‘Go back NTPC, get out India’
rahnuma ahmed

Dhaka, Bangladesh, August 20, 2016. ? Taslima Akhter
Dhaka, Bangladesh, August 20, 2016. ? Taslima Akhter

Of all the slogans raised in protest against the coal power plant being built at Rampal in Bagerhat, this one’s the best. Continue reading “RESISTING RAMPAL”

Government?s self-publicity with public money

by ?Taj Hashmi in The Daily Star

The Daily Star
It is time to protest the ruling Awami League?s self-publicity through billboards at a staggering cost of more than Tk.3 crore (one senior minister would possibly say taxpayers? Tk.3 crore is ?rubbish? as he ?rubbished? the 4,000 crore stolen by Hall-Mark). I am really shocked and saddened by the government?s overwhelming ?billboard campaign? ? whose impact will be grossly under-whelming though ? and the deafening silence of our civil society, intellectuals, politicians and youths over this scandalous act of the ruling party. The removal of commercial billboards to the detriment of commercial firms by the government is also shockingly unwarranted.

Billboards extolling the virtues of Awami League.  Rokeya Sarani. Dhaka. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Billboards extolling the virtues of Awami League. Rokeya Sarani. Dhaka. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Continue reading “Government?s self-publicity with public money”

Playing ball with the Jamaat

The Jamaat?s worldview is antithetical to the kind of nation Bangladeshis have repeatedly wanted to build

By?Salil Tripathi?First Published in Live Mint:?Wed, Mar 13 2013

Bangladeshi police detain a supporter of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party during a protest in Dhaka. Photo: AFP
Bangladeshi police detain a supporter of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party during a protest in Dhaka. Photo: AFP
I write this column with some regret. As a college student, among the bylines I grew up admiring was that of S.N.M. Abdi, who was a young reporter in the late 1970s, and exposed one of the most horrendous examples of police brutality in post-independence India?the blinding of undertrial prisoners in Bhagalpur in Bihar. Some politicians defended that barbarism, saying the practice had ?social sanction?. But Abdi rightly focused on the atrocity, stirring the nation?s conscience, which was at that time still reeling from the effects of the emergency. Continue reading “Playing ball with the Jamaat”

Shahbag protesters versus the Butcher of Mirpur

?By Tahmina Anam, Guardian

Abdul Quader Mollah has finally been convicted of war crimes committed in Bangladesh in 1971. Now a huge popular protest in Dhaka’s Shahbag district is demanding the death penalty.

Shahbag protesters in Dhaka

The Shahbag protesters resemble a jubilant flash-mob. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
It all began with a victory sign. When Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary-general of?Bangladesh‘s?Jamaat-e-Islami?party, emerged from the supreme court on the afternoon of Tuesday 4?February, he turned to the press waiting outside, smiled, and made a victory sign. An odd reaction for a man just sentenced to life in prison.
Mollah smiled because for him, a man convicted of beheading a poet, raping an 11-year-old girl and shooting 344 people during the?1971 Bangladesh war of independence?? charges that have earned him the nickname the Butcher of Mirpur ??the life sentence came as a surprise. Earlier this month, a fellow accused, Abul Kalam Azad, who is reputed to have fled to?Pakistan,?was sentenced to death in absentia. Continue reading “Shahbag protesters versus the Butcher of Mirpur”

Reflections on Bengali motherhood and storytelling

By rahnuma ahmed

Zohra Begum, mother of Emdadul Haque; the latter has been identified from photographs and video footage as being one of the Bangladesh Chatra League activists who beat and hacked Biswajit Das, a tailor, to death on December 9, 2012 during a hartal called by the BNP.? bdnews24
Zohra Begum, mother of Emdadul Haque; the latter has been identified from photographs and video footage as being one of the Bangladesh Chatra League activists who beat and hacked Biswajit Das, a tailor, to death on December 9, 2012 during a hartal called by the BNP.? bdnews24

ALTHOUGH Bengali culture would have us believe otherwise, motherhood is not something — regarded by some as an instinct, by others, as a virtue — that is timeless and unchanging. It is social and historical. Continue reading “Reflections on Bengali motherhood and storytelling”

An ode to Biswajit

Freedom fighter at Suhrwardy Uddyan. 26th March 2012. Dhaka. Bangladesh. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

He stopped at every print. Getting close to scrutinise every character, pausing more at some that perhaps stirred a memory. He smiled broadly when I approached him. ?eto amar chobi tulsen? (it is me you?ve photographed) he said. This was his war. He remembered the pain the terror, the joy. He had never applied for registration. No card, no land, no perks. He had never been asked to speak at a dais extolling his glory. Victory being won, he had drifted out the way he had drifted in.

