164th HL Newsletter Nov.-Dec.,2009

  Hotline Newsletter

(Bi-monthly Newsletter)

164th Issue                                                                                                            Dec.’09-Jan.’10

Editorial

 The Attorney General Mahbubey Alam stated on Nov. 18th and 19th that the High Court had passed orders on more than 700 bail petitions, granting bail to over 700 persons, mostly convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for different terms. Forty of them had been sentenced to life imprisonment by the lower courts in 90 criminal cases. Alam’s office will appeal to the Supreme Court to reverse these orders of the HC, giving liberal bail even to life-term prisoners.

Baby Politics in Bangladesh

When I was young we used to call “babies” those who insisted on having their own way, and their own say, even in the most trivial matters. Petulant, panting, persevering, they were not happy unless others gave in to them. There was no room for compromise of any kind.

 Today we see the same kind of behaviour, only it is seen at the highest and most mature levels, not at the age and mentality of babyhood. It is a term that should be revived in our own time for the policy of “baby politics.” Baby politics is the perfect expression for the reigning party who insists on using their power to show the opposition in Parliament that they are the defeated party and therefore justly deserve to be put to shame. Baby politics is also the perfect term for the opposition, who refrain from joining Parliament for months or years at a time for the most irrelevant matters, completely ignoring the basic and primary purpose for which they have been elected – to represent their constituency in one of the most august bodies of the land, the national parliament. Despite abstaining from the parliament the opposition is collecting their monthly salary regularly.

 The first point of controversy in the first session of parliament seemed to be one which was the most trivial and ridiculous possible, the grabbing of the maximum number of front seats in parliament, as if their main purpose was to be able to show up the clearest on TV. The opposition has now given up on that demand, but substituted ten others in its place! 

 At the time Hotline Newsletter wrote in an editorial that government could well afford to be generous in awarding a disproportionate number of front row seats in order that the fundamental instrument of democracy could function the way it should (even though in the British Parliament the opposition are the “back-benchers” – an “evolutionary lag” from an age long past). But the more the opposition demanded, the more the reigning party opposed.

 The second and more serious point of contention was over the Speaker of the House. From past experience there is good ground to fear that virtual control of parliament can be exercised by the Speaker in debates over hot issues. The ruling party offered a Deputy Speaker to the opposition but the offer came too late to do away with the hardened petulances of baby politics.

 The opposition is now going on its own way of complete negation (but paid for by the people).It has the nerve to make the most outlandish statements and demands. Such as the BNP Secretary General Khondaker Delwar Hossain stating that the government in power has been a complete failure in every sector in its first year of power, despite a Nielsen opinion poll showing a far higher rating for Hasina than for Khaleda. After her return from India both he and Khaleda Zia declared that Hasina’s visit was a total failure. Khaleda alleged without evidence that she signed “a secret security deal. They must have studied Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda to learn the efficacy of “The Big Lie.” Failing to convince the public, the party policy-makers planned for street agitation, one of the last resorts of “baby politics.”

 Far more is it a display of the baby politics of envy than of intelligent statesmanship. Another example is the former prime minister demanding that all legal cases so meticulously prepared by the Anti-corruption Commission during the caretaker government be dismissed against her son so that he can return in triumph and take over the running of her tottering party. It amounts to calling these people, who have sacrificed so much to try to create a corruption-free society so that the country could take its pride of place in the world, liars and cheaters. The problems of the country will never be solved by peevish and childish politicking, so the sooner it is permanently renounced the better for the country and all its citizens.

 Instead of responding to the overtures of the Awami League to rejoin Parliament the BNP is demanding eleven pre-conditions for rejoining, as if it was the party who won the elections, as if it was fulfilling its function in Parliament instead of coming only the minimum time (one day in 90) to get all its salaries and perquisites. The people who voted for them might also like such a cushy job of pay without work. Dictatorship is not only a baby policy but a Big Baby policy. It wants its say but not by arguing for it rationally and democratically.

  BNP’s 11 demands for returning to Parliament include only two important ones: dropping all cases against Khaleda and her son Tarique and the case for leaving the cantonment, in other words, putting themselves above the law (like babies are not subject to the law because they

have no power of reasoning).

