Friday, April 26, 2013

Pregnant Women at Rana Plaza: Maternity leave, anyone?

News reports for the past three days have been abound with reports on the 8 storey building collapse at Savar, the terrible loss of innocent lives and the ongoing rescue operation to rescue the survivors of this horrible tragedy. A news report which magnetically captured my attention was the following,

"Two infants, born under the debris of the eight-storey commercial building which collapsed here, were miraculously rescued along with their mothers, a Bangladeshi fire official said on Friday. According to the official, pregnant women were among the several garment factory workers trapped under the concrete ruins of the Rana Plaza in Dhaka's suburb. "Two infants have been reported to be born under the debris. They along with their mothers were among the 2,348 people rescued," he said. Garment factories in Bangladesh hire predominantly female workers, and many pregnant workers are reported to be among those still trapped under the debris."

The subject of interest here is the fact that pregnant women, at the last stages of pregnancy, who were also garments workers, were in to work on that fateful day. To live for another day. To support their families and feed the hungry mouths. To save their jobs from being terminated due to the liability of any maternity leave.

I draw attention to this fact because it has hit my conscience. And my conscience just will not lie down or be subdued. Do pregnant women not have the right to a maternity leave? Does the state not have any responsibility towards such women? Or will working pregnant women remain at the mercy of their generally heartless employers?  

So, what does the International Labor Organization (ILO) say about the issue of maternity leave at work, of which Bangladesh is a signatory?

In 1975, ILO member States adopted a Declaration on Equality of Opportunity and Treatment for Women Workers, which linked the prohibition of discrimination against women on the grounds of pregnancy and childbirth with the right to employment protection during pregnancy and maternity leave as well as the specific protections provided in Convention No. 103.

According to a 2012 report entitled “Maternity at work: A review of national legislation”, which details the findings of the ILO on conditions of work and employment laws in various countries, the legislation in Bangladesh (as per law in 2009) allows for a satisfactory 16 weeks of maternity leave. This is against the ILO standard requirement of a minimum of 14 weeks leave. 

As is clearly evident, the laws are in place. But it is apparent that its implementation is not. Bangladesh is certainly not alone in this respect. As the ILO report says, “Once hired, women face potential job loss should they become pregnant and their pregnancy become known. Termination of employment on the grounds of pregnancy is said to occur even in countries which outlaw the practice.  In the United Kingdom, more than one in eight of the inquiries received by the Equal Opportunities Commission relate to dismissal due to pregnancy. In Spain, the General Union of Workers (UGT) observed that employers dismissed women or did not renew their contracts on account of pregnancy and, in certain situations, employers offered temporary workers employment for an indefinite period if they relinquished their maternity rights. This was said to occur despite the availability of procedures of redress for victims of such discrimination.”

So what do we do? Do we play the blame game by pointing at the UK and Spain? Or do we take the lead? I believe that there is no alternative to the latter since we have the desired legislation for granting maternity leave in place. Every woman has the right to a safe motherhood and every child has the right to a safe birth. Let not the issue of maternity leave be a cause for more deaths of mothers or their children, or both. I urge the proper authorities to ensure that no more sisters have to suffer like the ones at Savar who had to give birth in such unsafe conditions. 

And Allah knows best. 

Savar Tragedy Course 101 : Are we ready to to face the next big calamity?

A nation came to a standstill as it witnessed a heartbreaking tragedy, one which has left an indelible mark on the conscience of a nation. Two days have passed since ‘Rana Plaza’, an 8 storey building collapsed at Savar in Bangladesh on the 24th of March at around 08:45 am. The building housed four garments institutions, a branch of the BRAC bank and market complexes among others. Eight floors collapsed on each other and the collateral damage heavily affected nearby buildings as well. The devastating impact on human life rises by the hour as more than 250 people and counting have lost their lives and the injured number thousands. Many more are feared dead or dying as the clock keeps on ticking. 
Photo of collapsed Rana Plaza at Savar (Courtesy: Daily Star)
The rescue operation seems to progress at a pace which suggests that the procession of the dead will not stop anytime soon. Platoons of rescue teams toil around the clock; their selfless efforts seem so heroic yet speak of such futility at the same time. A nation saw them understaffed and undermanned, yet their spirit and resilience to go back again and again amazed us all. We have been participating ourselves and encouraging others to participate in donating blood, medicine, saline and money to the victims. The incident has turned into a saga with a huge participation by the people, especially from in and around Dhaka and surrounding areas. Yet the reality is that many are still trapped inside. Debris and huge slabs of concrete still remain in place, unable to be removed either due to problems with equipment, inadequate training or a myriad of other problems. Rescue workers say that even one third of the operation hasn’t been done yet. All this happened due to a single careless command by the owners; the command to go back to work. And it all happened in a single building. The object of all this attention, my friends, is a single building. 

