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Post-poll torture tales haunt Bangladesh crime convention?

Post-poll torture tales haunt Bangladesh crime convention?

Author: Ershadul Haq
Publication: The Times of India
Date: February 18, 2002

Tales of torture haunted a crime convention here, as the audience  fell silent with horror on hearing sagas of rape and pillage  allegedly by activists of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led  government. The convention on "Crimes Against Humanity" has been  organised by the BNP's political rival, the Awami League, and focuses  on post-election atrocities on nearly 20 million Hindu-dominated  minorities in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

The dais at the auditorium resembled a hospital emergency room with  some 50 wounded people lying on stretchers or sitting on chairs  holding crutches.

With their hands or legs broken, eyes gouged out and signs of  brutality all over the body, the victims cried out for justice. They  blamed "terrorists" of the ruling BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami alliance for  attacks on them in a spate of violence before and after the  parliamentary elections last October.

The citizens' group, which organised the two-day event drawing  participants from home and abroad, brought dozens of victims,  including women and children, from across Bangladesh to Dhaka to the  convention on stretchers.

Awami League chief and former prime minsiter Sheikh Hasina  inaugurated the convention that was attended by leadign human rights  activists, diplomats, politicians and professionals.

Of the 50 victims on stage, some shared their traumatic  experience. "I was tortured for voting for the boat (the Awami League  election symbol). They also tortured by daughter whom I had to send  to India," said Shefali Rani, who came from southern Bhola, the worst  hit area. "I want justice."

Ms Shefali said she asked the terrorists to have mercy on her and her  young daughter. "All I want now is justice."

The story of Chanda of southern Narail of greater Faridpur is no  different. "Terrorists stormed our house and splashed acid on me and  my elder sister. My crime was that I was an election agent of the  Awami League."

Bangladeshi Hindus are traditionally seen as a vote bank for the  Awami League.

Kamaruzzaman, a member of the Awami League's youth front, said: "BNP  cadres kidnapped me from my grocery store and started beating me up.  When I asked for a drink, they gave me hot water. Then they chopped  all fingers of my hands off."

Foreign dignitaries and guests at the convention appeared shell- shocked. "The government is completely denying what is happening  here," said William Sloan, a North American human rights activist and  jurist. He urged international rights groups to see and understand  what is happening in Bangladesh.

Ms Hasina in her speech said: "Humanity is being razed to the ground  and human rights trampled across the country... It cannot even be  imagined where and when this black episode will end."

She appealed to the international community to help  prevent "political and religious persecution" in Bangladesh. "Let  humanity raise their voice for the tortued people of my country, for  the sake of humanity, and for the preservation and protection of  human rights, peace and security."

To counter the Awami League convention, the BNP-led coalition will  organise a two-day national convention beginning March 15, on  repressive and criminal activities by the Hasina-led former  government.


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