Nine years ago on this day, garment Union leader Aminul Islam was abducted from Ashulia and was found buried in a village cemetery in Tangail. I did the story as I was tipped off by her colleagues Kalpona Akter and Babul Akhter. His murder was brutal. Police said the abductors took him and broke his knees my hammering iron nails through the capella. And they hurriedly buried him in a village cemetery meant for the paupers.
Hillary Clinton came to Dhaka months later and spoke for the justice of Aminul. But Labour leaders said the case apparently went nowhere. There was no headway into the probe over who actually ordered the abduction and why they killed him so brutally. Aminul became a top garment grassroot leader working at the country’s main textile hub of Ashulia in the 2000s. And he played key roles in the two key nationwide wage protests in 2006 and 2010. Was his murder linked to these protests?
The bearded and ever smiling Aminul is largely forgotten. The West barely mentions his name in any of its rights advocacy. The collapse of the Rana Plaza, which killed 1,138 people, has made safety issue at the centre of the West’s concern over Bangladesh’s garment exports. Hundreds of factories have since allowed unions in their floors. But millions of new workers don’t know who Aminul was and what was his contribution to the industry.
Only a few people recall his name every April and they do know that Aminul was a brave-heart who single-handedly changed the face of labour activism in Bangladesh’s 35 billion dollars garment industry. His efforts saw the basic minimum garment wages rising from 950 taka to 1662.50 taka after the violent wage protests in 2006 and to 3,000 taka in 2010.
And today a garment worker earns a minimum 8,000 taka – – again largely because of Aminul as he sowed the seed of activism in the then notoriously unregulated industry and then showed how to win your rights from greedy manufacturers.