the iceberg and unless Rab is thoroughly investigated and reformed, such future happenings cannot be stopped.

Actually, with this latest incident, Rab itself has been confronted with a big question: How can an organisation which has become a monster over the years through impunity and unchallenged power be rectified? The other big question we have to face is: Why did our political leadership not take matters seriously when a litany of allegations against this important institution was raised over the years?

When Rab was formed, there was general acceptance of the force by the people because they thought given the corruption and slide in the police department, Rab would be a powerful crime busting force.

And Rab did quite some commendable jobs in the beginning. One can remember its actions against the JMB and Bangla Bhai.
But, then, there was an inherent weakness in the force -- it was given virtually free rein over its affairs without any questions being asked. The famous phrase that power corrupts finally became true of Rab as well.

Rab started killing criminals and people with doubtful criminal records. And every time it dished out the same old, cliched crossfire story -- that its forces had come under attack while searching for firearms with arrested criminal(s) and during the firefight the criminal got killed.

The story became so lame and so incredible that even a child would not believe it. We, the media professionals, have privately heard from Rab men and witnesses in detail of how these "crossfires" were carried out. And yet our political leadership was blissfully blind to the total lawlessness happening around this force.  Not only that, the government machinery gave Rab full-throated support after every "crossfire" incident.

Here we can recall a few of the awful happenings.

Think of the case of Limon, an innocent HSC student, who was maimed by Rab. The poor boy had the most traumatic dual experience of fighting his crippled state and the false cases filed against him.

Think of the looting of Tk 2 crore from a Chittagong shrine in 2011 by Rab men. Think of the case of Mridul, the goldsmith of Chittagong, who was kidnapped by Rab, tortured and robbed of his 80 tola gold.  Or think of Jubo League leader Jahid Siddique Tarek, who allegedly shot Jubo League leader Riazul Haque Khan Milky dead. Tarek was also killed in Rab "crossfire".

And only a few days ago, Rab produced four JMB men in connection with the ambush and snatching of three top JMB kingpins. All these four men had been kidnapped more than a week before they were produced by Rab. The force never disclosed when and from where they were arrested. We would be quite right in assuming that they were kidnapped by Rab and kept illegally confined without being produced in court within 24 hours of their arrest.   

All these events and many more and the political leadership's continued silence and overlooking of such unlawful activities have today turned Rab into a monster. Rab itself has started playing God. Anybody can disappear today and be killed without any questions asked. We are now hearing that Rab men are being paid to carry out nasty jobs for private citizens as if they are not law enforcers but mercenaries.

This indeed is a dangerous situation. There is a palpable sense of insecurity prevailing today in society because of such activities. Encouraged by Rab, other forces are following in the same footsteps. Now we see "crossfires" by police as well in the guise of similar cruel theatrics.

These things can underline only one thing -- Rab must be reformed, its job should be specifically defined and the government should respond proactively to every allegation of misdeeds. Otherwise, every citizen's life will become unsafe.

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