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The Phantom Agency: My Unanswered Questions to Bangladesh's NSI
Unmasking their Mysterious Role in the Rohingya Crisis
It's a curious state of affairs. Bangladesh's National Security Intelligence (NSI), an agency at the heart of the country's security apparatus, appears to be as elusive as a Cheshire cat.
The NSI is omnipresent in the Bangladeshi context, a phantom discussed in hushed whispers across the nation. From the infamous island of Bhasan Char to the sprawling camps of Ukhiya, Rohingya refugees mutter their name with a mixture of fear, loathing and anxiety. Yet, try to reach out to them, and it's like trying to grab at fog.
A recent project of mine perfectly encapsulates this bemusement. I am writing about an initiative of theirs - the “Go Home Campaign” in the Rohingya refugee camps of Ukhiya. I decided to engage with the NSI directly, and naturally I needed their contact information. You'd think it'd be straightforward, wouldn't you? After all, they're the NSI - an integral part of Bangladesh's governance and security landscape.
I approached the Chief Reporter of a well known newspaper, a seasoned columnist, and even the editor of an English language newspaper, and the result? Blank expressions. No leads. This was intriguing, to say the least. An organisation that is a part of everyday parlance, and yet, contact details for its responsible officers seem to be a closely guarded secret? How come?
Finally, after two days of persisting, a human rights activist managed to provide me with the contact number of a Deputy Director of the NSI. Armed with my questions, I eagerly penned a message, thinking naively, perhaps, that the shadowy world of the NSI would begin to offer up its secrets.
My inquiry wasn't a game of "gotcha!" I wasn't looking for a sensational expose, but a genuine understanding. An insider perspective to balance the stories and concerns I've heard from the Rohingya, from activists, from my own research. A chance for the NSI to tell their side of the story.
The questions were straightforward: the NSI's role, their unique contributions, their mission statement. I wanted to learn about their strategies to maintain order, address allegations, foster trust. Was there any truth to the rumours about the NSI's involvement in organising protests? How did they balance security duties with humanitarian missions? How were they ensuring transparency, accountability? And, of course, the nature of their relationship with the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner's office (RRRC).
All I got in return was silence. Not even a polite refusal, let alone an attempt to dodge or deflect the questions, which would have been understandable. It was like tossing a stone into a dark, still pond and waiting for the ripples that never come.
This does make one curious, does it not? It leaves you with more questions than answers, wondering about the inner workings of an entity that looms large over one of the most critical human rights issues of our time.
When an agency like the NSI becomes more elusive than accessible, it's difficult not to speculate, to wonder, to ask even more questions. But for now, these questions remain unanswered, suspended in a limbo of uncertainty. And as the world keeps revolving, the situation for the Rohingya continues to hang in the balance, much like my unanswered questions.
If the Deputy Director happens upon this post, I have a few reminders for him. You see, it's crucial not to forget that the Rohingya refugees, Bangladesh’s guests, deserve more than just a roof over their heads. They are owed answers, transparency, and respect for their rights. Yes, Bangladesh is a state that has survived genocide and it responded with humanity to the atrocities unleashed by the Myanmar military by opening its borders and hearts. But Mr. Deputy Director, this offer of refuge should not be a license for denying or diminishing the Rohingyas' right to question, to seek truth. While Bangladesh has provided shelter, it is high time that it also upholds their dignity and humanity. Your silence does not drown out Rohingya voices; instead, it inadvertently amplifies them, demanding attention. But it risks tarnishing the humanity of Bangladesh’s citizens in the process.
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