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October 04 2013

Protesters March Hundreds of Kilometers to Save Sundarbans from Coal Plant

Activists in Bangladesh marched more than 400 kilometers for five days from the country's capital Dhaka to Rampal near the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, to protest a proposed coal power plant there that would threaten the diversity of the forest's ecosystem.

The long march, which began on 28 September, 2013, was arranged by the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports.

The coal power plant is going to be built in the area of Rampal in the southern Bagerhat district (see Global Voices report) which is only 14 kilometers away from the Sundarbans, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The groundworks and land development for the project has already began according to news reports.

Many environmental organizations have opposed it from the beginning. The UNESCO World Heritage Center has also expressed its concern over the environmental impact of this project. But the government in response to such concerns issued a statement 26 September that while the proposed power plant is situated 14 kilometers away from the Sundarbans, it is 72 kilometers away from the UNESCO designated world heritage site, which is deemed a “safe distance”.

It was earlier announced that the official launch of the construction of the plant will take place on 22 October, 2013. On 28th of September, the last day of the Long March, activists issued an ultimatum of 11 October, 2013 advising the government to cancel the power plant or else they would escalate their opposition to the construction the next day. But as of now, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as well as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh joining in via video call are scheduled to lay the coal plant's foundation stone on 5 October, 2013 as part of an official ceremony to kick off construction.

The five-day march commenced after a brief rally in front of the capital's National Press Club. Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (24 September 2013)

The five-day march commenced after a brief rally in front of the capital's National Press Club. Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (24 September, 2013)

Leftwing political activist Firoz Ahmed described in a Facebook post [bn] how this power plan will cause environmental disaster and urged people to attend the march:

[...] কয়লাবিদ্যুৎ প্রকল্প থেকে উদগীরিত বিশাল ধোঁয়ার রাশি গ্রীস্মকালে মৌসুমী বায়ুর সাথী হয়ে গোটা উত্তরবঙ্গ এবং মধ্যবঙ্গকে কলুষিত করবে,সমুদ্র থেকে ভেসে আসা জলীয় বাষ্প কয়লার ধোঁয়ার সালফারের সাথে মিশে তৈরি করবে সালফিউরিক এসিড। মারাত্মক অম্লবৃষ্টিতে আক্রান্ত হবে এই অঞ্চলের মানুষ, প্রাণ, প্রকৃতি, কৃষি। শীতকালে আবার উত্তুরে বায়ুর ধাক্কায় তা আচ্ছাদিত করবে গোটা সুন্দরবনকে, সেখানাকার স্পর্শকাতর প্রাণব্যবস্থা অচিরে বিলুপ্ত হবে। বঙ্গোপসাগরের মাছের ভাণ্ডার, তিমি আর ডলফিনের বিচরণক্ষেত্রও বিনষ্ট হবে।

The toxic fumes from the coal power plant will be carried via the summer winds towards the middle and northern Bengals. The vapors from the ocean will react with the sulfur of the coal fumes and will be turned into sulfuric acid. Toxic acid rain will impact the people, agriculture and flora and fauna of these areas. In the winter, the northern winds will push those toxic clouds into the Sundarbans area killing its endangered species. Gradually it will affect the fish reserves of the Bay of Bengal including the dolphin safe havens.

“The Sundarbans not only saves the country from natural disasters, it also supplies natural resources including food. So we believe that we should all save Sundarbans”, wrote blogger and activist Kallol Mustafa:

সুন্দরবন আমাদের অস্তিত্বের সাথে যুক্ত। সুন্দরবন এতদিন আমাদের গোলপাতা, কাঠ, মোম,মধু,মাছ দিয়েছে, প্রতিরক্ষার দেয়াল হিসেবে ঘূর্ণিঝড় থেকে বাচিয়েছে। সেই সুন্দরবনের অস্তিত্ব যখন রামপাল কয়লা ভিত্তিক বিদ্যুৎ কেন্দ্রের জন্য হুমকীগ্রস্থ, তখন সেই বিদ্যুৎ কেন্দ্রের বিপদ থেকে সুন্দরবনকে বাচানো আমাদেরই দায়িত্ব।

Sundarbans is with our existence. The Sundarbans have given us wood, giant leaves, honey, fish and a protective wall across the coastal belt to save us from tornedos. When the very existence of the Sundarbans is in peril, then we should save it by stopping this power plant.

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports started its five day Dhaka-Sundarban Long March to press its seven-point demand, including scrapping of the Rampal Thermal Power Plant project to save Sundarban forest. Image by Indrajit Ghosh. Copyright Demotix (24 September, 2013)

The National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports started its five-day Dhaka-Sundarban Long March to press its seven-point demand, including scrapping the Rampal Thermal Power Plant project. Image by Indrajit Ghosh. Copyright Demotix (24 September, 2013)

Journalist and cultural activist Muniruddin predicted in an op-ed on BDNews24.com that the march would make history by saving the forest.

Everest conqueror Musa Ibrahim (@beyondallpeaks) tweeted a plea not to erect the power plant:

There are millions of birds tweeting in the Sundarbans. Please don't destroy their voices…

Jawwadul Fattah (@JawwadulFattah) gave reason to save the Sundarbans:

You can erect a power plant anywhere else.. but you cannot build an artificial Sundarbans… #SaveSundarban

Blogger Akter Ahmed wrote on Facebook satirically:

সুন্দরবনের ক্ষতি হইলে হোক। আমাদের বিদ্যুৎ কেন্দ্র দরকার। ইলেক্ট্রিসিটি থাকলে বাঘ, হরিণ, গাছপালা এইসব টিভিতেও দেখা যাবে। ব্যাপার না!

Don't care whether the Sundarbans will be destroyed. We want a power plant. If we have electricity we can see the tigers, deer and forest on TV. It doesn't matter.

Environmental activist and engineer Muntasir Mamun sees this from another perspective. He wrote:

আমি জানি কথাটা আমার বন্ধুদের খারাপ লাগবে, রামপাল নিয়ে আমার বেশ কিছু নামিদামী বন্ধুরা বল্গগীং এবং স্ট্যাটাস আপডেটের মাধ্যমে এর বিরধিতা করে আসছেন। কিন্তু খুবই লজ্জার বিষয় হলো তাদের সবারই বসার ঘরে এসি আছে ! এমনও কয়েকজন আছেন যারা মিনি এসি নিয়েই ঘোরেন। তো সরকার কেন আপনাদের কথা শুনবে? সরকারতো জানেই আপনাকে তুষ্ট করার জন্যই এত কিছু।

I know this will not be taken well by some friends, many well-known friends are opposing the Rampal power plants with their Facebook statuses and blogging. But they have air conditioners at home (and they suffer frequent power cuts). I know some who travels with mini ACs. So why will the government listen to you? They know that the power plant is to please you only.

Shaugat Ali Sagar, a diaspora journalist based in Canada, requested that the government disclose the environmental and economic survey of the project:

রামপাল নিয়ে কোনো ধরনের গোয়ার্তুমি বা রাজনৈতিক বক্তব্য চাই না। সরকারের উচিত হবে প্রস্তাবিত প্রকল্প স্থাপনের আগে পরিবেশ এবং অর্থনৈতিক উপযোগিতার যে সমীক্ষা (যদি হয়ে থাকে) হয়েছে তার তথ্য জনসম্মুখে প্রকাশ ও প্রচার করা।

We don't want any arrogant or political remarks on the Rampal power plant. The government should disclose the environmental and economic survey of the project (if its done) publicly before starting the project.

September 16 2013

Local Police in Bangladesh Capital Dhaka Sign Up for Facebook

[All links lead to Bengali-language webpages unless otherwise noted.]

A police department plagued by complaints in a suburb of Bangladesh's capital city Dhaka has joined Facebook for the first time in an effort to improve its relationship with the community.

A Facebook page titled Assistant Commissioner of Police Patrol Uttara has recently caught attention in Bangladesh. It provides information and guidance on many police services, especially for the Uttara suburb residents of the Bangladesh capital.

It may be mentioned that there are a lot of complaints against Bangladesh police. A recent report says that in last year alone complaints against 13,745 police officers in all of Bangladesh were lodged.

The office of the Assistant Commissioner of Police Patrol Uttara page is an experimental page. It invites around 350,000 Uttara residents to share police-related issues.

This is not the police's first foray into new technology. They had started e-general diary (webbased station diary for recording complaints) system and SMS-based complaint system which were not successful.

Bangladesh Police force. Image by A. M. Ahad. Copyright Demotix. (13/6/2011)

Bangladesh Police force. Image by A. M. Ahad. Copyright Demotix. (13/6/2011)

For example, the Police elaborated on the page what they are doing about the ongoing problem of traffic jams in the area:

উত্তরাবাসীদের যানজট থেকে কিছুটা হলেও মুক্তি দিতে আজ থেকে আমরা এয়ারপোর্ট গোল চত্বরের দুপাশে অতিরিক্ত পুলিশ ফোর্স মোতায়েন করেছি।যেসব পথচারীরা ফুটওভার ব্রিজ ব্যবহার না করে রাস্তা দিয়ে পার হোন তাঁদেরকে ফুটওভার ব্রিজ ব্যবহারে অভ্যস্ত করতে এ ব্যবস্থা।আমি নিজে আজ সকাল ১০ টা থেকে ১২ টা পর্যন্ত রাস্তায় দাঁড়িয়ে ডিউটি করেছি।পুরো সময়টুকু সম্ভব না হলেও অন্ততঃ “রাশ আওয়ার”(Rush Hour) সময়টুকুতে উত্তরার পুলিশ তাদের যথাসাধ্য চেষ্টা করবে পথচারীদের ফুটওভার ব্রিজ ব্যবহারে অনুপ্রাণিত করতে।দুঃখজনক হলেও সত্য, কাজটি খুব কঠিন এবং পথচারীরা প্রায় কেউই এটি মানতে চান না।তবে আমরা ঠিক করেছি আগামী বেশ কিছুদিন আমরা এই ডিউটি অব্যহত রাখব যাতে পথচারীরা এতে অভ্যস্ত হয়ে পড়েন।

We have deployed additional police force near Airport Square today to relieve Uttara residents from the traffic congestion. We were there to encourage pedestrians to use the footbridge instead of crossing the street. From 10am-12pm I personally was on duty there. If not the whole day, the police will remain there helping and encouraging pedestrians to use the footbridge during rush hours. Sorry to say the job is tedious as many pedestrians refuse to comply. We have decided to maintain this campaign for a few more days so that people are used to the rules.

