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Fear, Force and Fabrication: RAB, Human Rights Activists and Media

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Allow me to ask some questions: Is it necessary to severe one's genitals to turn him a beggar? Is it the breaking of hands, legs, or severing sexual organ that enables a criminal gang to force children into begging? No, we did not raise these questions when Rapid Action Battalion [a special police force of Bangladesh], human rights bodies, and media worked in coalition to craft the story of maiming children for begging out of an incident in which a child named Neyamul got his penis cut off. The question did not occur to our mind even after the High Court ordered elimination of begging from Dhaka [the capital of Bangladesh].

The news of RAB busting a gang of criminals who dismember children to engage them in begging created a sensation in the media at the end of 2010. People were informed by RAB's version of a story that two boys named Imran and Russell [who are around ten years old] took the 7-year-old son of rickshaw puller Umed Ali to an abandoned building along a city embankment, cut off his penis and injured him in the neck and chest. It was said that this incident led RAB to unearth a dreaded criminal syndicate that used to force children into begging by severing their organs. And that the masterminds of this gang -- Nazma Begum, Korban and Omar Faruque -- have also been arrested. The arrested Korban even confessed to the crime at a press conference arranged by RAB to reveal the success.

Bangladesh Human Rights Foundation and Black Truth Productions Centre persistently pushed for punishment to all members of the gang in line with RAB version of the story. The entire nation was taken by the brutality of the crime, and the higher court stepped in to order that begging be stopped on city streets.

The story appeased those well who believed there should not be beggars on the streets of Bangladesh as they garnered the idea that beggars seen on the streets are victims of criminal gangs, just as it is portrayed in the movie Slumdog Millionaire [a British drama film]. These people gulped down the entire story in a single breath and could not think of the simple question: Why a child's genital is needed to be cut off for begging.

But what it tells about the confessional statement given by Korban if the whole story of severing Neyamul's penis turns out to be a fight among kids over the game of a ball-bearing, which has nothing to do with begging. Why did Korban confess to the crime before media at a press briefing then? What about the statements issued by human rights activists or the reports published in media? An important question to ask, indeed, and the investigative documentary Fear, Force and Fabrication has tried to find out the answers. The documentary has revealed how state terrorism acted out by RAB obtained confessional statement under duress to prove the cooked-up story of begging. The documentary reveals gross violation of human rights by 'human rights' activists desperate to earn a name by any means which victimises poor families with their status reduced to that of a beggar in the process. This documentary shed light on the RAB-friendly role of media, roles celebrities play for media, and above all the profitable business of 'protecting human rights.'

With the help of firsthand experience of the accused and the victims, interviews with Anu Muhammad [eminent political analyst], Sulatana Kamal [famed human rights advocate, National Human Rights Commission's Chairman of the country, archive footage, paper cutting of news as it was covered by different news outlets, the makers, after over two years of research, raises serious questions about the way RAB is being used, if there is any necessity of having a force like RAB, notorious for its alleged involvement in state-sponsored killing in the name of 'crossfire' and 'encounter.'

This is not a mere film but a film action that challenges its audience by making them think about their indifferent attitude to the society and the importance of their being organized to stand against the system.

The film was first screened at Russian Cultural Centre on Nur Hossain Day on November 10 [2012], the day that marks the national day for democracy. It is necessary that the film be projected in places across the capital. My hope is that the makers will spread the film online, and the film will strengthen the movement to resist non-stop state sponsored killing.

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