Political Crimes in Bangladesh
KeywordsPolitical Party Political Leader Political Organization Student Organization Ruling Party
In Bangladesh, political crime has achieved a great attention of sociologists and criminologists. Political crimes are marked by the intra- and interpolitical parties’ violent conflicts, brutal clashes in educational institutions between and among student political organizations over establishing supremacy and capturing seats and hostels, sporadic violence over holding political rally, conflict between political groups in terms of elections, using state instrument to suppress the opposition political parties, political involvement and interferences in recruitment of government jobs, attacks and killing of opposition groups activists, corruption and illegal demanding of fees from government development projects, demanding illegal political quotas by ruling student political organization in educational institutions, tender related political crime, attack on law enforcing agencies by political parties, destruction of public properties during the periods of hartal by oppositions political parties, indiscriminate torture by ruling parties on opposition political parties activists, grabbing of land of poor people’s by ruling party activists, destruction of environments through indiscriminate cutting of trees by political activists, and so on. There are many factors behind these types of political crimes including economic, social, and political dimensions. Except for these types of political crimes, there are different dimensions of political crimes, but in this study, the published politically connected crimes at newspapers are only a matter of discussions. The objective of this paper is to investigate different types, actors, and associated factors of political crimes in Bangladesh.
Definition of Political Crimes
Political crime refers to politically organized, motivated, linked or supported anti-moral, antisocial, and anti-legal activities committed by political activists through using political identity and power.
Conceptual Discussion of Political Crimes
There is no universal definition of political crime. Ross states that, “political crime is rarely examined when studying the dynamics of crime, justice and law.” He also mentioned that there are various criminal acts which are considered as political. Sedition and treason are considered by state as political crime because of threat to the order (public, social, or otherwise) or national security. Sometimes, when incumbent governments occasionally engage in repressive action against its law-abiding citizens and harass are considered as political crime. According to him, oppositional and state-initiated harmful acts increasingly understood by many scholars as political crime. There are many obstacles of understanding the political crime. Ross identifies the lack of consensus with respect to a definition, availability of reliable information, rigorous analysis, and/or interest in political crimes (Ross 2012). According to Webster (2013), “political crime is the violation of law or of the public peace for political rather than public reasons.” Furthermore, political crime also indicates to the serious violation of the law that threatens the security or survival of a government (ASK 2013).
Moreover, there is no widely accepted theoretical explanation of political crime. But few scholars discussed some relevant theories. For example, Merton cited in Ross in earliest provided a theoretical framework which partially touches the political crime. According to him, “anomic theory of deviance (that is, strain theory), individuals live in societies that have a considerable amount of ‘structural dysfunctionalism.’” This in turn leads people to experience to an ends/means discrepancy. These processes combined together create stress. In order to minimize discomfort, individuals have five options. One of which is rebellion (nominally types of political crime).The limitation of Merton’s theory is it’s too limited for a more encompassing understanding of political crime (Merton 1938, 1964, 1964; Kelly 1972 cited in Ross 2012). Moran describes, “sequential stages which in successive combination might account for development of political crime.” The first step involves what Moran calls “predisposing conditions or background factors, the conjunctions of which forms a pool of potential political criminals. The conditions exist prior to an individual’s decision to commit a political crime and by themselves do not account for his behavior.” The aforementioned perspective includes the concept of strain and “a political problem solving perspective.” The latter consists of “situational contingencies which leads to the commission of political crimes by predisposed individuals.” Moran advocates a five-stage “developmental model” consisting of the following steps: (a) strain, (b) political problem-solving perspective, (c) a turning point event, (d) commitment to act, and (e) engaging in the political crime (Moran 1974 cited in Ross 2012).