Imagine what would happen if an 8.2 magnitude earth quake hit Dhaka right now. Here is an opinion piece which addresses an imaginative but frightfully accurate post-apocalyptic scenario of Dhaka after an earthquake of 8.2 magnitude on the Richter scale. Moreover, news reports have been regularly warning us that we are at the threshold of a major earthquake that might happen any time. With more than 160 million people, Bangladesh is the most crowded place on earth, and one of the poorest–and it is growing fast. It sits on the world’s largest river delta, close to sea level, which exposes it to tsunamis and the possibility of rivers jumping their banks in the event of earthquake. And, it is furiously putting up bridges and multistory buildings that increase its vulnerability. Scientists have come to recognize that it sits at the juncture of several active tectonic plate boundaries–including the tail end of the one that caused the 2004 Sumatra tsunami that killed over 200,000 people, 1,300 miles south. Syed Humayun Akhter, a seismologist at the Dhaka University Earth Observatory, warns that an earthquake near the crowded capital could dwarf other modern tragedies. "It is absolutely true that large scale earthquakes may occur in Bangladesh. It can happen any day - today, tomorrow or after 100 years," he said.

As the whole nation looks up to a beleaguered and under-equipped task force that two days on, still struggles to rescue people from underneath the rubble of a single building, isn’t it time for us to ask whether we are equipped to face the next big calamity?   

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Prothom Alo story and Chatra League controlled Shahbag

On the 14th of April, Prothom Alo, a leading Bangla newspaper, on its site published a short story, “TV Camerar Shamne Meyeti” (The girl in front of the TV camera), which was also published in the daily’s Pahela Baishakh supplement. The short story, titled “TV Camerar Samne Meyeti” (The girl in front of the TV camera), centres around a politically active girl ‘Seema’ leading the slogan shouting brigade who is sexually exploited by a senior politician, the man who recruits her. The story suggests her popularity stems from her sexual free-mixing with males. The setting of the story also clearly alludes to her strong involvement with the Shahbagh movement.

The online community reacted almost instantly. Pro-Shahbagh activists saw it as a direct attack against the movement, while critics of Shahbag saw it as just another straw to confirm that Shahbag was not only politically selective but also morally corrupt. Pro-Shahbag activists and readers were vocal and active in their protests. In a letter to Matiur Rahman, editor of Prothom Alo, women’s rights activists, including Rokeya Kabir, Khushi Kabir and Rokeya Rafique, under the banner Begum Rokeya Mancha, termed Hye’s story as “pornography”. They demanded a joint statement from the writer, editor and literature editor of Prothom Alo stating that the “descriptions in the story are false”. Meanwhile, supporters of Shahbag along with students under the banner of Bikhhubdho Chhatra Samaj burnt copies of Prothom Alo at Dhaka University’s TSC on the 15th of April, condemning the publication of the story.

In face of such ambivalent reactions, Prothom Alo apologised to readers for hurting their sentiments. Hasnat Abdul Hye, the writer of the story, too, regretted writing the piece and said it would not be included in any of his works. The daily retracted the story from its online version and e-paper. In a statement, Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman said the contents of the story were against the guiding principles of the newspaper.
On a cursory look, the story was indeed vulgar and demeaning. It was certainly not representative of women who had joined Shahbag. What however the story strongly alludes to is an imaginative scenario of the low status of women in the current political climate of Bangladesh and the extent of sacrifice of one’s morality in order to avail the taste of power. The story, in its portrayal, frightfully conforms to the prevalent social and political climate in Bangladesh, including Shahbag.

