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Caught in the cops’ dragnet

Published : Saturday, 29 September, 2018 at 12:00 AM  Count : 466
Maksud Ibna Rahaman

 Police in action against protesters during the Ershad regime

Police in action against protesters during the Ershad regime

I never maintain a diary. That doesn't mean I have a photographic memory. I have rather a short memory. Things very easily slip out of my mind. May be it was 1987 or 1988 when the movement against military despotic ruler HM Ershad was at its zenith. We brought out a torch procession amid a ban on such political activities. Perhaps an emergency was imposed. Back then political activists themselves used improvised torches. It took almost the whole day for the preparation as collecting heavy wooden sticks and combustible materials like hosiery leftover from factories nearby to wrap one end of the torch. As Narayanganj is famous for hosiery manufacturing it was not a big deal for us to collect them. Kerosene was the most essential item as after the torch was made the end where flammable materials were fitted had to be dipped into kerosene for the whole day.
The procession was brought out. No government intelligence agencies had even the slightest idea that there could be procession led by a bunch of defying and brave young people. I was then very young and involved in a student organization. The procession was proceeding through the main thoroughfare of the small town breaking the evening silence. Out of a blue we found ourselves besieged by law enforcers from all fronts. Still we were marching forward. I tried to summon my courage to have a big fight with police in riot gear. As I was raising slogans I had no torch in my hand. I, with my right hand, was punching in the air shouting slogans rhythmically. I didn't realize what had happened to the front and rear of the procession as I was raising slogans over the rising clamour of participants.
Suddenly all hell broke loose; protesters began to scamper in all directions; commanding voices of police officers to open fire were drowning the hullabaloo of frightening people; shouts, screams and whimpers created a terrifying atmosphere; police were randomly whacking fleeing activists; for a few moments I couldn't budge even an inch; as I found myself left alone on the street it took me some times to decide upon what to do; burning improvised torches were lying scattered all over the street in hundreds; I just jerked back and then sprinted forward as fast as my legs could carry me. From the corners of my eyes I had a blurred vision of muzzles of guns pointed at me; I dashed through the police cordon before they made out anything.
As I ran into an alleyway I saw them. They were standing there right in front of me with walkie-talkies; it took me no time to figure out who they were in plainclothes standing on my way like a bulwark. I turned around to run back but I found some others approaching towards me from behind. They were too in plainclothes; they were the members of intelligence agencies; my heart sank. I realized the danger lying in ambush on all sides. In a fraction of second an idea flashed across my mind. If I could go over to the other side of the police bulwark I could easily get my way into another alleyway and once I could reach there I was sure they would never find me. I could easily disappear into the thin air; I then made a dash for the human bulwark and struck it with all my might to penetrate through it to the other side; it worked. "Yes, I could make it," I told myself in my mind. Two of them fell to the ground scrambling to get up while others were scattered under the impact of my powerful push. I too fell down but in no time I leaped up and made another dash for the alleyway but unfortunately I found myself in a dark alley. it was not the one I was expecting. it was an alley just before my expected one. I found myself at the end of the dark alley; they were after me; no way to get out; I turned around leaning against the wall calm and composed though out of breath.
My ordeal began at the hands of police. I bent my elbows and raised my arms upward with the fists clenched to protect my head and face from the blows of the police personnel. They were roaring like wounded tigers: "You audacious, we will teach a good lesson." I ducked my head to receive the blows on my back. Indiscriminate blows of fists and kicks were raining down on my back right into the middle of my backbone plunging me into a pitch dark world; my vision got blurred; my knees began to buckle and my head spin. As I was about to collapse someone of them took pity on me. He shielded me by clasping me to his chest saying: "Enough is enough." I was captured and put in jail for one month. As I stepped out of my incarceration I breathed in fresh air after a long time feeling that I earned my freedom. At the same time I was pondering over freedom: "Am I really free?" The very question brought the bourgeois French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau's famous words: "Men are born free but every where he is in chains."

The writer is with the Daily Observer

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