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”
By Arjun Janah
I wander off, from working life, to see and hear what’s new,
And here is what I find — which now is openly in view.
I see the people in two camps (though some are in-between)
And one of them is calling for an ending that’s obscene.
They’re calling for the cops to do what those for hire do best,
To beat up on the ones who dare, their binding chains, to test.
But since the ones who’re testing are these students, who are white,
Or women who are white as well, this gives the rest a fright.
For pepper spray and rods and boots, when used on those who’re darker
Or poorer may be quite okay — and safely out of sight,
Or even guns and bullets, used when we’re asleep at night,
But when it’s done in daylight, with reporters gathered near,
To those who’re lighter, richer — why, then some refuse to cheer,
Though others still approve — and only wish they’d done it sooner.
To both these camps, the other one is certifiably lunar!
And here’s what those in power are now thinking. Hear them say,
To others of their kind, “Let’s stop this wretched thing, today!
“For if some question, what was held for longest time as true,
Then what’s to save some other things from critical review?
We bomb the regions far away — and people burn in hells.
But see, there are no pictures and that story, no one tells.
But what to do when people rise up here, in this, our street,
Or merely sit — near places where we one-percenters meet?
They circumvent the ban on mikes by echoing together!
They point out things that no one did without the tar and feather!
They even give out food and books — and people pause to think…
They’re rodents! If not driven out, this ship of ours might sink!
So hear our drums of war and how we beat them, till at last
Our lust for blood is satisfied. But has the danger passed?
Oh no! These books they distribute, in public in the square,
Must now be gone! And so must those, who advocate we share!”
I wondered off, from working life, and this I saw and heard.
I wondered loud, if rich should share. But I was called a turd.
But here is what some others said, who came to my defense,
And what they said, to me at least, made somewhat better sense.
“Remember that the ones who lived, in this, our bounteous land,
Remembered those who came by ship, but did not understand
The land or cultures that were here. They were, by climate, beaten
And surely would have perished — as do all who haven’t eaten
The season long. But natives came — and gave, it’s said, of maize,
Of turkey and of other things. This did the saved amaze
And they gave thanks (as we still do) not to the ruddy “Indians”
But to their God, their Savior Christ, in these, their new “dominions”.
And natives gave them implements — and other things they needed,
For they were used to sharing all — and those, in trouble, heeded.
But when one needed something back, and asked, this raised a fever
On those who understood him not, and called him, “Indian giver!”
And so it’s been. They’re vanished now, the ones who knew to share…
But should, in turn, these folk depart — who now, to sharing, dare?
Babui / Arjun
2011 November 24th, Th. (Thanksgiving Day)
By Rahnuma Ahmed
When southern countries host international events, it has become de rigeur to punish poor people and beggars.
The Delhi government cleared the capital of beggars, particularly areas tourists were likely to visit during the Commonwealth Games (September 2010). The South African government displaced its poor black residents living near stadiums to shanty towns, `tin-can towns’ during the FIFA World Cup Finals (June 2010).
The Bangladesh government too, in preparation for the ICC Cricket World Cup (February 2011), has decided to clear beggars and hawkers from major streets of Dhaka city. Banishing beggars is obviously easier than taking policy measures which will tackle the problems of poverty and immiseration. But, as the investigative journalism by Taslima Akhter reveals, what is happening in reality belies what the home minister Shara Khatun had told the press, ?We may take the street beggars to the social welfare ministry?s shelters for the time being.?
Women are are being arrested for begging. Shirin Ara, who was arrested from Mohammadpur, eked out a meagre living from alms-seeking. She was arrested by thana police on February 11, 2011 and produced in CMM court the next day. Shirin said she did not know why she had been arrested, nor had she been informed by the police about her alleged offence.
According to Section 81, begging is an offence, but Shirin was brought to court and taken away later, while in handcuffs, which is a violation of Police Regulations of Bengal 1943. According to Regulation 330 (a): “In no case, shall women be handcuffed nor shall restrain be used to those who either by age or by infirmity are easily and securely kept in custody.”
