Atheist Chapter

Awami League’s Rakkhi troop and its History

There are many discourses from different political parties on who initiated the culture of extrajudicial killing in Bangladesh. According to Awami League, since RAB is identified as the main accused for most extrajudicial killings and the force was set up during the regime of Khaleda Zia, her party is responsible for the introduction of the practice of extrajudicial killing in the country.
But it is the history from which we know that Sheikh Mujib spoke of extrajudicial killing a few months after independence and this was published in national dailies then.
On June 22, 1972, in a rally of around 7 lakh people at Shaheed Bhulu Stadium, Noakhali, Sheikh Mujib, who was the PM then, announced: “If the antisocials do not refrain from heinous activities they will be shot dead.” The next day this statement was published in “Doinik Poorbodesh”.
This announcement from Sheikh Mujib carried a bad omen and then we saw the extrajudicial killing of thousands of people by the Rakkhi Bahinee militia which was under his control.
The militia of Rakkhi Bahinee was set up to protect the fascist regime and the ruling party from the political opponents in a non-political and undemocratic manner.
In the post-independence history of 50 years of Bangladesh Rakkhi Bahinee happens to be the most hated state force. With popular support, several political groups sprang up in protest against Sheikh Mujib’s undemocratic style of running the state. Rakkhi Bahinee was assigned to target and finish off those groups. It killed thousands of people, apart from torturing hundreds of thousands of others.
In newly born Bangladesh Rakkhi Bahinee was used as a special political force and it unleashed a reign of terror across the country. It resorted to unprecedented scale of torture that included forced disappearance and murder. In 1975, after Rakkhi Bahinee was disbanded, a mass grave was discovered at Kaliganj of Jhenaidah. Sixty skeletons were found in that grave. It was believed, they were the remains of people who were massacred by Rakkhi Bahinee. In Kaliganj, the Bahinee forced the residents from 20 or 25 villages to lie down on the ground and they marched on them. Villagers used to be punished this way for their sympathy towards the Naxalites.
Members of Rakkhi Bahinee could enter anyone’s house and arrest anyone they wanted. The force set up camps across rural areas of the country and pick up and detain people, including women and children, the way they liked. However, because of their violent and ruthless activities, people began hating them and they became isolated. The members of Rakkhi Bahinee were given an unprecedented indemnity against prosecution. No case could be filed against them for anything, including crime as serious as killing.
During interrogation in the court Rakkhi Bahinee officers admitted that they did not follow any code of conduct. Their activities were not documented. Records of not even arrests or raids were preserved. On being asked how his force worked, Hafizuddin, one senior deputy leader told a court in an arrogant style: “We operate the way we think is good for us.” The Raakhi Bahinee leader also told that there was no register for arms and ammunitions.
Rakkhi Bahinee used to view itself as an invincible power. During operations to recover illegal arms they used to set up camps wherever they liked. They used to pick up suspects and brought them to the camps. To extract confessions, they tortured people in many ways. In the name of confiscating properties, they robbed people and never prepared any seizure list. They entered people’s houses and looted money, jewellery, clocks, transistors and other valuables. People were too scared to protest or complain. It was also reported that they extorted money from shops in markets. They used to take away ducks and chickens from people’s houses. If anyone raised a voice of protest, he was shot dead and his body was dumped in the river.
All dissenters or those who opposed the government were identified as ‘anti-national’. Many such anti-nationals were killed by Rakkhi Bahinee. Very unfortunately, Rakkhi Bahinee became known as fascist force groomed by the government.

Md Asad Uzzaman Khan

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