 At Sheikh Hasina’s departure for an official visit to India Khaleda Zia wish her tour’s success, but said she should get India’s “yes” for Khaleda’s interpretation of all important issues like water sharing, maritime boundary, trade and market extension for Bangladeshi products and permission for Bangladesh TV channels in India. It sounds like she is wishing Hasina an awful downfall when she fails to uphold “the expectation and aspiration of the people” by not dominating over India in all matters. Is the kind of enlightened opposition the people want? ###

Hired goons cut trees galore

 About 5,000 trees were cut down by some 300 hired goons in about 20 acres of the forest belt along the Sonacchari coast in Sitakunda Upazila the night of Nov. 29. The goons were guided by some local influential people who want to set up ship-breaking in the cleared area. The same people on Juy 3, 2009 had stripped 40 acres of coastal area of mangrove trees. DS 01.12.09

  The Daily Star had a report on Nov. 25 how forest officials of hired goons are depleting the Kalenga and conjoined Rema rainforests, the biggest and most beautiful of the country. Another reporter checked on the remote area the day after Eid and found that the culprits had been searching out those who had helped the previous reporters in drawing up their report to beat them up. DS 03.12.09

Atty. Gen. Challenges HC bail

Root cause of CHT conflict is land

  Twelve years after the signing of the CHT peace pact, disputes over land, the root cause of the conflict and crisis, still remain. That is because nothing has been done to settle them. The Land Commission did not hear a single land case. in its entire existence and recently it had announced that it cannot judge any cases until the land survey is completed. The land survey, in turn, contends that it cannot mark out the land until all the disputes are settled. [This is like the famous dilemma of the two jackasses with a bale of hay between them.] Many pieces of land are claimed (with supporting legal papers) by both a tribal and a Bengali settler. After 12 years of patient waiting the main obstacle still seems to be a lack of political will on the part of successive governments to carry out the provisions of the Peace Treaty. How long do the tribal people have to wait for peace?

Tareque and Koko sued (again)

  Government has filed a case on Dec. 2 againstg Tarique Rahman and Arafat Rahman and Koko and Giasuddin Mamum of Messrs. Rahman Shipping Ltd. in connection with the capsize of a launch owned by their company with the loss of at least 87 lives. Twelve others were also implicated. The case brought allegations of gross overloading, negligence in duty, boarding of passengers at unauthorised places and reckless endangerment of lives. The launch was on the way to Bhola, carrying about 2,000 passengers (with a capacity of 460) who were going home for Eid. After a big quarrel over fares at Nazirpur terminal on the Tentulia River the launch crew locked the exit gate and refused to moor at the terminal. A stampede to climb out on one side of the launch caused the boat to sink.

Drive against underage drivers

 It is claimed that 28 road accidents occur in Dhaka every day and underage drivers of public transport are mostly responsible. The Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) began a drive Dec. 4 and arrested 14 underage drivers at the wheel the first day. On the same day they arrested 135 drivers for holding fake driver licenses. Later the DMP will take steps against the employers.The DMP Commissioner said: “Over 70 percent drivers of public vehicles carry fake licences in the capital and they are the most irresponsible and inefficient.” He himself nearly fell victim to an underage driver on Dec. 21.

Tarique made senior vice-chair

  On Dec. 8 the BNP national council elected Tarique Rahman, Khaled Zia’s eldest son, as senior vice- chair in an apparent move to prepare his way as party chair. The council, contrary to the party charter, empowered Khaleda to select all other officer bearers and members for national executive and standing committees herself (251for the executive committee and 19 members of the standing committee. The district councils, which had been pushing for more autonomy in the selection of local party leaders, were left out in the cold completely. The large section of the party who were pursing for reform also lost out.

  Tarique sent a message that he still had to decide about taking part in the party’s activities. On Sept.11, 2008 he was allowed to leave the country with his wife and daughter for London for health treatment. At that time he said he was retiring from active politics.

  In his recorded message he stated: “I can’t know why I was punished without committing any crime. I don’t know why a massive propaganda was carried out against me at home and abroad.”

  On Dec.21 Govt. initiated withdrawal (for the first time) of an extortion case against Tarique on the grounds that it was “politically motivated.” That leaves only 12 other cases for Tarique to face – seven for extortion, four for corruption and one for tax evasion.

