Committee for Civil Liberties and Legal Aid

Committee for Civil Liberties and Legal Aid in short Civil Liberties Committee was a forum in Bangladesh formed by the members of civil society to restore the civil liberties and provide legal aid to the dissenting population of the country who were the victims of Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini.[1][2] Headed by eminent poet Sikandar Abu Zafar, the committee consisted a total of 33 members.[3]

The forum was floated on 31 March 1974 through a press briefing at the National Press Club of capital city Dhaka. The committee was highly critical to the government and many of its member were either arrested of were compelled to go underground.

Background

After the Liberation War of Bangladesh, Awami League formed the government ignoring the call from most of the political parties to form a government of national consensus. Soon after consolidating power, Awami League government established a new paramilitary force Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini in March 1972 which was blamed for crushing anti-government protests brutally and getting engaged in deadly confrontations with the opposition parties.

Political killing

By 1973, according to President of Jatiyo Samajtantrik Dal Major M. A. Jalil, the number of politically motivated murders reached 2000.[4] Among the prominent politicians Jasad Vice-President Mosharraf Hossain, Jasad supported Krishak League leader Siddiq Master, Manikganj Jasad Joint Secretary Sadat Hossain Badal, Jahangirnagar University Central Students' Union general secretary Borhanuddin Rokon were killed.[5]

An 18-year-old boy Shahjahan Sharif from Naria upazila of Faridpur went missing from the Rakkhi Bahini custody in January 1974.[6]

The disappearance of Shahjahan made his family to move to court and filed a case against Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini. Justice Debesh Chandra Battacharya after hearing both the parties in his historical verdict said that,

the irregularity and very unsatisfactory manner of the handling of the matter by the Rakkhi Bahini has created a situation that urgently calls for an effective action on the part of the authorities to clear the cloud and create a sense of assurance in the mind of the people.

Special Power Act, 1974

In February 1974, the parliament passed Special Power Act 1974 to make provisions for preventive detentions.[7]

Section 3 of the Special Power Act provided for preventive detentions. A person was to be detained if the Government was satisfied that it was necessary to do so.

Ramna massacre

See More 1974 Ramna massacre

Jasad called for a meeting to protest the authoritarian rule of the Government on 17 March 1974. The meeting was followed by a march to surround the resident of Home Minister Muhammad Mansur Ali after the rally which subsequently went violent.

The incident claimed at least fifty lives when the Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini was called on and eventually opened fire targeting the protesters.[8]

Thousands of cases were filed against Jasad politicians. A. S. M. Abdur Rab, Shajahan Siraj and almost all the bigwigs of the party landed in jail. Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini started a drive to hunt down all the supporters of Jasad after that. Police and Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini personnel raided the office of Ganakantha and arrested the editor, Al Mahmud.

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