Thursday, June 19, 2014

24 female students sent to jail in Bangladesh for holding Quran Taa'leem program!!!

On the evening of 18th of June, police surrounded the premises of a house in South Goran, in the middle of Dhaka. The sheer levels of activity among the police forces indicated that they had come to arrest and apprehend anti-social elements of magnanimous nature, probably armed drug traders or holed up terrorists with big guns trained at the front entrance.

However, the police seemed relaxed, too relaxed. Perhaps this was not about confronting terrorists with bazookas. Perhaps it was a big haul of gold or even better, a cache of anti tank missiles with a huge shipment of methamphetamine right in the middle of the room, something the law enforcers would gladly pocket when they got the chance.

The tension in the area surrounding the building the police were getting ready to break into had reached boiling point. It was close to 6 pm in the evening, and darkness was about to creep in, when Khilgaon thana police started their operation, duly entering the building premises, tagging their female counterparts along with them. The onlookers held their breaths, expecting the occurrence of something big any moment. About an hour later, when the law enforcers came out, everybody exhaled, more from puzzlement and surprise than wonder at another excellent successful security operation of the police, the arrest of 24 hijab clad women, some holding their children in their arms, from what police proudly claimed was a ‘clandestine’ program of the Bangladesh Islami Chhatri Sangstha, a social organization that works to promote dawah among female students in Bangladesh.  

Khilgaon thana Officer in charge (O.C.) Sirajul Islam Sheikh stated that police had carried out a raid at a house beside Shantipur Masjid in South Goran in the capital and arrested 24 activists of Chhatri Sangstha. Few could apprehend the reasons behind the arrest of about 24 female students given that:

1. Bangladesh Islami Chhatri Sangstha is NOT a banned organization that carries out clandestine activities, nor is it a political organization that holds public meetings and rallies such that it poses a threat to the government of Sheikh Hasina Wazed, which since illegally coming to power in sham elections on the 5th of January has unconditionally cracked down on socio-political activities of people and activists of all spectra of the society, despite repeated concerns of national and international rights and socio-political groups.

2. The female students were holding a Quraan taa’leem (Quraan learning) program in preparation for the month of Ramadan, something that their guardians also confirmed. Police, instead of immediately releasing them and apologizing for the extremely dim-witted, illogical and irresponsible act of raiding such a program, saw fit to seize Quran and Islamic books from the hands of the female students and claim them to be “jihadist” books, something that has turned to a narrative of a secular government that has turned extremely intolerant to Islamic parties and organizations in Bangladesh.

3. Despite the absence of any law that legalizes the arbitrary arrest of female students holding a Quran taa’leem program inside residential facilities, the police deliberately flouted with the law to make the arrests, abusing section 54(1), again and again and again. Most of the arrests under section 54 are caused on fanciful suspicion and in most cases to fill in the quota allotted to an individual police officer to make an arrest each day. This incredible practice has been going on with impunity for many years. An arrest under section 54 is often a prelude to issuance of detention order under the Special Powers Act, 1974 (SPA). The SPA allows the authorities to detain any person on eight grounds, vague enough to detain any person according to the whim and caprice of the executives and the party in power. Such detention can extend to six months, and may extend beyond this period, if so sanctioned by the Advisory Board. The use and abuse of the SPA in the name of securing law and order have resulted in steady pattern of human rights violations in Bangladesh.

The names of the arrested are: Dhaka University students Farzana Akhtar, Tanzina, Muntahana, Shamsunnahar, Ayesha Akhtar, Atia Jahan, Subaita, Bangladesh Agriculture University students Shamima Akhtar, Habiba, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology students Siddika, Farjana, Eden University College student Zakia Khan, Rajshahi University student Farhana, Fatima, Islamic University student Sumaiyya Siddika, Home Economics College student Nur Jahan, Farjana, Jagannath University students Sumaiyya, Rownak, Savar Model College students Mahbuba, Ema, Chittagong University students Sumaiyya Afroze, Fatema Jannat and BUET student Salma.      

Sent to jail:

In what has become a routine way to harass and intimidate, the CMM court on the 19th of July sent the 24 students to jail after magistrate Ataul Haq concluded their hearing and sent them to jail after cancelling both pleas for bail and remand.

Earlier the students were brought up to court by Khilgaon thana S.I. Sheikh Mohammad Kamruzzaman, who put forward the absolutely ridiculous but time tested logic that the 24 students were holding a 'clandestine' meeting in order to hamper and hinder the 'trial of war criminals' and were using resources such as Islamic books and computers to that end.