Hello, I’m sorry for not having sent my regular updates for the last two days, caused by writing deadlines.
Moshrefa Mishu’s health has worsened. Her back pain from a spinal injury has increased. She has constant fever, her heart palpitation has increased and medicine, her youngest sister tells me, is not alleviating her condition.
Police who keep her under close watch have begun behaving very badly with her family members and her organisation’s colleagues. Since Friday afternoon, 24 December 2010, they have begun shouting and using abusive language. Only one attendant is permitted to sit beside her, no one else, not even her sisters are allowed to approach her bed, or to speak with her, whether in person, or over the mobile phone.
We are deeply alarmed, both at her worsened health while in hospital, while receiving medical care and attention, and at the changed behaviour of the police on duty, overtly aggressive and abusive, that too, towards a person who has been hospitalised, that too, in a woman’s ward in a government hospital where there are other patients, most of them severely ill, since hospital authorities generally discharge a patient as s/he improves due to scarce resources and pressure for beds, medical attention and treatment.
Left political alliances held protest rallies on Friday, December 24, 2010 in front of the National Press Club, Dhaka, demanding the immediate release of Moshrefa Mishu, and Bahrane Sultan Bahar, president, Jago Bangladesh Garment Workers’ Federation. Speakers said, arresting labour leaders would not contain labour unrest, acceding to living wages and trade union rights would.
Letters of solidarity have been pouring in from both organisations and groups committed to workers rights, and individuals, both at home and abroad who are aghast and angry at the government’s repression of workers and their leaders, who are struggling hard for a bare minimum.
Please keep passing the message around, and also, pls fwd the online petition as widely as you can.
ONLINE PETITION Free Moshrefa Mishu and all detained workers immediately!
By Rahnuma Ahmed
My heart was heavy on Victory Day.
On Dec 12, four people, including a rickshaw driver aged 35, were killed in Chittagong EPZ as garment workers clashed with police because the new wage structure when implemented, meant getting lesser wages. According to news reports, the management of South Korean-owned Youngone suddenly shut down all its units after workers protested the withdrawal of their Tk 250 lunch allowance. When 10,000 workers turned up for work on Sunday morning, they found the factory closed down for an indefinite period. Demonstrations and picketing took a violent turn when police opened fire with live bullets (600 rounds) and tear gas shells (150 canisters). Workers retaliated with brickbats, sticks and stones. The Deputy Commissioner (Port) in Chittagong claimed, rickshaw-driver Ariful Islam had died from a hurled brick; his employer however said, he had been shot dead. Eight injured persons had bullet wounds. Police filed cases against an unidentified 33,000.
Less than two days later, in the early hours of December 14, a contingent of 12 or so claiming to belong to the Detective Branch, all in plainclothes except 1, turned up at the Kola Bagan house of Moshrefa Mishu, president of Garments Workers Unity Forum. When her sister Jebunnessa wanted to see a warrant, they threatened to arrest her too. Mishu was only allowed to change her clothes, she had to leave her medicine behind: for asthma, and for a severe spinal injury from an attack on her life several years ago. She was produced in court after midday and remanded for 2 days on charges of inciting vandalism during worker unrest in Kuril (Kafrul, Dhaka) in June this year. At the end of 2 days, she was remanded for yet another day. She had Jamaat links, they alleged. It needed further investigation, they said.
Mishu? Remanded? For inciting vandalism? As we sat stunned with this news on the 14th, the gods played a cruel joke.
On December 14, a fire broke out in Ha-Meem Group’s sportswear factory in Ashulia, Dhaka. Fire spread to the dining area on the 10th floor where about 150 workers were having lunch. “Emergency exits were closed,” said Abdul Kader to Asia Times Online. To escape from the rapidly-spreading flames, 50-60 workers jumped off the tenth floor. Many, to their death.
