Public uproar as spate of child murders continues in Bangladesh

Public outcries are mounting in Bangladesh over a series of incidents involving the torture deaths of children. Popular protests against the killings are gaining strength with each passing week and are forcing local officials to take action.

During a press briefing on August 9, Inspector General of Police AKM Shahidul Hoque assured the public that his officers are pursuing all suspects believed responsible for the recent killings of several children in the country.

Rakib Hawladar

Rakib Hawladar

Hoque said that 12 people have been arrested for the murder of 13-year-old Muhammad Samiul Alam Rajon in the city of Sylhet in northeast Bangladesh.  He added that three people are in custody for the murder of 12-year-old Rakib Hawladar in Khulna. Another suspect was said to be nabbed for the murder of Rabiul Awal, 10, in Barguna.

Rakib was tortured to death less than a month after Rajon’s murder on July 8.

Motor garage owner Omar Sharif, 35, his uncle, Mintu Mia, 40 and Sharif’s mother Beauty Begum, 55, have been charged in the death and are accused of pumping air into Rakib’s body on Aug. 3 near the Tutparha area of Khulna division in Bangladesh.

Although Rakib was rescued by bystanders and taken to the Khulna Medical College and Hospital (KMCH). But he succumbed to his injuries that night, leaving behind his bereaved family. Enraged locals broke into Sharif’s garage that night, caught the three and handed them over to the police.

“We have arrested all the accused,” Khulna Metropolitan Police Commissioner Nibash Chandra Majhi told Asia Times. “Investigation is still going on. We hope to file the charge-sheet against the accused by end of this month,” he added.

“Uncle, please stop now …”

One of Rakib’s friends who passed the garage during the incident recounted the victim’s ordeal to local media. The friend, who had witnessed the incident, told bdnews24.com, “When air was being forced into his body with the pump, I heard him saying, ‘uncle, please stop now, or else, I am going to die.’ ”

Rakib used to call Mia “uncle.” Mia was also a distant relative of garage owner Omar Sharif.

Sharif, Mia and Beauty Begum were allegedly torturing the boy because he had left their garage to work for another garage nearby. He is said to have been frequently tortured or abused when he was employed in  Sharif’s garage.

The doctor who treated Rakib at the KMCH emergency unit had said, “His intestines were torn apart and lungs burst due to pumping of an abnormal amount of air into his body.”

Rakib’s day-labourer father, Nurul Alam Hawlader, has filed formal chrages with Khulna Metropolitan Police accusing the three suspects of the death of his son. Hawlader was quoted as saying that Beauty Begum “used to swear at him (Rakib) and beat him for any and every reason.” This is said to be the reason why Rakib was looking to work for another garage.

Hawlader had moved to Khulna from Satkhira three years ago. The impoverished family lived in a shanty at Tutparha central road.  Rakib, a class four student, was sent to work in the garage to supplement his family’s income.

On August 4, just a day after Rakib’s murder, three-year-old Sumaiya Akhter died after being beaten up by her father and mother. The parents were trying to demonstrate to locals that they are experts at exorcism.

Emran Hossain, 40, and his wife, Amena Begum, 35, were jailed last Wednesday. Police arrested the two after the pair was caught red-handed with their daughter’s dead body.

Hossain, a carpenter by profession, had fallen into some debt. He devised a plan with his wife to dupe locals into thinking that they had supernatural abilities through which they can exorcise people from the possession of evil jinns or spirits.

Also on August 5, madrasa student Robiul Awal, 15, was beaten to death by a man identified as Miraj who confessed of killing the boy by beating him with a stick from a date tree in Barguna district of Bangladesh. Miraj suspected Awal of stealing a fish.

Miraj has been arrested and is facing trial. The case is considered sensitive and will be assigned to speedy tribunal, an informed local police source told Asia Times.

Bangladesh authorities are now being forced to take drastic steps in such cases of child rights violations after the stir caused by the torture and murder of Rajon.

Crime recorded as Facebook video

Rajon’s well-publicized murder outraged public opinion in Bangladesh and sparked widespread protests. The child was tied to a pole by his adult tormentors and tortured for nearly an hour before he breathed his last. Rajon’s attackers had accused the boy of being a thief. They recorded the incident and the video went viral on Facebook.

The video showed Rajon crying and screaming in pain as the men lashed at him with iron rods and sticks. Autopsy reports later showed that Rajon had died from a brain hemorrhage. The attackers are accused to trying to dump the body. But they were discovered in the act by locals who caught most of the men.

The prime suspect, a man identified as Kamrul Islam managed to flee to Saudi Arabia from Bangladesh due to police negligence.

Expatriate Bangladeshis in Saudi Arabia later caught Kamrul and handed him over to local police.

In Bangladesh, growing a public outcry forced police authorities in Sylhet to fire investigation officer Alamgir Hossain and suspend Sub-inspectors Aminul Islam and Zakir Hossain of the Jalalabad Police Station for their negligence in arresting the prime suspect.

Child rights experts in Bangladesh are blaming a general deterioration in law and order and the improper handling of past murder cases involving children with indirectly increasing the incidence of such cases.

According to Dhaka-based Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum (BSAF), a child rights promoting organization, at least 154 children were killed in Bangladesh between January and June of this year. Statistics shows that 292 children were murdered in 2014 and 180 in 2013.

Children in Bangladesh also become the victims of torture, rape, sexual assaults and other abuse, according to BSAF.

Md Emranul Huq Chowdhury, chairperson of BSAF, told Asia Times, “Of late, brutal torture and murder of children following very insignificant reasons has been on the rise. We believe that the tendency of torture and killing will decrease in future, if the accused persons in past incidents are tried under special crimes tribunal and get exemplary punishment.”

Meher Afroze Chumki, state minister for women and children affairs, told Asia Times that some of these cases are likely to be placed under speedy tribunal. “We are also coordinating with other ministries to monitor the progress of such past cases where children were victims,” she said.

She added, “We will also ensure justice to these incidents. Drastic measures are necessary now to bring about a positive change in this regard.”

Syed Tashfin Chowdhury is a Dhaka, Bangladesh-based freelance journalist and the editor of  Xtra, the weekend magazine of New Age, a leading English daily in Bangladesh.

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