The officer in uniform, despite the knowledge that they had been holding a Quran taa'leem program and that many of the women arrested had children with them, prayed for 5 days remand for all of them, in order to question and interrogate to find out the secret plot they were hatching in order to bring down the government and thwart the 'trial of war criminals'.

The heartless court, in keeping with the true tradition of being the arm of an authoritative regime, sent them to jail and allowed the police the option to question them at jail gate premises over the next four working days.


The steamroller of injustice and blatant abuse of human rights continues to occur daily in Bangladesh. Despite repeated concerns raised by numerous rights groups both nationally and internationally, the rampant abuse of basic rights of citizenry, especially that of women by the state apparatus continues; unabated, unchecked and gloried in the name of the war of independence of 1971. Even more worrying is when self professing custodians of human rights and justice of all citizens in Bangladesh, the media, feel safer to be silent on an issue as horrendous as this. Secular media such as the Daily Star, Dhaka Tribune and bdnews24 have not just remained silent but played active roles in creating and fanning the myth of the female students congregating clandestinely in order to 'thwart the glorious trial of war criminals of 1971', trying to cover up an injustice with another instance of sheer injustice.

History will neither forgive us nor forgive us if we remain silent over the blatant injustice that has occurred today against 24 sisters whose fault was they had come together to simply listen to the words of the Quran in a nation that is officially 90 per cent Muslim.     

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Chatra League hack off foot of Shibir activist, shoot him in barbaric attack at Rajshahi (Graphic)

Warning: Post contains graphic content. View at your own discretion

In a shocking incident, armed terrorists of Chatra league, student organization of the ruling party Awami League carried out a barbaric attack on Rasel Ahmed, fourth year student of Finance and Marketing department of Rajshahi University and secretary of Nawab Abdul Latif Hall unit of Rajshahi University Chatra Shibir, chopping off his right foot and shooting him three times in both sides of his chest in FRONT OF THE MEDIA, POLICE, TEACHERS AND STUDENTS!!!

How the attack occurred:

At 1 p.m. on Monday, the 16th of June, the fourth year final examinations of the Arabic department at Rajshahi University were being held on the premises of the Shahidullah Arts Building, when Chatra League cadres, along with the police, locked the east and west gates of the department and took position in front of the building in order to take hostage Chatra Shibir activists and leaders. During the time, the BCL cadres led by RU General Secretary and well known terrorist Touhid Al Tuhin, were seen moving around in front of police, openly displaying firearms. At about 3:30 pm, as the exam was ongoing, police and Chatra League took hostage the Chatra Shibir RU Human Resources Development affairs secretary, Ziauddin Bablu.
Ziauddin Bablu, RU Shibir HRD secretary held by police and Chatraleague
Earlier, at about 12:45 pm, Chatra League cadres took Rasel Ahmed as hostage from in front of the Shahiudullah Arts Building.  After holding him hostage for more than three hours, the cadres, armed with machetes and firearms, began hacking Rasel mercilessly in front of the media, police, teachers and general students. The attackers then proceeded to completely hack off his right foot. Then they fired three shots at his chest in quick succession and after leaving him critically injured, quickly fled the scene.  

Recovering him from the scene, the police dragged the profusely bleeding Rasel out on all fours, and sent him to Rajshahi Medical College for immediate life saving treatment. He was later admitted to ward number 31 after receiving immediate care at the Intensive Care Unit. Hospital Police Box in-charge SI Pradip Kumar informed that Rasel’s health was in critical condition.

Those involved with the barbaric incident :

Witnesses said that Rasel was taken hostage by a group of Chatra League cadres led by BCL RU Joint Secretary Golam Kibria, BCL RU Vice President Tonmoy Ananda Ovi, Organizational affairs secretary Faisal Ahmed Ronu, Don, Rinet, Shushmoy and Kauser Ahmed Koushik from in front of Shahidullah Arts building, where he was taken inside and subject to the horrible attack. Witnesses further testified that ronu and Kibria had played the leading role in the attack.

Media reaction:

The reaction by major media such as Daily Star, Dhaka Tribune was largely lukewarm and written in a manner that attempted to discredit the real version of events. They tried to attribute the incident to mere student politics, and repeatedly identified attackers as unknown miscreants, despite overwhelming witness testimony to prove otherwise. 