AHRC & Human Rights Day

  The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) urges the nation to wake up to the occasion of Human Rights Day. Current government has pledged to establish the rule of law, to put an end to the practice of extrajudicial killings and of bringing the perpetrators to justice. The government has guaranteed the UN a ‘zero tolerance’ to extrajudicial killings and restoring human rights to common people. Now is the time for the government to act. It must come out with specific plans of action to implement the pledges. The Government should not “observe” the Human Rights Day with “messages” of political rhetoric if they are honest to their pledge of bringing “change” in Bangladesh. The government should initiate a systemic and systematic overhaul of the criminal justice mechanism. Doing away with the impunity offered to the security forces for their human rights violations will be the first step towards that. And the government can do this by enacting the Torture and Custodial Deaths (Prohibition) Bill 2009. The government must also ensure an immediate restoration of right to free speech to all the citizens, as in absence of this right any act will fail to work effectively for the lack of complaints.

  Human rights day should also lead to rethink within the civil society organisations. They should try inculcating a human rights mindset with a commitment to the cause of defending rights of people, overriding any rifts with fellow organisations. They should work as the eye and the ear of the people in bringing issues to light, in mobilising people to fight for their rights and also in evolving a system by which the perpetrators of human rights violation can be brought to book and prosecuted. The works and thoughts related to human rights should focus the ordinary people’s day to day’s real problems that ruin their hopes and destroy the trust in the rule of law institutions, as human beings.

HRC wants independent probe

The National Human Rights Commission stated on Dec. 10, Human Rights Day, that it wants an independent probe into the allegations of extra-judicial executions. The Law Minister assured that Govt. will appoint five more members within a month. There were only three members, of whom two resigned, and there are only nine staff members. The Commission had issued letters to the authorities in late October about the killing of one Bappy but received no reply. DS 11.12.09

Judiciary upset by killings

 Supreme Court Justice Nazrul Islam Choudhury, speaking as chief guest at a national advocacy meeting on Dec. 19 stated that the process of police remand and extra-judicial killings “are two disturbing factors for the judiciary, and it is suicidal for the society, the nation and the country (sic) to leave with the law enforcement agencies to decide who should be killed on criminal charges….Extra-judicial killing must be stopped,” he said, adding that the apex court judges have to take an oath to protect and preserve fundamental rights of the citizens.”

HC gets ‘crossfire’ record

 At a High Court held a hearing on Dec. 14 on its suo moto ruling on extra-judicial killings in custody. BLAST (Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services and Trust and ASK (Ain-o-Salish Kendra) presented evidence before the court of 1,057 such deaths since the formation of RAB. They are fighting a legal battle to put an end to such killings, which Govt. vehemently denies are taking place. They enquired into 20 incidents, including the deaths of the two brothers killed in Madaripur, which Govt. had told the HC on Dec. 9, in answer to its ruling, were not extra-judicial murders. The Deputy Attorney General told the HC that investigation of the case was going on and that it would be obstructed if the HC passed any order.

 The HC expressed grave concern that 11 killings had occurred since it issued its suo moto ruling on Nov. 17. It called on the attorney general to convey its concern to the RAB director general and to take steps that no killings in custody take place before the next hearing on Jan. 9.

River grabbing continues

 The DC of Gazipur on Dec. 13 submitted a report to the High Court on encroachment, earth-filling and building of illegal structures which are continuing at different places of the Buriganga, Turag and Balu rivers, defying the HC orders. People are also dumping sewage into the water and increasing its pollution. Govt. had ordered the district authorities to take action to stop the illegal activities and report by Nov. 30. The Gazipur DC informed the HC of the actions they were taking to stop the illegal actions.

  Survey reports from four DCs say that over 8,000 land grabbers have occupied areas of four rivers around the capital. Only the Narayanganj Dt. administration mentioned that 1,158 acres had been lost, according to the Cadastral Survey records.