Turk has offered an alternative perspective. His structural conflict theory posits that although power and inequality are important factors in explaining political crime, the cultural gap between offenders and authorities is the primary factor that leads to the commission of political crime. The conflict theory states that the political organization formed because of conflicts between individuals, families, tribes, or groups to attain a good means to live. Material gain, opportunities, resources, and power are the main sources for which people become united and select the course of action in the political organization. According Austin T. Turk, “the Political organization of social life results from and in characterized by conflicts (often more implicit than explicit) among different individuals and groups of people trying to improve and ensure their life chances-that is, the likelihood that they, at least will have the means of opportunities to realize their respective vision of the good life.” Conflicts between individuals often play important role in aggravating wider conflicts. His analysis also shows that the political crime occurred in organized form (Turk 1892).
The radical conflict theory originated from Marx and Engels, where Marx suggested that conflict in society is the result of the scarcity of resources (property, wealth, power, jobs). This creates inequalities among individual and constituencies, which in turn lead to a struggle as to who possesses these resources and who do not. During the 1960s, a number of theorists applied these theories to crime. For example, Quinney, a neo-Marxist suggested that class struggle affects crimes at least in three ways. Quinney, a leading radical conflict theorist, argued that all crime in capitalist societies (which stresses individualism and competitiveness) should be considered a manifestation of class struggle, whereby people strive for wealth, power, money, status, and property. In a country dominated by capitalist mod of production, a culture of competition arises. This is seen as normal and desirable and takes many forms, including criminality (Ross 2012).
After analyzing many theories, Ross developed a new theoretical framework of political crime. He states that “political crimes is the result of complex interplay among individuals (I) situations/opportunities(S), organizations (O), resources adequacy (R). He calls it ISOR relationship.” According to Ross, although many political crimes are committed by groups that are formally or loosely structured, whether oppositional or state organizations, these activities are in the final analysis committed by individuals. These people are working within the structural confines of informal or complex organizations, political systems, political economies, and different cultures. They make decisions and act, while often denying that they are not engaged in any kind of wrongdoing.
Typologies and Actors of Political Crimes in Bangladesh
There are many types of political crimes in Bangladesh which occurred by political parties, groups and individuals. Political leaders and activists are performing several types of crimes by using their political affinity, identity, and power. They don’t care about laws and regulation of the country. “Might is rights” policy is most applicable to them. “Culture of impunity” in the justice system of Bangladesh for political consideration is making the situation more degrading day by day. Political crimes are not only limited within political boundary but affecting civilian lives and property. Widespread political crimes like subversive corruption by political leaders, state-sponsored violence against opposition political leaders and activists including disappearance and crossfire, oppositional initiated political violence like random destruction of public properties in terms of hartal or political rally, arbitrary arrest of opposition political leaders and activists by law enforcing agencies, bloodshed conflict between student organizations at educational institutions, deadly clash over establishing supremacy, etc. are well known in Bangladesh. There are various factors behind these crimes including economic, political, and social and so on. Intra-political group violent clashes and intergroup political conflict result in many deaths and thousands of injured and casualties in every year. In the following section, various types of political crime with different dimensions on the basis of news published by the Prothom Alo, a Bengali daily newspaper in 2010 discussed as follows:
Political Crime in Educational Institutions by Students Wings
Political crimes in educational institutions especially in higher educational institutions (colleges and universities) occur at a frequent basis. There are different categories of politically motivated and connected crimes in educational institutions. In most cases, the student organizations or wings of major political parties are involved in these criminal acts. These includes intra-political parties student wing deadly clashes, attack on rival groups, interpolitical student wings’ bloodshed conflict, attack on ruling student wing by opposition student organization, attack on opposition political parties’ student wings’ activists by ruling, assault on teachers by political leaders, illegal demanding of quotas in terms of admission tests, and so on. In many cases, admission process of different higher educational institutions are being halted for certain periods because of ruling wing student organizations pressure on administration. According to the published reports of newspapers, in 2010, different types of political crimes in educational institutions were presented. The following tables categorically describe various criminal activities performed by major political parties’ student organizations:
The analysis of the reports (Kamal and Islam 2013) of the newspapers shows that in 2010, the total number of intra-political student organization clash were 23, interpolitical parties student wing clash were 8, attack by oppositional student political organizations on ruling party student wing was 1, attack by ruling student organizations on oppositions were 10, respectively. Illegal quota was demanded by the ruling party student wing (Chatra League) in four educational institutions. In addition, the total number of assault or attack on teachers by political student organization were four. In all these cases, approximately 575 persons including students and teachers have been injured, and 8 students were brutally killed respectively.
