"Fear, Force & Fabrication" Documentary
"Afternoon. Azan has just been heard. Prayer time. The embankment on the river Buriganga. Kamrangirchar. A poor and stinky neighborhood. The river is old and dirty. Nearby. A closed down factory. Abandoned. Inside the complex, a 10-year-old boy is bleeding. Groaning. He has his penis chopped off. One of his two friends, he was playing with, has done this. Nobody knows why. Nobody knows what happens next. Nobody knows nothing. The Buriganga keeps flowing."
We checked into this incident and ended up making a documentary.
It all started on December 29, 2010. People at home and abroad were dumbstruck when the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) through a press conference announced that criminal gangs were out in Dhaka city (Bangladesh) to abduct children and mutilate them to turn them into beggars.
Based on the Rab (an elite force) version presented at the news briefing, both the electronic and print media covered the story with the utmost priority and put it on the top of the day’s story list.
At the press conference, Neyamul, a seven-year-old boy from Ashrafbad of Kamrangirchar, was paraded before the media to describe how he had fallen prey to a criminal gang.
There, the “second-in-command of the gang”, Shariful Islam Korban confessed to a series of heinous crimes including mutilation of children to make beggars out of them.
Both Neyamul and Korban were in the Rab custody and none of the journalists was allowed to talk with them, let alone verifying the authenticity of the story.
“Korban along with four others, including two of his brothers, cut off Neyamul’s penis with the intention to turn him into a beggar” – it was the peg of the story that Rab presented at the press conference and the media reported the next day.
The list of invitees to the press conference included advocate Alena Khan and popular actress Rokeya Prachy, respectively the founding chief of Bangladesh Human Rights Foundation (BHRF) and Black Truth.
Intensity of the crime generated warning even from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina against the people involved with such criminal gangs.
The story drew our attention at a time when we were looking for a subject for an investigative documentary on issues relating to human rights. We started our own investigation and found the following facts:
1. The Rab in collaboration with BHRF and Black Truth made up the whole story of turning children into beggars.
2. Mutilation of Neyamul was not an act of an organized gang but result of a fierce fight among kids, who live in ghetto-like conditions of Kamrangirchar and get involved in crimes at the very early age.
3. On October 6, 2010, a band of unidentified men kidnapped Korban, who used to run a tea shop at Kamrangirchar and had no record as a criminal, from in front of his father. Two months later, the elite force presented him before the media as a criminal.
4. The government in February formed a two-member investigation committee following a High Court order issued in January, 2011. Deputy Secretary Alam Ara Begum of home ministry was made the convener of the committee that submitted its report in May that year. “The allegation of mutilating children for begging is proved to be false. No such incident has taken place in that area (Kamrangirchar). So there is no chance to determine its nature and the cause behind,” the probe report said.
5. Korban has been in jail since arrest in December, 2010 and was denied bail repeatedly. Faruque, who was according to Rab the godfather of the so-called crime gang, however, obtained bail in March this year.
6. The fictitious story not only affected at least a dozen families but also misled the High Court. Based on Rab version of the story, the HC suspended Sub-Inspector Nurul Alam, who was investigation officer in the case of Neyamul, for negligence in duties.
7. No media ever reported that how the arrest of Korban affected his family, a poor one like thousand others in the country.
8. We have no clue as to whereabouts of Neyamul and his family.
Going deep into the story, we find that the reason behind the incident relating to Neyamul and Korban has its root in the society/state where we live in. And, we also tried to find answers to these following questions to know the flaws of our society/state:
1. The way Korban was picked up was at all appropriate? When and why a state needs secret arrests?
2. What does the story of Neyamul tell us about areas like Kamrangirchar where thousands of kids are growing up without a childhood and becoming criminals? What should be done for slum kids?
3. What kind of society/state law enforcers implicate an innocent person who has nothing to do with a serious crime as brutal as maiming children for begging? What would be its impact?
4. What is the human rights situation in Bangladesh?
5. Is the media playing its due role? We are often fed false stories; in the aforesaid case, the Rab used media to establish Korban as a member of a criminal gang.
6. What does the roles played in the aforesaid case by the most “conscious” tiers of a society -- law enforcers, rights activists, media -- say anything ominous about our future? Are these the symptoms of an upcoming social disaster?
We have completed our investigative documentary, and had it successfully premiered through an open public show on Nov 10, 2012 on the 25th death anniversary of Noor Hossain.
Our film is also dedicated to Noor Hossain.
Noor Hossain, a young pro-democracy activist who demanded an end to the autocratic regime of Ershad, was gunned down by police at Zero Point of Gulistan on November 10, 1987.
The documentary is presented by Albatross Film Collective, a band of youths to make, produce and distribute movies.
Title: Fear, Force & Fabrication
Genre: Investigative documentary
Tags: Human rights, law enforcement, media, politics
Direction and script: Shahtub Siddique
Research and investigation: Emran Hossain Emon
Camera: Nomanee Al Haseeb
Editing: Noor Us Safa Anik
Watch the Full-Length Documentary: "Fear, Force & Fabrication"