Ha-Meem management says 23 died; hospital and clinic sources report 26 deaths, some newspapers report 31 but workers insist many more as relatives throng at the factory gates in search of missing family members. After being closed for two days to mourn the deaths of workers, it was re-opened on Friday, the weekly holiday, but also, a public holiday due to Ashura. The next day, a large chunk of concrete fell on the floor of the 8th floor, as the devastation caused by the fire was being repaired. Workers rushed out of the building fearing for their lives. At least 25 were injured.
According to the Fire Service and Civil Defence Department, fires broke out in 213 factories between 2006 and 2009. The number of deaths? 414. These figures include the Spectrum/Shahriyar Sweater factory collapse in 2005, when 64 workers were killed and 80 were injured, 54 seriously. It excludes the deaths caused by fire which broke out this February at Garib & Garib Sweater factory, built on marshy land. 21 workers’ died, another 50 were injured.
According to international groups dedicated to improving the working conditions of workers worldwide, the Bangladeshi garment industry is “notorious” for its bad safety record. Most of the deaths and injuries are entirely “preventable.” According to the Clean Clothes Campaign, a global network of labour and women’s rights organisations, Bangladeshi factory owners “blatantly violate building code and health and safety regulations”; the government (regardless of which party is in power) “fails to enforce these regulations.” At Garib & Garib, fire rapidly spread because the floors were filled with inflammable materials such as wool threads, workers who were cut off by the fire could not escape because emergency exits were locked; material piled-high blocked the stairways. Fire brigade officials said, the factory’s fire-fighting equipment was “virtually useless.”
The joke played by the gods was undoubtedly cruel since it snatched away many lives? 23? 26? 31? more??but it pointed fingers as well.
Has any factory owner ever been picked up by the police, remanded, arrested, and charged because of factory fires? Not that I know of. The officer-in-charge of Ashulia thana says, (only) a general diary has been lodged in connection with the fire at Ha-Meem. Interestingly, Ha-Meem Group’s managing director AK Azad is also the president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI).
Just as factory fires are not properly investigated, neither are acts of vandalism. One hears ministers, high party officials, intellectuals-serving-party-interests and experts claim every so often that these are caused by `outsiders.’ But these `outside forces’ are never specified. Despite turf wars over waste cloth from the garment industry (jhoot baybsha). Despite cutthroat competition among some of the owners themselves. Despite rumours that some were initiated to claim insurance. Despite competition between exporting nations, too. It is much easier to demonise Mishu, other garment leaders, and workers in general. After all, who knows what Pandora’s box a genuine investigation will open?
Nearly three and half million work in the RMG sector, mostly women. It accounts for 80% of annual export earnings and makes clothes for major Western brands such as Wal-mart, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, Tesco, JC Penny. In 2006, the monthly minimum wage was fixed at Tk 1,662 (US$23). Since then, despite spiralling prices and soaring living costs, garment workers had received no pay rises, although Bangladeshi labour law dictates that wages should be reassessed and adjusted every three years. The new minimum wage approved in August this year?at 3,000 taka ($43) it fell far short of labour union demands of 5,000 taka ($72)?was grudgingly agreed upon by owners, unwilling to give Eid bonuses according to the new wage structure. Last year, the president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) had demanded a 30 billion taka subsidy ($428 million) from the government’s stimulus package fund to pay workers wages and bonuses. It was outrageous even by AL government’s standards which, as Shahidullah Chowdhury, president, Bangladesh Trade Union Centre, points out, is “essentially biased” towards protecting and promoting the interests of the rich. The finance minister rejected it outright, leaving the BGMEA mumbling that it was an “error.”
Clashes occurred in November this year because many factories had either failed to implement what had been agreed upon, or had implemented it through applying a grading system which effectively “lessened” the pay of many workers.
As I write, I remember Mishu telling me many years ago, I seem to be spending my life fighting for basic rights, those that are declared in the ILO Convention, are laid down in Bangladesh law. Struggling for more fundamental changes, for the re-distribution of wealth and resources, is a far cry. These basic rights should be enforced by the government, she said. In its own interest.