The character ‘Seema’ may be poor, struggling and reality focused but she is not ignorant and has willfully made her choices. She believes that sleeping with a powerful leader is morally wrong, but she has no qualms about it. It is born out of necessity. So is the political activity, which she says is her way of income. The end result is a vicious cycle where hapless women have nothing left to give after they submit to the demands and needs of their mentors, leaders and powerful colleagues in politics, in return for a life of agitation, hard work, booze and drugs and of course, the thrill; all culminating towards an alarming level of moral degradation. The cycle is vicious and unrelenting, and there is no escape.      

Is this the scenario of politics in Bangladesh? Perhaps. Let us see.

The simple indicator according to me is the impunity enjoyed by the Chatroleague, the student wing of the ruling Awami League. I need not give any references or cite sources for the impunity awarded to the Chatroleague as they unabatedly commit crime after crime, engage freely in lewd behavior, extort, rape, murder and fight among themselves without the least bit of fear of the law. Indeed the thing they fear most is not the law, but their very own comrades and leaders, who do not think twice before backbiting or backstabbing for personal gain. Regular reports of women being harassed, molested and raped at the hands of the Chatroleague is nothing new and a simple google search will be more than enough in this regard.  
This very same Chatroleague has been the filler force of Shahbag, lending its cadres and supporters as fillers in the programs of Shahbagh. The presence of the President and Vice President of Chatro League along with a host of other left leaning student politicians and parties at almost every significant undertaking of Shahbag has only served to prove that such gathering could not have successfully materialized without their solid support,  backing or blessing. 

In retrospect, the story of Hasnat Abdul Hye was vulgar and demeaning, but to me, it only served to paint an image that is already prevalent in an increasingly alarming situation in the political sphere of Bangladesh today. In this regard, all I can call to account is the outrage the very same Shahbag showed when Hefazat-e-Islam presented a demand to prevent lewdness, immodesty and immorality in the name of free mixing of the sexes. Were they (Hefazat-e-Islam) really wrong or dark aged in their demands? Were their (Hefazat-e-Islam) demands not compliant with the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah? Has not Shahbag opposed Islam in opposing the teachings of Islam? 

Thousands of questions revolve as I close this post. And Allah knows best.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Mahmudur Rahman leads from confinement. We need to act now.

18th April was the fourth day after Mahmudur Rahman undertook a hunger strike to protest government actions and put forward three demands. The three demands were:
1. Withdrawal of case against his mother and acting chairman of Amardesh publications Mahmuda Begum and Sangram editor Abul Asad.
2. Opening up the publication house of Amardesh and putting an end to all harassment in order to allow the publishing of Amardesh.
3. Unconditional release of the 19 employees of Amardesh who were arrested.

Mahmudur Rahman
He has stated firmly that he will not break his hunger strike unless the demands are met. To those who thought that this is a simple case of Rumi squad style hunger strike, think again. After facing 7 days in remand and observing a hunger strike since the 15th of April, his condition has noticeably deteriorated for the worse. RTNN reports that at 5 pm on today he was admitted to CCU (the intensive care unit) at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSSMU) in Dhaka after doctors unsuccessfully tried to improve his condition. RTNN reports that at present he is suffering from heart complications aggravated by the 'hunger strike'. His blood pressure has fallen to 49/90. His heartbeat has fallen to 48 beats per minute. His kidneys have started failing and experts say that if his hunger strike is not broken soon, an accident may happen any moment. 

All this ruckus and some media have published news that makes the night seem like daylight. Take the example of the Daily Star which in its 'keep calm, everything is fine' attitude, said that Mahmudur Rahman was taken to the BSSMU at 5 pm since he had been fasting 'continuously' for the past few days and that there were no other 'physical' complications involved. Or the case of bdnews24, which perhaps had a memory lapse and forgot that there was a man called Mahmudur Rahman. There was no news on Mahmudur Rahman on bdnews24 throughout the length and breadth of the 18th of April. 

