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

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 152 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

April 30, 2004

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Floods in Sylhet
Raging floods have swept away a vast region of Sylhet. As localities have been scoured by the rushing water, hundreds of huts were washed away, road links have been cut and crops on about five lakh acres were destroyed. As the banks of the rivers in Sylhet region were burst with run-off from the upstream hills of India, it virtually inundated the whole region. While talking to The Daily Star staff correspondent a Water Development Board official said on April 23 that it would take a few days to flood water to recede. The flooding that was triggered by rain and the sudden onrush of water took all by surprise and dashed the hope not only of the farmers but also of the stone gatherers near the foothill in the north.

Sylhet Division Dvelopment Action Council formed a human chain at Muktangan in Dhaka on April 23 to press the government to declare the flood-hit districts disaster zone. As 80 per cent of boro farmlands of the north-eastern districts went under water two weeks short of the harvest, it caused Tk 600 crore in lost crops. With the haors of this region reduced to crop and fishfarming zones, the traditional reservoirs are loosing their capability of coping with the sudden rush of water.

Claim vs Reality
When a couple of internationally renowned newsmagazines alleged the presence of Muslim extremists in Bangladesh, BNP and their cohorts instantly denounced the claim in their usual characteristic fashion. While the claim of the foreign media appears to be a bit biased, there have been incidents, though few and far between, which don't sit in comfortably with our claim to be a country of great communal harmony. One should remember the ban on all sorts of Ahmadiyya publications following attacks and threats of laying siege on Ahmadiyya mosque a couple of months ago and the recent incident of zealots bursting into an Ahmadiyya mosque and seizing their books, pamphlets etc, with support of the police. As is the norm in all acts of minority repression, like the incidents where Hindus have been targeted, it is usually a section of people, zealots or extremists whatever one calls them, are responsible for such crimes. The Ahmadiyya case is an exception in that the atrocities of the religious fanatics are being endorsed and even encouraged by the state. Instead of mowing down the few hundred zealots who dare to make such demand as to declare the Ahmadiyyas non-muslim, the government's direct patronisation in fanning communal violence against the Ahmadiyyas put a permanent blemish on our claim that we are a country of great communal harmony.

Instead of AL, the Police Lay Siege to Hawa Bhaban
"A virtual curfew" was imposed within the five-kilometre radius around Hawa Bhaban in Banani to keep out Awami League workers, confining residents to their houses and bringing business operations in the area to a halt on April 22.

Police put up barbed-wire barricades on all four main avenues that lead to the ruling BNP chairperson's office Hawa Bhaban located on road number 13, block D in Banani, in an effort to keep out Awami League supporters from laying siege to the office.

Within the safety of police security, BNP leaders and workers played cricket in a field adjacent to Hawa Bhaban, while residents, businessmen, office workers, and commuters going through the Banani area were continually harassed in what they described as being under a "virtual curfew."

Meanwhile, the centre of attraction, Tarique Rahman, Khaleda Zia's eldest son and Joint Secretary General of BNP visibly remained unperturbed by the events. "I played cricket, my team won, so I'm happy with today," he said after being asked about his reaction to April 22ndís situation.

Life in the area, which houses thousands of residents, a number of private clinics, schools, four large private universities, shopping markets and complexes, and numerous offices of leading local and international firms, was ground to a halt as over 50 police checkpoints kept vigil in the area.

"The police didn't allow us to even go out of our houses even for a stroll, we were literally living in a curfew," said Abu Sayeed Khan, a Banani resident. The road blocks were put on road 11, both sides of Kemal Ataturk Avenue up till the mouth of road 19/A, and all roads within Banani's A to H blocks, prohibiting private or commercial transport, and even pedestrians to enter the area.

A businessman, who had to run his office without any staff because the police did not allow anyone to go to his office at road number 15 of Banani, said "I was harassed irrationally when I was trying to enter my office at 9.30. They searched my car, my bag and told me to return home. I shouted and argued till a high police official came."

"I argued that whether they would pay for the losses I would incur because of his illogical behaviour, when I answered to their query if I was the tenant of the office space, they finally let me in. But they also said no one else would be allowed to come to my office!" he added.

Police vans continually patrolled the area to stop pedestrians and ordered them to either go back into their houses or go outside the area immediately. "I have come with my wife for an urgent appointment with a doctor at a clinic on Road number 8, but the police stopped me and said that even my doctor wouldn't have been allowed to enter the area so I should go home," said Abdur Rahim after he and his wife were stopped by police while trying to enter the area.

Commuters who tried to enter Gulshan 1 and 2 through the Tejgaon link road were stopped at the roadblock in front of National Shooting Complex and diverted towards Badda. The airport road also experienced heavy traffic jams despite sparse traffic around the city, as any alternative road through Gulshan were blocked by police barricades.



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