17 years jail for US Bangladeshi

  A US citizen of Bangladesh origin, Ehsanul Islam Sadequi, was sentenced to 17 years in jail for plotting to aid terrorists by filming landmark sites and sending them to a contact abroad. His friend Syed Haris Ahmed of Pakistan origin was given 13 years and 30 years supervised release on the same charges. Sadequi was arrested in Dhaka in 2006 and secretly sent out of the country. His wife made out a writ petition to the HC challenging the legality of her husband’s arrest and handing over to the FBI, since he was deported without any visa or extradition treaty. DS 16.12.09

Mugging by police stopped

  Pedestrians caught an ASI (Asst. Sub-inspector of police) Mainul Islam and two other police of Paltan P.S. trying to snatch Tk 16.5 lakh from two employees of a mobile phone shop in the Paltan area on Dec. 15. Other members of their gang escaped. The employees had withdrawn the money from a bank in Motijhil. The ASI claimed that they had stopped the two because they did not return money taken from his brother for sending him abroad. The Police Commissioner called for an investigation.

Beaten woman dies

 A severely-beaten woman, Sahana Begum (48) of Village Hizla Kanargaon, Keraniganj died on Dec. 16 after 19 days in a hospital. A manpower agent of a neighbouring village, Iqbal, and his gang of eight cadres bet her mercilessly when she stood up for her son Selim. He was trying to recover Tk 6.5 lakh from the agent for failure to send him to Italy. He had given Tk 9.5 lakh in 2008 to send him within 40 days of getting the money. On failure Iqbal returned Tk 3 lakh only. Some locals were pressuring Iqbal to return the rest of the money when he and his gang attacked the mother and son. A case was filed the same day but by the end of December the MP and his gang still had not been arrested by the police.

Extortion at bus counters

Local gangs of goons demand daily payments from bus personnel of about 80 bus companies running about 3,000 buses on streets of the capital daily. They extract the extortion by posing as transport unions or owners’ associations or members of the ruling party. Several attacks have been made on bus counters which did not pay the tolls. Officials of various companies complained that they had to pay Tk 250-300 per bus daily to the extortionists. DS 19.12.09

Mujib verdict released

 In its report of the Bangabondhu murder case the Supreme Court strongly criticised the actions of governments after the assassination for barring the trial of the heinous crime and even promoting the killers to higher or diplomatic posts. The court termed the killing of Sheikh Mujib and most of his family members as a great crime against humanity and civilisation. The killers were found by the court to be in full knowledge of the consequences of their act and therefore deserved no sympathy in getting the death sentence.

Tongi industries to be sued

 A team led by the Director of the Department of Environment on Dec. 21 initiated filing cases against industries in Tongi and Konabari that are illegally discharging untreated industrial wastes. One effluent treatment plant (ETP) of an industry (Orbit Processing Mills Ltd.) was found inoperative, while another one (Pacific Fibre Corporation) was running without any ETP ar all.

Students riot over bus fare

 Bus counter employees of Superbahan at Shahbagh after a row over bus fare with Dhaka University students stabbed one of them around 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 22. A group of 15-20 DU  students then vandalised several ticket counters and damaged at least 30 vehicles in the area, injuring at least 10 people. The bus employees said the trouble began on Dec. 20 when some students demanded and got under pressure Tk 20,000 from a bus owner, on whose bus a pickpocket is said to have taken that amount from a student. On Dec. 22 some students attempted to travel without a ticket, precipitating the violence. DS 23.11.09

“Eye for an eye” in Pak court

A court in Lahore ordered that two brothers who cut off the ears and nose of a woman who had refused marriage with one of them should get the same treatment. This was said to be in accordance with the Islamic principle of “an eye for an eye.” [It actually comes many centuries earlier in the Code of Hammurabi and in the Old Testament of the Bible. In the New Testament Jesus Christ repudiated it as a law of revenge, which was superseded by his commandment of love of neighbour.]

World Day of Peace (Jan. 1)

 “At the beginning of this New Year, I wish to offer heartfelt greetings of peace to all Christian communities, international leaders, and people of good will throughout the world. For this XLIII World Day of Peace I have chosen the theme: If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation.     Respect for creation is of immense consequence, not least because “creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God’s works”, and its preservation has now become essential for the pacific co-existence of mankind. Man’s inhumanity to man has given rise to numerous threats to peace and to authentic and integral human development – wars, international and regional conflicts, acts of terrorism, and violations of human rights. Yet no less troubling are the threats arising from the neglect – if not downright misuse – of the earth and the natural goods that God has given us. For this reason, it is imperative that mankind renew and strengthen “that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying”. (Pope Benedict XVI)