What have we done? Have we carried out any real action other than letting out steam in roadside processions and social media? Its time to stop reflecting on ways to let out more steam and convert that pent up rage to action. Its time the people ask the government to stop acting Big Brother. Publish Amardesh. If the people ask 'nicely enough', no government will have the power to refuse.  

If the society fails to act, we may lose a man. A man who lead while free and has taken the lead again even in confinement. His audacity and brave nature have been both a source of inspiration and shame to us, the people. If we do not act, this action will eventually play into the hands of an autocratic government that has not thought twice before killing more than 200 people since January 2013, and will not give a dime as to whether Mahmudur Rahman lives or dies. We need to act to send a message to Mahmudur Rahman that we are there with him; that he does not need to sacrifice his life due to our prevalent indifferent attitude. 

So answer me, for how much longer we wait?

Let us start by Tahajjud tonight. And Allah knows best.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Amar Desh stops publication for now : Shah Abdul Hannan

The Amar Desh authorities, alleging government obstruction, have decided to suspend publication of the Bangla daily. At a press conference at Jatiya Press Club yesterday afternoon, they said the government had illegally “sealed off” their press and barred them from printing the newspaper even at Al Falah Printing Press of daily Sangram.
Accompanied by Syed Abdal Ahmed, executive editor of Amar Desh, advocate Masud Ahmed Talukder, a lawyer for the daily, said the newspaper authorities would go to the Supreme Court and seek a directive for publishing the paper.He added the government had committed contempt of court by violating a 2010 SC directive which allowed the daily to continue its publication.

Meanwhile, the Dhaka district administration filed a case against Abul Asad, owner of Al Falah Printing Press and editor of Bangla daily Sangram, and Mahmuda Begum, acting chairman of Amar Desh, for printing the daily at the Al Falah Printing Press without government permission.Executive Magistrate Nasrin Sultana filed the case with Ramna Police Station on Saturday, two days after the arrest of Amar Desh acting Editor Mahmudur Rahman.
Aided by Ramna police, the magistrate also raided the Al Falah Printing Press at Moghbazar, seized 210 copies of Saturday’s issue of Amar Desh and 5,000 copies of its Sunday issue from the press and picked up 19 Amar Desh press staff, who are now in jail. Shaikh Yusuf Harun, deputy commissioner of Dhaka, told The Daily Star that Abul Asad had committed a criminal act by printing Amar Desh illegally. Advocate Saleh Uddin Ahmed, another counsel for Amar Desh, said according to the Printing Presses and Publications (Declarations and Registrations) Act-1973 it was not mandatory for AL Falah to take permission from the DC to print Amar Desh.
On Thursday morning, police arrested Mahmudur Rahman in a case for publishing Skype conversations between Justice Md Nizamul Huq, ex-chairman of International Crimes Tribunal-1, and Ahmed Ziauddin, an expatriate Bangladeshi legal expert. He was also shown arrested in two other cases — one filed on March 17 in connection with hartal and pre-hartal violence and another on March 26 for assaulting police and obstructing their work.

Criticising the way Mahmudur Rahman was arrested at his office, rights organisation Ain o Salish Kendra said it does not morally support any kind of interference in the freedom of the press or the closing down of any newspaper.

The Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearance, another rights body, an international human rights organisation, in a separate press release called upon the government to uphold the civil and political rights of Mahmudur Rahman and condemned the “closure of Amar Desh”. Under the international human treaties signed by Bangladesh, the government is bound to uphold the rights of journalists like Mahmudur Rahman, who play a vital role in exposing human rights violations in the country, the release added. 
 We are deeply shocked by the repressive action of the government against editor of Amar Desh and taking all possible steps to stop its publication.We have learnt that Amar Desh informed the Deputy Commissioner of its publication from Al-Falah Press after its own press was sealed.Police also sealed Amar Desh press on flimsy ground.We can see through the game and drama that the intent is to stop publication of this paper.People are not such fools that they do not understand these moves .
Link: Facebook page of Shah Abdul Hannan

Monday, April 15, 2013

The 'golden boys' of Hasina wreak havoc yet again

In a state of boredom, I opened my browser and opened the online news portal bdnews24. A topic hit my eye. I googled it and up came more results. The search was on Bangladesh Chatra League and in the past 24 hours, they had been involved with three instances of violence nationwide:

