<%-- Page Title--%> News Notes <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 134 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

December 19, 2003

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Death in Police Custody

Two more death in police custody in two days (last week) have triggered another wave of fear among the public and added to their general mistrust of the law enforcers. The first victim was 37-year old Amar Das, allegedly an abettor in the abduction of businessman Jamal uddin Ahmed Chowdhury. Das apparently died during an interrogation by detective branch, special branch officials and an investigative officer. Das's family suspects that the police poisoned his food to protect the godfathers involved in the abduction. On Friday December 13, 18-year-old Mahabubul Alam Rony was allegedly beaten to death while in custody in Dhaka central jail. His family says that Rony was subjected to inhuman torture after the family turned down a hefty bribe demanded by a sub inspector of Shabujbagh Police Station for his release.

The Ahmadia Saga

Religious intolerance reached a peak on December 6 when a huge hate-filled demonstration of 30,000 people against Ahmadias took place in Tejgaon. Putting up barricades on Tongi Diversion Road, the demonstrators staged a rally at Nabisco crossing after Friday prayers while hundreds of policemen looked on. The roadblock brought traffic to a standstill for 2 hours.

Frenzied demonstrators mostly with red bands on their right arms shouted anti-Ahmadia slogans. They were volunteers under Khatme Nabawat Samannoy Committee, the latest anti-Ahmadia outfit. One of the most vocal participants was Mohiuddin Khan, a leader of the Islami Oikya Jote, a partner of the ruling BNP-led coalition. The main demand was that the government declare the community non-Muslims. The mob burnt a copy of Prothom Alo for being 'the mouthpiece of the Ahmadia'. They threatened the Ahmadias with arson.

All this was a sequel to an attack on an Ahmadia Mosque in Nakhalpara that injured about 100 people, 12 of them policemen. The attack was led by Mohammad Mahmudul Hasan Mamtaji, the Imam of a Tejgaon mosque.

The demonstrators threatened that “the country would collapse”
if their demand remains unmet. Mamtaji who is the leader of another Islamist outfit vowed to go ahead with the movement and declared jihad if there was any police resistance. A broader movement will be announced at the Paltan Maidan rally on January 23.

Predictably nobody was arrested or even reprimanded for such blatant bigotry. The State Minister for Religious Affairs Mosharef Hossain Shahjahan, however, has tried to nip the problem in the bud. He rejected the demand for declaring the Ahmadia sect non-Muslim. His apt response was “None less than Allah can do it.”
He further said that if such a demand was met it would encourage the group to capture mosques or even churches. The Ahmadias, meanwhile are far from feeling safe at such words. Since 1985, 8 Ahmadias have been killed, hundreds evicted from their lands and at least 15 of their mosques across the country have been vandalised.

Ershad Nicks Nur Hossain

Nur Hossain, the man who died during the tumultuous days of the struggle against the autocratic regime of H.M. Ershad, is recently been at the receiving end of derogatory remarks from the deposed president himself. Ershad blurted out against Nur Hossain, labeling him “ignorant” while addressing a crowd last month. He even went further to provide explanation, “This Nur Hossain was an illiterate man who did not even have the capacity to understand the meaning of the word democracy." "He was a victim of the politics of dead-bodies," he added.

Meanwhile, the deceased was defended in writing on the front page of a major vernacular newspaper. The small, one-column news tried to refresh the memory of the brethren for whom a number of young men like Nur have laid down their lives. Though this news did not create an explosion, as we as a nation often forget our past while vis-a-vis our ongoing adversities, one must admit this second round of victimisation was uncalled for. It was a sign of ignorance of a general who should have learnt from his past mistakes. While Ershad's political opportunities are quickly vanishing from the political horizon he would be willing to revive, his infirmity is showing, most prominently, in his formulation of thoughts. At least his comments on Nur Hossain, who became an Icon of anti-Ershad movement is representative of that.

Nur, perhaps, was no man of letter, but he certainly had the courage to lay down his life for a cause. He was driven by a collective passion. Nur Hossain represented the mass, the majority who may not qualify to sit in the assembly to vote for or against a new law, but have the ability to topple a government. As far as these people are concerned, Nur Hossain is the only Hossain who would go down in the annals of history, a turf where the other Hossain that is Ershad would only be a black patch.

Public Works Goes Nuts

The Ministry of Housing and Public Works has become the most praetorian government office in the world's most corrupt country. The beleaguered ministry has recently been crowned by none other than its own parliamentary standing committee.

“Though the service rules do not permit officials to stay at any place for more than three years, most engineers in the Public Works Department (PWD) under the ministry are at the same place for more than 10 years,” Shahjahan Chowdhury, Chairman of the committee told a group of journalists last week in his office. Around 800 engineers who work with the ministry “strike roots and spread corruption” at places they stay, observed another BNP lawmaker Abdul Matin Akand. When they are transferred from their “base”, these engineers even bribe higher officials in the ministry to get the heaven back.

Instance Justice

Mob-beating leading to death no more evoke the kind of strong sense of horror among general people that it used to. In fact, at the backdrop of a serious deterioration in law and order, many people have started to consider them natural and even welcoming. The latest incident of lynching claimed 38 lives, allegedly outlaws, in South Char Clerk in Noakhali in the space of six days. While fleeing from their hideouts in the forest, the robbers, allegedly belonging to the notorious gang led by Nabya Chora, were caught and then mercilessly beaten to death. People of the area have long been hostage to loot, arson, killing, rape by the gang. When the police set off a combined operation, the long-oppressed people of the area seized the opportunity with both hands to set the score right. The angry mob even snatched some of the robbers, killed them and then celebrated their deed. The incident once again reflects how desperate people have grown over the ever-dwindling law and order situtaion. The government must do something before mob-beating becomes the standard way of containing crimes.

Killing Field

When terrorists kill, there is always this high profile outrages issued from the states across the world. When the U.S. military or the airforce kills, it is always a collateral damage. The last casualties in Afghanistan were innocent kids. A bomb was dropped on December 8 at the village of Hutalla, Afghanistan. While nine innocent children lost lives, the only excuse the U.S. could come up with was they were targeting for an infamous Taliban terrorist, a claim that the villagers denied outright. They argued that the wanted man was out of town. When the people of Hutilla were outraged and raised their voice in condemning U.S.'s odious action, the U.S. authority promptly issued an apology.

To hunt for a terrorist is one thing, and to bomb a village to annihilate one suspected terrorist is a crime. The UN Security Council has ordered an investigation, though the result of such actions had never stopped the Super Power to be more adventurous each time. One should remember this was not the only occasion that they bombed a civilian zone.

REMEMBERED. Ouderland, an active freedom fighter of the War of Liberation on his 86th birth anniversary on December 6. Ourderland was the only foreigner who was awarded Bir Pratik for his contribution. Born in 1917 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Ouderland was CEO of Bata Company during the war. He remained in Bangladesh till 1978 and later settled in Australia. He died on May 18, 2001 at the age of 84.


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