He was a Baul singer, living off the alms given by visitors to Suhrwardy Uddayan, where the deed of surrender had been signed on the 16th December 1971. He had no regrets for his lack of wealth, or for not having had his share of the spoils of war. It was our departure from the values that had driven him and his fellow muktijodhdhas (freedom fighters) that saddened him. He had a great love for Mujib, and felt we had let him down.

Continue reading “An ode to Biswajit”

Communal attacks in Ramu: of family feuds and corporate culture

by Rahnuma Ahmed 

SUPREME Court lawyer Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, 39, initiated a writ petition immediately after the violent attacks of September 29, 2012 when innumerable Buddhist monasteries, temples and houses in Ramu, Cox?s Bazar district, were set on fire, pillaged and looted by Bengali Muslim men, mostly youths. The attackers included both locals and outsiders, angered at the news that a picture defaming the Holy Qur?an had been discovered on a Buddhist youth Uttam Kumar Barua?s facebook account. Investigative reports reveal that the allegations against Uttam were manufactured since the picture had been tagged to his account; credible news reports also reveal that the attacks were pre-planned and pre-meditated, a view subscribed to by both the ruling party and the major opposition party, who, however, blame each other for the attacks.

Jyotirmoy Barua returned to Bangladesh last year after completing his Bar-at-Law; he lived in the UK for nearly nine years, partly financing his studies as karate instructor. He has filed the writ on the basis of being personally ?aggrieved? since he belongs to Ramu. It challenges the ?inaction? of the police; hearings have begun

The interview is based on transcripts of recorded conversations held with Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua on four different occasions totaling more than fifteen hours. I am grateful to him for having taken me into his confidence, for having gone through the draft and suggested modifications.
Continue reading “Communal attacks in Ramu: of family feuds and corporate culture”

UPDATE: MAY 07, 2012 Reclaiming Jahangirnagar from a ?godfather? VC

by rahnuma ahmed

Two faculty members, one speaking in support of the JU vice-chancellor, while the other's placard demands exemplary punishment of "terrorist" teachers, alluding to botany faculty members who had allegedly assaulted the departmental chairperson, an allegation which led to the prompt arrest and overnight detention of two teachers of the department, they were released on April 26 morning. Outside the VC's residence, May 1, 2012. ?Saydia Gulrukh

Jahangirnagar University Sangskritik Jote president Koli Mahmud, who was attacked by 'VC League' activists on April 28; besides a broken leg, Koli has deep gashes on his shoulders and back, doctors there say, the injuries speak of 'attempted murder.' He and other Jote activists had been rescued by Shikkhok Shomaj teachers who had rushed to the spot. Enam Medical College Hospital, Savar, May 1, 2012. ? Saydia Gulrukh

Four fast-unto-death students listen as striking compatriots sing protest songs in teacher-student seige outside main entrance to VC's residence. The Jahangirnagar Shangskritik Jote and Shontrasher Biruddhe Jahangirnagar's banner behind demands the resignation of the VC, for being authoritarian and providing protection to attackers of teachers and students. May 1, 2012. ? Saydia Gulrukh

The strike has been called off. Continue reading “UPDATE: MAY 07, 2012 Reclaiming Jahangirnagar from a ?godfather? VC”

March 12 Rally

We were, we are, we'll stay, was the slogan on recent Awami League posters. BNP haven't quite gotten to three generations yet, but the dynasty game is certainly one both parties want to play. ??Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The government was hell bent on preventing the opposition rally. Trains, buses and launches were all stopped. Ordinary passengers were beaten up and prevented from off loading at stations and ferrys. The police were out in full force in the city, checking on people to make sure they were not opposition supporters heading for the rally.
Continue reading “March 12 Rally”

