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

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 144 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

March 5, 2004

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Home Minister back with a Bang

Our dear Home Minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury is simply incapable of remaining in the oblivion for so long. The recent attack on the car of Gono Forum President Dr Kamal Hossain while he was on his way to Rangamati to attend a meeting organised by Jonosanghoti Samity gave him the opportunity to make his presence felt after a quiet spell. Allegedly, the armed activists of Somo Odhikar Andolon (Equal Right Movement), an organisation opposing the CHT peace treaty, allegedly patronised by local BNP MP Wadud Bhuiyan, swooped on Kamal's motorcade and vandalised the cars. A panicked Kamal along with other frontline leaders of Gono Forum U-turned and came back to Chittagong. Right after Dr Kamal's return to Chittagong, Mossaddek Ali a political Secretary to PM called Dr Kamal and informed him that the PM expressed her concern and ordered immediate arrest of the criminals, even if they belong to the ruling party. Surprisingly, HM came up with an altogether different story in the House he squarely held 'the armed activists accompanying Dr Kamal responsible for this incident and denied any involvement of either the government or the local BNP leadership. Forget the opposition parties even cabinet ministers were irate and expressed shock at such irresponsible comments from the HM. But then, when it comes to making his mark, especially in the media, our HM never misses it.

Word…Only Words…

Hasan Mahbub Bablu, manager and co-owner of Hillside Resort in Bandarban, was freed after 21 days in captivity on February 23. Though local administration has claimed to have rescued Bablu from his abductors in the deep forest at Tarasa point of the Shanghka river, newspaper reports suggest something different. He was freed, according to a Daily Star report, after paying Tk 15 lakh in ransom to buy his way out. The family had contacted the gang on several occasions and paid Tk 9 lakh in the first instalment; they paid 9 lakh more hours before his release, the report continues. The hotelier was in good health though: "They behaved well and provided me with a mosquito net," Bablu told the awaiting journalists.

Lately the Chittagong Hill Tracts have become a haven for several insurgent groups. According to Bablu, his abductors were mostly locals, but their leader was a Burmese and most of them were carrying AK-47 rifles and some of them had M-16s. While the home ministry remains busy clubbing opposition activists in and outside the capital, the discovery of assault rifles and weapons of mass killing has become more rampant than ever. What is shocking is the nature of reaction we get from the guardians of our national security. Prior to this, a huge cache of explosives was found in Bogra last year. The Home Minister and his police have so far failed to nab the culprits behind one of the biggest arms haul in the country's history.

Though the government has waged several self-styled jihads against extremist outfits in the country, it has so far resulted in nothing. Words, however, have been pouring out of the mouth and are becoming more and more bombastic by day. Recovery of assault weapons from every corner of the country has made our national security catastrophically vulnerable; it has never been more insecure.

The Attack on Humayun Azad

Humayun Azad has been attacked and is fighting for his life at the CMH. The decimation of the intelligentsia first took place, on a large scale, on the eve of the independence of the new nation that came to be known as Bangladesh. After that, the people at the helm forcefully made many successive voices mum. Now, during Khaleda Zia's much vaunted development-prone regime, a writer, who doesn't have any strong political clout, was brutally stabbed on the evening of February 28. The event took place right in front of the Bangla Academy. He was rushed to the Dhaka Medical College and was later transferred to the CMH as his condition was grave.

Armed with chapatis a number of perpetrators swooped on him while he was strolling back home from a visit to the Bangla Academy book fair. When the surrounding crowd moved to rescue this outspoken writer and professor of Bangla of Dhaka University, the murderous thugs resorted to blasting a bomb and quickly left the scene. Interestingly enough, in the following morning, when the students and teachers took out a procession and went to place a wreath at the spot of stabbing, a chapati was discovered.

Sirajul Islam Chowdhury dubs the attack an assault on the free-thinking intelligentsia, -- the quarter that forms the spearhead of this nation. The family of Azad is blaming the fundamentalists. The recent novel titled, Pak Sar Zamin Saad Baad, tackles the psyche of an Islamic Militant, this might have incensed the fundamentalists in power. Many find a connection between the book and the incident. Yet it is mere conjecture. One suspect was rounded off who is a Chatra League activist. The police, who did not even bother to gather the evidence lying on the spot, is facing an ultimatum from the teachers of DU. They have gone on strike till arrest of Azad's attackers. The Prime Minister, as usual, blamed the AL and blurted out that it was an evil design of the opposition. Meanwhile the opposition leader Sheikh Hasina's attempt was snubbed when she tried to visit Azad at the CMH in cantonment. As for Khaleda Zia, on her excuse for not going to visit him was announced by an army press note. It was the terminal condition that made the doctors not to allow visitors, it said.

Motia, The Perennial Target of Police Baton

No AL-called Hartal passes off without Motia Chowdhury being assaulted by the police. The February 28 was no exception. Though the police they somehow become extra-ordinarily agile and enthusiastic when they get an opportunity to lay their hands on the opposition people-- managed to clear away all the pro-hartal elements, they failed to dislodge Motia even an inch. Not even after her clothes got torn in places. After a while when most of her colleagues had taken shelter wherever they could get in, Motia kept on her solitary vigil all alone lying right in the middle of the street under the scorching heat for ten long hours. Beating up leaders spells an ominous turn, for both the government and for our politics in general.


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