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     Volume 5 Issue 125 | December 22, 2006 |

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News Notes

Desecrating Victory Day

A Bangladeshi winning the Nobel Peace Prize two months ago and the nation's Victory Day being celebrated last week did not guarantee peace for even a day in a country, now even more than usual, being torn apart by political turmoil. Even celebrations on 16 December, the day of the country's birth after a bloody nine-month-long war, were tainted.

On the 35th anniversary of the nation's struggle for independence, while most people paid homage to the martyrs who fought in the war, clashes around the country between the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami and Awami League left at least 82 people injured. Starting from petty arguments in some cases, clashes erupted between the parties in Chittagong, Moulvibazar, Mymensingh and Pabna. In some districts, many freedom fighters boycotted the Victory Day celebrations due to the presence of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and activists. At Carmichael College in Rangpur, Islami Chhatra Shibir activists first prevented Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) and Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal (JCD) activists from placing wreaths at the Shaheed Minar as a mark of respect to the martyred freedom fighters. At the intervention of the college principal, however, they were later allowed to do so. But as soon as the BCL and JCD activists left the premises, the Shibir activists threw the wreaths away.

While demands for trial of collaborators during the war are yet to be met, anti-Liberation sentiments (along with petty rivalry) are apparently still strong among some groups. And our political parties, each in their own way, continue to push the nation towards destruction, not sparing it from political unrest and outright violence, even on the day of its birth.

While struggles in the past brought us freedom, victory and what was supposed to be a democracy, both the pre- and post-Independence generations are having a hard time figuring out what exactly it is that we are fighting for today.

Cheated and Punished
Just when you think you've heard the worst case of human rights abuse, in comes another story that goes beyond one's imagination and begs the question of what exactly the threshold of tolerance should be.

17-year-old Mahmuda of Manirgati village in Chhatak, Sunamganj is the latest victim of a predominantly patriarchal, opportunistically fundamentalist society. Following a love affair with their neighbour 35-year-old Lala Miah she got pregnant. Lala had pledged to marry her but later refused to do so. But that unfortunately was not the end of her problems. In a society where everything is blamed on women and everybody makes it their business to judge other people's personal affairs, young Mahmuda was not spared even in her sorrow.

Mufti Abdus Sobhan, a teacher from a nearby Madrasah took it upon himself to punish Mahmuda for her 'wrongdoing' handing down a fatwa on her to be beaten up until she bled. Her freedom-fighter father, 80-year-old Fabar Ullah who makes his living by begging was not spared either. Prior to the fatwa, he was forced to walk around the village mosque wearing a garland of shoes.

Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, Samajik Protirodh Committee, and Prothom Alo Bandhu Shava with assistance from law enforcers managed to save the girl after learning about the fatwa in newspapers. Law enforcers arrested four people at the village in connection with provoking the fatwa. The arrestees are Manik Miah, Firoz Miah, Meraj Uddin and Shalik Miah.

Following the publicity, Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Raiqul Alam, said the situation is under their control and they would provide the victim's family with security. Both Lala Miah and Mufti Abdus Sobhan are absconding.

Leaders in a Frenzy World
As the AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil announced the JP Chairman Ershad to come up and address the hundreds of thousands of leaders, workers and the common people, who had thronged the Paltan Maidan last week, the entire audience sprang to life. Joining the 14-party alliance, Ershad finally put an end to all the mysteries and dramas revolving around whether he would join the Al-led combine or the four-party coalition.

The largest ever alliance was formed last week, when the Awami League (AL)-led 14-party alliance, Liberal Democratic party (LDP) and several other parties came together in a movement for a free and fair election. Leaders of the major political parties in the country, namely HM Ershad, AQMBadruddoza Choqdhury, Zaker party Chairman Pirjada Amir Faisal, leaders of Tariqat federation, an Islami Okiyo Jote (IOJ) faction and Islamic Front Bangladesh formally joint forces with Sheikh Hasina at the grand rally to work in unison for the elections.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the BNP-led four party alliance leaders have become a little undecided as to what would happen if the Awami League- led grand alliance boycotted the upcoming elections and held a grand rally of their own the very next day to clarify their position on the issue. In fact, according to one four-party member, the BNP leaders were trying to persuade Jatiya Party (JP) President HM Ershad's wife Rowshan Ershad along with other JP leaders loyal to her to join the grand rally. According to Secretary General of the BNP-led four party coalition, Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, Ershad is unstable and an unpredictable man as he changed his position several times in the last couple of months.

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