B’desh prosecutors seek warrants for decisive closure of 2003 case

Prosecution is seeking warrants to compel witnesses and the accused to appear in court for a decisive closure to a 2003 case of mass murder of Hindus in southeastern Bangladesh.

Eleven of a Hindu family were burnt alive on November 19, 2003 at Banshkhali, Chittagong district. The gruesome incident occurred during the regime of the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami coalition government.

“The trial is dragging on because vital witnesses like the doctor and investigative officers have delayed the case. They must come to speak before the court immediately, then I can get justice for the victims,” Iftekhar Saimul Chowdhury, a public prosecutor, told IANS on Tuesday.

“We are sending court warrants to the witnesses, to conclude the trial immediately,” he added.

Tarana Halim, an Awami League central executive committee member, said during the BNP-Jamaat rule, “there was targeted violence against Hindus and secular activists as well as workers of Awami League which was then in the Opposition.

“The scale of the violence was phenomenal, yet Western human rights groups who now cry foul at the drop of a hat were silent over the incidents such as the Banshkhali killings,” Halim, also a former minister, said.

“Whenever this Islamist coalition has been in power, the Hindus and other minorities have suffered unbelievable atrocities.”

Bimal Shill, the only survivor of the massacre, has been crying for justice for nearly two decades now.

Shill urged the prosecution to end the trial at the earliest.

“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has donated 5 lakhs taka to enable me build a home, but the accused are still out in the open which upsets us.”

“It is so difficult, but we are trying our best to get justice for the victims,” said advocate Chowdhury, recollecting the many attacks on minorities instigated by BNP-Jamaat leaders.

“The list is long and the intense brutality reminded us of the Pakistani atrocities during the 1971 Liberation War,” said Halim, adding that “the BNP-Jamaat Islamist coalition shares the same Pakistani ideology of religious intolerance”.

Banshkhali Upazila BNP vice-president and Kalipur Union chairman Aminur Rahman, the main accused in this sensational murder case, has managed to secure bail from a Chittagong court.

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