False currency factory busted

 A factory for making forged local money was busted by a RAB team on Dec. 30 at Faidabad Madhyapara, Dhaka.The team recovered chemicals and equipment for printing fake notes. They arrested Jahirul Islam (27) and his wife Ayesha Aktar (25), who had been doing this work for the past 18 months. Many forgers are at work because the technology is fairly simple and they easily convert 100 taka notes to 500 taka ones. The Bangladesh Bank has recorded almost 4,000 cases of forged notes but banks do not file regularly because they have to spend time and money and endure police hassles in filing cases. Even the speedy trial court has received no cases in the past year. DS 31.12.09

Grabbing of temple land

 Party men of Awami League MP Omar Faruk Chowdhury, general secretary of Rajshahi Dt. AL, took over about 25 bighas of debottor land (endowed land of Radha Govinda and Durga Temple at Soharapara, Godagari Upazila, Rajshahi Dt.). They forced Anil Ghosh, custodian of the temple since Govt. appointed him in 1955, to leave the village. The MP loyalists claimed that Anil and his family had neglected the temple, so they appointed an MP follower, Sanjit Kumar Ghosh, as custodian. They employed 50 workers to harvest the rice and on Dec. 5 announced their control over the land and temple. Anil and his son tried to file a case but the police refused to record it, they said. DS 01.01.10

SC hears stay pleas on Jan. 18

  The Supreme Court met on Jan. 18 to hear two petitions to reinstate a stay order on the HC verdict declaring the 5th consitutional amendment illegal. Two other leave-to-appeal petitions filed last year on May 4 challenging the HC decision will also be heard, following the lifting on Jan.3 by the SC of the four-year old stay order on the HC verdict.

 Sheikh Hasina, president of the AL and chief of the 14-party alliance, had told a 14-party leaders’ meeting on Jan. 5 that the “Bismillah” clause in the Preamble to the Constitution and Islam as State Religion (8th amendment) would remain. This, even if the HC verdict against the 5th amendment stands. [At first sight this might seem to contradict the spirit of secularism, which the AL hopes to restore. [But “what’s i’ a name?” As Humpty Dumty says: “A word means what I want it to mean.”]

Shipbreaking workers’ peril

 In 2009 at least 24 shipbreaking workers lost their lives while shipbreaking. During October-December 16 workers – including five on Oct.8, three on Oct. 13 and another on Oct. 15 – were killed in separate accidents in the ship-breaking yards.

The last terrible accident took place at the Rahim Steel and Ship Breaking Co. Dec.26, when the workers were dismantling the ship. The yard is owned by Alhaj Abdur Rahim. Four workers were killed on the spot, three died later and at least 15 were critically injured after a gas cylinder exploded in the scrapped ship.

 Workers toil at the shipyard without any safety gears and handle toxic substances with bare hands. They neither have any job contract nor health insurance. Apart from failure to ensure the rights of workers, ship-breakers are also ignoring environ-mental laws. Some 30,000-40,000 workers, mostly aged between 18 and 30 years, are engaged in ship-breaking at Sitakunda, which houses the world’s second largest ship-breaking industry after China. The government earns about Tk 9 billion in revenue per year from the ship-breaking yards and the industry meets at least 85 per cent of the country’s total demand for iron. NLC Report

River cleanup launched

 The excavation of up to one metre from the middle of the riverbed of the Burganga at Badamtoli near Sadarghat launch terminal on a pilot basis began on Jan. 6 with much fanfare. A colorful boat procession of people chanting slogans accom-panied the inauguration by the Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan.

 At the same time, nothing has been planned for stopping the daily dumping of huge amounts of garbage, rubbish and chemicals into the river – from fruit and vegetable markets, business establishments, small factories and residences.

 After three days of dredging there were nine rubbish-filled barges waiting for the water transport authority to find a dumping site. The City Corporation turned them down, since its site would be filled in no time. It then sought environmental clearance to dump on the Turag River shore.

AL warns BCL over violence use

 The PM ordered top police officials (again) to take tough action against student violence in the name of student politics. Ministers and top AL leaders want stern action against their own student wing (BCL) for giving them a bad name.

 On Jan. 7 Sunny, a leader of the Student Friendship group of Rajshahi Polytechnic Institute, was killed in an attack by the BCL to gain supremacy on campus. Fourteen were injured. The Rajshahi city unit of the BCL expelled eight BCL culprits. Despite a police warning of the attack (a bomb had gone off in a BCL dorm three days earlier), the AL authorities failed to restrain their student wing.