The most pervasive factors behind these crimes occur over establishing supremacy at campuses, declaring new committees, capturing halls, hostels and seats, tender, trifling matters, economic factors, ideological differences, and so on. In most cases of conflicts, university authorities did little except declaring an indefinite period of vacation. Law enforcing agencies become silent or inactive when deadly conflict take place at campuses. Few cases of students killing at educational institutions have seen proper investigation and punishment of perpetrators. The incumbent ruling party always shows their silence when any student out of their wing is being brutally killed.
Intra-Political Parties Conflict in Bangladesh
Beyond educational institutions, political parties’ activists engage in intraparty conflict. This type of conflict does not occur only among the ruling party’s activists but also among the opposition as well. These types of political conflict actually occur among the leaders and activists of mother political organizations on several issues including tender, illegal business, holding new committee, establishing supremacy in certain area, establishing supremacy during elections, previous enmity, over holding rally at same places, property dispute, and so on. The analysis of Prothom Alo reveals that the total number of intra-political party conflict were 29 and 7 among the ruling party, Awami League and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), respectively. Total numbers of attack on rival groups of ruling party were 11 and 1 in opposition. In addition, 549 people were injured, and 12 persons were brutally murdered due to intraparty violent clash. Finally, 48 intraparty conflicts were held according to the Prothom Alo report. But, really, this number may be more.
Interpolitical Parties’ Conflict
Interpolitical parties’ conflicts beyond educational institutions between the activists of major political parties of Bangladesh occur at a frequent basis. Deadly conflicts occur on several periods, and issues depending on the context including in the period of oppositional imposed country-wide day-night shutdown, over establishing supremacy, holding rallies and processions at the same places, before and after national and local elections, political disputes, previous memory of repression, ideological differences, and so on. The newspaper reports of Prothom Alo in 2010 shows that at least nine violent interpolitical parties’ conflict occurred in several parts of Bangladesh. In these cases, hundreds of people were injured and many died.
Clash between Law Enforcing Agencies and Political Parties
Bloodshed clashes between law enforcing agencies especially police and political parties especially with oppositional political parties have become the political norms of Bangladesh. But, this type of clash with police indicates to abhor the law and order systems of state. Due to that reason, politically motivated clash with polices or with law enforcing agencies could be termed as one kind of political crime. In most cases, clashes between police and the activists of opposition political parties occur on the occasion of holding a rally or procession declared by opposition political parties. Engagement in conflict with police is one kind of crime, but prevention of oppositional parties’ peaceful procession and rallies and indiscriminate attack by law enforcing agencies is another type of state-initiated crime as well. Because, according to the constitution of Bangladesh, every citizen has the right to hold peaceful political protest and rally. In the year of 2010, total number of clashes between oppositional political parties and police were six, and between the activists of ruling parties and police were two. In these clashes, many people including police were injured.
Hartal and Political Crime
Hartal or shutdown is a political and democratic right according to the constitution of Bangladesh. But, this instrument frequently used by political parties especially by oppositions to force government to do anything or to protest against government on any specific issue. There may have been a certain issue of hartal including political demand and protest against repression of government. In terms of hartal, widespread destruction of public property including vandalism of cars, firing on buses, bursting bombs, and sporadic violence marked the whole country. In 2010, 171 different types of vehicles were vandalized by opposition political parties’ activists and about 26 by ruling party activists on different events, respectively. In most cases, huge numbers of vandalism of cars took on occasions of hartal.