1. A BCL member assaulted two female students at Jahangirnagar University. Witnesses said students of Kamaluddin Hall took out a colourful procession at around 11am celebrating Pahela Boishakh like the previous years. As the procession was passing by the university’s 'Tarzan Point', some participants threw colours at two female students there. Witnesses alleged Akash along with his accomplices beat the two female students and dragged their cloths as they protested against sprinkling colours on them. JU Teachers Association President Professor Ajit Kumar Majumder came forward to resist the students, but Akash, a JU 37th batch student, and others misbehaved with him. Chhatra Union’s JU unit took out a procession demanding exemplary punishment for assault committed by the alleged BCL activist and AFM Kamaluddin Hall resident Subol Debnath Akash.

2. Activists of Bangladesh Chatra League beat up five journalists covering the Dhaka University when they were trying to gather information about alleged extortion by the student front leaders. The university authorities have identified 21 BCL activists involved with the assault and handed over six of them to the police. Witnesses said a group of BCL workers of SM Hall unit snatching money and valuables from passengers of passing vehicles on the Fuller Road near the SM Hall from Saturday midnight. Several journalists went to the spot at around 4am to check this out and found Chhatra League activists trying to stop a motorcycle. As the journalists inquired about their identity, the extortionists said they were from the Chhatra League's SM Hall unit of Dhaka University. One of them, identified as ‘Asif’, is a second year student of the university’s Mass Communication and Journalism department. Prothom Alo’s university’s correspondent Ahmed Zaif talked Asif out of the pack, but other activists tried to take him away.Several Chhatra League activists indiscriminately beat up Zaif, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha’s university correspondent Moloy Kumar Dutta, journalism department's Dulal Samaddar,’s Sujon Mondol and Daily Star’s Protik Chakrabarty. They also attacked Prothom Alo’s senior correspondent Shariful Hasan as he tried to mediate. The activists brought out sticks from the nearby SM Hall and beat up the journalists a second time.

3. An activist of Bangladesh Chhatra League, student wing of rling Awami League, was killed in an attack by unidentified youths at Meherchandi near the Rajshahi University on Sunday. The deceased was identified as Rabiul Islam, 20, a resident of the area. Police said someone hurled brickchips targeting him from behind when he was roaming at a Baishakhi fair at about 7:30pm, leaving him injured. Injured Rabiul was rushed to Rajshahi Medical College and Hospital where doctors declared him dead. Boalia Model Police Station officer-in-charge Ziaur Rahman said his rivals might have attacked the BCL activist as a sequel to previous enmity and conflict. However, another local source said that he came under attack over stealing of a laptop in the area.

All this violence, and the not one notable human rights organization or any stalwart of the ruling party has issued a condemnation. This silence speaks volumes on the current situation of human rights in the country. The dual face of such human rights organizations and secular media is revealed when they remain quiet about these outrageous incidents despite being vocal about the assaults on Nadia Sharmin, crime reporter of Ekushey Television (ETV) and cameraman of Diganta Television during its Saturday’s long march. Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh (HIB)had apologised for the attacks on media people. Recent video footage also shows Hefazat activists shielding the reporter from attacks of a handful of men. Yet 'progressive' and secular society still ridicules the Islamic organization in specific the pro-Islamic section of the society in general for its 'medieval policies' on women and uses the example of Nadia Sharmin to fan their interests. Such are the antics of these sections; adept at locating ants behind them but failing to see the elephant trumpeting in front.

Sad indeed are the times we live in.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Fatikchhari saga and the myth of loudspeakers

The Fatikchori saga talks volumes. More than 5,000 people were accused on the 12th of April in a case filed for attacking law enforcers and obstructing their work during the fight. Of the accused, 100 were named. Three ruling Awami League men were killed and scores injured when locals gathered and attacked an anti-hartal procession of AL and Chhatra League at Kazirhat in Bhujpur.

More than 200 vehicles including motorcycles, jeeps, pick-ups, a police van and a fire truck were torched. Besides, some 20 shops were set ablaze during the mayhem. Daily Star has claimed that witnesses and local administration sources said at least 15 policemen, four firefighters, and two BGB men, were among the injured. Of the injured, some 47 people were undergoing treatment at Chittagong Medical College Hospital.