Tender documents snatched

 The tender documents of two companies for a power transformer were seized by criminals on Jan. 6 and they beat up the company officials. The Dhaka Power Distribution Company in an emergency cancelled the tender for a work order worth Tk 65 lakh to repair and maintain transformers for one year. DS 07.01.10

57 prisons without doctors

 Throughout the country 57 of 67 jails are without doctors. Convicts with rigorous imprisonment are given the job of nursing patients, since no jail has a nurse. In July 2007 the Directorate of Prisons asked for 58 more doctors to join the 19 doctors working in 16 jails. But no nurse was requested. However, no new doctors were posted, rather some have left. At present there are only 13 doctors for about 90,000 prisoners. DS 16.01.2010

BCL-Shibir clashes on 3 campuses

  The Chhatra League and Islami Chhatra contested with each other at three colleges at the time of welcoming freshmen to admission. The main college was Daulatpur Govt. University College. Six of the injured, including two critically, were admitted to Khulna Medical College Hospital. BCL later besieged the college administrative building, demanding expulsion of Shibir men from the college and dorms. The college was closed sine die.

  At least 30 leaders of the BCL and Shibir were injured in a clash at Meherpur where they were receiving aspiring students for the Mehepur Govt. College. The Chhatra League ransacked and set fire to the district office of the Jamaat-i-Islami, parent organization of the Shibbir, and declared it “banned.”

  In Dinajpur eight students were injured in like clashes at Dinajpur Govt. College. The Shibir had brought out a prohibited procession and the Chhatra League hindered them and ransacked at least 34 rooms of two dorms controlled by the Shibir. DS 16.01.10

Single families to get benefits

 Health minister AFM Ruhul Haque told Parliament on Jan. 17 that to control population growth the Govt. plans to give various facilities to parents who have only one child. He said further that Govt. is planning to make “two-child policy” a condition for getting jobs in family planning.

Several beaten, four to death

 Three robbers of a gang were caught by a mob of villagers in Kaitala Village of Nabinagar Upazila, Brahmanbaria on Jan. 15. Police were informed that an armed gang was preparing to commit robbery at night. The gang fired five rounds and the police responded with 12 rounds of blanks. The gang ran away but three were nabbed and beaten to death.

 On Jan. 14th night, villagers of Ketua Village, Chandpur beat up a group of youths when they were returning home about 9 p.m., including a journalist, on suspicion of robbery. Police rescued the victims and held them for safety at Chandpur Model Police Station.

 In Dhaka on the night of Jan. 16 a day labourer Md. Zahir (28) had a quarrel while playing carom with a youth and a gang of three criminals took him and beat him to death about an hour later.

12 Shibbir held with arms

 Police arrested 12 Shibbir activists on Jan. 18 in Mistiripara, Chittagong and recovered arms and bomb-making naterials from their mess. There were four pistols and ammo, bomb-making materials, half a kilo of gunpowder and some jihadi books. Police filed a case against the 12.

JCD fight selves at DU

 JCD (student arm of BNP) men clashed among themselves over places in their new central committee at Dhaka University on Jan. 18. At least 25 were injured, including a proctor, the JCD chief and four police. The JCD fired some 50 rounds of bullets and exploded 20 hand-made bombs. They openly carried weapons in front of campus police. The JCD blamed the Chattra League for the fighting and announced a two-day strike.

 The night of the clashes Shahbagh police filed a case against eight JCD leaders and some 300 unknown people who disrupted the university’s academic atmosphere. Khaleda Zia claimed that the Awami League had tortured BNP leaders in the past and were doing the same now.

Aftermath of DU violence

 Because of lack of action to stop the violence and seize firearms on the part of officials on duty during the campus violence at DU on Jan. 18, the police high command launched a drive on Jan. 19 against armed cadres. They identified from photos 20 who carried firearms and sharp weapons openly and began hunting them down.

 The strike call to protest the injustice to the JCD President disrupted classes but did not stop examinations.