Police cleared illegal parking in front of Scholastica School in Uttara

Police cleared illegal parking in front of Scholastica School in Uttara

In a recent post the office of the Assistant Commissioner of Police in Uttara wrote how they cleared illegally parked car in front of Scholastica School and reduced traffic jam. The police has this advice for citizens:

জোরপূর্বক কাউকে আইন মানানো সম্ভব নয় এটা আমি আপনি সবাই জানি। আপনাদের প্রতি অনুরোধ, আপনারা মেইন রোডে কোনও অবস্থাতেই গাড়ি রেখে যানজট সৃষ্টি করবেন না।

We cannot make everybody abide rule by force, we all know that. I urge to you all, please do not park your cars in main road and contribute to traffic jam.

Blogger Onu Tareq called on Bangladeshis to take advantage of the page and highlight the local issues:

এই পেজে দলে দলে যোগ দিন। আপনার এলাকার সমস্যার কথা পুলিশকে জানান, পুলিশ জনগণের সেবক, রক্ষক। সঠিক জায়গায় অভিযোগ করুন- এই উদ্যোগের মাধ্যমে ধীরে ধীরে বাংলাদেশের সমস্ত পুলিশ থানা ফেসবুক ব্যবহারকারীদের আওতার মধ্যে আনার চেষ্টা করা হচ্ছে, আপনিও সাথে থাকুন…

Please join this page in numbers. Discuss the problems in your locality. Police are the saviour of the citizens, they serve them. Kindly complain to an effective outlet. I hope every other police station in Bangladesh will join Facebook soon. Please stay with them..

Blogger Asad Mohammad Asaduzzaman said he has travelled widely and never had seen such an effort from police anywhere. He wrote:

kindly accept my sincere appreciation. it's indeed an exceptional but very effective way to ensure civic security through social media. I've been to many countries across Asia, Europe and Africa but have never heard about such innovative idea. my personal feeling is that if the mass have accessibility to the law enforcing agencies by any means, it just boost up their level of courage. please keep your motivation up and I hope people will be beside in spirit. good luck!

Junaed Hossain praised the initiative:

‘পুলিশ ফোর্স’ নয় আমরা ‘পুলিশ সার্ভিস’ চাই। আমাদের নিরাপত্তা প্রদান করা সংস্থার সাথে আমরা বন্ধুত্ব মানের সম্পর্ক রাখতে চাই।

We don't only want a ‘police force’ but also ‘police service'. We want to keep friendly relations with our security force.

Faisal Ibne Jamal hoped that the page will augment the understanding of “community policing” and implementation of related theories:

এটি খুবই ভালো একটি উদ্যোগ। আশা করি শুধু মাত্র তথ্য আদান প্রদান কিংবা মতামত-ভিন্নমতেই এটি সীমাবদ্ধ থাকবে না। কমিউনিটি পুলিশিং এর ধারনা ও তার বাস্তবায়নে কীভাবে সবাইকে কাজ করতে হয় এ ব্যাপারগুলো ও উঠে আসবে এই পেজে। ঔপনিবেশিক আমলের পুলিশি বাস্তবতা এবং এ সময়ের পুলিশি বাস্তবতা যে ভিন্নতর তার ধারনা পুলিশ বিভাগেও যেমন গড়ে ওঠেনি তেমনিভাবে জনগণের ও কোন ধারনা নেই সে সম্বন্ধে। আমাদের সৎ পুলিশ কর্মকর্তা বা সদস্যের অভাব নেই মোটেই। কিন্তু আমাদের সমস্যাগুলি অন্য জায়গায়। ভালো সেবা পেতে গেলে যিনি দেবেন আর যিনি নেবেন তাদের সম্পর্কটা সহজ হতে হয়। বন্ধুত্বটা শুধু মুখে মুখে বললেই হবে না গভীরতম বিশ্বাসেও ধারন করতে হবে।

This is an exemplary effort. I hope it won't be confined to only the exchange of information or arguments and counterarguments. This page will highlight the concepts of “community policing” and how it is implemented with everyone's participation. The realities of the British era and the realities of today are completely different, this needs to be recognized by the police and people should realize it. We have also honest and willing police members. But our problems lie elsewhere. The relationship between service provider and receiver should be easy. The talk about friendship should also materialize with trust.

September 10 2013

Indian Border Guard Acquitted of Brutal Shooting of Bangladeshi Girl

A special court in India's state of West Bengal has found an Indian border guard not guilty in the shooting death of a 15-year-old Bangladeshi girl on the India-Bangladesh border, touching off a wave of anger in Bangladesh.

The court acquitted Border Security Force constable Amiya Ghosh of murder charges on September 6, 2013. Ghosh was accused of shooting Bangladeshi Felani Khatun on January 7, 2011 as she tried to cross the barbed-wire fencing at the Anantapur border point in Kurigram’s Phulbarhi Upazila on her way back to Bangladesh with her father. Fatally wounded, Khatun was left hanging in the barbed wire, screaming, for four hours until she died. Nobody helped her.

Photographs of her dead body tangled in the wire were widely published at the time. Ghosh's acquittal on September 6 only aggravated the already strained relations between India and Bangladesh.

Students form a human chain in front of the Indian high commission at Gulshan in Dhaka, protesting against the verdict in the Felani killing case in India.  Image by Indrajit Ghosh. Copyright Demotix (9/9/2013)

Students form a human chain in front of the Indian high commission at Gulshan in Dhaka, protesting against the verdict in the Felani killing case in India. Image by Indrajit Ghosh. Copyright Demotix (9/9/2013)

The court's decision triggered much uproar in Bangladesh, especially on social media.

Asfaque Nipun called the special court a farce on Facebook:

So the verdict came; “No One Killed Felani!” What a joke!

Farjana Jannat (@farjana_neela) wrote on Twitter that this verdict was the death of justice:

Twitter user Subal Sarkar ( @burningNlearnin) believed that the verdict will escalate extrajudicial killings on the border by the Border Security Force:

RT@bewahid: The Felani killing verdict gives us the message that these kind of brutal assassinations will continue.

Bangladesh has a 3,715 km long land border with India along its three sides. Each year, many face bullets from the Indian border guards, some unlucky for traveling close to the border. According to a BBC report [bn], 38 Bangladeshis were shot dead by the security force in 2012.

Shantanu Banik explained on Facebook why these people face death:

Bangladesh is a small country next to the mighty India. Therefore, illegal immigration and border-crossing isn't uncommon. Everyday, ordinary people choose to take unthinkable risk in hopes of a better life on the other side of the fence.

It is [a] crime, but a petty crime. Not one that deserves the ‘Shoot on sight’ policy enforced by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF). [...]

Students form a human chain in front of the Indian high commission protesting against the verdict in the Felani killing case in India.

Students form a human chain in front of the Indian high commission protesting against the verdict in the Felani killing case in India. Image by Indrajit Ghosh. Copyright Demotix (9/9/2013)

Bangladesh is a large market for Indian products and media. Many angry netizens have called for boycott of Indian products. Blogger and writer Akter Ahmed told Bangladeshis on Facebook:

এই রায়ের বিরুদ্ধে আপনার ক্ষুদ্ধ প্রতিক্রিয়া এবং অনুভূতিকে সম্মান জানিয়ে বলছি- সম্ভব হলে টিভিটা একটু বন্ধ করেন, ‘কৌন বনেগা ক্রোড়পতি'র অমিতাভ বচ্চনের দরাজ গলার সামনে আপনার কথাগুলো বেশ অস্পষ্ট এবং বেমানান লাগছে!

With respect to your outraged reactions and feelings I am requesting – please turn off the TV for a while. Amitabh Bachchan's [Indian actor and anchor of India's version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire"] loud voice on TV is overshadowing your voice.

But Facebook user Muquit Muhammad does not subscribe to that:

ফেলানী হত্যার রায়ের সাথে ভারতীয় টিভি অনুষ্ঠান পছন্দ করার সম্পর্ক কি? ঐদেশের টিভি অনুষ্ঠান পছন্দ করি বলে আমার দেশের মানুষকে তাদের মেরে ফেলা যেমন জাস্টিফাইড না, তেমনি এই কুবিচারের প্রতিবাদে ঐদেশের টিভি অনুষ্ঠান বর্জনও কোনো যৌক্তিক প্রতিবাদ না|

How is the Felani killing related to liking an Indian TV program? Just as it is not justified to kill us because we like their TV, it is not logical to boycott their TV programs because of a sham verdict.

A Facebook event has been created to organize a sit-in protest in front of the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh. The High Commission requested everybody to wait till the final outcome. According to a spokesman “this is subject to review by a competent authority”. But the special court does not allow the victims family to appeal.

August 08 2013

Bangladesh Housing Project Flattens Flora and Fauna in Gazipur

The latest controversy in land expansion in Bangladesh is a government housing project called Purbachal new town near Dhaka. Locals say that the projects expansion destroyed the greenery and the ecology of 1,600 acres of crop land, forests, orchards and water bodies in central Gazipur district, ignoring recommendations from the environment department.

Bangladesh capital Dhaka is considered as one of the world's fastest growing megacities. Between 1990 and 2005, the city doubled in size — from six to 12 million. By 2025, the UN predicts Dhaka will be home to more than 20 million people.

The significant features of this growth is rapid urbanization, mass migration from rural areas, problems like pollution, congestion, decreasing ground water level and a lack of adequate services due to the rising population. The megacity cannot afford the burden of 150 million people on its 360 square kilometres of land.

Nearly 1600 acres to be flattened in government housing project. Image by Sanaul Haque. Copyright Demotix (5/8/2013)

Nearly 1,600 acres to be flattened in government housing project. Image by Sanaul Haque. Copyright Demotix (5/8/2013)

The government has already unveiled its plan to expand the area of Dhaka. According to the plan the surrounding municipalities of Narayanganj, Tongi, Gazipur, Savar, Kadamrasul, Siddhirganj and Tarabo will be incorporated into Dhaka City Corporation. The Dhaka city corporation has been divided into two – North and South zones – for better administration.

According to World Bank statistics, the urbanized area in Dhaka city stands for 48 percent, but a large part of that is occupied by rural settlements and scattered built-up (18%) surrounded by specific class of groves of trees. A large portion of the non-urbanized area is dominated by agriculture land. The victim of rapid urbanization is those forest areas and agricultural lands.

The website of Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK), the Capital Development Authority of the Government of Bangladesh, provides details about the Purbachal new town project:

It is the biggest Planned township in the country. The Project area comprise of about 6150 acres land located in between the Shitalakhya and the Balu River at Rupgonj thana of Narayangonj district and at Kaligonj Thana of Gazipur district, in the north-eastern side of Dhaka. [..]

The Development works have been going on in 4500 acres (Narayangonj part) since 2002-2003 fiscal year and in rest 1500 acres (Gazipur part) development works have been started from January, 2013.

