<%-- Page Title--%> Newsnotes <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 138 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

January 16, 2004

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Police Get New Clothes

The good news is that finally something is changing in the police department. The bad news is, it's only their uniform which is going through a major overhaul. The trade mark gray trousers and blue shirts will be changed for dark blue trousers and olive green shirts. The boat symbol in the monogram has also vanished and a lotus or shapla has taken the centre space. Our police department, crippled by huge shortages of resources and ridden with corruption and inefficiency, needs more than just changing the look of its members. This is a good manifestation of our governments' characteristic attitude of addressing only the surface problems instead of trying to solve the real issues. Again, what allegedly prompted the BNP-led four party alliance government to make this change of monogram is the fact that boat is the election symbol of Awami League. After politicising all the living things (including the police) the government now seems to be turning to inanimate things (monograms to start with).

MP's Couldn't Care Less

In a parliamentary democracy, parliamentary standing committees are extremely important, not only to make the parliament work efficiently but also to hold the government answerable to the parliament and through the parliament to the people. But many of our honourable MPs are either too busy or don't just care to attend the parliamentary standing committees' meetings. In one such meeting only the president of the committee Abdul Alim showed up on time. He waited for one hour, but no one came. A disturbed Alim informed the Speaker of the incident and shared his disappointment with the on-duty journalists: "It is very unfortunate that in spite of informing the members well in advance they didn't show up". If anything it only demonstrates how little many of our honourable MPs care about parliament and parliamentary practices.

Garos under Threat

Modhupur of Tangail became a virtual cauldron after an indigenous young man was shot and killed by police and forest guards. The quaint forest became an unlikely setting for the agitating mob. The mob comprising indigenous people from different areas flocked to Gaira village to protest the killing. A “Prothom Alo” report quotes a participant, Binita Mankin who testifies that when the Gaira-bound procession that started from Santaria reached Jolodhara, it came under attack from the joint forces of the local police and the forest guards.
The TK 9-crore eco-park is a huge project that will encroach on the 3,000 acre of the sal forest in Modhupur. The government plan that threatens to put the Garo traditional life in danger sparked off the series of incidents that shook up this otherwise peaceful minority. To protect the loss of their habitat, the Garos have been rallying against the plan to build an eco-park in Modhupur. The shootout took place on the January 3, 2004. Police and the forest guards opened fire on the procession, killing Piren Slaan. He was an activist who was against the eco-Park. On the fateful day he joined the procession only after the news of it reached him while he was tilling the ground in his own village.
Meanwhile, a case has been filed against the deceased and Utpal Nakrek, Jag Nakrek and others who were wounded during police shooting. It also included another 600 names as accused. On behalf of the dead, another case has been filed. The OC of Modhupur himself filed the case against the forest guards, accusing them of killing Piren Slaan.
In the wake of violence lashed out by the police and the authority, the ruling-party activists are joining force to threaten the Garos to abandon their protest movement. The Garos have claimed that the Bangalee Bangladeshi Nationalist Party (BBNP) activists attacked them. The glory of Bangladeshi nationalism falls flat on its face when it comes to dealing with the indigenous people. The nationalist force showed its muscle and attacked the Garos armed with firearms and machetes. A Daily Star report claims that the pro-BNP force barged into the forest village of Jolchotro-Pachish Mile on January 7 and threatened the Garos not to raise their voice against the park.
Garos are now leaving their villages to seek security. Garo shops have been shut down. Meanwhile Garos assembled at the Central Shahid Minar in Dhaka to condemn the killing. In the forest the Garos are constantly stalked by insecurity as the government remains apathetic and silent.

The Charookala Canteen Scam

Dhaka University authority is leasing out the canteen that lies within the precinct of the Institute of Fine Art. A student leader of JCD is to take out the lease that will be good for 99 years. The lease will enable the owner to run the canteen on a commercial basis. The work is underway to rebuild the canteen flouting the master plan of the eminent architect Mazharul Islam. A tree has already been lopped off in order to extent the canteen area. In violation of the norm as well as the existing artistically inclined environment, the work is in progress to revamp the canteen. The general students have been in the dark. The plan was hatched during winter vacation. As classes resumed, the students were surprised to find their precinct altered without our their knowledge. They have already handed in a memorandum to the Vice Chancellor to protest the building of a new canteen.
The authority of the Institute of Fine Arts categorically denied having any role in the leasing out and the building of the canteen. They said that the matter lied in the hands of the central authority of D.U. Later they have promised to withdraw the plan to lease the canteen, although no official declaration was issued yet. Yet a recent incident concerning a mobile food-cart, that used to be stationed in front of the institute, has given rise to renewed speculation. Few JCD henchmen manhandled the owner of the mobile canteen and finally drove him out of the DU campus. Is this a prelude to a big canteen business ready to take off or what?

Najmul's Faux Pas

All is not well in the BNP camp. This time it is the unsavoury remark of Communications Minister Najmul Huda that has sparked heated protests from the party itself. At a Chatra Shibir meeting, the burly minister stated that the Jamaat-e- Islami did not do anything wrong by working for the integrity of Pakisrtan during the Liberation War in '71. Members of the BNP discussed Najmul's misdemeanour at a joint meeting of the party's central and district leaders. The meeting was held to finalise the national programmes to commemorate President Ziaur Rahman's 68th birth anniversary. BNP members strongly criticised the communications minister, which they said undermined Ziaur Rahman's proclamation of the liberation War, something which is a source of pride for the BNP. Needless to say Najmul's tactless remarks have not earned brownie points with the general public especially with his alleged involvement in the recent CNG scam.

Ban on the Texts of the Ahmediyyas: The Majority Rules

The government has finally stooped to the demands of a section of religious bigots by banning all publications of the Ahmadiyyas. The Ahmadiyyas, a Muslim sect, have been subject to a raging hate campaign by religious bigots for the last couple of months.
Islami Oikya Jote (IOJ), a partner of the ruling coalition, is said to have orchestrated riotous programmes including laying siege around an Ahmadiyya mosque in Nakhalpara and instigating violent clashes with the police. They have been demanding a declaration that will render the Ahmadiyyas non-Muslims. A high-level meeting attended by State Minister for Religious Affairs, State Minister for Home and the Khatib of Baitul Mokarram Mosque held on Jan 8, finally banned the sale, publication, distribution, and retention of all books and booklets on Islam published by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Bangladesh. The home ministry press release says that the ban was imposed on the basis of the objectionable materials in Ahmadiyya publications, which hurt or might hurt the sentiments of the majority of Muslim population.
Abdul Awal, Missionary of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Bangladesh, expressed shock at this decision, which he believes, is tantamount to violating people's right to the freedom of expression and religious practices.
Many others including eminent lawyers, intellectuals, NGOs and human rights activists, leaders of different political parties condemned the ban. "Why aren't the Ahmadiyyas allowed to practise their religion the way Hindus, Buddhists and Christians practise theirs. Besides, who are we to say whether a person is a Muslim or not?" wondered Dr Zahir, an eminent lawyer.



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