That's not the way to do it

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Politics reverts to Punch-and-Judy type
Jun 10th 2010 | Dhaka
?THE chances of another coup in Bangladesh are close to zero,? says a former general in Bangladesh?s army. That sounds excellent. But the country?s ?rival queens??Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister, and Khaleda Zia, who were both jailed during an anti-corruption drive by an army-backed government in 2007-08?seem to see the soldiers? docility as an opportunity. The result is that, 18 months after Sheikh Hasina?s Awami League (AL) won a parliamentary election in a landslide, Bangladesh?s politics is back to normal: personal, vindictive and confrontational.
This week Mrs Zia?s opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) extended its boycott of parliament. She has called a nationwide hartal (protest strike) for June 27th to call for the government to step down. It will be the first hartal since democratic politics collapsed in late 2006 and will come only ten days after mayoral elections in Chittagong, the country?s second city, which the party is expected to lose.
Demoralised and in disarray, the BNP has just 30 seats in parliament, down from 193 in 2001. But where the BNP is concerned, the AL is conditioned to overreact. It has shut down an opposition-backed television channel. On June 2nd it also closed Amar Desh, a BNP-backed newspaper, and detained its editor, Mahmudur Rahman, one of Mrs Zia?s closest advisers. The BNP is livid, suspecting Sheikh Hasina of punishing Mr Rahman for publishing a story accusing her son of financial irregularities, and for his alleged role in the BNP?s efforts in late 2006 to rig a (subsequently aborted) parliamentary election.
It is as if the two-year military interregnum, during which most senior politicians were in the clink on charges of corruption, never happened. On May 30th Bangladesh?s judges dropped the last of 15 corruption cases against Sheikh Hasina. Four cases against Mrs Zia are proceeding. Aid donors are furious over government plans to make the Anti-Corruption Commission secure government approval before prosecuting officials.
Repeated pledges by Sheikh Hasina to end executions by police and paramilitary forces have come to nothing. The first 18 months of AL rule saw at least 190 extrajudicial killings (typically ?in crossfire?), according to the Asian Legal Resource Centre, a human-rights watchdog. This may be an obstacle to Bangladesh?s hopes of winning the presidency of the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2012.
Another headache is Bangladesh?s largest-ever trial?of thousands of members of the Border Guard Bangladesh, a paramilitary force formerly known as the Bangladesh Rifles, for their alleged role in a bloody mutiny in February 2009. The reasons behind the mutiny, in which more than 50 army officers died, may never been known. But, sure enough, the AL and BNP accuse each other of having had a hand in it. The government must be seen to punish the culprits to avoid damaging its relations with the army. That may mean mass executions. As it is, at least 48 border guards died in custody last year.
The army?s attempt to rid Bangladesh of its appalling leaders, or to shock them into better behaviour, has failed. But its intervention has disrupted, perhaps for ever, the regular rotation of power that has marked Bangladeshi politics since the advent of parliamentary democracy in 1991. For the first time since then, Bangladesh?s problems?poverty, energy shortages, terrorism and climate change?may not be enough to bring the opposition to power.
Mrs Zia must fear that she is the last in line in her political dynasty. Both her sons face charges of corruption. The eldest, Tarique, who is in exile in London, is seen by many Bangladeshis as the symbol of all that was wrong with the BNP?s previous, kleptocratic stint in power. Mrs Zia may reckon he could resuscitate the party if he returned from exile. But the opposition camp is split three ways, between those loyal to her, a reformist wing and former leaders who have now left the BNP. Reuniting them requires reconciliation, not one of Mrs Zia?s strong points. Meanwhile, the party?s ally, Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh?s biggest Islamic party, is in trouble. Almost all its leaders will stand trial for alleged war crimes during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
Some 70% of Bangladesh?s population of about 160m are under 35. Most have had enough of the politics of personal animosity. The two ladies? feud and obsession with the past have hobbled development for decades. But the habits of confrontation are hard to break. Some senior BNP leaders have advised Mrs Zia to replicate Thailand?s ?red shirt? movement and ?turn Dhaka into Bangkok?.