Gazipur is noted for its unique coppiced Sal forest and is home to the Bhawal National Park. It has been kept under IUCN Management as a protected landscape. A land survey by the RAJUK reported that 42.46 percent of the area is covered by forest, 39.47 percent by cultivable land and 9.75 percent by homesteads. Newspaper reports [bn] say that a huge forest area containing Sal trees and a wide range of flora and fauna are being flattened as a part of the development work for the Purbachal new town project.

The environmental department suggested that RAJUK should develop settlement plots avoiding forest area which were actually not followed. Not only the land projects, the Sal forests are bulldozed for a lot of reasons – to build a bombing practice ground for Bangladesh army, to plant invasive alien species ‘acacia’ trees under social forestry scheme uprooting existing trees, etc.

A man who lives on the land shouts at the governments decision to flatten the land destroying trees for a housing project. Image by Sanaul Haque. Copyright Demotix (5/8/2013)

A local citizen shouts at the governments decision to flatten the land destroying trees for a housing project. Image by Sanaul Haque. Copyright Demotix (5/8/2013)

Faisal Rahman writes in UNB Connect, an online news site, after returning from Gazipur:

The people of the villages affected by the land development that include Barcow, Bashabashi, Kalikuthi, Purba Talna and Parabarta showed the team the signs of a huge number of recently cut down and rooted out trees – mostly the jackfruit, mango groves, bamboo and Sal patches – in the area. [..]

About 150 acres of the rice fields, situated in the Padarir Beel, has already been filled with dirt. The beel area comprises about 800 acres of land and is a source of natural fish during the rain.

Blogger Biplob Biswash lives in a village in the development sites. He writes in Bangla blogging platform Amar Blog how the locals, who are forcibly being evicted, are losing out in the land acquiring process:

যেখানে এখন জমি দাম হচ্ছে বিঘা প্রতি ১ কোটি থেকে দেড় কোটি টাকা সেখানে রাজউক ৯৫ সালের ভুয়া দলিল অনুসারে জমির দাম দিচ্ছে মাত্র ১ লাখ টাকা বিঘা। শুধু কি তাই, কোন গ্রামবাসী যদি বিল আনতে যায়, সরকারি ও রাজউকের কর্মচারীরা ঘুষের জন্য প্রায় তার পুরো বিলের টাকাই রেখে দেয়। যদি সে বলে যে তাহলে আমি কি পেলাম?, আমার জমি-জমা, বাড়ি-ঘর সবই সরকার কে দিয়ে দিলাম, আমি তাহলে কি পেলাম?, আর আমি এখন কি নিয়ে থাকবো, আমার ভবিষ্যৎ চলবে কি করে?

Where the current market rate of land is 1 to 1.5 crore Bangladeshi Taka (130,000-195,000 US dollars), RAJUK is compensating at an old rate of 1 lakh Taka (1,300 US dollars) per Bigha (0.33 acre). Not only that when a landlord goes to collect the bill, the corrupt officials of RAJUK keep a large portion as bribe. So what have we got? We have handed over our agricultural land, our home, all to the government. What have we got in return? So how will we survive in the future?

The blogger also writes that those who refuse to leave their livelihood, are being harassed by police and local goons as they are being accused in false criminal charges.

A writ petition was filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association saying that the Purbachal housing project has no environment clearance certificate from the Department of Environment for earth filling and constructing structure in Borakau and Parabath areas of Gazipur. On 1 August, 2013 the High Court directed the authorities concerned to stop activities of Purbachal housing project in Gazipur until further order.

Wetlands and fauna are filled with sand for land development for government housing project. Image by Sanaul Haque. Copyright Demotix (5/8/2013)

Wetlands and fauna are filled with sand for land development for government housing project. Image by Sanaul Haque. Copyright Demotix (5/8/2013)

A number of advocacy organizations including Paribesh Bachao Andolon, Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon, and Institute of Architects of Bangladesh visited the development sites in Gazipur [bn] and demanded the following:

১. রাজউক এর পরিবেশ বিধ্বংশী কার্যক্রম অবিলম্বে সম্পূর্ণ বন্ধ করা।
২. পূর্বাচল প্রকল্পের নামে পরিবেশ বিধবংশী কর্মকান্ডের ক্ষতি নিরূপণ করতে একটি তদন্ত কমিটি গঠন করা।
৩. পূর্বাচল প্রকল্পের নামে এরূপ বিধবংশী এবং অমানবিক কর্মকান্ডের জড়িত রাজউকের কর্মকর্তাকে দৃষ্টান্তমূলক শান্তি প্রদান করা।
৪. নিরীহ এলাকাবাসীর বিরুদ্ধে মিথ্যা হয়রানিমূলক মামলা নি:শর্তভাবে প্রত্যাহার করা।

1. Immediately stopping the developments by RAJUK which are destroying the environment
2. Create a committee to assess the damages so far.
3. Punish those scrupulous RAJUK staffers who are engaged in corrupt and inhuman practices.
4. Drop all false charges/lawsuits against the locals.

Blogger Biplob Biswash writes in another post:

বাহিরের মানুষ সবাই খুব মজা পাচ্ছে এখানে পৃথিবীর আধুনিকতম শহর হবে, সেই শহরে বসবাস করবে অতি সুখের সাথে। কিন্তু তারা কি একবারও সেই মানুষ গুলির অনোভূতি টুকু অনুভব করেছেন, যাদের চৌদ্দ পুরুষের সঞ্চিত শেষ সম্বলটুকু জোর করে কেড়ে নিয়ে এই শহর বানানো হচ্ছে, যে মানুষ গুলির শিকড় উপড়ে তুলে আস্তাকুড়ে ছুড়ে মারা হচ্ছে, যে মানুষ গুলিকে সর্বস্য হারিয়ে খোলা আকাশের নিচে গিয়ে দাড়াতে হবে। জানি না, কেউ তাঁদের এই কষ্টের সামান্যতম অংশও অনুভব করতে পেরেছেন কি না।

Outsiders may be rejoicing with the news that here a modern township will be built, where people will live happily. But have they ever felt the emotions of the locals, who are being evicted from their ancestral land to clear the housing plots. Do they know that these people are being uprooted and being sent to oblivion, soon they will be forced to live under open sky. I don't know whether any of them have ever felt a bit of those pains.

The world average of forest area is 26% whereas Bangladesh has got only 18 percent [bn]. If the remaining forest areas are not protected, the country will face severe environmental consequences in the future.

Reposted byglobalrevolution globalrevolution

August 06 2013

Bangladesh Court Disqualifies Jamaat-e-Islami Party from Elections

Bangladesh's high court has declared the registration of Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami illegal, a move praised by some who consider the party extreme and condemned by others as harmful to democracy.

The verdict handed down on August 1, 2013 comes as the final decision on a petition from 25 people, including members of other Islamist parties, which challenged Jamaat’s registration in January 2009.

In 2008, the country's election commission made it mandatory for political parties to register if they wanted to participate in elections. This ruling means Jamaat cannot participate in the upcoming January 2014 parliamentary elections.

The party was already widely criticized for its opposition to Bangladesh’s independence. But the call to limit Jamaat-e-Islami recently intensified during the massive Shahbag protest movement which began in February 2013 (see Global Voices special coverage) and called for capital punishment for war crimes committed during the country’s liberation from Pakistan in 1971. Many of the accused were high-ranking Jamaat members, and in March 2013, top Jamaat-e-Islami party leaders Delwar Hossain Sayeedi and Ali Ahsan Mohammed Muojaheed were sentenced to be hanged by a special war crimes tribunal for their involvement. Several other party officials were found guilty of crimes against humanity and the trials are underway.

Jamaat-Shibir activists once again swooped on law enforcers in Dhaka during a protest against trial of their leaders. Image by Rehman Asad. Copyright Demotix (28/1/2013)

Jamaat activists attacked law enforcers in Dhaka during a protest against trial of their leaders accused of war crimes. Image by Rehman Asad. Copyright Demotix (28/1/2013)

Jamaat, as a political party, has a large and ideologically motivated cadre base across Bangladesh and is currently allies with the main opposition BNP. However, many Bangladeshis are skeptic about their use of religion in politics as evident in Bangladesh general election 2008, where it got only 4.6% votes and only 2 seats out of 300 constituents (39 contested). Blogger Jyoti Rahman posted a deeper analysis of the Jamaat factor in Bangladesh politics a few months ago. He talks about Jamaat's financial and ideological ecosystem:

In the quarter century since the party’s relaunch, the Jamaat has made considerable inroads in several non-state sectors as well. Islami Bank, whose management is affiliated with the Jamaat, has become the third largest bank in the country. Jamaat-supported hospitals and coaching centres provide affordable health care and education to urban, working and the lower middle classes. The party has particularly strong financial ties with countries in the Gulf, which helps with these enterprises. Funding and ideological support also comes from the radical Islamic discourse among the diaspora Bangladeshi community in the UK.

The petition, in its argument against Jamaat's registration, listed four main points about Jamaat that violate Bangladesh's constitution:

1) Jamaat in principle does not recognize the undisputed power of the people’s representatives to make laws.

2) Election Commission prohibits registration of communal parties

3) Discrimination on ground of religion or gender: Jammat's charter does not allow any woman or non-Muslim to hold its top post

4) Not locally registered – the Jamaat is a chapter of a foreign organization born in India with units all over the world.

Bangladesh Jamat e Islami protesting

Bangladesh Jamat e Islami protesting HC rule cancelling their registration in capital Dhaka. Image by Mehedi Hasan. Copyright Demotix (1/8/2013)

On Monday, 5th of August the vacation bench of the Appellate Division turned down the plea of Jamaat-e-Islami seeking a stay on the operation of the High Court (HC) verdict declaring illegal its registration as a political party. However Jamaat can appeal to the Appellate Division on the HC verdict when the court resumes from vacation. The party has declared a nationwide 48 hour strike from 12th of August, 2013 protesting the High Court verdict.

Meanwhile, the High Court has summoned Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, asking them to explain why calling strikes against its verdict should not be treated as contempt of court.

Many netizens expressed their satisfaction after hearing of the cancellation. Saqeena Quashim (@SaqeenaQuasim) wrote on Twitter:

Blogger Kazi Mamun compared Jamaat with gangrene and mentioned on Facebook:

‘ইনহিউম্যান’ বলেন আর যাই বলেন, আই ডোন্ট কেয়ার! জামাত হলো একটা গ্যাংগ্রিন এর মতো। কেটে সমূলে উৎপাদন না করা হলে কোনো লাভ নেই!