Was muktijuddho not fought for ensuring economic and social justice? For changing the lives of the greater majority for the better? The Awami League and its intelligentsia would have us believe that it was fought only against religious forces who had collaborated with the Pakistan government and its army, a sore enough point for the nation given post-1971 events. Given that the war criminals of 1971 were politically restored, given that Jamaat-e-Islami became BNP’s electoral allies, became a part of the government. But the trial of war criminals is a national issue, it should not be subjugated to serve the narrow interests of the Awami League. Nor should we allow it to be capitalised upon by imperial forces, to draw us into the ever-expanding `war on terror.’
The adoption and pursuit of neo-liberal policies have led to the emergence of new forms of femininities in Bangladesh. Women pose, strut down the aisle. The closed-off, vacant look they are trained to wear makes it difficult to tell whether they know that the garments they parade are soaked in sweat. In tears. And, in blood. Of other women.
Published in New Age, Monday December 20, 2010
Please add your name in support of this statement
against the unlawful arrest of garment workers leader Moshrefa Mishu, and all garment workers, who have either been arrested or are being?intimidated and persecuted, for protesting against non-implementation of promised wage increases.
If you are supporting it as an individual, press `reply’ and write (a) your name (b)?profession or affiliation, etc.
For groups, please write (c) name of the group.
Please do this right now,?we will collect all signatures by BST noon tomorrow and send out the press release by tomorrow afternoon (15 December 2010).
We strongly protest the unlawful arrest of garment workers leader Moshrefa Mishu, demand that she be immediately released, and that the fabricated charges against her be dropped.
Moshrefa Mishu, general secretary of the Ganatantrik Biplobi Party and the president of the Garment Workers Unity Forum, was picked up from her home in Kala Bagan at 1.15 am on 14.12.2010 by a force of 12 persons or so claiming to be from the Detective Branch of Police, and was compelled to accompany them to an undisclosed destination. The force did not have an arrest warrant, and when her sister persisted in asking them to show a warrant, they threatened to arrest her. Mishu was only allowed to change her clothes but not allowed to take her medication with her, for asthma, and for a severe spinal injury caused by an attack on her life several years ago.
Moshrefa Mishu was produced in CMM court after noon today and remanded for two days. We protest against her illegal arrest, and demand her immediate release.
We also protest, and condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the government’s response to the garment workers demands for the implementation of a new minimum wage that should have come into effect last month. More than 3 million people, mostly women, work in this sector which accounts for 80% of annual export earnings and make clothes for major Western brands including Wal-mart, Marks & Spencer and Carrefour. Three persons were killed in clashes with the police in the Chittagong EPZ yesterday, hundreds injured, 33 arrested, and 3 separate cases lodged against about 30,000 unknown people.
Instead of taking `tough action’ to ensure that factory owners implement what is, by all accounts a low increase, prime minister Sheikh Hasina has in effect ordered that action be taken against the workers who, even with the increases remain the least-paid in the world, and largely unable to arrange shelter and buy food in a situation where food-prices are spiralling upwards uncontrollably. Safety conditions in many factories are below standard, as can be gauged from the deaths of 24 people, and injuries suffered by scores more, when a fire broke out at a garment factory in Ashulia, Savar today.
We condemn the government’s anti-people actions (killing, baton charges, firing tear gas, filing cases), we demand that Moshrefa Mishu and all others arrested be released immediately, and that the government take immediate and transparent action to identify those who were behind the acts of vandalism, who, according to the Home Minister herself, are `outsiders.’
BREAKING NEWS: Moshrefa Mishu was produced before the Chief Metropolitan?Magistrate (CMM) Court after midday today.* *The court granted 2 days remand.
We would like to remind everyone that she was arrested unlawfully, i.e.,?without any warrant; from what we have learnt since from her sister?Jebunnessa Jebu, despite repeatedly being asked the reason for their?presence, or whether they had a warrant, members of the force responded by?threatening to arrest Moshrefa Mishu if she persisted in asking to see a?warrant.
She was only allowed to change her nightclothes and to put on a sari but was?not allowed to take her medication for asthma and severe spinal pains,?caused by an attempt on her life several years ago.
