Amnesty International Responds to Mukto-Mona's Plea
Mukto-Mona Advisory Board
Published on April 18, 2006
Mukto-Mona (MM) [www.mukto-mona.com] and other human rights organizations such as Amnesty International (AI) [www.amnesty.org] are very concerned about the way the government of Bangladesh had dealt with peasants from Kansat, Bangladesh when they protested against the step-motherly attitude the electric supply department of Bangladesh government had shown over the years concerning the meager amount of electricity provided to them for their livelihood. The peasants had legitimate demands; the government instead of listening to their demand had decided to squish their movement following a scorched-earth policy. Consequently, police gunned down 20 peasants. Many of our members were horrified by the news; they penned articles on Kansat uprising and Mukto-mona advisory board had made a plea to the government of Bangladesh to resolve the conflict peacefully. We also sent our plea to AI to show our solidarity with them. Here is the quick response we have received. Mukto-mona forum will remain ever vigilant to identify if any gross violation of human rights take place in Bangladesh or any part of the world. This is one of our guiding principles and we remain fully committed to it.
To: Mukto-Mona Moderator
CC: afaiz, SChilcot
Subject: Kansat Killings : A Plea from Mukto-Mona
From: Sadia Hameed
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2006 11:47:41 +0100
Dear Avijit Roy,
Thank you for your email concerning the recent unrest in Kansat. Amnesty International is continuing to monitor the situation and we are enclosing for you information a press statement that Amnesty International released on 12 April 2006 which calls on the Government of Bangladesh to set up an independent investigation into the killings of farmers protesting electricity shortages in the northern town of Kansat.
All the best,
South Asia Team
1 Easton Street
London WC1X 0DW
T: +44 (0) 207 413 5936
F: +44 (0) 207 956 5991
AI Index: ASA 13/004/2006 (Public)
News Service No: 094
12 April 2006
Bangladesh: Young boy among six killed in electricity protests
The Bangladeshi government must immediately set up an independent investigation into the killings of farmers protesting electricity shortages in the northern town of Kansat, said Amnesty International today. Six more deaths were reported overnight as police clashed with farmers.
Ten-year-old Anwar and 63-year-old Abdur Rahman, a teacher, were among those killed by police yesterday as up to 12,000 people took to the streets, according to local officials. People at the scene said police fired live ammunition with AK47s, rubber bullets and tear gas to dispel the crowd, which responded with sticks and machetes. Local news reported around 300 people were injured, including nearly 20 police officers.
"At least twenty people have been killed in these electricity protests since January," said Abbas Faiz, South Asia researcher at Amnesty International. "There must be an impartial investigation into these deaths and anyone found responsible for illegal killing should be brought to justice without delay. Any police officers suspected of shooting civilians should be removed from active service pending investigation."
According to local news reports, police also vandalised and looted houses in a number of villages, beat up villagers and arrested dozens of people. The reports also said that police prevented journalists going near the scene, and threatened them with a gun when they asked for the names of victims.
There are severe shortages in the supply of electricity and fuel to the area, affecting the pumps that farmers use to irrigate their crops. The resulting lack of water is seriously threatening the current rice crop and farmers' livelihoods. Local people fear food shortages in the coming year.
It is the responsibility of governments to ensure people have the necessary means to prevent the destruction of their livelihood.
"The authorities must ensure the means for farmers to grow their food and maintain their livelihoods," said Abbas Faiz. "A regular supply of electricity is urgently needed for irrigation to prevent the destruction of the current paddy crop, on which these farmers depend for their survival."
Most of those protesting are electricity customers who pay the government-owned Rural Electrification Board for supplies they say they do not receive. Farmers report not receiving electricity for days, and then when they do get a supply it is only for a maximum of four to five hours. Farmers are demanding that electricity supplies be continuous, and that they should pay only for the electricity that they actually receive.
On 4 January 2006 two men were killed and 50 received bullet wounds when police opened fire at demonstrators in Kansat, Chapainawabganj district. The killings triggered further protests. On 23 January 2006 seven people were killed and more than 100 injured by police firing at demonstrators. A 12-year-old boy died the following day from his injuries.
On 5 April 2006 at least four people were killed when local Bangladeshi Nationalist Party members mounted bomb attacks on the farmers' rally.
The Bangladesh Bar Council's Human Rights Committee feared police would resort to arresting large numbers of people and filed a public interest litigation before the High Court. On 10 April the High Court ruled that none of the protesting farmers should be arrested or harassed except in compliance with the law. It also gave the government three weeks to explain why the killings on 4 and 23 January should not be considered unlawful; why compensation should not be paid to the bereaved families; and why the authorities should not be directed to provide electricity to the area for a specified period.
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org
For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org
A Plea from Mukto-Mona
Mukto-Mona Advisory Board
Published on April 14, 2006
Mukto-Mona (www.mukto-mona.com) is an Internet forum and a human rights organization of predominantly secular Bangalee origin whose goal is to promote rational thinking and upholding human rights in Bangladesh and rest of the world. We have been alarmed by the carnage in Kansat, Chapai Nawabganj, perpetrated by police. Our solidarity is with the villagers who are protesting in the street to lay claim to their rights of receiving electricity. The government of Khaleda Zia did not bother to listen to villagersí complaint for months. Instead of settling the dispute peacefully, the government decided to take a harsh measure that resulted in the death of 20 unarmed persons. The villagers told the newsmen that there were several midnight raids in scattered villages near Kansat. Many affected people are leaving their homesteads to get away from police and BNP goons dressed like police (as reported by villagers to news reporters). We protest the scorched-earth policy of the government.
Bangladesh Government should not turn Bangladesh into a police state. We fear that if disputes are not settled peacefully, violence may flare up not only in Kansat but in adjoining areas. There are resentments everywhere in the nation over escalating food prices, corruption, fundamentalism, terrorism, poverty and many other burning issues. One simply has to read daily newspapers being published in Bangladesh to realize the gravity of the worsening situation of our motherland. Recently, a lot of brutality by the police and other law enforcers in this country has been observed so far, but nothing can be comparable to the mindless killing that has been going on at Kansat during the last four months. According to the newspaper report, two were killed on January 4 followed by killing of seven on the 23rd of the same month. Then again four were killed on April 6 and another was injured, who later died on April 12. Finally, six were killed on 12th of the same month. So, in total of 20 innocent villagers lost their invaluable lives for the 'crime' of just demanding adequate electricity supply to carry on their farming. In addition to the mindless killing, there have also been rampant attacks on the their houses and their properties are being subjected to damage and looting by the brutal police force. The happenings at Kansat indeed should boggle conscious peoples' mind. This is a shame for gunning down unarmed people and looting their properties who were agitating for electricity supply. We condemn such police brutality at Kansat and our plea to Bangladesh government is to send immediately a committee of retired judges to investigate the alarming situation. We also demand exemplary punishment of the policemen responsible for the killings. Also, the families who lost their loved one should be compensated financially. Please stop this uncalled for violence perpetrated by police. Please bring a closure to public protests for their legitimate demand before violence grip the entire nation. The government should not be repressive in democracy. Please be mindful of this before another shot is fired at the protesters.