Call it ‘inhuman’ or not, I don't care. Jamaat is like a gangrene. You can't stop the degradation if they can't be uprooted.

Diaspora Twitter user Zara Kadir (@zarakadir) could not accept the cancellation of Jamaat's registration, arguing that this will be a hindrance to democracy:

Rozob Ali (@RozobAli) reminded people that almost 89 percent of Bangladeshis are Muslims, so Islamist politics cannot be stopped by banning Jamaat-e-Islami:

Azad Ali (@azadaliCCM) noted that the petition for Jamaat's registration to be canceled was indeed moved by a number of Islamist parties:

The cancellation of Jamaat's registration with the election commission had many confused as if Jamaat has been banned as a political party. Blogger and activist Kallol Mustafa cleared this confusion in a Facebook post:

জামাতে ইসলামিকে নির্বাচন কমিশনের দেয়া নিবন্ধন অবৈধ ঘোষণা করা আর জামাতের রাজনীতি নিষিদ্ধ করা দুইটা কিন্তু একেবারে ভিন্ন বিষয়। হাইকোর্টের রায়ে নির্বাচন কমিশনে জামাতের নিবন্ধন অবৈধ ঘোষিত হওয়ার পর, হাইকোর্টের রায় অনুযায়ী নির্বাচন কমিশন জামাতের নিবন্ধন বাতিল করলে, দল হিসেবে জামাতে ইসলামি নির্বাচন করতে পারবে না কিন্তু জামাতের দলীয় রাজনীতি কিংবা রাজনৈতিক কর্মকান্ড কিন্তু তাতে নিষিদ্ধ হয় না।

The declaration of Jamaat's registration illegal with the election commission and banning Jamaat's politics are totally different things. After this high court ruling, if the election commission indeed cancels Jamaat's registration, it will not be able to participate in future elections. But it does not deter them from carrying out party politics.

Depiction of Jamaat leaders in street art during Shahbag protests. Image from Flickr by Mehdi Hasan. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Depiction of Jamaat leaders accused of war crimes in street art during Shahbag protests. Image from Flickr by Mehdi Hasan. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Some argue that Jamaat uses Islam for their own benefits. In 1971, during the Bangladesh Liberation war, members used religion to justify their purge of Hindus and carrying out killings, rape and destruction on Bengalis. Renowned singer and blogger/activist Maksudul Haque wrote on Facebook:

‘নিবন্ধন বাতিল’ নিয়ে চতুর্দিকে যখন ‘চেতনার’ জয়গান তখন আমার কোনো আনন্দ নেই। নিষিদ্ধ করুন… তাতেও আমার কাছে নো বিগ ডিল… এদের পাপ ক্ষমার অযোগ্য… ইসলাম থেকে এই হায়েনাদের খারিজ করুন, বুকে ইমান রাখুন মজবুত এবং বীর দর্পে বলুন… ‘এরা মুসলমান না এরা কাফের’ সেদিনই শহীদানের আত্মা শান্তি পাবে… সেদিন বাংলাদেশে ইসলাম কলঙ্কমুক্ত হবে…

When everybody is celebrating the cancellation of registration of Jamaat, I do not rejoice. Ban them.. that won't be a big deal for me…Their sin is unforgivable… Purge these hyenas from Islam, keep faith in you and boldly say, “They are not Muslims, they are disbelievers”.. Only then those who gave their lives will rest in peace… that day Islam in Bangladesh will be free of sins.

The Islamist political party has previously been banned a number of times since its birth in 1941. They were banned in Pakistan in 1959 and in 1964 and in Bangladesh in 1972. In 1979 they were again allowed to work as a political party. Lawyer and Twitter user Shah Ali Forhad (@shah_farhad) observed:

July 28 2013

Bangladeshi Blogger Writes About Prison Experience

Bangladeshi Blogger and activist Asif Mohiuddin, the winner of the best social activism blog from the Deutsche Welle Best Of Blogs Awards 2012, was arrested last April on charges of “hurting religious sentiment of Muslims through writing”. He has been released under bail and is now writing about his experiences in confinement in Guruchandali blogging platform [bn] from West Bengal, India:

আমাদের ১৪ সেলে নিয়ে গেল। ১৪ সেলের দরজা দিয়ে ঢোকার সাথে সাথেই চারদিক থেকে চিত্কার, চেঁচামিচি শুরু হয়ে গেল। তাদের টিনের বাসন দিয়ে শব্দ করে কান ঝালাপালা অবস্থা। তারা সবাই একসাথে স্লোগান দিতে লাগলো, বলতে লাগলো, “নাস্তিকমুক্ত জেলখানা চাই”, “নাস্তিকদের আজই ফাঁসি চাই”, “জেলখানায় নাস্তিক, মানি না, মানবো না”।

জেলখানায় খুনী ধর্ষক মাদকব্যবসায়ী সকলেই আছেন, এমন কোনো অপরাধ নেই যা এক একজন করেন নি [...] সবাই আছে থাকবে ছিল, কিন্তু পুরো জেলখানায় চারজন ধর্মে অবিশ্বাসী নাস্তিকের জায়গা নেই!

They took me to cell no. 14. As soon as I entered, shouts and screams were heard from everywhere. Inmates started making noise with their tin plates. They started shouting slogans “we want atheist free prison”, “we want death penulty for atheists”, “we wont tolerate atheists in the prison” etc.

From rapists, murderers to drug dealers, there are many convicted persons in the prison. They committed many crimes and the convicted were here before, they are here now and will also be in the future. But in the whole prison there is no place for four accused atheists.

It may be mentioned here that Asif Mohiuddin was actively involved in Bangladesh's #Shahbag Protests demanding capital punishment for war crimes committed during Bangladesh's liberation from Pakistan in 1971 and banning of religious political parties.

July 26 2013

Lesbian Couple Arrested After Marrying in Secret in Bangladesh

Muslim woman and a Hindu woman in Bangladesh were arrested for marrying each other in what is described as the country's first same-sex marriage despite laws criminalizing the union.

The 21-year-old and 16-year-old, who met when the older woman tutored the younger, recently eloped from southwestern Pirojpur and came to the capital city of Dhaka to marry and start living together. But one of the women's fathers filed a missing person's report after his daughter fled, and police found them living together in a rented house in the Dhaka shortly after.

Homosexual relationships including same-sex marriage are illegal and punishable with life in prison in Bangladesh or up to ten years of hard labor. Public displays of affection between friends of the same sex are common and do not raise any controversy, however, there is a strong objection to homosexuality arising from the religious traditions of the majority Muslim country. Homosexual communities exist in Bangladesh, but they are the hidden minorities (see Global Voices report).

World homosexuality Laws. Click on image to see legend. courtesy Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

World homosexuality Laws. Red indicates Imprisonment (up to life sentence) & dark brown indicates punishment up to death penalty. Click on image to see legend. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

The news made waves throughout Bangladesh's social media and caused an uproar among some.

But many welcomed the first same-sex marriage of Bangladesh. Golam Rabbani [bn] wrote on his Facebook page:

যে দুটি মেয়ে বিয়ে করেছে তাদের জন্য শুভকামনা রইলো… জীবন সুন্দর… তাদের এ সাহসের জন্য অভিনন্দন তাদেরকে… জয় হোক জীবনের…

My best wishes for these two women on their marriage… life is beautiful… congratulations for their courage… let life reign…

Diaspora blogger Avijit Roy writes on his blog many scientific articles on homosexuality. He praised the courage of these two women in a Facebook note in which he mentioned that one of them was bold enough to ask the police officer interrogating them:

একটা ছেলে যদি একটি মেয়েকে ভালো বাসতে পারে, তবে একটা মেয়ে কেন আরেকটা মেয়েকে ভালোবাসতে পারবে না?

If a man can love a woman, why can't a woman love a woman?

However, many could not accept the marriage. A lot of negative comments could be seen in the comments section of online news articles.

Blogger and Twitter user Mehedi Akram (@mehdiakram) saw this as an invasion of Western culture:

Marriage of two women! http://t.co/aX2o5V2D5R what more we will have to see. This is the domination of western culture :D

Some went further. Last year, Dr. Muhammad Yunus, an economist and Nobel laureate from Bangladesh, and three other Nobel Peace Prize laureates released a statement in which they called for the legalization of same-sex sexual relationships. After the news of the same-sex marriage of these two women had broken out, “Ulama Masayekh Sanghati Parishad”, an association of Muslim clerics accused Dr. Yunus of promoting same-sex marriage in Bangladesh and called for his arrest and punishment [bn]. They have called for socially boycotting him and announced a program of occupying Yunus Center.

Others showed tolerance. A commenter named Notun commented on a blogpost of Kanij on the Bangla blogging platform Somewhereinblog.net covering the news:

সমকামিতাকে আমি ভালো মনে করি না… কিন্তু এটা তাদের ব্যক্তিগত ব্যাপার… তাই তাতে আমি নাক গলাবো না…

I don't support homosexuality.. but this is their private affair… so I will not poke into their issues.

Photoblogger Pranabesh Das wrote on Facebook about the arrest of these two women and the bad publicity they are getting:

They are just unlucky to born in the wrong country in the wrong time.

This is Love. Image by MOKOtheCRazy. CC BY-NC-ND

Blogger and a student of law Rayhan Rashid opined that this unique example from Bangladesh is significant for four reasons:

(১) যে সমাজে নারীর নিজের কোনো পছন্দ অপছন্দ থাকতে নেই, সেখানে তারা নিজেদের পছন্দকেই প্রাধান্য দিয়েছেন;
(২) তারা দু'জন ভিন্ন ধর্মের, একজন তো আবার সংখ্যালঘু ধর্মের। কিন্ত তাদের সম্পর্কের কাছে সে দেয়াল দাঁড়াতে পারেনি;
(৩) ধর্মীয় গোঁড়ামীর দেশে সম-লিঙ্গের সম্পর্কের সাহস দেখিয়ে নিজের মতো করে ঘর বেঁধেছেন;
(৪) দেশের আইনে ফৌজদারী অপরাধ জেনেও নিজেদের বিবেক, পছন্দ এবং সম্পর্কের সাথে কোনো ধরনের আপোষ করেননি দু'জন।

  1. In the male dominant society where women's demands are ignored, they gave importance to their preferences.
  2. The two are of different religions, one from a minority group. But this did not challenge their relationship.
  3. In a religiously conservative society they have shown utmost courage for same-sex marriage and their choice.
  4. They haven't compromised their relationship or their conscience knowing that homosexuality is criminalized in the country.