Moshrefa Mishu has been receiving threatening calls over telephone warning?her to stop fighting for the rights of workers in the garments sector.
(Torture under police remand in Bangladesh : a culture of impunity for gross violations of human rights)
Please circulate this message as widely as possible, and do everything you can think of. Rahnuma Ahmed.
Officers of the Detective Branch of police picked up labour leader Moshrefa Mishu, president of Garments Workers Unity Forum, from her home in Dhaka a little after midnight.
According to news reports, her sister Jebunnesa Jebu who lives with Mishu, said she was was taken away to the Detective Branch Headquarters for interrogation around 12:45am,?14 December 2010.
About a dozen police officers, in plain clothes except one, carried out the raid on the labour leader’s Bhuter Gali home in Kalabagan.?The officers did not show any arrest warrant, said Jebunnesa, nor did they explain why she was being led away.?After having initially denied her arrest, she has now been charged by the police with having instigated garment workers to go `berserk’ at Kuril.
The arrest occurred three days after thousands of Bangladeshi garment workers picketed factories in Dhaka demanding the implementation of a new minimum wage that should have come into effect last month. Demonstrations and picketing spread to the Chittagong EPZ, three people were killed and 225 injured in police clashes in Chittagong on Sunday. Police have arrested 33?people and?lodged three separate cases against about 30,000 unknown people for Sunday’s deadly violence in the port city.
More than three million people, most of them women, work in Bangladesh’s garment factories, which make clothes for major Western brands, this includes Wal-Mart, Marks & Spencer and Carrefour.
State repression (killing, baton charges, firing tear gas, filing cases) upon workers who are fighting for implementation of wages officially agreed upon, makes a mockery of the democratic principles?that Sheikh Hasina-led Awami League?government claims to uphold. It is a matter of urgent concern that the police should release Moshrefa Mishu immmediately. The government should also release all garment workers who have been arrested, lift the cases against large numbers of people which is aimed at intimidating workers who are fighting for their rights, and should force factory owners to pay wages agreed upon earlier.
Window to the soul
Exhibition by Taslima Akhter on Garment workers (lower down on the page)
BREAKING NEWS: Moshrefa Mishu was produced before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) Court after midday today. The court granted 2 days remand.
We would like to remind everyone that she was arrested unlawfully, i.e., without any warrant; from what we have learnt since from her sister Jebunnessa Jebu, despite repeatedly being asked the reason for their presence, or whether they had a warrant, members of the force responded by threatening to arrest Moshrefa Mishu if she persisted in asking to see a warrant.
She was only allowed to change her nightclothes and to put on a sari but was not allowed to take her medication for asthma and severe spinal pains, caused by an attempt on her life several years ago.
Moshrefa Mishu has been receiving threatening calls over telephone warning her to stop fighting for the rights of workers in the garments sector.
By Owen Bowcott
A photographer who was struck in the face by a police shield during the G20 protests last year has been awarded ?30,000 compensation by the Metropolitan police.
David Hoffman, who was covering the event in his professional capacity, suffered fractured teeth after a police inspector in full riot gear ran at him and hit him with the shield, says his law firm, Bindmans, which negotiated the settlement.
Hoffman’s solicitor, Chez Cotton, said in a statement: “Journalists such as my client are critical in disseminating information into the wider public domain.
“Reporters and photojournalists play a significant role recording political unrest, political events, which includes recording protest and, if it arises, police wrongdoing.
“That my client was assaulted by a police officer when carrying out this essential function, and brutally so, is shocking. Fortunately with photographic and film evidence of the incident and detailed testimony, Mr Hoffman has succeeded in holding the police to account.”
In an accompanying apology, the Metropolitan police said: “On 1 April 2009 well-respected social issues photographer David Hoffman was recording the G20 protests in the City of London.
“The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) recognise that Mr Hoffman was entitled to report on that day but was caused injury by an MPS officer during the event, preventing him from doing so.
“The MPS confirms its recognition that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and that journalists have a right to report freely. The MPS apologise to Mr Hoffman for the treatment he received and have paid compensation.”