Attack on Opposition Political Parties by Ruling Parties
Repression and indiscriminate torture by ruling party on opposition leaders and activists are well known in Bangladesh. These attacks don’t wage only the opposition party activists but on their homes, business institutions, and offices. According to the Prothom Alo reports, in 2010, total numbers of attack on opposition political parties’ activists and in their political offices were 20 across the country. In these attacks, many persons were injured and many were killed. Culture of impunity by the justice system of Bangladesh to the killer of opposition leaders blatantly have been observed by the people of Bangladesh. However, ruling political parties’ men also are being attacked by the opposition political parties’ activists at different places of country. But, all issues generally have political affiliation. In 2010, three incidents of attack on ruling party activists by opposition have occurred which have been reported by Prothom Alo.
Attack on Law Enforcing Agencies by Opposition Political Parties
Police or law enforcing agencies are being targeted by opposition political parties when they think that policemen are an obstacle to hold their rallies or processions. Sometimes they may have different intentions including breaking the strong mind of police or law enforcing agencies. The analysis of the news reports of Prothom Alo of 2010 states that total numbers of attack on police or law enforcing agencies were four by the opposition political parties.
Political Vandalism of Vehicles
Vandalism of vehicles including bus, private cars, and trucks has been a political culture in terms of political protest, hartal, etc. In 2010, the total number of vandalism of vehicle by the opposition political parties were mentioned by Prothom Alo was 171 and by the ruling party activists’ were 26. Dire consequences due to the indiscriminate destruction of public property may affect transpiration, economy, and the glory of Bangladesh.
By using state instrument as a means of violence and repression, often incumbent government wants to suppress opposition political parties’ demonstrations. To do so, there may have many processes including mass arbitrary arrest, imprisonment of opposition leaders, disappearances, etc. According to the reported data of 2010 published by the Prothom Alo, it shows that about 1284 opposition parties’ activists were detained by law enforcing agencies.
Tender-Related Political Crime
In Bangladesh, tender is an important issue and a source of political crime. In most cases of tender, the local ruling political leaders become involved. Ruling political leaders approach illegally to get the tender. According to the data of 2010 reported by the Prothom Alo, eight political crimes over tender occurred in different places on different development projects. This type of crime includes creating a hindrance in terms of calling and selecting the individual or company. Political influence and power become the main elements of getting the tender work. Political leaders try to get the tender by hook or by crook. Sometimes violent disputes between two political groups over tender have taken place.
Government Jobs Recruitment
The government job recruitment sector of Bangladesh is a better field for criminals. This type of crime includes taking bribe for recruitment into jobs, recommendation by political leaders (member of parliament, ministers, local leaders, etc.), and so forth. The ruling party plays key role for criminalization of job sector in Bangladesh. In all kinds of government jobs (from fourth class to first class government jobs), subversive corruption and illegal recommendations for recruitments by political leaders occur. In 2010, seven big incidents of political interference in recruitment of government jobs at different hospitals, educational institutions, and administrations performed by ruling political leaders were published by Prothom Alo.
Trees are the main sources of environmental security. River flow is important to get rid of over-inundation in terms of floods. In many places of Bangladesh, illegal cutting of huge numbers of trees and stopping the river flow by creating an artificial dam for catching fishes by local political leaders were published by daily newspapers. These indiscriminate cutting of trees are a threat to the environment. For that reason, it can be considered as crimes against environment. For example, a report states that 21 trees on street have been cut by Awami League leaders (The Prothom Alo, January 03, 2010). Another report states that a ruling local leader is involved in catching fish by creating an artificial dam violating the law into the Padma River at Faridpur with the cooperation of an opposition local party leader. This type of artificial dam stops the river flow and creates a new shoal on the river basin (The Prothom Alo, January 1, 2010). Furthermore, a report states state that a hundred-year-old tree of a school has been sold by a BNP leader to an Awami League leader without permission of the authority (The Prothom Alo, January 12, 2010). In addition, in recent days, thousands of trees have been cut during hartal periods. In 2010, five reports of crime on the environment by political leaders were published in Prothom Alo.