Shibir have called for a half day shutdown from 6 am to 2 pm on Tuesday at Rajshahi, Chapai Nawabganj and Natore protesting this barbaric attempt to murder a student, demanding justice for Rasel. We demand an independent investigation and justice against the perpetrators of this barbaric incident and the animals in uniform (the police) who stood watching while this heinous crime was being committed.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Arson attack at Mirpur Bihari Camp, 10 killed: The truth behind the scenes

Kalshi, situated in Pallabi, Dhaka is home to a variety of people, ranging from extremely poor people living in slums, to lower middle income families, middle income and even upper middle class communities, all on a single stretch of road in an area that is seeing extremely fast urban development. Among a defining feature of the area is that it is home to a number of Bihari communities, some of whom live in separate communities in camps and slums in the area. Biharis are generally identified as Urdu speaking people living in Bangladesh who also identify themselves as non-Bengalees or even ‘stranded’ Pakistanis, in reference to their official status after the war of 1971 that led to the breakup of erstwhile Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh. Contrary to what many are led to believe, all Biharis do not want to go back to Pakistan, and neither do all Biharis live in camps or slums. It is also true that a lot of Biharis have intermarried with Bangla speaking communities and many speak Bangla with the fluency of the locals themselves, as their first language nonetheless. A lot of the business and area in and around Kalshi, Mirpur is owned by non-Bengalees, or “Biharis” themselves, most of whom are proudly citizens of Bangladesh.   

News: 10 killed in clashes at Mirpur

Ten people, including four men and two children, were killed in a series of clashes at a camp of ‘stranded’ Pakistanis at Kalshi in Pallabi in the city on Saturday. Nine of the deceased were identified as Baby, Lalu, his brother Bhulu, Shahanara and her 5 year old boy, Roksana, Afsana, Farzana and Ashique. Witnesses said that clashes erupted in the morning after Fajr prayers at Kurmitola Bihari camp, locally known as ‘Bihari camp’ after a dispute over the use of firecrackers on the occasion of Shab-e-Barat.  

Another person, who was hit by pellets allegedly fired by police during the clashes, succumbed to his injuries at Dhaka Medical College and Hospital (DMCH), hospital sources said.

The news received wide coverage in media and sparked furious debate on social media. Not only was the incident coverage limited to local and national print media such as Prothom Alo, Naya Diganta and the Daily Star along with being shown live on all television channels, it was picked up by international media as well such as al Jazeera.

Media story behind the incident:

The story behind the event as given by the media were by and large the same, the main differences being on the focus of the stories at hand,

a) Most media tried to portray the incident as being the result of ethnic tensions spanning more than 40 years. This was the tool employed by Prothom Alo and the Daily Star among others. Shockingly, an international outlet such as Al Jazeera also portrayed the incident as being a result of ethnic tensions between ‘ethnic Bengalees’ and ‘stranded Biharis refugees’, when a lot of witnesses suggested otherwise on television media throughout the day.

b) The media were terribly confusing and unclear on the event, often publishing contrasting versions of the same explanation of events in the same article. For example, media reports suggested that the clashes were between Bengalee locals and Biharis,  while others said that the fight was between two groups of Biharis, while still others claimed that the police were a either a third front or that the clashes were between Biharis and the police.  

c) The major media failed to ask the required questions on the event or address the concerns of the affected people. They failed to verify the witnesses, the testimonials, and the question the actions of the police during the event. Most went with cut-copy-paste versions of each other’s stories on the incident.

Questions that need to be asked:

a) The affected complained to the TV cameramen that Iliyas Uddin Mollah, the present MP of Dhaka-16, of which Kalshi is a part, was to blame. During the interviews, some men even broke out in processions with slogans of “Hang Iliyaas Mollah” and “Try Iliyaas Mollah” before the police suddenly dispersed the protesters with force and tear gas. What did the people want to say? Witnesses said that the real reason for the clashes was from a dispute between Iliyaas Uddin Mollah MP and the camp dwellers for quite some time. Previously 3 days ago, the electricity connection to 400 families at the Kalapani camp had been severed and the MP had sternly declared that he would not allow its reinstallation. The high voltage questions which need to be asked here, keeping in mind the fact that most of the amenities lines in the slums are illegal, is that on what authority did Iliyaas Mollah carry out such an order? Was he involved in corruption regarding to the installation of electricity lines and hoarding of government money in the process?

b) The occurrence occurred exactly three days into the previous incident of the severing of electricity to the camp dwellers. Alongside the severing of electricity, cases had been filed with police by the order of the MP himself against Jalal Bhontu, a leader of the Bihari camp dwellers and twenty others. This was in direct link with a dispute of the MP with Jalal over sharing electricity lines of a slum in Mirpur 12 Kalapani with another slum of atleast 100 families operated and maintained by groups loyal to the MP himself. The incident seemed so well planned, complete with the fact that the attackers were men loyal to Iliyaas Mollah MP led by 5 no. ward Juboleague president Jewel Rana, that the fact that most news media trying to dub the incident as a ethnic clash is absurd.

