Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fueling the fire: 3 dead in nationwide hartal

Three dead people. Yes, three dead people. It is a statistic that won't bother many in a country where death by natural causes is becoming more of a blessing than a reality. Three people died today in the national strike called by opposition party Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami. 

The reasons,

1. 4 activists were killed last Friday when police fired on a procession brought out under the banner the Maulana Sayedee Mukti Parishad on the 15th of February, after Jumuah prayers at Cox's Bazaar.
2. Jamaat had protested from the beginning on the injustices carried out in the name of war crimes trials, the latest being the verdict of Abdul Kader Mollah, in which he was awarded life imprisonment by the International Crimes tribunal. It is mentionable that 9 of the defendants standing trial are leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami. 
3. A staggering number of Jamaat activists and leaders have been arrested over the past few days, more often than not injustly and without reason. This has been in light of a trend that has been a signature measure of the current government to stifle opposition since it came to power in 2008. Jamaat has called for their unconditional release. 

The incidents,

Three people have died in violence related to today's hartal.

1. Jamaat activist Ibrahim (25) was killed when a procession was fired upon by police at Choddogram, Comilla at 10 am. Three others were also bullet ridden. Ibrahim was from Anandapur village of Choddogram, Comilla. Daily Star had reported that, "police had to open fire on the pro-hartal activists to resist the Shibir men that left three people wounded, the OC claimed." 

2. One person died in Dhaka, Middle Badda, when a minibus of Bondhu Paribahan lost control when trying to escape pro-hartal activists who were approaching it, turned over and killed a passer-by on the spot. 
The Daily star had to say the following on the incident, "Talking to The Daily Star, Iqbal Hossain, officer-in-charge (OC) of Badda Police Station, said two people were injured when a bus carrying them turned turtle at 7:30am as pro-hartal activists chased the vehicle. The driver of the bus tried to speed away to avert any attacks. At one stage, he lost control over the steering and the bus tumbled, the OC added. One of the injured, aged about 32, succumbed to his injuries on way to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Bangla daily Prothom Alo reported quoting hospital sources."

3. Another person has died at Cox's Bazaar. Quoting the Daily Star, "An elderly man died when pro-hartal activists vandalised an ambulance in Ramu upazila of southeastern district of Cox’s Bazar during hartal hours on Monday.The deceased Hafiz Abdur Rahman, 60, hailed from Unchiprang area of Teknaf, reports our Cox’s Bazar correspondent. Zakir Hossain, driver of the ambulance, said his vehicle came under attack at 11:00am when the patient, who had a cardiac arrest, was heading for Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital. As the ambulance reached near Cheinda area of Ramu upazila, a group of Shibir activists barricaded the Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf road and vandalised several vehicles, including the ambulance, he said. As the ambulance failed to move ahead for half an hour, the patient died there. When rushed to Cox’s Bazar Sadar Hospital later, doctors declared him dead, Pranab Chakma, said the on-duty police officer at the hospital."

Fueling the fire, 

1. A Dhaka court on Monday, 18th of February, sent seven officials of Islami Bank Ltd, to jail in two cases filed over funding ‘destructive and subversive’ acts of the party, despite having no evidence put forward to incriminate these officials.
2. Amid international and national protests, the parliament had passed the much-talked-about International War Crimes Tribunal Amendment Act-2013 on Sunday, the 17th of February, to try and punish any organisations, including Jamaat-e-Islami, for committing crimes during country’s liberation war of 1971, allowing the prosecution equal right to appeal sentences – creating an opening for the prosecution to ask the Supreme Court to increase sentences of imprisonment to death sentences. Jamaat-e-Islami has rejected the amendment to the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT).
3. Sheikh Hasina has gone out of her way in criticizing Jamaat-e-Islami and has repeatedly taken oaths to ban Jamaat, recently saying last Saturday (16th of February), that,"Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir have no right to do politics in Bangladesh, as they believe in terrorism, not democracy.". She further said that,“I will not let them have that right as long as I am alive. I can assure you this.” An autocratic statement unattributable to a democratically elected Prime Minister
4. The indication of a state heading towards autocracy is when rights are seen as luxuries, not necessities. Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) on Saturday, 16th February, shut down the ‘Sonar Bangla’ blog, known to have been operated by pro-Jamaat-e-Islami activists, following demand from the demonstrators at Shahbagh after their compatriot Ahmed Rajib Haider was found murdered on Friday. Officials of told AFP that the blog site had been shut down since Saturday for spreading “hate speech and causing communal tension”. Editor of the blog, Aminul Muhaiman had been detained by DB police on Saturday evening from his resident at Dhanmondi, reported his wife Asia Muhaiman.
5. Recent instances of vandalism of institutions alleged to be associated with Jamaat-e-Islami have come to light. Such acts have occurred without any steps by the security forces to provide security. Recent cases have occurred of vandalism of Islami Bank at Khulna and Dhaka.
6. Amidst all this ruckus, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has more than often been divided on issues such as supporting the Shahbag movement and having a clear stance on the war crimes tribunal. It has officially kept quiet on many issues that have affected the country and has differed with Jamaat more often than not, leading many to doubt the strength of its leadership in decisive times such as this.

The conclusion,

When a  government goes out of its way to facilitate a movement that advocates well directed hate, it is nothing but a clear indication of the hands behind such a movement. The government of Bangladesh has used the movement of the youth at Shahbag to create an illusion of public support in its endeavor to silence its critics, amend laws to appeal its own sentences(ICT Amendment Act), and create an atmosphere of fear, hate and uncertainty in the name of YOUR welfare.

Such vile acts of power politics in Bangladesh are an indication of darker days to come, bringing to memory the BAKSHAL of the 1970's, where a man was revered as the father of the nation one day, and reviled the next, to an extent that enough people were not found to give him a final janaza.    

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