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Stop the Atrocities by Local Authority Against Peaceful Demonstrators in Chapai Nawabgonj Disrtict!

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The police and local authorities in Bangladesh are taking “violent” actions against peaceful protesters demanding for the right to uninterrupted power supply as their rice cultivation (Boro) season is around the corner. They are also protesting against the corruption and mismanagement of the Rural Electricity Board in their District – Kansat area of the Chapai Nawabgonj. Several open confrontations with the police and local authorities have resulted in lives loss, injuries and damages to properties in the village. FORUM-ASIA writes an open letter to Prime Minister Khaleeda Zia, urging for her immediate action in the matter.FORUM-ASIA said it was “shocked” to hear about the alleged practices of Bangladesh’s local authority in obstructing the constitutional rights of its citizens to express themselves peacefully and democratically.

In an open letter to the Bangladesh Prime Minister Ms. Khaleda Zia, FORUM-ASIA executive director Anselmo Lee said the organisation and its members “condemn the deteriorating human rights situation in the country” where police forces were allegedly committing atrocities against peaceful protesters by opening fire on civilians, injuring and arresting them.

“We strongly urge your Government to respond to the democratic demands of the villagers, respecting their constitutional and international human rights obligations and take appropriate measures including paying adequate compensation to the victims of the brutal police actions,” said Lee, in the letter.

Recently, villagers of Bangladesh’s Kansat area, Chapai Nawabgonj District, have been demonstrating against the corruption and the mismanagement of the Rural Electrification Board. Their demands also included uninterrupted power supply during the peak season Boro (rice cultivation).

The Kansat Tragedy started when the villagers begun the movement under the Banner of Palli Bidyut Unnayan Sangram Parishad (PBUSP), a Kansat villagers' forum in demand of power supply.

In several incidents beginning with the open confrontation between police and villagers on  4 January 2006, two lives were sacrificed whiled hundreds were injured, while police arrested the agitators including the Convenor of the Villagers’ forum.

On 23 January, eight more people were killed and hundreds injured as the police opened fire for the second time on the demonstrators, who were demanding the release of the arrestees.

Recently, on 6 April, three people were killed and some 100 were injured following a clash instigated by the local ruling party activists.

“We are also informed that currently the villagers are on an indefinite strike while the local administration imposed section 144 of Cr P C (Curfew) to quell the movement of the villagers,” said Lee.

“It has also been alleged that police looted many houses and assaulted women and girls of the villages they raided in the trouble-torn Shibganj Upazila in Chapainawabganj District,” he added.

“It has also been reported that the police were hardly allowing journalists to enter the area,” Lee stressed.

Since then, six people have been killed by police forces while more than three hundreds injured as police rampaged a dozen villages in the dark of night on 12 April, vandalising and burning houses and beating up villagers to quell their movement.

Lee reiterated that the villagers have the right to peaceful and democratic demonstration, as guaranteed by Article 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 of the Bangladesh Constitution.

He said it was the responsibility of the Government to ensure the environment for the citizens to exercise their democratic rights in a peaceful way.
“Moreover, as a state party to a number of international Human Rights instruments, the Bangladesh government is also under international obligation to ensure the enjoyment of the fundamental human rights for its citizens,” he added.

“Unfortunately, the action that is being taken by the local authority clearly violates the constitutional as well as international human rights obligations”.

Read also an Open Letter by FORUM-ASIA to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.