c) Why did police help the ruling party affiliated attackers in attacking the camp dwellers by firing shots into the camp when they should have subdued tensions on both sides? Why did the police allow the camp residences to burn throughout the afternoon and prevent the action of fire fighters on the pretence that the camp dwellers were not allowing the police access, even when it was clear on the TV cameras that this was an outright lie?

d) Why did Awami League leader Iliyaas uddin Mollah MP not visit the affected area throughout the day? Why did he refuse to take calls from the media and answer their questions?        


The incident, on retrospection, is a clear case of a result of a power struggle clash for area control by Iliyaas uddin Mollah, the Awami League member of Parliament who, along with his family, the very powerful Mollah family, is well known for his tight control on the area, including the control of the drug trade (Mirpur is a haven for the drug trade in Dhaka), control of numerous slums in the area and the phenomenon of land grabbing along with all manner of illegal trade in the area. It is imperative that we demand an independent and proper enquiry into the matter, including an assurance that the perpetrators will actually be punished and that justice will be served to the poor people who have been attacked and livelihoods, home and lives lost and destroyed.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Shahbag porn master: The questions that need asking

The Criminal Investigation Department of police arrested three men for pornographic videos and photographs for foreign customers, and rescued a 13-year-old boy. The mastermind of the gang TIM Fakruzzaman alias Tipu Kibria, chairman of Sudhui Bangla Photography Society, used to sell the videos and photos through internet to his clients in Germany, USA, Australia, UK and Saudi Arabia, said CID officials yesterday at a press briefing in the capital. Tipu was arrested in Khilgaon on Tuesday.

The same day, the officials arrested Nurul Amin alias Nuru, who used to capture the videos, in his Mugdha residence and seized cameras, laptops and CDs containing a huge number of pornographic photos and videos involving several hundred boys. The boy was rescued from Nurul's house whom he lured with a job and later compelled to act in the videos. Shaharul Islam, who used to look after the transactions, was arrested in Gazipur. on Wednesday while another member, Nurul Islam, is absconding.

The CID started the investigation after the Interpol informed them about the gang a week ago.

The news was shocking for many since Tipu Kibria was a familiar writer of books for children. His juvenile horror series was to a great extent popular among children. He has published more than 55 books, of which most were for children and published from Sheba Publications.

Interestingly, he was a also a well known leader during the Shahbag protests back in 2013 (as shown from a picture on his facebook page. Tipu is with specs on the right). One might say that what has political support got to do with the crime? Others might say hate the crime, not the criminal. What I would like to allure to is the fact that pornographers like Tipu Kibria do not come together with a movement such as Shahbag that hosted derogatory reviled atheists such as Asif Mohiuddin and Omi Piyal in its front ranks and boasts of martyrs such as blogger Rajib Haider alias“Thaba Baba”(thaba baba was the online name used by Rajib Haider to write explicitly derogatory material concerning the Islamic religion and the prophet Mohammad on his blog at Nurani Chapa) via mere chance. It is said that birds of the same feathers flock together, and the denizens in Shahbag can be clearly categorized as being in general a lot without moral fibre and in possession of a sick mentality of varying degrees. Pornograph master Tipu Kibria is just another concrete example of another Shahbagi personality who just got exposed. He is also an example of why we need to ask questions of the Shahbagh movement, its motives and ends it was so shamelessly used to achieve, namely the hanging of political opponents of the present government under the guise of “trial of war criminals”. We need to ask these questions quickly, before more innocent lives are lost.            

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bangladesh police defy court order, ransack and loot home of opposition leader Mir Quasem Ali

In an unwarranted and shocking incident, police in Dhaka today, the 4th of June, 2014, raided the house of Mir Quasem Ali, senior Jamaat-e-Islami leader and Chief Executive of Diganta Media Corporation, currently standing trial at the International Crimes tribunal in Dhaka. 

Family and close relatives said that Mirpur thana police and detective branch personnel raided the house located at Kazipara today morning. This was despite an earlier order by a lower court that had rejected the appeal by law agencies for confiscation of family assets of Mir Mohammad Bin Quasem, son of Mir Quasem Ali in light of a case filed against him earlier. Barrister Mir Ahmad Bin Quasem Arman, younger son of Mir Quasem Ali and eminent tribunal lawyer, while describing the incident, said that a battalion of police had come to their house in the morning in a truck and without prior notice and despite a court order to the contrary, started ransacking their home and confiscating family belongings at will, taking with them many valuables in the process. 


