Sixty-three eminent citizens have urged authorities to immediately stop the killings, attacks, arrests and assaults taking place in Chattogram's Banshkhali over the firing incident at the under-construction coal power plant of S Alam Group and demanded exemplary punishment to the perpetrators.
The statement came on Saturday after police had arrested an engineer named Shahnewaz Chowdhury, 38, in a case filed by its chief coordinator Faruk Ahmed under the Digital Security Act (DSA). Shahnewaz had posted a status on Facebook about the power plant.
As an aftermath of the arrest, no one will dare to raise their voice against irregularities, corruptions and mismanagements associated with the power plant project, the distinguished citizens feared.
"We think that police have arrested him in a baseless and malicious case filed by the project director under the DSA to suppress dissents," reads the statement.
They also rejected the investigation report alleging that it failed to uncover the mismanagement and illegal activities of the power plant authorities and recommend punishment to policemen employed there. All these were done to divert the incident in a different direction, they said.
On 4 May, the High Court directed the plant authorities to pay Tk5 lakh to each of the deceased and ordered not to harass plant workers, their family members and locals. By arresting the engineer, the authorities have violated the HC order, they said.
The signatories include Advocate Sultana Kamal, former caretaker government advisor; Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, Trustee of Gonoshasthaya Kendra; Khushi Kabir, coordinator of Nijera Kori; Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, former caretaker government advisor; Badiul Alam Majumdar, member secretary of Sushasaner Jonne Nagarik; Professor Anu Mohammad, professor of economics at Jahangirnagar University; Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, Dr Shahidul Alam, photojournalist; Syeda Rijwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association; Farah Kabir, director of Action Aid Bangladesh and others.
They said that 12 innocent people were killed and over 50 people were injured in series of police firings since 2016.
When all are demanding a fair investigation into the firings and punishment to the perpetrators, the authorities are focusing on shrinking the right of expression of the victims as well as other people, they alleged.
Instead of carrying out a fair investigation and taking legal actions, project officials and police have filed a case against 3,562 locals, posing a risk of further harassment there.