Grabbed canals, lands to be reclaimed

 In reply to two questions in Partliament on Jan. 18 about two canals that have been grabbed in Dhaka and structures built on them illegally, the State Minister for LRGD said that Govt. has already begun recovering all grabbed canals and khas land throughout the country. He stated: “We will recover those no matter how influential the grabbers are.” He blamed the BNP-Jamaat-led government’s rule for grabbing canals. DS 19.01.10

Crackdown on brickfields

 A mobile court on Jan. 19 fined 11 brickfield owners in Ghatail Upazila, Tangail, for using firewood to burn bricks and for running their brick-field without license. A team led by a magistrate fined the owners from Tk 30,000 to 50,000 each and confiscated 7240 cft of firewood.

411 more cases “motivated”

 A government-sponsored committee on Jan. 19 recommended that 411 cases be withdrawn as “politically motivated.” Up to now, the committee has called for dropping 2,380 cases by the past caretaker government, while 448 were rejected.

Tribal HR leader badly beaten

  Sanjeeb Drong, Secretary General of the Indigenous People’s Forum and prominent writer, was attacked on Jan. 22 by a group of hooligans at Ranikhong area while he was returning at midnight with his wife Mitali Chisim of Birishiri from a meeting at Ranikhong Catholic Mission under Susong Durgapur Upazilla in Netrokona District by motor-bike. The miscreants badly damaged his motor-bike and hit him hard with sticks indiscriminately. He sustained injuries on his hands.

  The 10-12 miscreants include one person belong to Garo community. Two miscreants were identified as Supen Toju (Garo) and Krishna Saha (Bengali).

  A case was filed with the Susong Gurgapur police station. A political leader is suspected whom Sanjeeb condemned in public for corruption in selling a piece of .land for Tk 7.5 crore that was given by Govt. for the cultural protection of seven ethnic minorities. Sanjeeb has been working on human rights for down-trodden people and indigenous peoples in particular. He has represented them in national and international forua, including the United Nations and its specialized agencies for indigenous peoples. Drong takes part in all the indigenous meetings, rallies, movements and gatherings. He gives input talks as resource person for seminars and meetings.

Rapist free, victim whipped

  A 16-year old girl was raped eight months ago at Kharegor, Kasba Upazila, Brahamanbaria but hid it out of shame. She was married but after a month she was shown to be seven months pregnant. Her baby was aborted and she had to live at her father’s home. A village court found her guilty and on Jan. 17 gave her 101 lashes as punishment, according to their illegal fatwa. The rapist was let off scot-free. The court fined the father of the victim Tk 1,000 and if he did not pay he would be forced into isolation. DS 24.01.10

Students again on rampage

 After two, including a student of Chittagong Polytechnic Institute, were killed and three injured in a road accident at Jahruar Dighipar on Jan. 25 students went on a rampage, vandalized ab0out 40 vehicles and fought with police, in which eight police were injured. The accident occurred when the driver overturned his bus trying to prevent hitting a rickshaw.

 In another accident in Dinajpur students of Pachbari School and College barricaded the Dinajpur-Bogra Highway for four hours after two fellow students were killed.  After killing the students the bus hit several trees and fell in a ditch, injuring 30 passengers, of whom five were in critical condition.

Eve-teased girls commit suicide

 Nashifa Akand Pinky, a minor girl, commited suicide on Jan. 18, leaving a note that Murad had eve-teased her many times and slapped her face. Shamed by the humiliation she returned home and immediately committed suicide. Murad was arrested Jan. 23 and taken to Dhaka, where he claimed that the slap was not “an act of teasing but an emotional expression of his love!” He claimed he had photos of her and a record of his cell phone calls to her, but her uncle said that she had no cell phone. Murad’s mother went to the police and said she had no cell phone or memory card for storing photos.

 On Jan. 27 Pinky’s family held a press conference, appealing for police protection against many threatening phone calls and public taunting by Murad’s friends. Two nephews of the uncle stopped going to school because they cannot face the taunts. He said that some newspapers are publishing accounts of her alleged affairs with Murad.