When Barrister Arman contacted the judge who had given the judgement rejecting the appeal for confiscation, the judge answered that he had received a call from higher authorities right after delivering his judgement, due to which he was helpless to do anything. The police gave similar replies to the queries of the family members who were forced to quietly watch as their valuables were robbed in front of their eyes. When asked on whose orders they were seizing the family belongings, their reply was, “Instructions from higher command”.  

In the meantime, police had confiscated anything and everything they could lay their hands on, including the bed, TV, fridge, almirah (wardrobe), a baby's wardrobe, plates and jugs among other things. Family members present at the scene reminisced in disbelief the words of a police officer, who on leaving the scene, said that they would be back if they were not satisfied with what they had seized.

Family members expressed their shock and disbelief at the unwarranted actions of the police apparatus in relation with the incident that were directly in violation with a court order passed just a day back by the judiciary, setting a serious precedent to a routine mockery of justice by security forces of the government that has become so commonplace in Bangladesh. 

It is mentionable that Mir Quasem Ali was arrested on June 17, 2012, on charges that allege his involvement with war crimes in 1971. The tribunal is marred by controversies and has been routinely criticized for issues of fairness and lack of transparency by various international rights bodies such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. A domestic tribunal set up by the government in 2009 to try war criminals of 1971, the tribunal recently came under international criticism for its role in leading to the hanging of Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary general of Jamaat-e-Islami based on a questionable trial process. Critics of the tribunal have condemned it as a tool for political repression being used by the government to silence its opponents.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Shaykh Hyena, Hitler reincarnate?

In a confession on Saturday 31st of May, 2014, Sheikh Hasina for the first time revealed that both US Secretary of State John Kerry and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon had requested her to stop the execution of Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant Secretary General of Jamaat-e-Islami, who was questionably convicted by the domestic International War Crimes tribunal for crimes against humanity in 1971.

However, instead of providing an ounce of logic that could explain her actions, she went full frontal on another explosive rant, a trend that has characterized the classic Sheikh dynastic disdain for anything remotely logical. With a maniacal pompous air that could only emanate from Sheikh Hasina herself, she horrendously declared in front of hundreds of newsmen,

“Who in Bangladesh has the guts to go ahead with the hanging after that?”

“Only Bangabandhu’s daughter (has that).” 

In reply to a question about speeding up the trial of war criminals, “Don’t question me. I will do what I have to do,” 

An insightful response to this rant by eminent defence lawyer for Abdul Quader Mollah, Mr. Toby Cadman (on his facebook page) was, "Interesting comments from a Head of State that claims to exert no control over the Judiciary." 

( For reference, it will be wise to revisit earlier articles on Abdul Quader Mollah, namely the infamous charge on which he was sentenced, some questions and aspects regarding his trial and a detailed follow up of his case written on the Asia Times regarding the case)
In any other civilized nation, such comments would have been looked upon with utter horror. In Bangladesh, hardly a few cared, having become used to the audacity and callousness of the comments of the PM, not forgetting to mentions her actions, namely the sham elections on the 5th of January (a nice cartoon by cartoonist Mehedi Haque below)

Juxtapose her comments in line with the current situation residing within the country, where a recent report by manabzamin says that in the last month alone, i.e. in May, a human rights organization reported about 44 abductions and 33 reported missing. Or take for example the flow of events since the seven murders at Narayangonj. The phrase, “Don’t question me. I will do what I have to do,” when combined with the inaction regarding improving the law and security condition in the country and the lack of meaningful steps regarding incarceration of accused security men and people in the administration of which Hasina is head raises many questions, the most simple of which is that whether all this is what she really wants.

The impunity that murderers, violators of human rights and corrupt bigwigs have enjoyed under Sheikh Hasina surpasses anything that Bangladesh has witnessed before. Maybe that is why she is being rightfully taken to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed under her regime. From witness accounts to the testimony of relatives, to photographic evidence and video footage there is detailed and deeply disturbing evidence of the systematic repression, torture, murder and forced disappearance of those who support opposition parties and whose views differ from that of the current Regime.
Her complete disregard of the concerns raised by the world regarding the flawed trial of Abdul Quader Mollah showcases a fascist mentality that is in the grip of knowledge that it is above law. As cartoonist Mehedi Haque depicts with another toon below, the signs are increasingly apparent that to her, democracy, the rule of the law, and fascism mean the same thing.