Jeremy Dear, the NUJ’s general secretary, said: “No journalist should be singled out by the police and the police service has no legal powers or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict photographers’ work. Journalists have a duty to record and report on public protests as well as the behaviour of the police.
“David’s case is a shocking example of police brutality and totally unacceptable.”
Related link in British Journal of Photography
By Jean Shaoul
22 September 2010
World Socialist Website
A desperate damage control operation is underway as further allegations emerge about the extent of the illegal phone hacking at the Rupert Murdoch-owned?News of the World. The paper?s royal editor and a private investigator were found guilty of hacking into the voice mail of members of the Royal family and their aides in 2007.
It is now alleged that the practice was much more prevalent than was revealed at the time and that the Metropolitan Police failed to investigate all the cases known to them.
Journalist Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were found guilty at the Old Bailey in January 2007 after they admitted hacking into phones. Goodman was jailed for four months and Mulcaire for six months.News of the World editor Andy Coulson resigned following the case. He denied knowing about the hacking, but he accepted ultimate responsibility as editor of the paper. Prime Minister Gordon Brown immediately phoned to offer his commiserations. He assured the journalist that he had acted honourably in resigning and expressed his confidence that Coulson would soon have another job.
Coulson is now Prime Minister David Cameron?s director of communications and at the centre of the new allegations. His presence in the new Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition administration implicates all three major political parties in the affair. It is now suggested that under the previous Labour government, the police and parliamentary investigations were cut short. The Liberal Democrats, who challenged Coulson?s claims that he was ignorant of the phone hacking, are now part of an administration in which Coulson plays a key role and must, as deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg did in the House of Commons earlier this month, defend him.
A network of relationships has been exposed which reveal the incestuous nature of the British political elite and its ties to global corporate interests, in particular to Rupert Murdoch?s News International Corporation. A coalition government has just come to power that supposedly represents a new chapter in British political life after 13 years of Labour rule. But the Murdoch empire has slipped seamlessly from one government to the next. Even if Coulson is never charged with any crime and never found guilty of any crime, this affair will have demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that official politics in Britain is entirely divorced from the interests of ordinary people and in the hands of a criminal oligarchy who act outside the law.
Real political power lies with this plutocratic layer and not with elected representatives in Parliament. Allegations have emerged this month that the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee held back from pursuing its investigation into phone hacking at the?News of the World. Adam Price, a former Plaid Cymru MP who retired from Parliament in May, claims that MPs were afraid that their private lives would come under investigation if they called on News International Chief Executive Rebekah Brooks to testify. Members of the committee discussed getting the sergeant-at-arms to issue a subpoena for Mrs. Brooks.
Continue reading “Murdoch phone hacking scandal”
It?s a First Amendment Right
By Carlos Miller
The Homeland Security Bureau of the Miami-Dade Police Department has published a ?Terrorist Awareness Guide? where it advises citizens to be on the lookout for people taking ?inappropriate photographs or videos.?
And no, they are not talking about perverts shooting?up the skirts of women.
They?re talking about people taking photographs of surveillance cameras and other things that are plainly visible to the naked eye.
Here is an excerpt of what the pamphlet says:
Maybe you are at a National Monument and you
notice a person nearby taking a lot of photos. Not
unusual. But then you notice that he is only taking
photos of t he surveillance cameras, crash barriers at
the entrances, and access control procedures. Is that
normal for a tourist? Absolute not!
The following should cause a heightened sense of
??????? Unusual interest
??????? Inappropriate photographs or videos
??????? Drawing of diagrams
??????? Annotating maps
??????? Using binoculars or night vision devices
It should be noted that Detective Bustamante of the same homeland security bureau was one of the officers who responded to our?first Metrorail incident where we were ?permanently banned? for taking photos.
Bustamante proved pretty clueless of the law when he informed us we needed a permit to photograph anything within the Metrorail, regardless if we were shooting commercial or not.
Read the entire document below. The portion on photography is on the second page in the right-hand column circled in red.
Terrorist Awareness Guide MDPD-PINAC