A UN report listing “victims of enforced disappearances” in Bangladesh is riddled with mind-boggling inaccuracies that expose the global body’s over-reliance on biased NGOs known for faking cases of human rights violations.
One such victim listed by the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances in Bangladesh is a top secessionist leader from Manipur who is living with his family in his ancestral home in Bangladesh after serving his jail term in India.
The UN Working Group identifies Sanayaima Rajkumar, the chairman of the Manipur-based extremist group United National Liberation Front (UNLF) as a victim of enforced disappearance in Bangladesh.
The UNLF chairman whose real name is Rajkumar Meghen (Sanaiyama is his party alias) operated in Bangladesh under active government patronage during the BNP-JAMAAT regime and the military-backed caretaker regime.
But he fled Bangladesh and took refuge in Nepal after the Sheikh Hasina government took charge in January 2009 and unleashed a crackdown against northeast Indian rebels, leading to the arrest of a few top leaders who were then handed over to Indian authorities.
Meghen was arrested by the police from the East Champaran district of Bihar when he tried to enter the country from Nepal on November 30, 2010.
He was convicted on sedition charges for “waging a war against the legally elected government in India” and handed a 10-year prison term.
Meghen, now 78, was released from jail in Guwahati on November 11, 2019, after he served his term.
The rebel leader returned home to Imphal after having lived underground for 44 years. He now lives in his ancestral house with his wife Ibengmunshi Devi, son Mei Chinglen and daughter-in-law Brinda, a former police officer who later contested elections.
Meghen made a huge story in India, but the UN Working Group listing enforced disappearances in Bangladesh missed out on all that and put him on the Bangladesh list.
How could a UN group make such a huge mistake? The answer is simple – they just went by cases of enforced disappearances provided by local Bangladesh-based NGOs without cross-checking facts.
Some unsubstantiated media reports in 2010 said Meghen was arrested by the Bangladesh police and quietly handed over to India – a charge both Dhaka and Delhi have denied.
Meghen, during his trial, did not contest the fact that he was arrested in Bihar, although he admitted during his interrogation by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that he had operated out of Bangladesh before 2010 and even smuggled arms to his fighters in Manipur after bringing them into Bangladesh from Southeast Asia.
The UN Working Group report also lists Keithellakpam Nabachandra alias Chilheiba as a “victim of enforced disappearances” in Bangladesh. Nabachandra is a “major” in the UNLF armed wing.
The Border Security Force, or BSF, said that they arrested him in 2015 as he attempted to enter India through the Sylhet-Meghalaya border near Dawki.
Some media reports in Manipur said Nabachandra was arrested in Dhaka by the Bangladesh Police and quietly handed over to Indian border guards – a charge India has denied.
Nabachandra was handed over to the Manipur Police on March 17, 2015, and is now facing trial.
Bangladesh officials say the crackdown against armed northeast Indian insurgent groups was part of Sheikh Hasina’s commitment to zero tolerance against terrorism.
“This surely upset some Bangladesh human rights groups with close connections to the BNP-JAMAAT government which had sheltered these rebels. So they began passing people like Meghen and Nabachandra as victims of enforced disappearances to pressurize the Hasina government,” said Sukharanjan Dasgupta, an author.
The UN Working Group depended on controversial NGOs like Odhikar, run by Adilur Rahman Khan Shuvro, a former deputy attorney general during the BNP-JAMAAT regime, for data. Similar organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International also came under the scanner for “brazen advocacy” in favour of confessed war criminals during the trial.
In December 2013, Hefazat-e Islam, a rabidly radical group, called for an abrupt end to girls’ education and dubbed westerners as apostates. Their cadres ran amok on the streets of Dhaka in 2013. To stop their carnage, Police crackdown on them. Following this incident, Odhikar blew up the casualty data. The discrepencies in that list got exposed by many top media outlets in Bangladesh back then.
“But it is simply disgraceful of the UN Working Group to accept such bogus cases like Meghen’s. It has some explaining to do as to how they can list someone as disappeared when the rebel leader is facing trial in India after arrest in India,” Dasgupta said.
“Neither Megan nor Nabachandra entered Bangladesh with any valid documents. They sneaked back into Bangladesh during the BNP-Jamaat regime to continue their arms struggle. So how can an international rights body like the UN clamour for this when both of them have Indian citizenship?” he asked.
Last December in Geneva, the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearance said that 76 people are missing in Bangladesh and called for a probe into the cases.