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

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 145 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

March 12, 2004

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Playing with Guns
Lately the clubs across the city have become hubs for thugs and criminals. In a new spate of killing, Dhanmandi Sporting Club's president Khairul Anwar Piaru was killed outside the club on February 29. Piaru took two bullets when a gang of six hiding in the shadow of the club building ambushed him. The killers opened fire as he came out of the club office to check leaky water tank, newspaper reports say. Relatives and family members blamed it on the dispute over club leadership. "There was a dispute over the leadership of the club," the sport organiser's brother in law says, linking the killing to the row. After gambling has been legalised-- originally intended to help the clubs meet their expenses--criminals of different colours have taken control of the clubs. A report published in the Daily Star portrayed a grim picture of different clubhouses. "Some clubs have turned into dens for mastaans (goons). There are a few genuine sports organisers at those clubs," says a senior Arambagh official. "The government should immediately ban gambling in all clubs to restore sanity in the sports arena," says another sports enthusiast.

Too Corrupt…Too Dangerous
Here is another jewel in the crown for Bangladesh. After earning the glorious distinction as the most corrupt country on earth for three consecutive times Bangladesh is now tagged as the most dangerous place in Asia for journalists. This remarkable honour came from the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), a New York based media watchdog. After completion of a 7-day fact finding visit in Bangladesh during which they met journalists, information minister, the opposition leader in the Parliament among others, the four-member CPJ team made this observation in a press conference in Dhaka. CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper opined, "It takes real courage to be a journalist in Bangladesh" where "Physical assaults and death threat are commonplace". She also strongly criticised the sacking of a number of journalists from the state-controlled news agency BSS on political grounds. She urged the government to take necessary steps so that repression on journalists is stopped and those involved in attacking and killing journalists are brought to justice. Interestingly, when the team met Minister for Information, he claimed that "media in Bangladesh enjoy absolute freedom", an observation, which doesn't exactly match the findings of CPJ.

JCD back in Business
The demonstrators at the Dhaka University, who gathered to protest the stabbing of the outspoken writer Humayun Azad, found themselves at the receiving end of an unprecedented multi-pronged assault. On March 3, after the police swooped on the protesting students, BNP, the key ruling party brought on their student wing to let loose a reign of terror at the campus. While police got themselves busy beating up the students and journalists, who took refuge in the Science Faculty, the frenzied activists of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) hounded the protesting students out of the campus. In their bid to clear the campus off of the agitating students, the pro-government students, armed with sticks and firearms wrecked havoc in and around the Arts Faculty. They even burned the coffins and cartoons that were put up to protest the attack on the writer. As the movement of protest was gaining momentum and the voices of students being galvanised against the Home Minister, the irked JCD workers found a cause to resort to beating to terrorise the general students. A Daily Star report on March 6 noted that the carnage that ensued the brutal police attack on the students and journalists, forced the pro-Azad activists out of the Humayun Azad Mancha in front of Teachers and Students Centre. After the attack on Azad on February 27, the students in favour of free-thinking have been demonstrating to resist undemocratic forces since last five days after the attack on Azad on February 27. The Azad Mancha has been taken over by the JCD activists. Although they are vocal about any infiltration of non-student political cadre, the JCD itself has brought in several of their activists to back up their cadres in action.

Boubazar Slum Burned
The fire in the Boubazar slum at Gulshan left four children dead. Five thousand shanties were gutted and fifteen thousand families lost their homes. It took five hours to extinguish the fire that sparked at around 10 in the morning of March 4. Several eyewitnesses testified that the fire started from the shanty of Awal, who is a police constable. When the fire quickly spread from one shanty to the other, thousands of people gathered from the surrounding areas to lend their hands in controlling the carnage. Ten people, including two fire fighters from the Mohammadpur unit, were injured during the five-hour wrestle to save the shanties. The low income group, who usually take refuge in shanties are often the victims of eviction, and fire is another scourge that had been taking a heavy toll on their already precarious life.

Azad's Family Blasts Misinformation
The family of Humayun Azad, on March 6, alleged that a 'vested quarter' is spreading misinformation regarding the health of the writer. They said that the news that Humayun Azad improved remarkably and was able to walk and read newspapers was false. Azad's condition was critical till March 2, it was on March 3 that the he showed signs of improvement. Smita, the daughter of Azad, remarked on March 6, "We don't know why some quarters are spreading the false news that my father can walk, when he is not strong enough to sit up." It is interesting to note that after Azad was taken to the Combined Military Hospital (CMH), no information about his health was allowed to leak out. That hermitic seal on information gave way to a lot of speculations on the part of the public. At some point, two days after the writer was attacked, the rumour that the eminent writer had succumbed to his injuries had gripped the Dhakaites. On March 6, the writer's condition improved a bit. He could take liquid food. But his daughter confirmed that he was too weak to walk. She said, referring to a some photographs sent by the Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) to the press that showed Azad sitting in a chair with some newspapers lying before him, that the photographs were not meant for the press. Smita told a Daily Star reporter that 'they (ISPR) asked the family to pose for a photograph and clicked quickly. We did not know they were going to send them to the press." When Azad was slowly recovering, some newspapers highlighted the ISPR billetin that came out at 11am on March 6. The report said that Azad could sit and walk with assistance, which the family termed as pure misinformation.

Brick Kiln Bonanza
Urbanisation has its flip side; Dhaka City is now surrounded by four thousand brick kiln, a Proyhom Alo report says on March 5. The report cautions that these kilns will have devastating effect on the environment. The report also brought into light the cases of respiratory diseases that are on the rise in Savar and Tongi, the areas where there is a high concentration of kilns. The bank of the river Turag is replete with smoke-emitting chimneys. The kilns are busy churning out breaks for the mega city six months a year. The low quality coal that burns in most of these kilns are a cause for worry. Many claim that there are plastic particles and other unusual rubbish that are being used to lower the cost of burning the breaks. Though many owner claims that this is not true, it is happening and is polluting the otherwise idyllic settings of the outskirts of Dhaka.


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