Friday, March 2, 2012

TANGLE OF POLITICAL CIRCUS : Diversion derails probe of journo couple murders

There are brave journalistic souls among us who dare to unmask the truth even at the cost of their lives. 
Murdered journalist couple, Sagar Sarwar and Meherun Runi, is the latest victims of a predatory onslaught by a powerful coterie that never tolerated truth, let alone digest. Now the doors of justices seem to be slamming shut and the incident has become a political football.
Flabbergasted by the weeks-long flip-flopping and the lack of direction of the police in finding the killers, a Writ was filed with the High Court last Tuesday by a lawyer named Monzeel Murshed to obtain a ruling against the government to expedite the efforts to nab the killers. The High Court Bench ruled the same day, saying: “The government has played its role properly in the investigation and no error or negligence was seen.” 
The court, however, did order the police to unearth motive of the twin murder, and went a step further to reprimand the leader of the opposition, Begum Khaleda Zia, for making what it called, “irresponsible remarks to obstruct the inquiry.” The court invoked the comments made by the Opposition Leader the previous day when she blamed the government during a rally in Lalmonirhat for allegedly ferrying abroad the main culprit of the crime.
Political circus
People are generally aware that playing politics with a criminal matter under investigation — or under judicial proceedings — can often be construed as being prejudicial. Political observers, however, are of the view that the leader of the opposition did not make a political statement on the matter first. She rather responded to a plethora of ‘game changing’ stunts displayed by the law enforcement agencies over the preceding weeks.
It began with the Home Minister Shahara Khatun’s emphatic assertion on the very first day of the crime’s commission that the killers would be apprehended within 48 hours. It perhaps implied two things: That she and her law enforcing team knew who the killers were, and, either the killers were already under custody, or under surveillance, so as not to pose a flight risk. 
Three days later, the Home Minister changed the track and said the comment was a tactical move to expedite the arrest of the killers. Tactic without strategy sounds strange. The police subsequently spun a number of theories and all of which made laughable headlines in the media, but little progress has been made in nabbing the killers or unearthing the motive of the crime.
Theories sprouted
The maiden version was that the police were in the dark and clueless, which is reasonable. But it was quickly followed by a sizzling tale of romanticism that strove to attribute the murder to an illicit love affair of one or both the victims. With each passing day, more theories sprouted; including robbery and filial or land disputes. 
Finally, the Prime Minister herself partook in the discourse, though only responsible answer from the government could have been that the police and other relevant law enforcers were doing their job, and, no comment could be made to prejudice the law enforcers’ efforts. 
Curiously, by then, the ball has rolled from the Home Minister’s to the Prime Minister’s court, and at one point the Prime Minister was tempted to make the most irresponsible comment by a lady of her stature: “Manning people’s bedrooms is not a government undertaking”.
Govt. can’t shun responsibility
Of course the government cannot shun its responsibility in maintaining law and order anywhere and everywhere within the country—-be it a kitchen or washroom or whatever. And the Prime Minister is certainly aware of the fact that more than one President of the country was killed in their bedrooms.  Fact or not, many in the media are aware about reports and comments being circulated by the readers of Bangladesh dailies online, in Facebook and numerous other blogs about the probable reasons for Sagar and Runi’s killing. 
Yet, all through this political circus, the media has been swinging like a pendulum with the diverse, and often laughable, versions of the spins. None, however, dared to focus so far to the fact that the murder of a journalist at home, or two of them together, could plausibly stem from their probing into a sensitive story that had the potency to harm influential quarters.
The prima facie evidence, briefly outlined below, does corroborate the assertion of their death caused by professional uprightness and leads one to discard the other hypotheses being scattered around by the power that be.
Probable causes
The love-affair theorem is nonsensical due to both the husband and the wife being victims of murder and none being alive to meet the ‘phantom lover.’ The robbery theorem is more incredible as the couple had no valuable assets in their possession and the only things the murderers got away with were the laptop computer, cell phones, etc.—- material that had the content of sensitive information stored. 
The fact that the victims had allowed the murderers to enter their home at the dead of night implies the killers were known and trustworthy, hence not robbers. 
Our investigation reveals that Runi and Sagar were jointly working on a major scam in the nation’s power sector, involving huge sums of money that had changed hands in 2010 and 2011 to secure contracts for the construction of three major fixed power plants and four floating ones. 
Corruption story
It is learnt from sources close to Sagar and Runi that the couple were aware of a major corruption story they compiled together. In the course of their investigation into the scam, the couple had interviewed over 20 people, gathered documents and took shots of many installations and individuals. 
On February 3, the story was given to the ATN Bangla network where Runi worked as a senior reporter, confirmed one of her colleagues. The management of the TV channel decided not to run the story. However, it is rumoured that someone in high position had tipped off the concerned quarters and made a political capital out of it.  
Readers in a large number of online Bangladeshi newspapers with some knowledge suggested that a flurry of behind-the-scene manoeuvring occurred since February 7 to destroy the story, including four rounds of negotiations with the murdered journalist couple took place. Sagar, who worked as the News Editor of the Machhranaga TV channel and has had expertise in energy related reporting, decided in exasperation to take the story to his own channel; a decision Runi has reportedly conveyed to the ATN authority only two days prior to their death. 
Who’s fled the country?
It was also reported that on the night of the murder, a close relative of ATN Bangla’s high up whom the source did not name, arranged the last meeting with the murdered couple. That the shadowy negotiator entered the journalist couple’s compound with some others testifies to his intent to do something sinister and snatch the story, should the negotiation fail.
This is not the version of event we want the police to believe but to investigate. This also is the only credible version that is in circulation over the worldwide web, in free comments from readers of Bangladesh dailies on line, in face book and other blog sites and social networks. They are beyond the jurisdiction of the Bangladesh high Court order or of easy reach of the Bangladesh authorities. 
Heroes of the profession
The fear of death has engulfed the community of journalists like an Octopus. So far, the journalists also helplessly watched the distorted handling of the matter by police and the government. The couple got murdered in what the military says ‘line of duty.’ They are the venerable heroes of our profession. We salute them. 

BY :   M. Shahidul Islam.