Blogger Vaskor Abedin found that the debate on this issue had a male-dominant tone:

[...] গতকাল দুই নারীর সমকামী সম্পর্কের খবর নিয়া নিউজ পোর্টাল আর সোশ্যাল নেটওয়ার্কিং সাইটগুলিতে যেমন প্রতিক্রিয়া হইলো তাতে পুরুষালি জাজমেন্টের সেক্সিস্ট উত্তাপটা বেশ টের পাইলাম [...]

[...] Yesterday in all the debates within traditional and social media on same-sex marriage I have felt a male-dominant sexist tone. [...]

Some days earlier an Islamist leader compared women to tetul, or tamarind, in a sermon as if men salivate watching them and told women to stay at home. Renowned film maker Mostofa Sarwar Faruki mentioned this on Facebook:

If the news is true, we have the first official lesbian couple exposed here in Bangladesh. In a country where mr. Tetul Hujur [cleric] preaches girls not to mix with boys, now how this girl-mixing-girl would be seen? Eager to study the next episodes!

Many called the media irresponsible for disclosing the women's identity and pictures, fearing this could endanger their lives and they will become subject to ostracizing. Shaugat Ali Sagor wrote:

যারা নাগরিকের ‘প্রাইভেসি’ ‘প্রাইভেসি’ বলে গলা ফাটান, তারা কি … [সমকামী তরুণী] আর … [সমকামী তরুণী] এর ‘প্রাইভেসি'কেও সম্মান দিতে প্রস্তুত। নাগরিক হিসেবে তাদেরও তো ‘প্রাইভেসি’ আছে। নাকি?

Those who cry about ‘privacy’ all the time.. are they willing to respect the privacy of [the couple]? They also have privacy as citizens of the country. Right?

Journalist and writer Anisul Haque expressed his outrage at the publishing of their identities and addresses of both the women in a comment on the post of Mostofa Sarwar Faruki:

[...] I am afraid we are crossing the limit, we are violating their right to privacy by publishing their photo, name, address. will they be able to live in this society after this news? Does any journalist have the right to kill any citizen?

Boys of Bangladesh, an LGBT group, provides an update on the women on their Facebook page:

UPDATE on [the two women] : As you have already known, [the 21-year-old] is now under custody and [the 16-year-old] has been returned to her family. [The 21-year-old] was shown arrested in a case filed abduction and trafficking. [..] Of immediate concern is the protection of the two young women involved. Second, file a complaint with the Press Council against making public the identity of at least the minor. We are also trying to convene an urgent meeting to formulate a strategic response to address the immediate concerns as well as the longer term potential to gain official recognition of same sex desire and same sex relationships.

June 10 2013

Bangladesh Unblocks YouTube After Eight-Month Ban

Bangladesh's telecommunication authorities have unblocked YouTube in Bangladesh after 260 days of restricting access within the country to the video sharing website.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) blocked YouTube on September 17, 2012 to prevent people from watching a trailer of a US film titled “Innocence of Muslims,” which mocks Islam and Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh). The telecom watchdog claimed that it contacted Google prior to the ban asking them to remove the video, but Google reportedly refused to oblige.

The ban was lifted on June 5, 2013, making the site accessible to Bangladeshi netizens once again.

Image by Wikimedia Commons user HernandoJoseAJ.  CC By -SA

Image by Wikimedia Commons user HernandoJoseAJ. CC By-SA.

The block actually incurred a loss for the Bangladeshi economy, according to Fahim Mashroor, the ex-Secretary of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services. He said in an interview [bn] with German radio Deutsche Welle that the outsourcing industry suffered due to the ban.

Last year Bangladeshis earned 57 million US dollars working on online outsourcing industry with an annual growth of 54%. The eight month long ban on YouTube will curtail that phenomenal growth this year.

Not only economic loss, many student, teachers and researchers faced difficulties in their studies not being able to access online education videos hosted on YouTube.

Web users celebrated the renewed YouTube access. Khaledur Rahman Shakil (@krshakil) expressed his delight:

@কেআরশাকিল: ‘মুক্তি’ পেল ইউটিউব ফুলের মালা দিয়ে বরণ করে নিলাম ! জয় স্বাধীনতা।

@krshakil: YouTube is free! Ushering it with garlands. Go freedom!

Neel Aparajita (@oporajita789) celebrated the joys of social networking freedom:

@অপরাজিতা৭৮৯: ইউটিউব জেলখানা থেকে ছাড়া পাওয়ার আনন্দে ফেসবুক-টুইটার-এ যেদিকে তাকাই, যেখানে চোখ যায়… অইস!! খালি ইউটিউব আর ইউটিউব! #ফিলিংগ্রেট

@oporajita789: The joys of YouTube's freedom from the jail of filters is evident everywhere on social media. Everybody is talking about it #feelinggreat.

Although YouTube was blocked, many in Bangladesh were able to circumvent the ban. Ashickur Rahman Noor (@ashicunnoor) remembered that fact on Twitter:

@ashicunnoor: ডিজিটাল বাংলাদেশের স্বাধীনতা… :) সোজা পথে অনেকদিন পর ইউটিউবে হান্দাইলাম… #চৌক্ষেপানি! :)

@ashicunnoor: The freedom of Digital Bangladesh. Could access YouTube without any circumvention tool :) #tearsinmyeyes :)

Blogger Bahadur Bappi questioned the reason behind such a long ban on community blogging platform Somewhereinblog.net:

আমার প্রশ্ন হৈল এই ৮ মাস ইউটিউবকে আটকিয়ে রেখে সরকার কি এমন লাভ করলো??

My question is what benefit did the government achieve blocking YouTube for eight long months?

Thumbnail image by Flickr user spainvictorcompany and published under a CC (BY-NC-SA) License.

May 01 2013

Savar Tragedy: Where Humanity Shines Amidst Rubbles

On 24th of April, a nine storied building collapsed in Savar, in the outskirts of Bangladesh capital Dhaka, where thousands of workers were either killed or trapped (see Global Voices report). A long and difficult rescue operation has been going on ever since and more than 2834 workers have been rescued alive so far from the rubbles. The death toll has risen to 397 on Wednesday (May 1, 2013) and thousands of injured have been hospitalized. Authorities claim that 149 persons are still missing in the country’s worst ever industrial disaster.

More than a thousand rescuers from armed forces along with the firefighters and police were deployed. There had been criticism that the government rejected offers from foreign countries to aid rescue operations with modern tools and experts. However, they defended saying that they were confident that they could manage the crisis on their own and in quick times.

Volunteers inside the collapsed building trying to rescue trapped workers. Image by Rehman Asad. Copyright Demotix (24/4/2013)

Volunteers inside the collapsed building trying to rescue trapped workers. Image by Rehman Asad. Copyright Demotix (24/4/2013)

Amidst the situation an extraordinary thing happened. Ordinary people came forward to volunteer to rescue the victims along with the professionals. Where the rescuers from armed forces didn't even dare to go these people were brave enough to go there. This article looks at some stories of those brave people.

Some were students, some street vendors, some brick masons, some were day laborers or housewives. They were very ordinary people. Neither did they have any training, nor they had participated in any drills, let alone being equipped with necessary rescue tools. But they took the brave steps – they went inside the rubbles to bring out thousands of injured and hundreds of dead garments workers.

Blogger Arif R Hossain was involved in the rescue efforts right from the start. He has seen everybody's participation from up close. He wrote in facebook about a simple housewife, who engaged in the rescue efforts with a kitchen gadget immediately after the collapse:

সর্বপ্রথম এগিয়ে এসেছিলেন লিটনের মা, খুন্তি নিয়ে…এমনভাবে দৌড়ে এসেছিলো যে পারলে তিনি তার হাতের খুন্তিটা দিয়েই সব ধসে পড়া ছাদগুলোকে আল্গি দিবে। কালকে ওখানে আমি দাঁড়িয়ে হঠাত্ শুনলাম, দমকলের এক কর্মীকে বলতে, “কেউ একটা ডাইলের চামচ দেন আমাকে… নিচে একজনকে দেখা যাচ্ছে… ওকে পানি খাওয়াতে হবে।”

At first Liton's mother came forward, with a Khunti (a pointy kitchen gadget)… as if she would move the collapsed roofs with her khunti. Yesterday I suddenly heard her yelling at a firefighter, “Please give me a Daal (Lintel soup) spoon.. I see someone under.. have to feed her water..”

A female worker is being pulled out by civilian volunteers and  members of armed forces. Image by Rehman Asad. Copyright Demotix (26/4/2013)

A female worker is being pulled out by civilian volunteers and members of armed forces. Image by Rehman Asad. Copyright Demotix (26/4/2013)

A lot of people from across the country had come to volunteer for the rescue efforts. Blogger Arif Jebtik shares a personal story in Facebook about two persons, who hitchhiked with him to Savar:

দুইজনের হাতে বড় দুই ঝোলা। এতরাতে এসব দেখে সন্দেহ হলো গাড়িতে বসা একজনের। সে সোজাসাপ্টা লোক। সোজা বলে বসলো, ‘ঝোলা দেখান, দেখি ঝোলাতে কী ঝনাত্ ঝনাত শব্দ করে। মাঝরাতে গাড়িতে তুলবো আর গলা কাইটা ফালায়া যাবেন, তা হবে না।’ ঝোলা পরীক্ষা করে দেখা গেল সেখানে ছেনি-বাটাল আরো কী কী দেশি যন্ত্রপাতি!
জানা গেল এরা পেশায় রাজমিস্ত্রি, তবে মূল কাজ পুরোনো ভবন ভেঙ্গে বিক্রি করা দলে শ্রম দেয়া। কাজ করছিলেন ভৈরবে, কিন্তু সাভারের খবর পেয়ে মন মানেনি, নিজেদের কাজ শেষ করে রওনা দিতে অনেক রাতই হয়েছিল, অন্যরুটের বাস ধরে আপাতত গাজীপুরের এই জংশনে নেমে পড়েছেন। সাভারের জন্য কোনো গণপরিবহনের অপেক্ষা করছেন। সাভারের এই কারখানাগুলোতে তাদের কেউ কাজ করে না, কিন্তু তারা এসেছেন বিবেকের দায়ে।
এদের মধ্যে প্রৌঢ়জন দাঁতমুখ শক্ত করে বললেন, ‘২১ বছর বিল্ডিং ভাঙ্গার কাম করি। এই বিপদে আমি না থাকলে কে থাকব কন?’

Both had big bags in their hands. One passenger got suspicious. He asked bluntly: “show us whats in your bag. There are sounds of metal coming from there. We don't want to invite robbers in our car in midnight.” After examining their bags some local masonry tools were found.

Then we learnt that they are brick masons, but they are specialized in dismantling houses and selling scraps. Both were working in Bhairab, but hearing about Savar, they could not wait. They started after work, so the journey was already late. They took a bus till Gazipur and got out here. They were waiting for a public transport towards Savar. They don't have any kin working in the collapsed factories. They just came here out of their conscience.

