The Daily star Editorial : 07-04-16
Deaths at Bashkhali
Was excessive force used?
We are compelled to ask, after reading the news reports, whether the death of four people and injuries to at least 30 (including police) in Banshkhali upazila (Chittagong) could have been avoided? It seems that a volatile situation was allowed to escalate because of false promises made to the local people.
In a country where land is scarce, land acquisition must take place following proper, just measures in terms of giving the people, whose land is being acquired, the rightful compensation they deserve. In this case, they had been promised jobs from a new industry when their plots were bought up by a company. Instead, it is planning to install a coal plant that locals believe will destroy the land and take away their livelihoods. Why such deception? We think the protest should have been handled with more concern for people’s lives.
The tragedy occurred when two groups, one against the installation of the coal plant and another supporting it, called rallies at the same venue. Although the police declared a ban on the rallies (Section 144), according to locals, many of the demonstrators were not aware of it. That four people were shot by police indicates the propensity of our law enforcers to take the most extreme measures of crowd control. Using gunfire is considered the last resort in such situations, that too it should not be a ‘shoot to kill’ policy. The police version is that they were compelled to shoot in self defence as they were being attacked. Locals say only brickbats were hurled at the police, not bullets.
The crisis at Bashkhali is far from over. There has to be an impartial probe to find out what happened on April 4. Also, the grievances of the locals regarding the land where they have lived and earned their livelihood must be addressed, fairly and with compassion.