Let God forgive and deliver us from tyranny

Sadeq Khan

Bangladesh is again on the screen of international television broadcasts and in the world media. Their breaking news reported: 27 poor people lost their lives in alms-seeking stampede.
Local media reported that in a jostle for zakat clothes, 23 women and 4 children got trampled to death in Mymensingh town early morning of July 10, the fourth Friday of Ramzan this year. From Thursday night over 1,000 people had started gathering on the narrow road outside the home of zakat donor Mohammad Shamim, who owns a chewing tobacco brand Nurani Jarda.

Shamim had announced the distribution of free clothing at his home which also serves as his factory. Around 5:00am, a small gate to the factory was opened and some people seeking zakat clothes went in. As everyone rushed to get in, the small door got blocked. When the main gate was opened to let people in, the crowd stormed the compound.

The tragedy
In the stampede, apart from 27 dead, over 50 people were injured. Hundreds of sandals and blood soaked torn clothes were seen at the scene. Some alleged that the workers of the factory had used truncheons to control the crowd. Shamim’s son Mohammad Hedayet refuted the allegation: “No incident of beating occurred. Some of our employees shouted at the zakat seekers just to control the situation. We never misbehave with poor people. We had distributed 640 cards among the people of a local Bihari camp on Thursday, but some 1,500 people gathered and stormed the compound.” However, police filed a murder case and Shamim, his son and six factory employees were arrested.
Actually the factory had a budget of distributing 1,000 saris and lungis among the poor this year, and the word must have got out. Those without cards also came to try their luck to get a sari or a lungi. Before his arrest, Shamim said he had been distributing zakat for the last 35 years and such incident had never occurred. Asked why they did not seek police help, Shamim said they never needed police help.
Mymensingh Medical College Hospital certified that the causes of deaths were stampede and suffocation. The religious affairs ministry and district administration separately announced grants of Tk 10,000 to each of the victims’ families. Last year, two people were killed in a stampede when the hundreds gathered to collect zakat clothes at a company’s office on Katpatti Road in Barisal.
After the incident, Police headquarters issued a statement asking people to seek their help in distributing zakat or for any “uncontrolled” large gatherings. The statement said the superintendents of police of districts or the officers-in-charge of police stations should be informed at least a day ahead of such events, and warned of legal actions if there was breach of public safety in any unannounced gatherings.

Desperation of the poor
The hapless zakat donors would probably be let off the hook before Eid, possibly after they pay, in addition to the zakat, fat bribes to the police who had formed a 3-member probe body under the Additional DIG to report within 3 working days. The incident, however, should be a sharp pointer how desperate our poor people are that they risk their lives for a new clothing in Eid as their zakat right.
A little over a month before Ramzan, Bangladesh appeared similarly on the international TV screens, not for attaining the status of a Lower ladder Middle Income Group country, but for the desperation of its poor people, on boats adrift in the Andaman sea or in Thai jungle camps, risking their lives to find a living abroad.
A number of Bangladeshi migrant workers were found among Rohingya migrants on a boat stranded for a week in the Andaman Sea with no food or water. BBC reported of them, 10 people died, while some resorted to drinking urine collected in bottles. The fishing boat was refused entry to Thailand. The crew abandoned them and disabled the engine. The bodies of those who had died were thrown overboard. Several thousand people were believed to be stuck in similar boats off the coasts of Thailand and Malaysia. Some of those who are adrift in the Andaman Sea were provided with food, water and medicine by the Thai navy. Some boats containing migrants were towed over to the Malaysian side of the border – where most migrants want to go – only to be taken back into Thai waters.
One such boat of several hundred migrants including 50 women and 84 children had been at sea for three months.
Asian Human Rights Watch’s said: Three countries (Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia) are playing a game of marine ping-pong not wanting to take the migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh; there is an urgent humanitarian crisis and the Thais and others seem to be taking a gentle stroll.

A BBC description
BBC observed: In Myanmar, the Rohingyas are regularly persecuted, deprived of citizenship, subjected to forced labour, have no land rights, and are heavily restricted. In Bangladesh many are also desperately poor, with no documents or job prospects. As many as 8,000 migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar are believed by the International Organisation for Migration to be stranded at sea.
Human traffickers reportedly were refusing to land their boats and entire crew of many were abandoning their boats and human cargo at sea, because their usual route through Thailand was disrupted by a government crackdown, launched after the discovery of dozens of bodies in abandoned camps along the land route.
A mass gravesite in Sadao district’s Padang Besar border area, where 26 bodies of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh were first discovered near a jungle camp believed to be used for detaining illegal migrants. Investigators probing human trafficking in the area discovered more graves at a second jungle camp believed to hold the remains of migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh. The camp was uncovered just a kilometre from a similar “holding area” on a steep hillside near the Malaysian border, where forensic teams found 26 bodies – all but one buried in shallow graves.
While the poorest in Bangladesh are thus risking their lives at the mercy of human traffikers to seek jobs in slavery conditions and sweat shops of other countries of Asia, the rich are also building second homes in rich countries of Asia, North America and U.K., some buying citizenship of such countries as well.

The other desperados
According to news reports of large scale bank-transfers abroad and money-laundering, many high-ups in the government as well as in the private sector have piled up fortunes in foreign bank accounts. In Swiss Banks, while Indians top the list of non-European account holders, significant number of Bangladeshi account holders have also made an entry. In other words, the highly affluent in Bangladesh are ready to get out of the country if and when they find the country’s situation uncomfortable. Such affluent people include police officials, politicians, crony capitalists and professionals of distinction.
The present police raj in Bangladesh provides them ample opportunity to make money by hook or by crook, while ordinary citizens fear for security of life and property, and are squeezed of their earnings (and savings if any) by police blackmail (of crossfire killing or simply spending a bullet in the detainee’s foot), by politicians’ extortion demands and fat chandabazi, and by organised crime’s protection rackets covering every field of activity from play schools to residential blocs and work places.
The rich people know a storm is bound to gather and tyranny cannot go for ever. Ordinary citizens cannot escape tyranny and must also brace for the storm. In Ramzan, let us pray magfirat or forgiveness for all and najat or deliverance from the tyranny.

Source: Weekly Holiday