Sunday, June 16, 2024

Moeen blames caretaker govt for torture in DU

Former army chief Moeen U Ahmed, who now lives in the US, on Tuesday denied his involvement in the August 2007 campus violence in Dhaka University and blamed the Fakhruddin-led caretaker government for this. During a one-hour long teleconference with the parliamentary probe committee, Moeen said he had no control over the members of Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) at that time.
After the teleconference, the first-of-its-kind in Parliament, the chief of the four-member parliamentary sub-committee, Rashed Khan Menon, told reporters that Moeen’s testimony did not satisfy the panel committee and that the former army chief was trying to evade many questions to shirk his responsibility. The panel members asked various questions to Moeen, but the interview could not be recorded due to technical glitches.
When Moeen was told by the committee that the then DGFI chief Golam Mohammad and army officer Sina Ibn Zamali have said action taken during the violence was at the directions of higher authorities in the army, he said it was not true.
Asked about the role he (Moeen) played in various decisions of the government after January 11, 2007, he said, “It was an army-backed government. We only gave our support to it. Undoubtedly, the civil-military relationship was hindered due to the August incident. But I can’t be blamed for it.” He added, “The Dhaka University is not army’s opponent. Our children and relatives are students of DU.”
Asked what the committee would do regarding Dr Fakhruddin’s failure to appear before committee, Menon said if Fakhruddin believed in democratic spirit, he would definitely appear before the panel. On August 20, 2007, violence broke out when a few army men beat three students and insulted a teacher during a football match at the university gymnasium field.
Before recording Moeen’s statement the committee had taken statements of tortured teachers and students on DU violence. Most of them accused the former army chief, saying he was the man who had controlled the then caretaker government.
Sub-committee members Shah Alam, Mirza Azam, Biren Shikder, DU VC AAMS Arefin Siddique and pro-VC Harun-ur Rashid besides education secretary Kamal Naser Chowdhury also attended the tele-conference session.
The vice chancellor, pro-vice chancellor and Dr Sadrul Amin, who were present during the teleconference, rejected the former army chief’s claim that he was not involved in the incident of repression on Dhaka University teachers and students in 2007.
Dr AAMS Arefin Siddique told The Independent that such an incident could have never taken place without the army chief’s knowledge. “The field-level officers don’t want to take responsibility as they said they did everything at the directions of senior officers. Now, Moeen U Ahmed is washing his hands off.
Then who did it?” asked Dr Arefin. Talking to The Independent, pro-vice chancellor Dr Harun-or-Rashid, who was arrested and allegedly tortured by the military, said, “During the teleconference, General Moyeen termed the atrocities on university teachers and students unfortunate. He (Moeen) claimed he was not informed about the torture on students and teachers, saying the rank and file are to be blamed.”
When asked whether this rank and file included Brigadier General ATM Amin and other four army officers who went to the Dhaka University campus to discuss the situation, Moyeen preferred to keep mum.
When the panel members asked him if the teachers could be charged with violating emergency rules for bringing out the procession, why the so-called kings’ party was not hauled up for taking out a rally in city’s Muktangon area, Moyeen again evaded the answer, said Dr Harun.
Talking about the allegation of army excesses during the August movement, Moyeen said after the withdrawal of army camp from Dhaka University playground, the then army high command did not do anything.
Replying to a question whether the DU teachers questioned Moyeen or not, Professor Harun said, “We were not entitled to question him. It was done by Menon and others members of the panel.”
Dr Sadrul Amin, the dean of arts faculty and the then president of Dhaka University Teachers’ Association, conveyed his frustration over the arrangement of teleconference.
“The outcome of the tele-conference is not satisfactory at all. We couldn’t properly hear what Moeen U Ahmed said because of technical problems,” he said, adding that this type of technical problem could have been avoided if the authorities concerned took proper action.
“The army suppressed us just because of backing the righteous demands of students. But now, it is denying its role in the incident,” he added.
Moeen tried to evade most of the questions during the tele-conference.
“How could such a big sweep on DU family happened without high-ups involvement? When I was detained, they also forced me to give a statement saying that we took money from Haji Selim and Sayeed Eskantar to instigate the movement,” said Dr Sadrul Amin.
On Aug 23, the parliamentary sub-committee on the education ministry decided to hold the teleconference to record Moeen’s statement after he refused to be present in person before it.
On August 20, it formed the four-member sub-committee with Menon as its chief to carry out the final phase of investigation into the violence. Following two summons by the panel to investigate into the August 2007 violence in Dhaka University, Fakhruddin and Moeen had expressed their inability to appear before it citing illness and sent written statements instead.
The committee sent letters to Fakhruddin and Moeen asking them to appear before it and testify.
Moeen then requested the sub-committee to take his testimony via teleconference, saying he was unwell. As Fakhruddin, also living in the US, did not respond, the committee decided not to contact him further. The committee has also taken statements of former education adviser, education secretary and home secretary on the DU violence.
Thousands of DU students, on the day of the violence, had taken to the streets in protest against the incident and demanded withdrawal of the on-campus army camp and an apology from the troops. Pitched battles were fought between students and police for the next two days, which left over 250 people, mostly students, injured.
As violence spread through educational institutions in the capital and elsewhere, the government imposed a curfew in the divisional headquarters and closed universities and colleges on August 22.
Four teachers and eight students were arrested and kept behind the bars for about five months and thousands allegedly tortured on the campus and other places across the country. The arrested teachers and students were released in the wake of silent and peaceful student movements in January, 2008.


Courtesy of The Independent

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