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     Volume 6 Issue 33 | August 24, 2007 |

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News Notes

Education for Adibashi Children
If one is even a slightly fashion conscious woman then she will surely have been pampered by one of the hundreds of thousands of adibashi women working as assistants in the innumerable beauty parlours in every nook and cranny of the city. Without making it sound like a menial job, one can't help but wonder why this particular job is almost exclusively taken up by adibashi women. Hordes of young girls come to Dhaka every year from the hill areas to look for jobs in the city and end up working at these beauty parlours.
The presence of adibashi men and women is not really marked in the competitive field of work. No government has so far given much importance to the education of adibashi children and their mother tongue has received even less importance. So it's a step in the right direction when at a recent seminar speakers urged the government to take measures so that the indigenous children can pursue their education through mother tongue. The director of Campaign for Popular Education (Campe) said traditional schooling system could not contribute much to educating the indigenous children as well as children with disability.
Some non-government organisations have tried to focus their programmes on adibashi children but a bigger effort from the government would greatly help the whole nation.

The Day that Shook the Nation
Last week the nation has recalled the ghastly grenade attacks on the Awami League that killed 22 and left 200 fatally injured. A probe committee formed by the previous government has failed to come up with any significant finding but a comment, according to which, “foreign enemies besides their local counterparts” have been involved in the attacks. The way the whole affair was handled raises doubt about its seriousness to unearth the mystery behind this gruesome incident. It must be mentioned here that responsible members of Khaleda Zia's cabinet actually blamed the Awami League leadership for launching an assault on its own rally. The reflections of this stance have been mirrored into the probe. The police later arrested Joj Miah, who the police said had confessed to the crime, it was later found by the media that the police had been paying Joj's family Tk 2,500 a month to compensate his arrest. Incidents of this kind have led us to believe that there exists someone (or perhaps a group of individuals) in the administration who is bent on saving the killers.
It is indeed unbelievable that during the attack, Bangabandhu Avenue, where the attack was launched, had been heavily guarded by the police. What is equally baffling is the fact that the perpetrators were allowed to escape from the scene unharmed. As Major General (retd) Amsa Amin has pointed out in a recent interview that the killers had a safe exit plan ready and the operation suggests the involvement of highly skilled individuals, which, along with the extent of the damage, have made it a national security nightmare. As the caretaker government wants to put an end to the culture of violence in the country, it is high time that it launches an independent investigation into the carnage. The primary job of the investigation should be to find out the perpetrators, at the same time, it must also try to find out those who have deliberately led previous investigations astray.
It must be mentioned here that a healthy democratic environment, let alone a prosperous nation, cannot be established if the murderers of August 21 remain free. The threats that our democracy faces have been manifold in nature, one of which is our political culture. Politics must be freed from this culture of violence and confrontation, which has been plaguing us for so long. The very first step that the government should take towards this direction can start from bringing the culprits of previous political killings to book. No-one, again, should be spared, no matter who he or she is.

Blow Up at DU

After months of relative peace, the campuses are boiling with pent up student angst after a scuffle between army personnel and a few students on Monday August 20, during a football match at DU turned into an all out violent battle that left more than 150 students injured, most of them rather badly, along with several police. It was reminiscent of the old days of chasing and counter-chasing, baton charging and car burning - events that made normal academic life a novelty for most students. This time however, it was not the student wings of major parties attacking each other but students against the armed forces camped out in the campus.
It started at 3:30 pm during a soccer match between students of two DU departments. During a penalty shoot Mehedi Mohammad, a student of the public administration department had stood up; army personnel were behind him and they started verbally abusing him for blocking their view. When the student and his friends protested they started beating the students up. A teacher who had came to intervene, the army personnel verbally abused him too.
In protest, students demanded an apology and removal of the army camp from the campus and demonstrated against the army. This prompted the police to baton-charge the students, injuring several of them.
As news of the incident spread, thousands of students poured into the streets in protest. Acting VC, the proctor, several assistant proctors and some other teachers rushed to the spot to speak with the army to calm the situation. At the end of the meeting the Acting VC conveyed to the students that the officer-in-charge of the army unit had expressed his regret regarding the incident and promised to take action against the offending army personnel. But by this time the students were too outraged to be placated so easily and they demanded that the offender apologise publicly and also that the army camp be removed from the campus altogether. As the demonstrators chanted slogans, army personnel started taking video shots of them.
Later the students brought out a protest procession from the TSC but they were again baton-charged by police and several students were injured. Students from various halls started pouring in and the situation went out of control. Some students vandalised a police vehicle with some policemen in it. A full-fledged battle soon erupted from the gymnasium and spread all over campus with police shooting rubber bullets, severely injuring students, hurling tear gas shells and charging batons while students retaliating with brickbats and stones.
Meanwhile when Chief of the General Staff of army Maj Gen Sina Ibn Jamali visited the DMCH to enquire about the injured students and he faced a torrent of abusive words from the agitating students. Jamali, who played it cool, told reporters that strict measures would be taken if anyone was found guilty and said that they (the army) would respect the sentiments of the students.
Violence spilled over the next day (Tuesday) with students and police clashing and students vandalising cars including one belonging to an army official. Students in other universities of the country protested against the attack on their fellow students, blocking roads, attacking vehicles; there were clashes with police in Jagannath University. An angry mob of students burnt several effigies of the Army Chief Gen Moen U Ahmed.
The army set up camp in December 10 last year at the DU gymnasium as part of military deployment for the aborted elections of January 29, has become a major cause of resentment among students who were deprived of using its facilities. The presence of army itself has been a thorny issue on campus; the concerned army personnel behaved with arrogance and high-handedness and a small incident that could have been solved easily turned into a catastrophe. At the time this publication was about to go to print the army had been ordered to withdraw from the campus and was doing so in batches. We can only hope that the matter is resolved without further violence.

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