Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Chatra League: Embodying terrorism en masse

UNB reported that two people, including an 8 year old boy, were killed and another person was injured during a gunfight between armed cadres of the Jubo League and Bangladesh Chhatra League over dropping a tender for three development projects of Bangladesh Railway East Zone headquarters, CRB Bhaban, under Kotwali Police Station at around 11:45am.
8 year old Arman. What was his fault?
Kotwali Police Station Inspector (Investigation) Nezamuddin said the armed clashes erupted following a dispute and running battles between the groups of Chhatra League and Juba League over a tender for a Tk 4.8 million renovation project of Feni Railway Station.

Police said that around 20 rounds of gunshots were fired at the time.

After the horrible incident, police conducted drives in different parts of Chittagong and detained around 40 people, including Chhatra League Central Assistant Secretary Saiful Alam Limon.

The deceased persons were identified as passersby Arman Hossain, 8, son of Siddique Ahmed and Saju Palit, 24. Both were residents of a nearby slum. While playing out in the open, Arman was shot in the head and died on the spot. Saju was sitting on a roadside tea stall near the clash site when a bullet hit him in the head. Doctors declared him dead after he was rushed to Chittagong Medical College and Hospital.

What did he do to deserve this end? Was innocence his fault?
How the Chatra League (re)acted,
In a media statement, the President of the Chatra League, HM Badiuzzaman Shohagh and the General Secretary Siddique Nazmul Alam said there was no active committee of Chhatra League in the port city. "None have been ordered to work for the organisation at any level there," the statement said.

However, police have said that apart from Limon, the arrestees include Chhatra League's Chittagong University unit Organising Secretary Alamgir Tipu, Cultural Affairs Secretary Jamir Uddin and Chittagong Commerce College Vice-President Hasmat Ali Russell.

In a sham of a bid to appear tough, in a press release in the afternoon, the front said it was permanently expelling its Central Assistant Secretary Limon for his involvement with anti-organisational activities

Meanwhile, in this month….
In case you do not know, the above incident is no way an isolated one. Let us refresh our memories from a few examples from June 2013 (this month) itself.

On the 22nd of June, the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)-11 arrested president of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) of Burichang chapter with 250 tablets of Yaba (methamphetamine) tablets from Shankushil bazar under Burichang upazila early hours Saturday.

On the 14th of June, local cadres of the Juba League and Bangladesh Chhatra League, carried out an attack on Kazipur municipality office on Wednesday. They vandalised various furniture of three rooms of the office worth around 5 lakh taka.

On the 11th of June, president of Savar College unit Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) was sued on the charge of rape. Police said that the victim’s mother Doly Begum filed a case against BCL leader Ahmed Rubel and ten others, including his two brothers, with Savar police station in the morning.

A walk down the memory lane….
8 year old Arman Hossain, a victim of today’s clashes, did not deserve to die the way he died. Nor did Bishwajit Das. Neither did 10 year old Rabbi at Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh. But the fact is that convicted criminals have been granted immunity and have enjoyed widespread impunity, just because of the obnoxious fact that they are affiliated with that sorry excuse of an organization called the Bangladesh Chatra League (BCL). 

A recent report of Centre for Media Research and Training shows that around 60 higher education institutes of the country were declared shut for indefinite period because of the BCL’s factional clashes and those with their political rivals. They also locked in 200 clashes in different educational institutes over the last four years that left around 4,145 people injured. Around 20 teachers of Dhaka University have been assaulted by Chhatra League activists during this time. They assaulted around 20 teachers of Bangladesh Agriculture University on August 20, 2011. On May 10, 2010, BCL activists assaulted a female teacher and 10 female students of JnU. More than 150 journalists were assaulted by BCL in the last four years by activists of BCL, the report said. 

It was found that in most of the incidents, no cases had been filed. Moreover, cases which were filed were done so against unidentified people even though the attackers had been exposed through media and witnesses. 

In conclusion,

Once the pride of a beleaguered nation, Bangladesh Chatra League of late has turned into a terrorist outfit; one even Sheikh Hasina herself has failed to bring under check. Progenitor of a generation that gave Bangladesh great political leaders, the BCL has now turned into a haven for miscreants and anti-social hypocrites who use it as a breeding ground to create mindless replicas of themselves. It is high time that this terrorist outfit be either banned or brought to justice in order to set the records straight. There is no other alternative.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Slandering the Sheikh Dynasty: The Greater Crime

In Bangladesh, it’s a greater crime to speak out against the family of the ruling party Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina than to blaspheme against Prophet Mohammad (SAW). Shocking as it sounds, events throughout the past few years bear witness to that. The most recent event is as follows,

Judging an obscure remark Vs a seasoned Islamophobic icon,

On the 23rd of April 2012, a general diary was filed with Shabagh police station, against a teacher of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology alleging that he was a threat to security of prime minister Sheikh Hasina. Jananetri Parishad president AB Siddique had filed the diary alleging that BUET mechanical engineering department lecturer Hafizur Rahman Rana had posted libelous remarks on the facebook against Hasina. While filing GD number 1403, AB Siddique enclosed the remarks posted on the facebook post and a report on it published by Bangla daily ‘Bhorer Alo’ on April 19 with his allegations.