Earlier, on the 11th of April, ATM Peyarul Islam, AL leader and ex-chairman of Fatikchhari upazila, lead a motor procession at around 8 am, protesting Thursday’s nationwide shutdown called and enforced by Shibir demanding release of its president along with all leaders. Clashes broke between the pro and anti strike supporters as the procession reached Kazirhat around 11:30am. Witnesses say that the League started taunting bearded men with caps as Jamaat activists and started throwing bricks and stones at the Kazirhaat madrassah which they labelled as a Jamaat enclave. Several hundred locals of Kazirhat, students of Kazirhat madrasa and pro-hartal activists got involved in the clashes. Things got heated following announcements by the opposition members over loudspeakers from Kazirhat Bazar Jame Mosque explaining the situation.

The Awami League members then retreated backwards instead of going forward as planned. As they retreated to Kalayertek, enraged general people (about 400 people) encircled them and started attacking them with big sticks. Almost all the vehicles and motorbikes were burned.  

At about 2 pm, members of the fire service, BGB and police tried to extract AL leader ATM Peyarul Islam and ex Chatro league leader Abu Tayeb along with other AL activists from the hands of the people, but with little success. Unsuccessful, they then started firing on the demonstrating people in order to disperse them. In the unrest that ensured, two Chatra League members were brutally beaten to death by the locals. Another Shechha Shebok League member died from his injuries at hospital. Many League supporters suffered injured from the public beating. More than 50 people suffered bullet injuries.

Later, calm was restored after 3 pm when the local upazila Chairman Shafiul Alam Nuri and Kazirhaat Boro Madrassah principal Mawlana Junaid Bin Jalal appealed for calmness through announcements through the masjid loudspeakers.

Police picked up 44 people on Thursday night including local Jamaat leader and Bhujpur union chairman Shafiul Alam Nuri, one of the 100 named accused in the case filed by police yesterday.

What does the whole saga portend for the future of the country? It is clear that the involvement of the general people cannot be belittled. The people have time and again, over the past few weeks, shown their displeasure against the government, and the government tactic of blaming Jamaat, Shibir and BNP for the violence clearly has had no effect. The people seem to have a voice of their own. A cycle has been initiated which has seen almost all of the Jamaat, Shibir and BNP leadership detained. The arrest of Mahmudur Rahman has certainly not helped and increasing the dose of repression to oppress the political and religious opposition has only lead to further inflammation. A perfect example was the Hefazat-e-Islam rally on the 6th of April. Calls by shortsighted Shahbag activists such as to demand strict regulations on using the masjid mike and loudspeakers is guaranteed to only make the situation worse.

The people have said no to more oppression. Its time the government rethink its failed strategy and sit with all political parties to prevent further breakdown of the situation of law and order along with the immediate release all political leaders from prison. Barring that, a dark future for this country is all that seems to loom.   

Friday, April 12, 2013

A call to free the Shibir President Delwar Hossain

The 11th of April, saw the enforcement of a dawn to dusk hartal/strike called by the largest student organization in Bangladesh, Bangladesh Islami Chatra Shibir. The student body called the strike to protest the arrest of its central president, Delwar Hossain, and police torture carried out upon him in the name of remand. A Shibir leader was shot dead and six others, including two  policemen, were injured as police opened fire at the procession brought by Shibir during hartal at Chenchuri in Dumuria upazila on Thursday morning. The deceased was Mansoor Ali Gazi, 23, a Shibir district unit leader.

Earlier, Delwar Hossain was arrested on the 31st of March by security forces from the capital's Shyamoli from his sister's house by security forces. The student community rose in protest that day and Bangladesh Islami Chatra Shibir issued an ultimatum of 24 hours for his release, calling for demos on the 1st of April and tougher programmes if he was not released within 24 hours. Ignoring all demands for his release, the police state adorned the beloved leader of thousands as a condemned criminal and brought him to the court in handcuffs. A true leader, Delwar Hossain smiled at their audacity and instead strived to maintain his dignified posture to assure the hundreds of thousands of crying hearts that he was alive and well with the grace of the Almighty.

