If you come across the news of any crossfire related killings, you will most likely find references of "yaba" and "alcohol" there. The law enforcers typically kill a "criminal" who has some "yaba" or "alcohol" and some handmade pistols in his possession.
Take for the latest instance, in the cold blooded killing of the retired Major Sinha Md Rashed Khan by Teknaf police station OC Pradip Kumar Das—the latter tried to "justify" his killing with yaba, alcohol and a pistol in the victim's possession. Das and his cohorts have been typically trying to slander the character of Sinha and his companions from the beginning.
Yaba is a drug. Nobody can be licensed to carry yaba. If you are carrying yaba, you are either a drug pusher or a drug addict. Sinha was not carrying yaba. In fact, an investigation team Thursday reported that they recovered 800 yaba tablets from OC Pradip's almirah.
But what about alcohol? Legally in Bangladesh you can consume alcohol if you have a license. But even if you don't have a license, is this really a crime? Does consuming alcohol without a license make you a criminal? If so, the government cannot issue anyone with an alcohol license.
Alcohol has been there for thousands of years of human civilization—whether religions like it or not. Alcohol is consumed by majority of the population of the world. Boris Johnson drinks scotch. Trump promotes his own vodka brand. Putin of course drinks Russian vodka. Xi Jinping drinks Chinese maotai.
Alcohol is consumed even in the most restricted society of Saudi Arabia; make a news search and see the results. The Arab world even has its own homemade alcohol named Siddiqui.
Human beings have been drinking alcohol for at least 10000 years on the record. According to a BBC report on 15 September 2018, researchers have found residue of 13,000-year-old beer that they think might have been used for ritual feasts to honour the dead. The traces of a wheat-and-barley-based alcohol were found in stone mortars carved into the cave floor.
In the subcontinent, the relics of Mohenjodaro and Harappa also show that people of that time used to drink alcohol.
Like the rest of the world, a part of Bangladeshis drink alcohol. Every year few hundred people die from drinking spurious alcohol in Bangladesh. But not all alcohol in Bangladesh is spurious; it has its own rich but secret heritage of alcohol in different regions.
But due to religious barriers, the consumption is limited in Bangladesh just like most other religious countries. Among 191 countries of the world, as per the World Health Organisation data of 2010, Bangladesh ranks 187—just one rank below Saudi Arabia, in alcohol consumption.
Many of the police personnel in Bangladesh that I met during my three decades of career drink alcohol. Many politicians I met drink alcohol. I have not met at least one person from each profession who does not drink alcohol. And I do not believe any of you who are reading this do not know persons who drink but still are fine persons.
Drinking alcohol does not make a person criminal. Killing a person does. Robbing a person does. What is 'so criminal' in drinking alcohol? How does it damage society? Unless the drinker is a drunkard committing nuisance—how can it be an offence to justify killing or humiliating anyone?
Alcohol is a niche big business in Bangladesh because of the taboo surrounding it. Most of the imported alcohol is sold to anyone who can afford it—thanks to a corrupt system of officials taking regular bribes from sellers. We all know it but nothing can be done about making the system "legal" because of the so-called social taboo.
But the least we can do is stigmatise people; make them victims of wrongdoings by law enforcers by putting a half-drank bottle in their possession.