The facebook remarks state ‘Tui Hayena, Tui BUET ke khabi? Parbi na. Prothome desh ke, akhon BUET ke……..Matha kete BUET gate a Jhulia rakhbo jate ar kono hayne akraman na kore.’  (You hyena, you will consume BUET? You shall not be able to. First the country, then BUET........ I shall cut off your head and hang it on the gate of BUET so that NO more hyenas can attack us anymore)

These were the comments that got him 7 years rigorous imprisonment in jail. AB Siddique said that he felt that the comment was aimed at PM Sheikh Hasina, while BUET lecturer Rana had explained that the ‘hyena’ he had alluded to was ‘corruption and irregularities’. Despite the flimsy basis for a case, Dhaka Senior Special Judge Md. Jahrul Haque delivered the verdict Thursday, 27th of June, in absence of Hafizur Rahman who went into hiding after being granted a bail from the High Court on August 14. Later he also got bail from CMM court on September 18. The court sentenced him five-year jail term under section 57 of Information and Communication Technology Act and two year under section 506 of penal code.
The same court and the same Judge, Md. Jahrul Haque, on the very same day, granted bail to widely known  Islamophobic atheist blogger Asif Mohiuddin who was detained in April this year in connection with a case filed against him for violating information, communication and technology laws on charges of producing blasphemous write-ups on blogs and social media. Earlier on June 2, the same court granted bail to three other bloggers Mashiur Rahman Biplob, Russel Pervez and Subrata Adhikari Shuvo in a non-First Information Report (FIR) case filed under the Section 57(2) of Information Communication Technology Act 2006.
Such contrasting judgements by the same judge based on the same law ( 7 years for a libelous remark that could mean anything; bail for a widely known blasphemous Islamophobic blogger) allude to a politicized judicial system that caters to the whims of a particular political segment. Shockingly, it seems to be a greater crime to speak out against the family of the ruling party Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina than to blaspheme against Prophet Mohammad (SAW).

Imams in jail for ‘slandering’ PM’s family,

The police on Saturday, the 8th of July, arrested two Imams at Boalmari upazila in Faridpur for distributing leaflets containing ‘offensive’ remarks against the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s family. Officer-in-charge of the Boalmari police station Ruhul Amin said that the two imams were Maulana Abul Hasan, 52 , an Imam of Boalmari Central Jame Mosque, and Rabiul Islam, 32, an Imam of Gunbaha-Taltala Jame Mosque. He said that they distributed leaflets, containing ‘derogatory’ comments against the prime minister and Mujib’s family, among the devotees after the Jumma prayers on Friday. Police Superintendent Hashemuzzaman filed a case against them under the Special Powers Act. On Sunday, the imams were sent to court, where the police asked for 5 days in remand for their ‘crime’. They were subsequently sent to jail. On Thursday the 20th of July, hartal/general strike was observed at Boalmari by the local branch of opposition BNP asking for their unconditional release.

Not an isolated incident,

This is not isolated. Criticism against Hasina and her family in the past has been met with uncharacteristic swift action, both by the law and the administration. On January 4th 2012, a university lecturer, who posted a Facebook status wishing for the death of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, was sentenced to six-month in jail by a Bangladeshi court. In 2009, Information Secretary ATM Fazlul Karim alias Abu Karim was forced to resign and was arrested after a plethora of cases were filed against him for allegedly undermining Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family members in one of his poems. Some more cases are given here. These are high profile cases which gleaned international media attention and are the tip of a phenomenon that is sparsely documented in Bangladesh. It is mentionable that youtube and facebook have been blocked for various periods in Bangladesh just to suppress such phenomena, especially after public outrage against the ruling party following major events like the BDR mutiny and the spread of video and audio detailing recent atrocities of the government.


The government of Sheikh Hasina has never backtracked from any opportunity to declare its love for protection of Islam and Islamic ideals. To this effect, the use of the law has been exemplary. But it was all for the wrong reasons. The actions of her government have proven to be exactly the opposite of her words.

Some examples,

Take the example of the dismissal of a defamation case hours after a lawyer filed it against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Adviser HT Imam and three others for hurting religious sentiment of the Muslims. In his complaint, the lawyer mentioned that HT Imam, while addressing a conference titled 'Islamer Dristitey Juddhaparadhider Bichar' organised by Awami Ulema League as the chief guest at Diploma Engineers' Institution auditorium in the city on April 2, said Islam had been protected in Bangladesh by Awami League and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was its initiator. Metropolitan Magistrate Mustafa Shahriar Khan dismissed the case saying, "The case was dismissed as there were no elements of defamation or hurting religious sentiment of the Muslims."

