Some of our news outlets have termed the yaba smugglers as “yaba dealers” or “yaba traders.” I am not a grammarian. So I am not judging whether it is grammatically right or wrong to use the words “dealers” or “traders” to mention the yaba godfathers. I am talking from a general perspective.
Yaba, a dangerous drug, is smuggled from Myanmar to Bangladesh. Those who bring this drug are plain smugglers. Those who import goods in a legal way can be called businessmen or traders. There is a difference between a businessman and a smuggler. Those who are calling them “yaba dealers” are actually accepting them as businessmen, which is disrespectful to real businessmen. So the 102 yaba godfathers who surrendered recently are in no way yaba dealers or traders.
Of the 2,000 yaba smugglers whose names are on the home ministry's list, at least 102 have surrendered. No steps were taken against them in the past when they had roamed freely in the Teknaf-Cox's Bazar area and continued smuggling this drug. Not only were they involved in the smuggling of yaba and other narcotics, they were also involved in many other nefarious activities in the region. Among the 102 who surrendered, 12 are from one family. In the home ministry's list, the top two patrons of the yaba smugglers were mentioned as Abdur Rahman Bodi, a former MP of the Awami League, and his brother Moulovi Mojibur Rahman. That Bangladesh has been flooded with yaba is through the sole contribution of the Bodi family. Thus, it is a big achievement that 12 members of this family have surrendered.
Former MP Abdur Rahman Bodi has been saying all along that he, nor his family, are involved in yaba smuggling. During the recent anti-drug drive, the brother of Bodi's wife had died in crossfire but Bodi never admitted that the person was his relative.
According to the government's list, there are 73 big yaba smugglers, of them 30 have surrendered. Among the 30, 12 are Bodi's family members including Bodi's four brothers (Abdus Shukkur, Abdul Amin, Md Shafiq and Md Faisal), one cousin (Kamrul Islam Rasel), and his nephew (Shahedur Rahman Nipu). In some of the news reports, the number was mentioned as 14 or 16.
Bodi, whose name is at the top of the government's list, was given the responsibility of coordinating the whole surrender process. Although it was reported many times in the media with specific allegations against Bodi and his family members, including his brothers and nephews, of being yaba smugglers, Bodi himself did not surrender, nor did his brother Moulovi Mojibur Rahman, whose name came second in the list.
It is well-known that the administration of Teknaf runs as per Bodi's directives. But the names of Bodi and his family members have always been in the yaba smugglers' list, prepared by the local administration. Yet Bodi has always managed to get help from the government high-ups. Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has inaugurated the anti-narcotic week campaign with the assistance of Bodi. The minister has even expressed his doubt about the list prepared by the law enforcement agencies. He directed them to make the list more cautiously saying that “there are allegations against Bodi but no proof”. The Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader has also expressed similar views. A section of the Awami League leaders from Teknaf-Cox's Bazar area have repeatedly alleged that not only Bodi but also his family members have led the yaba smugglers under the patronage of the high-ups. The yaba smugglers have carried out their activities in public without any hindrance and even got assistance from the administration. They have become powerful under the patronage of Bodi. How powerful they are has also been proven on the stage of the surrender ceremony when Bodi's cousin threatened media activists. Everyone in the front rows heard him saying: “I will teach you a lesson after the surrender. Yaba businessmen have connections everywhere.” The minister and the high-ups from the administration must also have heard this but they remained silent.
Since Bodi's ancestors came from Myanmar, he has relatives living there. It is said that his family has yaba factories there. When his relatives involved in yaba smuggling face any problem in Myanmar, they come to Bangladesh to take shelter. In similar situations, his Bangladeshi relatives take shelter in Myanmar without any hassle. The Myanmar military also patronises this joint yaba syndicate.
During the anti-drug drives, Bodi went to Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah while his relatives took shelter in Myanmar. During the surrender programme, it has been proven at last that his family is a family of smugglers. While most members of his family are involved in yaba smuggling, he, the main godfather, is now the coordinator of the surrender process.
Now there are two questions. First, why did they surrender in the first place? And second, will the yaba smuggling stop now?
The death of small drug peddlers in the anti-drug drive has frightened the big smugglers as they know that although a section of the administration is favouring them, there is also another section which is against them. With the huge money they have made from drug smuggling, they have built expensive houses in Teknaf, but they cannot live in these houses in safety. There is a possibility that they might lose their properties. Perhaps they have surrendered to save their properties. Maybe they have also considered the fact that their surrender would not create any problem in their smuggling which they will do secretly. Maybe they wanted to give people an idea that they are good people now, not yaba smugglers anymore.
Although Bodi is a former MP, his family is recognised as a family of yaba smugglers. During the last election, he did not get nomination from his party, but his wife did and has become an MP. In future, he might face many adversities because the media would not stop reporting on them. Thus, he took the initiative of arranging a surrender programme for the yaba smugglers. But since he himself and his own brothers did not surrender, he might now claim that he as well as his family members are not yaba smugglers.
Yaba smuggling involves hundreds or thousands of crores of taka. The border guards, the members of the law enforcement agencies and a big section of the Cox's Bazar-Teknaf administration are all partners in this smuggling. There have been allegations against some members of the law enforcement agencies of direct involvement in yaba smuggling. Moreover, not only a section of the ruling Awami League but also many from the BNP-Jamaat are involved in the yaba smuggling. Although there is political enmity among the parties, when it comes to yaba smuggling, they seem to have good relations with each other.
Those of the local administration who are involved in smuggling have not been identified. And Bodi and his brother, the main two godfathers in the list, have not surrendered. Around 1,500 enlisted yaba smugglers remained outside this surrender process. Besides those whose names are on the list, there are many others including the syndicates in Myanmar. There are reports that yaba smuggling is going on despite all these measures. So it cannot be said in any way that through the surrender of a section of the yaba godfathers, yaba smuggling in the country will end.
Golam Mortoza is a journalist. The article was translated from Bangla by Naznin Tithi.