The elderly among them spoke, “I dismantle buildings for 21 years. If I am not available for the rescue operations for this disaster, who will be?”

The crumbled roof of the factory. Many workers trapped in pockets inside. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (26/4/2013)

The crumbled roofs of the nine-story factory. Many workers were trapped in pockets inside. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (26/4/2013)

Mohapurush Shoeb shared a photo of a rescue worker in Facebook whose name is Babu. He alone saved 30 persons from the collapsed rubble. Risking his life he entered inside the building. He shared his experience:

ইটের স্তুপ সরিয়ে ৮ তলা থেকে একেবারে ৬ তলা পর্যন্ত নেমে আসি। সঙ্গে আরো দুজন ছিল। সেখানে ৫০ থেকে ৬০ জনের লাশ দেখতে পেলাম। লাশের স্তুপের মধ্যে থেকেই একজন হাত ধরে বললো, আমাকে বাঁচান। টেনে তাকে বাইরে বের করে নিয়ে আসি।

I moved the stack of bricks and climbed down to the 6th floor from the 8th. Two volunteers accompanied me. We saw 50-60 dead bodies. From the pile of bodies one hand grabbed me. The feeble voice said “save me”. I pulled her out from there and saved her.

Babu became sick after working many hours. After a break he joined the rescue work again.

Savar's Enam Medical College Hospital has created an unique example of providing medical help to so many injured people (for free) who were admitted there immediately after collapse. Maruf Raihan Khan, a student of 3rd year of this medical college has experienced the situation and shared in Doctors Cafe facebook page:

[...] অ্যাম্বুলেন্স করে এতো মানুষ আসছে কেন? কয়েকজনকে জিজ্ঞেস করতেই জানা গেল। কি অবস্থা একেকজন রোগীর! তাকানো যায় না! চোখে জল টলমল করা শুরু করলো।
এক অ্যাম্বুলেন্স থেকে রোগী নামাতে না নামাতেই চলে আসে আরেকটা। যারা উপস্থিত সকলে যেন দিশেহারা। এতো ট্রলি, এতো হুইল চেয়ার আন-নেয়ার লোক কোথায়? কর্মচারীদের সাথে হাত লাগালো এখানেও ছাত্ররা, আশেপাশের মানুষরাও।

[...] why so many people are coming in ambulances? I asked a few and learnt. I couldn't look at the injured bodies, such a disaster. My eyes filled with tears.

The staffs could barely finish unloading one injured person, and another appeared. Everyone was at a loss. Where are so many trollies or wheelchairs required for so many victims? The students came forward to help the staffs on duty. Even the local people started to give a hand.

He wrote about the blood donation of the common people:

তখন রক্ত দরকার, প্রচুর, প্রচুর। একটা টেবিল আর টুল নিয়ে বাইরে বসা হয়েছে। যারা রক্ত দেবে তাদের তালিকা করা হচ্ছে। লিখে কূল পাচ্ছি না। পাশে থাকা আরো দুই লোক আমার সাথে লিখতে থাকলেন। শত শত মানুষ রক্ত দিতে চলে এসেছেন, শুধু সাভার থেকে নয়; বহু দূর-দূরান্ত থেকে। কার আগে কে রক্ত দেবেন, এই নিয়ে প্রতিযোগিতা।

We needed blood, much, much blood. A tool and a table was placed outside. The list of blood donors was being prepared. I just couldn't stop writing and rest. Two colleagues joined me to prepare the list seeing hundreds of people lining up to donate blood. Not only from Savar; but also from far away they came. There was actually a rivalry on who was going to donate first.

Every day there  new missing people information being added to this wall.

Every day new missing people information are being added to this wall. Image by Shuvra Kanti Das. Copyright Demotix (30/4/2013)

Many people also donated blood in Shahbag Gonojagoron Moncho. A lot of contribution were in the form of water, saline and medicine for the injured victims. This poor man could bring only one bottle of water, one packet of biscuit and one packet saline. But he felt he should do something for the injured. Some even offered free phone service for those searching for missing people.

Parvez Alam writes about this amazing response from common people:

রাষ্ট্র যেমনি হউক আমাদের সমাজ পিছিয়ে নাই। এর প্রমাণ গতকালই হয়েছে যখন জনতা নিজ উদ্যোগে লাইন দিয়ে রক্ত দিয়েছে, ঝুঁকি নিয়ে উদ্ধার কাজে নেমে পড়েছে, নিজেরাই যে কয়জনকে সম্ভব বাঁচিয়েছে।

No matter how the state performed our societies did not let us down. A proof of this can be found in the long line of blood donors, how they engaged in the rescue efforts and saved many lives on their own.

April 26 2013

A Live blog on the Savar Tragedy

The death toll of the factory collapse in Savar, Bangladesh has risen to 290. Here is a live blog [bn] maintained by the Muktaangon blogging platform curating social media updates on the latest on the relief and rescue effort of the trapped workers inside the collapsed building.

April 25 2013

Hundreds Killed & Trapped As Factory Building Collapses In Savar

On 24th of April 2013 morning a nine-storied building collapsed in Savar, in the outskirts of the Bangladesh capital Dhaka. More than 142 people died, close to a thousand people are injured and more than a thousand people still remain trapped under the rubble. There were six garments factories from 3rd to 8th floors. Around five thousand people were inside the building when this tragedy happened.

Bangladesh is the second largest ready made garments manufacturer after China. In recent days there have been increasing concerns about workers safety, inadequate firefighting system, workers agitation against poor-pay etc. A few month ago a tragic fire at Tazreen Fashion Ltd.'s nine story building in Ashulia killed more than 110 people (see Global Voices report).

the scene after a nine-storey building collapsed in Savar

The scene after a nine-storey building collapsed in Savar, on the outskirts of Dhaka. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (24/4/2013)

Netizens are expressing their outrage in social media about these repeated disasters in garments factories. The Majority of workers in this sector are women. Blogger Vashkar Abedin writes in Facebook:

আহা বোন!
সুঁচ-সুতো দিয়ে কেবল নিজেদের মৃত্যু বুনে যাচ্ছো…

Ah sister!
Sewing your death only…

Joydeep Dey Shaplu cannot control his rage in Facebook:

এতো লাশের ভিড়ে কেউ জীবিত থাকতে পারে না। আমি আপনি সব শালা লাশ… নইলে এতো লাশ পড়তো না এ দেশে…

Nobody can be alive among all these dead bodies. We are zombies.. otherwise we could not let so many deaths happen..

There was a crack on the building evident just the day before. The factories were closed immediately [bn]. But the signs of collapse was ignored by the building owner as he kept it open for business on the 24th of April 2013 and workers were forced to go back to work. Sumeema Yasmin Sumi cannot accept such a reckless decision from the management:

এতোগুলো মানুষকে মৃত্যুর দিকে ঠেলে দেয়া হলো! এরকম দায়িত্বহীনতা কোনোভাবেই মেনে নিতে পারছি না।

So many people were forced towards death. I cannot accept such a lack of responsibility from the management.

Lucky Akter, one of the leading activists of the #Shahbag protests writes in Somehwhereinblog in a post titled “Mourn Not, But Protest”:

দাসপ্রথা নাকি বিলোপ হয়েছে বহু আগে কিন্তু আমরা তো দেখি দাস প্রথা নতুন ভাবে ফিরে এসেছে খুব ভয়ালভাবে, তা না হলে মৃত্যু নিশ্চিত-জেনেও শ্রমিকদেরকে পিটিয়ে পিটিয়ে কেন মৃত্যুকূপে পাঠানো হল? কেন মিথ্যা বেতনের আশ্বাস দিয়ে শ্রমিকদেরকে কারখানায় আনা হল?

Slavery has been abolished long ago. But we see that slavery has returned in a new form. Otherwise knowing that there is a death-risk, how can these labors were forced to enter the death-zone? Why were they lured to work again promising bonuses?

The rescue work  has been difficult

Army personnel and civilian volunteers work together to rescue those trapped. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (24/4/2013)

The majority of Bangladesh's export earnings come from the ready-made textile industry. Tamanna Sultana writes in Facebook:

আমি লজ্জিত! একটা দেশের অর্থনীতির মূল চালিকাশক্তি যারা, তারা শয়ে শয়ে মরে গেলেও তেমন কিছু যায় আসে না। এই ঘটনা বার বার ঘটতে থাকে। বড় বড় ব্যক্তিগুলো সুখে শান্তিতে বসবাস করতে পারলেই হলো…

I am ashamed! Those who are the backbones of the economy of the country are dying in hundreds, and nobody cares. And this is being repeated again and again. It seems we care about the well beings of rich and powerful only.

The factory owners or those responsible are rarely convicted for their lapses that lead to the big disasters. Apurbo Shohag expresses rage in Facebook:

এই দেশে মৃত্যু কোনো ব্যাপার না। এই দেশে সবচে’ সস্তা জিনিস হলো মানুষের প্রাণ! শুধু আজকে সাভারেই নয়, এর আগেও যখন গার্মেন্টস কারখানাগুলোতে অসংখ্য প্রাণ শেষ হয়েছে বা ভবন ধসে মানুষ মরেছে আমরা তখন শুধুই শুনে গেছি মালিকদের শাস্তি হবে। শাস্তি হয় কি না সেটা আর জানা হয় না। তবে একের পর এক সাভারের মতো ঘটনা ঘটছেই। দীর্ঘ থেকে দীর্ঘ হয় লাশের লাইন।

In this country death comes easy. Because the cheapest thing is the human life. Not only today's disaster in Savar, we have heard many times after the previous factory disasters that those who responsible including the owners will be brought to justice. But we don't see them get punished. So such disaster happen again and again. The bodies pile up in greater numbers.

ধ্বংসস্কুপের ভেতরে চাপা পড়ে আছে এখনও অনেকে। ছবি ফিরোজ আহমেদের। সর্বস্বত্ব ডেমোটিক্স (২৪/৪/২০১৩)

Many are still buried under concrete rubble. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (24/4/2013)

Wallmart, H&M, Sears, GAP, Tommy Hilfiger and many other renowned brand outsource their cloths from Bangladesh, which bears the tag “Made in Bangladesh”, a pride for the country. Blogger and journalist Arafatul Islam thinks such pride is at stake:

পোশাক কারখানায় আগুন লেগে পুড়ে মরে শ্রমিক, পোশাক কারখানার ভবন ধসে চাপা পড়ে মরে শ্রমিক… লাশের মিছিল এভাবেই বেড়ে চলে। আগে ‘মেইড ইন বাংলাদেশ’ দেখলে আগ্রহ ভরে কিনতাম। এখন কেমন যেন সেই লেখার মধ্যে রক্তের দাগ দেখতে পাই, মৃত্যুর আর্তনাদ শুনি।

Workers die in factory fires, workers die in factory building collapses.. the procession of the dead becomes long. I used to buy “Made in Bangladesh” cloths in pride. Now I see blood on that label, hear the cries of death.