All seems well and good in line unless one considers the fact that the same judicial system facilitated the arrest of three leaders of the country's largest Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, on charges of "offending religious sentiments" in 2010. The three were accused of making comments comparing the party's chief to the prophet Muhammad. The charges stemmed from claims that Nizami's alleged persecution at the hands of the ruling Awami League was akin to the suffering of the Prophet Mohammed, which was a ridiculously frivolous charge to excuse their arrest. The main reason was, as the world saw later, to arrest them in preparation for a controversial war crimes trial that was to drag on for years.

Some of the case dismissals on the grounds of selective ‘frivolous’ charges of hurting religious sentiment include some Islamophobic bloggers from Shahbag. After a court dismissed a case against 8 bloggers for hurting religious sentiment and Islam defamation at Chittagong on the 6th of March, another court at Barisal did the same on the 27th of March.

In an effort to appease angry crowds who had reacted negatively to the above dismissals, the government arrested 4 bloggers by the 4th of April ahead of the long march programme of Hefazat-e-Islam on the 6th of April. The catch was that the government subsequently arrested the editor of opposition supportive news daily Daily Amardesh, Mahmudur Rahman, who had helped expose the above bloggers, on similar charges. A result was that Amardesh was subsequently banned from publishing amid much drama. Three of the four bloggers have been released on bail till date, while Mahmudur Rahman still is in custody, with no end to his ordeal in sight and Amardesh hasn’t been able to publish till date. In retrospect, it seemed that graver were the crimes of the one to expose, not the exposed.

In conclusion,

Such are the high handed practices of the current government led by Sheikh Hasina. With such selective judicial norms in place supplementing the heavy handedness of the government in suppressing the opposition, it is no wonder that a tsunami of disapproval and unpopularity has been unleashed, which most recently manifested itself in the form a crushing defeat for the Awami League in the four city corporations polls held past week.

Time will eventually tell. However, for now, it seems after all, that blatant oppression in the name of justice won’t pay, be it the daughter of the Father of the Nation herself.   

Thursday, June 13, 2013

BSF Killings, the culture of impunity continues

Pankaj Saran, High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh, Wednesday claimed that no incident of killing took place on Bangladesh-India border in the last six months. On being reminded that two Bangladeshis had been killed today, he replied that “I confess that a couple of killings took place on the border despite India’s carefulness in this regard. Not a single incident of border killing could be termed legal. India is taking administrative initiatives to stop border killings”.

Indian Border Security Force (BSF) shot 2 Bangladeshi cattle traders dead while injuring two others at Putkhali frontier near Benapole early Wednesday.. The victims were identified as Faruque Hossain, 26, of Basatpur colony and Habibur Rahman, 25, residence of Barupota village of Benapole.

The cowardly response of the government was to send a letter to the BSF protesting the killings.

Let us look at some facts,

In the year 2012, from January to November, 36 people were killed at the Indo-Bangladesh border, 34 of them by BSF, while 98 people were subject to injuries stemming from torture or bullet wounds, 90 of the cases being perpetrated by the BSF. A total of 64 abductions took place in the same period.

From the year 2000 to 2012, the grand total summed up by Odhikar amounted to a total of 1047 people killed at the India-Bangladesh border, of which 967 was attributed to the BSF.

Felani, a 15-year-old girl, was shot dead by the Indian border guards while she was crossing into Bangladesh over the barbed-wire fences on Phulbari border in Dinajpur January 7, 2011.  The brutal killing shocked people both in Bangladesh and India and drew widespread condemnation.
More than two years have passed, but the trial of the case could not start as yet as things remained confined to exchange of letters between the two sides over procedural matters.

4 Bangladeshi cattle traders were killed by the BSF in 48 hours starting from January 1, 2013. Instead of unconditionally condemning the killings, the Home minister, Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, according to media reports, indicated that the governments of Bangladesh and India have an understanding that allows the border guards to shoot in ‘self-defence’ and said that Dhaka would investigate whether the BSF ‘had opened fire in self-defence... if it was not for self-defence then necessary steps would be taken through the proper channel.’

According to information documented by Odhikar from May 1-31, several incidents of human rights violations of Bangladeshi citizens were committed by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) in May 2013. During this period, three Bangladeshis were killed and 10 were injured by the BSF along the border. Among the 10 injured persons, two were tortured and eight were shot. Furthermore, 10 Bangladeshi citizens were also abducted by the BSF.


Let me close with comments of Brad Adams, Asia Director of the HRW, which although dated, still hold fast today, “No one has been prosecuted for any of these killings, in spite of evidence in many cases that makes it clear the killings were in cold blood against unarmed and defenceless local residents. Shockingly, some Indian officials endorse shooting people who attempt to cross the border illegally, even if they are unarmed. Almost as shocking is the lack of interest in these killings by foreign governments who claim to be concerned with human rights. A single killing by US law enforcement along the Mexican border makes headlines. The killing of large numbers of villagers by Indian forces has been almost entirely ignored.”