 A first-year student of Bikrampur Tongibari College, Munshiganj, Ruma Akter, hanged herself out of humiliation on Jan. 25 after being teased by Rajib (25) on her way to and from the college. When she told her family, Rajib became angry and prepared a false marriage document and circulated the false news with the help of friends. An area resident said Rajib with the aid of an influential quarter is trying to use the document to get out of his crime.The police superintendent said they are trying to arrest Rajib and ensure a fair trial for the incident. DS 28.01.2010

Grabbed land in Gazipur

 A list of about 100 acres of land grabbed in Gazipur was placed before Parliament Jan. 21 by the State Minister for Environment, Hasan Mahmud. The actual amount of land grabbed, both by 47 individuals and 22 organisations, is over 11,700 acres. The minister stated that Govt. has already taken steps for filing cases to recover the land.

Speedy death for Mujib killers

 The petitions for review of the death sentences of the five convicted killers of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were heard by the Supreme Court on Jan. 27 and dismissed. The court confirmed the capital punishment awarded to the 12 former army officers, including the five petitioners, on Nov. 19, 2008. They were to be executed before Jan .31. The five were hanged shortly after midnight on Jan. 28 in Dhaka Central Jail amid tight security. They were handcuffed and wore black hoods over their heads. It had taken more than 34 years to bring justice for the heinous murder of the first president and founder of the country.

BCL “active” everywhere

  Dinajpur College, which had been closed for 12 days following a BCL-Shibbir clash, was again closed on Jan. 27 sine die. The BCL students went on a rampage and took the principal to an unknown location, where he was rescued by the police. They ransacked his office room and damaged chairs, tables and window panes. They were protesting against the principal for allowing Shibbir students to reside at Muslim Hostel, which the BCL students had taken over the night the college reopened. College authorities had forced them to vacate the hall.

  The principal of the college Dr. Alauddin Miah, after meeting with the academic council filed a case against the president and joint secretary of the BCL, Imran Latif Shetu and Itrat Latif Iran, and a former student of the college, Pervez Alam Khan Galib. The first two are charged with kidnapping the principal by taking him forcibly on a motorbike to an unknown place where he was confined for 15 minutes. The three are charged with rampaging on the campus and ransacking the principal’s office with 25-30 others under the leadership of Shetu.

RMG workers on rampage

  A garment worker Sujan Miah (24) was crushed to death by a bus which was recklessly overtaking a stationary bus on the wrong side on the Dhaka-Gazipur highway. Three more were injured as the driver tried to drive the bus away. The bus was burned and as the news spread angry workers surged out and set ablaze 15 buses and damaged 50 more. The highway was shut to traffic for three hours and almost 100 factories had to work on half-production only.

Dowry deaths still rife

  A housewife of Narayanganj, Jannatul Ferdousi Jenny (18) was strangled on Jan. 25, allegedly by her in-laws, who are in hiding. She was married a year ago and her father says he gave ten tolas of gold ornaments and Tk 4 lakh to her husband, Badiuzzaman Badsha. But after a few days the in-laws began torturing her physically and mentally for more dowry. The OC of the police station said there were injury marks on different parts of the body, including the neck.

  A Panchagarj court on Jan. 26 sentenced five men to life imprisonment and fined them Tk 10,000 each for the murder of a housewife, Nargis Begum of Shingpara, Boda Upazila, Panchagarh Dt. on May 14, 2008. After 25 years of marriage her husband Delwar wanted to marry a girl who returned from Kuwait, but she vehemently re-fused to give her permission. He and his relatives therefore strangled Nargis.  Three others were acquitted.

  In Nilphamari a court on Jan. 26 sentenced Javed Ali to life imprisonment and fined him Tk 5,000 for killing his wife. He often used to torture his wife, sometimes for dowry. On Jan. 030, 2009 hanged the dead body from the rooftop to simulate suicide, but the maternal uncle of the victim accused him of murder. DS 27.01.2010

BCL arrest led to road barricade

 On Jan. 28 the BCL unit of the Islamic University and local supporters barricaded the Kushtia-Khulna highway for two hours to protest the arrest of BCL activist Ali Murtaza Khasru. Ten people were injured, including two journalists. Police arrested Khasru on a tip-off that he was planning to create anarchy on campus before the council of the BCL was held. Examinations and classes were postponed. Khasru was under suspicion last year of keeping firearms in his hall.  DS 29.01.10

Published by Rosaline Costa for Hotline Human Rights Bangladesh

Box-5, Dhaka-1000, Bangladesh

Phone: +9352149, E-mail: costa_rosie@yahoo.com, Web: www.hotlinebd.org

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