The Government has declared a day of mourning [bn] for such a tragic loss. There were appeals via Facebook to donate blood, and many rushed to donate blood in Savar and elsewhere.

Blood donation in Shahbag Square for the injured people of Savar building collapse. Image courtesy Shahbag Movement Facebook page

Blood donation drive in Shahbag Square for the injured people of Savar building collapse. Image courtesy Shahbag Movement Facebook page.

Updates were being sent in Twitter:

@ShahbagInfo: Rh NEGATIVE BLOOD NEEDED in #Shahbag; 700 bags of #blood collected here, 500 sent to Dhaka Medical College & Enam Medical College. #Savar

Volunteers for Bangladesh crowdsourced volunteers via Facebook to help the rescue operations. More pictures of the disaster are available in the post of Blogger Bishkhoy.

April 05 2013

Protests Against The Arrest Of Bloggers On Alleged “Blasphemy” Charges

This post is part of our Special Coverage Bangladesh's #Shahbag Protests

The Detective Branch of the Bangladesh Police have so far detained four bloggers for their alleged write-ups demeaning Islam and the Prophet Muhammad and “hurting religious feelings”. On the evening of Monday, April 1, 2013, Rasel Parvez, Mashiur Rahman Biplob and Subrata Adhikari Shuvo were detained and they were remanded for seven days on the following day. On 3rd of April, 2013 award winning blogger Asif Mohiuddin was detained by detective branch and was remanded for three days. Their laptops, mobile phones and other devices were also confiscated. MK Alamgir, the Home Minister of Bangladesh informed that the hunt is on to arrest seven more bloggers. These arrested bloggers were associated with the ongoing Shahbag movements, which is demanding maximum penalty for war crimes committed during Bangladesh's liberation war and banning of religious politics.

AmarBlog.com, a popular bloggging platform, has also been blocked in Bangladesh. The blog refused to provide information to Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission on certain bloggers who are accused of insulting Islam.

Blackout of blogging platforms and individual blogs in protest against the arrest of bloggers

Many popular Bangladeshi blogging platforms and individual blogs have blacked out their websites in protest over the arrests of bloggers.

The accused 84 bloggers!

Different religious parties and Islamists have accused that bloggers and online activists have published on blogs and Facebook words insulting Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. During the peak of the #Shahbag protests they started labeling the bloggers as atheists. They had accused that the #Shahbag uprising was instigated by Islamophobe atheist bloggers (because most of the war criminals under trial belong to a Islami party). They soon launched a campaign against the bloggers demanding their arrest. Yielding to their pressure the government constituted a committee on 13th of March to identify the atheist bloggers and take actions against them. On 31st of March the committee met with the Islamist intellectuals and clerics who handed over a list of '84 bloggers’ accused as atheist and propagandists and urged to take action against them. The arrested bloggers are on that list. On the other hand a radical Islami organization called “Hefazot-e-Islam Bangladesh’ has taken a campaign to undertake a Long March towards Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh on 6th of April, 2013.

Asif Mohiuddin was victim of a deadly attack by fundamentalist forces earlier. Ahmed Rajib Haider, a blogger associated with Shahbag protests was brutally killed by them. Now as bloggers received this blow from the government, the netizens expressed their outrage. There have been numerous human chains and press briefings in different parts of Bangladesh to protest against the detainment of the bloggers.

Monu Awal writes in Somewherein:

ব্লগারদের তথা মুক্তচিন্তার কর্মীদের উপর চলছিল হামলা, মামলা, সর্বশেষ যুক্ত হলো গ্রেফতার। মৌলবাদীদের শারীরিক আক্রমণের পাশাপাশি এখন শুরু হয়েছে রাষ্ট্র এবং সরকারের আক্রমণ। [...] ব্লগার এবং অনলাইন লেখকদের বাকরুদ্ধ করে ফেলার চক্রান্ত শুরু হয়েছে।

So far the bloggers and free thinkers were being attacked and sued, the latest onslaught against them is arrest. The attacks by the fundamentalists are being supplemented by the government crackdown. [..] This is a conspiracy to muzzle the online writers.

The way the bloggers were produced before the media was also questioned. Award winning blogger Ali Mahmed (BOBS Best blog Bengali, 2010) writes in Facebook:

আমি যখন খবরটা শুনি, বিশ্বাস করতে পারিনি। কিন্তু যখন ছবিটা দেখলাম তখন আমার সমস্ত ভুবন এলোমেলো হয়ে গেল। তিনজন ব্লগারকে যেভাবে দাঁড় করিয়ে ছবি তোলা হয়েছে, মনে হচ্ছে এরা একেকজন খুনি, ধর্ষক।

When I first heard I could not believe. But when I saw the picture the world rattled in front of my eyes. The way these three bloggers are lined up in front of police and photographed, it seems they are murderers, rapists.

The three alleged anti-Islamic bloggers stand with computers and police in the capital. Image by Rehman Asad. Copyright Demotix (2/4/2013)

The three alleged anti-Islamic bloggers stand with computers and police in the capital. Image by Rehman Asad. Copyright Demotix (2/4/2013)

One of the nominees at the BOBS 2013 award Nijhoom Majumder opines about the way the bloggers were photographed with their laptop/PCs:

[...] একজন ব্লগার হিসেবে আমি সিম্পলী লজ্জায় মাথা নিচু করে ফেলেছি এই ছবি দেখে।

As a blogger, my head rolled down in shame after seeing the picture.

Diaspora blogger Himu is worried about the security of these bloggers as they have been exposed in the media:

যে তিনজন ব্লগারকে আটক করেছেন, তাদের মুক্তি চাই না। তাদের আপনারা আটকে রাখুন। কারণ আপনারা তাদের নামধামছবি সব প্রকাশ করে দিয়েছেন। মুক্ত বাংলাদেশে এখন তাদের পিছু নেবে আততায়ীরা, যারা আপনাদের কল্যাণই এদের চিনে নিয়েছে।

I don't want the detained bloggers to be released. Please keep them detained. Because you have disclosed their identity and pictures. They will be chased by fundamentalist assassins, who have found them thanks to you.

Please note that fundamentalist groups have assassinated ‘non-believer’ blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in front of his house. They have attacked other bloggers including Asif Mohiuddin.

The government has endorsed the #Shahbag protests from the beginning which focused on the maximum punishment for the war criminals. So blogger Sajal cannot fathom why the government is arresting the bloggers associated with #Shahbag movement:

যেটা বুঝা দুস্কর, মুক্তিযুদ্ধের নেতৃত্ব দেয়া দল আওয়ামী লীগ কেন এই মুক্তিযুদ্ধের চেতনাবিরোধী ধর্মীয় মৌলবাদীদের সাথে তাল মিলিয়ে নাস্তিক/মুক্তমনা ব্লগারদের উপর এই দমন নিপীড়ন শুরু করেছে!

This is hard to understand why Awami League, the party led the liberation war, has started oppression against the atheist/free-thinker bloggers in line with the anti-liberation forces – the fundamentalist groups.

Blogger Tutul thinks that they are being arrested because they are very much active in the #Shahbag movement.

সবসময় তাদের উপস্থিতি ছিল শাহবাগে… সেটাই কি কাল হলো তাদের জন্য? এইসব মিথ্যাচার করে কি ব্লগারদের থামানো যাবে? আমরা কি থেমে যাবো? লেজ ঘুটিয়ে ঘরে বসে থাকবো?

They were in #Shahbag the whole time.. was this their crime? Can bloggers be stopped with all these lies? Should we stop? Sit inside home doing nothing?

The politics of vote

In 2014 January the Bangladesh parliamentary election will take place. Many think that the current move by the ruling Awami League is a strategy to keep the Islami parties as allies. So the arrest of bloggers for ‘hurtung religious sentiments’ was done to appease the Islamists and exploit their vote bank. But Himu thinks that whey will not get the votes of the Islamists:

ভোটের জন্য? মোল্লাদের ভোট আপনারা পাবেন না। তাদের জুতা জিহ্বা দিয়ে চেটে সাফ করলেও পাবেন না। বরং যারা জামাতশিবিরের রাজনীতির মোকাবেলা করার জন্য আপনাদের ভোট দিয়ে ক্ষমতায় এনেছে, তাদের ভোট হারানো শুরু করবেন।

For vote? You will not get the votes of the Islamists. You wont even if you lick their boots. Rather you will lose vote of your followers who voted for you last time to tackle the religious politics.

Many think that if the 13 point demand of Hefazot Bangladesh is met somehow then Bnagladesh will become a fundamentalist country. Abidul Islam writes at Unmochon blog that the arrest of the bloggers followed after an agreement between the government and the Islamists have been reached:

[...] আরেকটি হলো হেফাজতে ইসলামের সাথে এক প্রকার সমঝোতায় উপনীত হয়ে নিজেদের পরম ‘ইসলামবন্ধু’ রাজনৈতিক দল হিসেবে প্রমাণ করে আগামী নির্বাচনী বৈতরণী পার হওয়া।

Another way is that to cross the hurdle of the next election by posing themselves as “Islam friendly’ political party with the help of an agreement between Hefazot and the government.

On 3rd of April the state-minister for law has notified that an amendment to the existing law is in effect where those who insult religion can be sentenced to the maximum punishment – capital punishment, which has irked many progressives. At present the punishments include maximum two years of imprisonment and/or 10 million BD Taka.

Thumbnail picture courtesy Muzzle Me Not Facebook Community.
This post is part of our Special Coverage Bangladesh's #Shahbag Protests

March 16 2013

Revenge Attacks Target Bangladesh Hindus for Islamist Leader's Death Sentence

See our special coverage of Bangladesh's #Shahbag Protests

Bangladesh's Hindus have come under attack as Islamists, angry over the death sentence handed down to top Jamaat-e-Islami party leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedi by a special war crimes tribunal, engage in a fiery rampage nationwide.

The country's war crimes tribunal sentenced Sayeedi on February 28, 2013 to be hanged for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War from Pakistan. While the verdict was met with cheers from supporters of the Shahbag movement, who have protested for more than a month to demand death for war criminals, the sentence also sparked violent demonstrations countrywide led by Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing, Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir. Protesters attacked police, blocked roads, torched vehicles, and destroyed homes and businesses.