On that day he was granted 14 days remand for alleged involvement in assaulting police and blasting cocktails on Mirpur Road in the capital on February 28. After the countrywide shutdown (hartal) on February 28, two cases were filed with Mohammadpur Police Station for assaulting police and blasting cocktails in front of Care Hospital on Mirpur Road. Metropolitan Magistrate Harun-or-Rashid granted the remand order when police sought a 20-day remand in both of the cases. The Shibir chief was granted 14 days remand in the two cases on Monday even though he wasn't named in the charge sheets of either case. The lawyer of the defendant said that this was a political conspiracy since 10 accused who were actually listed in the cases on the 16th of March including Mostafa Kamal had been granted 2 days of remand against a prayer of 7 days while an unnamed defendant like the Shibir President was granted 14 days against the police prayer of 20 days. 

Protesting the government injustice and demanding the immediate release its president including all unjustly detained members, Shibir called for a nationwide strike on the 2nd of April. The 18 party grand Alliance supported the call and called for the same to press home their own demands. The 2nd of April saw justifiably livid outbursts from the students in demanding the release of their leader. More than 200 were arrested, 300 injured and 11 injured from police firing on that day. The government, in its political shortsightedness and unending greed to hold on to power through crackdown on political opposition, remained deaf and mute on the matter. 

Strikes were called subsequently for the 3rd of April at Rajshahi and Rangpur to protest the arrest of the Shibir President. It is mentionable that special care was taken to exclude all examinations of HSC and Alim level. 

On the 7th of April, 8 student organizations issued a statement calling for the immediate release of the Shibir President and denounced torture inflicted on him in the name of police custody. According to the english website of Shibir, " In a joint statement, Jagpa Chhatra League President Saiful Islam, Khelafat Chhatra Andolon President Sultan Muhiuddin, Khelafat Chhatra Islami Bangladesh President Anowarul Hoque Imran, Jatiya Chhatra Dal President S.N. Shaon Sadeqi, Islami Chhatra Somaj President Ilias Athari, Labor Party President Kamrul Islam Suruj, Chhatra Kalyan Party President Jamaluddin and Muslim Chhatra League President H.M. Khan Asad said, “The student segment is now roaring in protest against governmental actions fatal to the country and Islam. The seat of the government is shaken enough by the tougher movement of the students. This is why it is persecuting Shibir Central President, a Top Leader of Chhatra Oikyo, in the name of remand by unjustly nabbing. The student section shall never tolerate such persecution on him. The government has surely to suffer a lot if any harm is inflicted upon him even to the lowest extent. The student segment will be bound to announce one-point ‘oust the government’ agendum” The student leaders urged the government authority to stop persecuting Shibir President and set him free unconditionally. "

On the 8th of April, the mother of the Shibir President, along with the lawyers of the defendant, arranged a press conference at Court Street in Old Dhaka to protest what she said was inhuman torture being inflicted on her son and demanded for his immediate release. 

Tearful mother Taiba Khatun said that when she contacted Mohammadpur police station to enquire about her son, they replied that they did not know of any Delwar. She got the same response from the Detective Branch of police who did not heed to her enquiries. Enquiries through lawyers had also been futile and unsuccessful. This had forced her to call for the press conference. She also enquired as to the motives of the government in arresting her pious son who she believed was a victim due to his opposition to government oppression and crackdown on the political opposition. She further iterated that she had gained knowledge from a trusted source that her son had been inhumanely tortured in police detention to a level that he had been unconscious for days at an end and that his life was in danger as a result. She demanded that the government immediately release her son back to her.

On the 9th of April, Shibir released a statement that denounced the inhuman torture on its president and demanded for his immediate release. Hartal/strike was called for Thursday the 11th of April to protest the above.       

It is a matter of great alarm that the government has ignored all peaceful calls by the student body, and has instead concentrated on further inflamming the situation by carrying out torture of Delwar Hossain and preventing his lawyers and family from meeting with him. 

I close this post by strongly demanding that the government release all political prisoners in Bangladesh including the Shibir President and all illegally detained Shibir members and associates. Its time to stop the madness.