Dr Y in Politics
Following the footsteps of fellow laureates like Lech Walesa Rigoberta Menchú, incumbent Nobel Peace prize winner Dr Muhammad Yunus has declared his entry into politics. There could not have been a more apt occasion for this, for the country's polity, after years of shameless corruption and unabated misrule by both the major political parties, has been left in a shambles. Immediately after a constitutionally mandated caretaker government has taken over and numerous cases of graft and political opportunism have started to litter the front pages of the newspapers, it is little wonder that Dr Yunus's political endeavour should draw flack from both the major parties who are to blame for the dysfunctional state the country was about to become only a month ago. Be it as it may, Yunus's party will certainly create a platform for those who have so badly wanted a change in the country's ever-deteriorating political scenario, especially the poor who had to bear the brunt of Khaleda-Hasina's duopoly. It is indeed no less than tragic that the BNP and Awami League--the parties who once so faithfully vowed to fight corruption and maintain rule of law-- have themselves become bastions of villainy and improbity.
So far the Nobel laureate has refrained from disclosing his political ideology and vision for the future, only time can tell if Yunus can live up to people's expectations.
The Tales from Beyond the Prison Gates
Going to prison in Bangladesh is like entering a parallel world all together. The people have built their own little niches and have unique stories of their own to tell. Sometimes they sound like tales that travel over thousands of mils overseas and oceans from the other sides of the world. However, fascinatingly enough, these incidents happen in our very own prison cell.
One such story is about a mother and a baby. The people on this side of the world were stunned when Nurunnahar Begum came out of the jail with her one and a half year-old son Bahadur last week. For the baby, he took his first breath of freedom that day.
Nurunnahar was pregnant, when she was sent to Noakhali Jail in mid-2005 as her husband and in-laws, angry at not getting 'enough' as dowry, filed a fabricated child kidnap case against her (I guess we have funny tales in this part of the world as well). Though she was granted bail, she had to stay in prison as she failed to get any guarantor. Even after the birth of her son there, she continued her jail days without any trial.
When Noakhali Deputy Commissioner Habibul Kabir Chowdhury went to visit the jail on Amar Ekushey and International Mother Language Day, her ordeal came to an end. Learning about the predicament of the ill-fated mother and son, he took the initiative for their release. Finally, the district administration arranged to send Nurunnahar and her son to her maternal grandfather's house in Ramganj.
Nurunnahar had lost her parents at an early age and was brought up by her maternal grandparents who arranged her marriage with Babul Chowdhury of Birkot village of Senbagh upazila. And as the story goes, the family was not satisfied with the dowry received during the marriage, Babul's family started asking for more. Failing to extract more from poor Nurunnahar's family despite repeated torture, her in-laws filed a kidnap case against her under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act. The police arrested her and sent her to jail where she gave birth to the child.
Yet another tale from beyond the prison gates is a horrendous tale of a man serving time in prison on behalf of another man. He was recently discovered at Moulvibazar District Jail.
In 1983, a case was filed under the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act against Shahid Khan and another person. In 1986, a court sentenced both the accused to seven years rigorous imprisonment. Shahid, a resident of Akua of Rajnagar upazila in Moulvibazar, had surrendered before the court during its proceedings and obtained bail. But he jumped bail and left for the UK. He never returned fearing he would have to serve time in Bangladesh.
Meanwhile, family members of Shahid contacted Amzad Ali, a poor man of Ghorgaon of Rajnagar upazila, and made an agreement with him that Amzad will serve Shahid's time in prison and in return, Amzad would receive Tk 50,000 initially and a monthly salary of Tk 3,000.
Amzad surrendered before the Court of Additional District Magistrate (ADM), Moulvibazar as Shahid Khan on November 21, 2006. The court sent him to jail but a few days later his secret arrangement with Shahid's family came to light.
The Superintendent of Moulvibazar District Jail said on hearing the matter from other prisoners and jail staffs, he informed the police through the additional district magistrate (ADM), Moulvibazar.
BSEC Bhaban Goes Up in Smoke
On Monday February 26, four people died and at least 50 were injured as a fire decimated the 11-storey Bangladesh Steel and Engineering Corporation (BSEC) Bhaban in Karwan Bazar. More than a thousand people were evacuated as Herculean rescue efforts were undertaken by the fire brigade, air force, army and the police. The source of fire could not be pinpointed, but it spared none as it ran through the building. The multi-storey building in the heart of the commercial district housed a number of offices including ntv, Rtv, Amar Desh and Dandy Dyeing, which interestingly enough belong to BNP bigwigs Mossadek Ali Falu and Tarique Rahman. The fire apparently began at 10:10 am on the first floor and quickly spread to the rest of the building. By 10:30 the fire fighters arrived and tried to quell the fire only to run out of water. Over a thousand people were evacuated as massive rescue efforts including the first-ever airborne rescue operation went on throughout the day. While the event itself made world news headlines, many people have scrutinised the fact that the fire hit a building full of offices owned by BNP party men. A number of conspiracy theories say that the fire was deliberate and that it served to wipe out information regarding their rumoured corruption. But those stories remain uncorroborated, what we are left with again is fire hazard masked as a building. Major Siddique, who went all the way up to the roof around told reporters that the building itself had a number of fire hazards with only one staircase and faulty fire extinguishers. This matter must seriously be looked into, otherwise next time around we will be mourning more than just four people.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007