Grabbing the Land of Landless People by Political Leaders
News on grabbing of land by political leaders in rustic areas often publishes by daily newspapers. This type of crime is being committed by the powerful rural political elites. The political identity of grabber especially the ruling political party leader enjoys the immunity of being punished by law enforcing agencies in many cases, and the “might is right” policy can describe the situation better. The report of 2010 indicates different incidents of grabbing land of poor people by local ruling political leaders. For example, a report states that a pond of landless people has been illegally captured by a ruling party man in Jhenaidah district, which is being used by 80 landless poor families (The Prothom Alo, January 3, 2010). According to reports of the Prothom Alo in 2010, seven incidents of illegally grabbing of lands of poor people by political leaders occurred.
Illegal Sand Business by Political Leader
Political leaders do many types of crime by using political power. Illegal sand business is also another type of crime committed by the political leaders. In 2010, three incidents of sand business by local political leaders were reported by the Prothom Alo. This illegal sand business often becomes harmful for local people and the environment. A violent conflict between local people and ruling leaders on illegal sand business also occurred in 2010.
Corruption in Development Project by Politians
Government development project is one the most important sector of corruption by political leaders. In 2010, five incidents of corruption and demanding illegal fees by ruling political leaders on different development projects were reported by the Prothom Alo.
Assault on Administration’s Personnel by Ruling Leaders
In Bangladesh, sometimes, the incident of assault on administration personnel occurred by the ruling party leaders in different places. The incident of assault occurred especially when the administrative man avoids illegal demand by politicians. Sometimes political leaders physically harassed and mentally tortured administrative officials and were threatened to be sent in a remote area if they don’t follow his order. In 2010, five incidents of assault by ruling political party men on administrative officials were reported by the Prothom Alo.
Violence against Women and Political Connection
Violence against women is a crucial crime. Sometimes politically connected personnel assault on women because of his political power and get immunity from law enforcing agencies by using the political power. According the analysis of the Prothom Alo reports, in 2010, three incidents of assault on women by political leaders and activists occurred. But, in these three cases, no persons have been arrested by law enforcing agencies because of their stronghold with ruling party.
Other Types of Political Crime
Except above political crimes, there are many types of politically motivated and connected crimes. These include attack on journalists, civilian people, and on market places by political activists. Journalists often become target of violence by political leaders and parties. Furthermore, political activists may attack on a market place or in a public place for a trifling matter. In 2010, eleven incidents of different types of crimes except above described the types occurred in different places of Bangladesh.
A Holistic View of Political Crime in Bangladesh
The above description contains different categorical and types of political crime in Bangladesh. The daily Prothom Alo published approximately 402 reports on political crimes in 2010. According to its published reports, approximately 2129 persons severely injured due to the political violence, and 24 persons have been brutally killed. (Kamal and Islam 2013).
Political crimes have dire consequences on physical, mental, social, economic, educational, and environmental aspect as well. There are several types of political crimes. The pattern of political crime may change over time. In recent days, these include violent political deadlock and conflict between and within political organizations, bloodshed clashes at educational institutions, demanding illegal quota and interfering into admission process, state-sponsored violence against oppositions including disappearance and arbitrary arrest, culture of impunity for political consideration, corruption by political leaders, interference and recommendation for government jobs recruitments, indiscriminate torture by police and ruling on opposition leaders and activists, sporadic violence by opposition in terms of hartal and demonstration and destruction of public properties, tendering, crime against the environment (trees, rivers, and hills), conflict over establishing supremacy and holding rally, violence against minority before and after national elections, and so on. In most cases of political crimes, ruling party activists are vigorously involved.
To prevent these subversive political crimes, the incumbent government should take a stringent action against the perpetrators who are engaged in criminal activities by using political power and identity. Law enforcing agencies should act neutrally and strictly to detain perpetrators. The culture of impunity should be abolished from the justice system of Bangladesh. More frequent news should be published by mass media on criminal activities performed by using political power. Finally, political will of government and cooperative initiatives by masses, civil society, mass media, NGOs, and government to eradicate political crimes from society could be more effective.
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