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In Search of Dignity and Liberty

Bangladesh: Adil, the man I know

by NILANTHA ILANGAMUWA

You said to me
I can bear anything”
with stubborn eyes you faced the sun
until blindness became a ball of flame
and the flame turned the sea to salt.  – Lu Xiaobo : Ne enemies , No Hatred

It was few days ago that they came and dragged him to their vehicle and took him to a secret location for interrogation before producing him before the court at their convenience. Eventually, due to the increasing pressure from the outside that the government faced, they had to produce him before the court and he is now in prison. What wrong has this man done? Who did he anger with his work? Who wanted him to stop his thirst for the liberty of victims in the country? Who needs to eliminate this “troubleshooter”? According to the local media it was another illegal arrest based on fabricated charges and arbitrary detention, which is very common in many countries.

Adilur Rahman Khan is the secretary of the Odhikar which is one of the major local rights groups in Dhaka documenting human rights violations. He was arrested by the security forces in Bangladesh on Saturday (August 10). News immediately spread across the world and many urged for his release. However, the government is in a hurry to prove the guilt of the subject they have targeted.

DSC_1242

Mr. Adilur Rahman Khan is in a prison van on August 13th, 2013.

I met Adil last year and we had a lengthy discussion on Bangladesh. Adil described the situation point by point from the war of Liberation in 1971 to the present nation slowly perishing in a sea of corruption and extremism, called Bangladesh. Adil is a charismatic activist, and outspoken man who loves to talk and express his honest opinion on the situation.  He knows how to articulate the debate into the stage where people can think and learn. Unfortunately, his provocative comments created more unknown adversaries than friends. So I was not surprised to hear about his arrest by the Dhaka authorities, though it makes me feel sad and angry about the present crummy political system in Bangladesh, which remains in power by spreading social fear among the communities.

The crisis in Bangladesh is deep, and the level of destruction of the state’s institutions is unimaginable. Many have talked about the liberation from Pakistan, but in reality there was never any real liberation of the people in this country. Personal liberty is a day dream, and politics happens behind closed doors and is used only for to plunder the public assets. The ordinary person has been shut out with no role to play except participating in a ritualistic election once in five years that is termed as ‘democracy’ which enables the ‘winners’ to go crazy.  Corruption is a daily event that everyone experiences in every layer of society. A couple of years ago, one of the senior professors in law who teaches in one of the major universities in Dhaka, said, “who can have hope for the justice when people are living in the context where justice is being sold at the cheapest price”. This is precisely the reason why Adil is behind bars today.

It was just last year when Adil, attending a meeting on the prevention of torture, presented chilling arguments about the society at large. “In the 10 years since 9/11, Asian countries have enacted many national security acts and emergency laws. In 1974, Bangladesh did the same. Torture is legitimized by law! Therefore we cannot only talk about rule of law. The 1982 Citizenship Act made the Rohingya non-citizens of Myanmar, although these people have been living there 500-700 years. The Rohingyas continued statelessness points to the failure of ASEAN to address the issue. At the same time, Bangladesh has failed to shelter the fleeing Rohingya. There was a budding human rights movement in the 1970s and 90s, but this was crushed by the 9/11 incident. We need to discuss how to revive these organic movements, 2013 will mark 20 years of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. What can Asian states claim to have done since then?”, (source – Ethic In Actions ( Vol. 07. No. 03 – Page 72)) Adil observed.

He went into the detail and he tried to visualize the psyche opt in the society in which many people become victims. “What also struck me yesterday was the dehumanizing aspect of torture. When you wish to cheapen the life and liberties of someone, you have to paint him as a traitor, a dog- then your methods suddenly become a lot more justifiable or acceptable. Then, in abusing him, you psychologically begin believing in the same lie you sold to the rest of the community- that he is a dog and not your equal in dignity and worth and not possessed of the same rights. (source – ibid)”

There is no doubt that Adil should be a free man, he must continue to do what he deserves to do, and he should continue with his great role in the nation that has already lost millions of lives for nothing other than protecting the highly corrupted political elite.

However, the long struggle of Adil’s release has just started, and Adil is not the first victim of this barbarianism, nor will he be the last. The scenario will be repeated. Tomorrow you might be the victim of this cynical political manipulation of truth and freedom. Unfortunately, if this scenario continues, there will more bloodshed before the society at large to understand and act with unity for dignity and liberty of the human beings in Bangladesh.

Nilantha Ilangamuwa is journalist and editor of the Sri Lanka Guardian, an online daily news paper based in Colombo Sri Lanka. He can be reached atilangamuwa@gmail.com or editor@srilankaguardian.org