The minority Hindu community of Bangladesh, where the majority of the population is Muslim, has found itself in the group's angry crosshairs. More than 500 homes, 300 temples, and 300 businesses across the country have so far been burned or vandalized, the chairman of Janmashtomi Udjapon Porishad [editors note: an organization of the Hindus, which arranges the Janmastami festivities celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna], Debashish Palit, said in a press conference on March 14, 2013 in Chittagong, the country's second largest city.

During the mayhem, Dayal Hari Shil, a 60 year old Hindu, was killed [bn] in the southeastern city of Banshkhali.

Bangladesh's High Court ordered on March 10, 2013 the arrest of those involved in the atrocities in Banshkhali within seven days. The court also ordered the government to ensure the safety of the minorities in nearby Noakhali, which has also experienced Hindu-targeted violence.

The destruction by Jamaat in Banshkhai, Chittagong. The Hindu victims are living with fear under open sky.

The Hindu community of Banshkhali in Chittagong is in tatters from the atrocities committed by Jamaat. They now live under the open sky with constant fear in their hearts. Image by Mehedi Hasan Khan, used with permission

The brutal attacks directed at the Hindu community are peculiar because Bangladesh's Hindus have no ties to the Sayeedi verdict. But this is not the first time in the country's history that minorities have been targeted – only recently, a Buddhist community in Ramu in Chittagong was attacked.

Blogger Arif Jebtik described the underlying reason for the violence:

রাজাকারের বিচারের সঙ্গে কিন্তু হিন্দুদের কোনো ধর্মীয় সম্পর্ক নেই, অথচ পরিকল্পনা করে হিন্দুদেরকে আক্রমন করা হচ্ছে। এর কারণ হচ্ছে ভারতের সঙ্গে বাংলাদেশের সম্পর্ককে উস্কে দেয়া। যখনই শোনা গেল যে ইন্ডিয়ার রাষ্ট্রপতি এদেশ সফরে নিশ্চিতই আসছেন, তখন হিন্দুদের উপর এই আক্রমন শুরু হলো। [...]

এখন যদি একই সঙ্গে বাংলাদেশের হিন্দুদেরকে বিপন্ন করে তোলা যায় এবং সেটি ইন্ডিয়াতে সরবরাহ করা যায় তাহলে ইন্ডিয়ার জামায়াত-শিবির তথা শিবসেনা-বিজেপি গোষ্ঠি সেখানে হইচই করার সুযোগ পায়। সেই হইচইয়ে বৃহৎ প্রতিবেশী ভারতের সঙ্গে একটি অস্থিরতা তৈরির সুযোগ তৈরি হয়।

Though there is no link between the trial of war criminals and the Hindu community, they are being attacked according to a deliberate plan. The reason is to incite tension in Bangladesh-India relations. The attacks started as soon as it was reported that the Indian President was to visit the country. [...]

If the Hindu community is put in peril here, then the Indian Jamaat a.k.a. the Hindu-militant right wing parties will get a chance to cause mayhem there. From that, tensions with the neighbouring India can be created.

Blogger Gita Das, quoting an acquaintance, wrote on blog Mukto Mona (Liberal Thinking) that Hindus are being attacked for the crime of testifying against Sayeedi.

human chain

Human chain protesting the attack of Hindus. Image courtesy Facebook page I am Hindu.

Many people have risen up across the country in protest of the violence against the Hindu community. Strong condemnation of the attacks has also circulated on social networking websites and blogs. Oli Syed Mahbub, sharing a report about the violence on minorities from the Daily Kaler Kontho [bn], wrote satirically:

ভালোই লাগে এদের রক্তের স্রোতে আমি-আমরা বেঁচে আছি। এই সনাতন ধর্মাবলম্বী ভাইদের, এই পুলিশ ভাইদের খুনের রক্তে আমরা নিরাপদ আছি। এরা মরে গেছে বলেই আমাদের মরতে হয় নি। ঢাকা সুরক্ষিত আছে। আরো সুরক্ষিত শাহবাগে আমি যাই-আসি। বাসায় খাই দাই। ভালোই আছি। এদিকে পুড়ে যাচ্ছে ওদের গা-জীবন-স্বপ্ন-স্বাধীনতা! দিগন্ত জুড়ে আমার কেবল অক্ষম  আক্রোশ!

It feels good to be living on their tide of blood. We are safe and alive shedding the blood of the Hindus and members of the police force. We live because they died. Dhaka is safe. I go to and come back from the safe zone of Shahbag. I eat well at home. Life is good. In the meantime their bodies-life-dreams-independence go up in flames! My impotent anger flashes across the horizon!

In a call to save the country from Jamaat-Shibir's violence, Sabrina (@sabrina_S71) tweeted:

@সাবরিনা_এস৭১: জামাত-শিবির হায়েনার হাত থেকে #দেশ বাঁচান। ওরা #হিন্দু মন্দির ধ্বংস করছে। সংখ্যালঘু #হিন্দু সম্প্রদায়ের ওপর আক্রমণ করছে। #শাহবাগ। (লিন্ক)

@sabrina_S71: Save the country from the Jamaat Shibir hyenas. They destroyed Hindu temples. Attacked the Hindu minorities. http://t.co/BOLZ3D5c7H #Shahbagh.

Religion is personal

Poster: Religion is personal, the country is for everybody.

Shehab (@omarshehab) tweeted:

@ওমরশিহাব: আজকে জামাতের মেনুতে কয়টি হিন্দু পরিবার আছে? আজকের শেফ স্পেশাল কী? ধর্ষণ না অগ্নিসংযোগ? #শাহবাগ #সেভ বাংলাদেশ

@omarshehab: How many Hindu families are there on the menu of Jamaat today? What is the Chef's special? Rape or arson? #Shahbagh #Save Bangladesh

The Hindu, Buddhist, and Christian minorities live side by side in Bangladesh with the country's Muslim majority. As a reminder to that, Twitter user Lenin (@nine_L) tweeted:

হিন্দু-বৌদ্ধ-খ্রিস্টান সবাই আমাদের ভাই। চলুন জামাত-শিবিরের হাত থেকে তাদের রক্ষা করি। #shahbag http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/latest_news.php?nid=45104 …

@nine_L: Hindus-Buddhists-Christians are my brothers. Let’s save them from the violence of Jamaat-Shibir. #shahbag

 

March 01 2013

Religion Warps Politics as Bangladesh War Crimes Protests Continue

See our special coverage of Bangladesh's #Shahbag Protests

The protesting crowd's demand We want capital punishment

The protesting crowd's demand “We want capital punishment”. Photo by Arif Hossain Sayeed, used with permission.

Since the beginning of February, hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis have been occupying a major intersection called Shahbag in the heart of Dhaka, calling for capital punishment for war crimes committed during the country’s liberation from Pakistan in 1971. But what began as a peaceful civic uprising may be taking a turn in the public’s perception as one that contradicts Islam.

While this moment has been in the making for decades, the current explosion of civic activity has a new and youthful character born out of optimism. The vitality and size of the crowd has surprised and delighted. As Shimul Bashar, a reporter for a private TV channel wrote of the #Shahbag protests on Facebook:

আমি আবার বলছি, শাহবাগের এইসব দিন ইতিহাস হবে। জীবনে এর চেয়ে বড় পাওয়া আমার নেই। মা, আমার চোখে ঘুম আসেনা। আমি শাহবাগের কথা ভাবি। আমার তার মুখ মনে পড়ে।

I reiterate that these days of Shahbag will be part of history. I do not have anything greater than this in my life. Mama, i can't sleep. I keep thinking about Shahbag. I remember the faces.

A movement sparked by bloggers

Shahbag protest in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Shahbag protest in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 21st day. Photo by Zakir Hossain Chowdhury © Copyright Demotix (Feb 26, 2013)

It all began when the Bloggers and Online Activists Network (BOAN) initiated the call to occupy the intersection on February 5, and demand capital punishment for the secretary general of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, Abdul Quader Mollah, only hours after he was sentenced to life in prison by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) in Bangladesh on 344 counts of murder, rape and torture committed in 1971.

Since then, demands for capital punishment have extended to all war criminals facing trial, and protests have spread across the country in the name of justice for the estimated 3 million people killed and 250,000 women raped during the liberation war. Local political and Islamic militia groups who opposed the secession of Bangladesh from Pakistan participated in the killing, particularly targeting Hindus. And like Mollah, a number of indicted war criminals have held public office and lived a life of impunity until 2010, when proceedings were initiated against them by the war crimes court.

The battle for public perception

Islamists protest in Bangladesh over 'Blasphemous Blogs'.

Islamists protest in Bangladesh over ‘blasphemous blogs'. Photo by Zakir Hossain Chowdhury. Copyright © Demotix (Feb 22, 2013)

The main battlefront for detractors of the Shahbag protests is now public perception, and this can have deadly consequences in a society where religious tension is constantly smoldering. In Bangladesh, where 89% of the population is Muslim, many are easily distracted by accusations of atheism.

Supporters of Jamaat-e-Islami have distributed leaflets around the country saying that the bloggers who initiated the Shahbag protests are blasphemous, and have even called for the “death penalty for atheist bloggers“. At least three opposition-led newspapers have supported these claims with further incitements against the Shahbag protesters and individual bloggers.

One blogger at the forefront of the Shahbag protests, Ahmed Rajib Haider, was murdered outside his home in Dhaka on February 15. For years, he had been writing about war criminals and Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh under the pseudonym Thaba Baba (Captain Claw).

The blogger Hasib wrote:

খুন করার জন্য থাবাবাবাকে বেছে নেবার কারণ পরিষ্কার। থাবাবাবা ধর্মবিশ্বাসের নাস্তিক ছিলেন এবং সেটা তিনি উচ্চস্বরে জানানও দিতেন। জামাতের উদ্দেশ্য এখানে এই ধর্মবিশ্বাসকে আশ্রয় করে একটা বিভক্তি টানা। তারা এই বিভক্তি তৈরী করতে সফল।

It is clear why Thaba Baba was picked up and killed. He was an open atheist. The main target of the Jamaat (Islamist party) is to create division among bloggers using religion. They were successful.

Blogger Nir Shandhani writes of the frenzy that ensued after Rajib’s murder when a fake blog full of blasphemy was widely circulated and attributed to the blogger even though it was created after his death. The blog texts were downloaded, printed and distributed to incite hatred against Shahbag bloggers. Jamaat-e-Islami and its allies launched protests across country on February 22 against “atheist bloggers” in which 4 people were killed in clashes with police.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s government is quietly in favor of the Shahbag demonstrations since Jamaat-e-Islami is a political opponent who wishes to introduce Islamic law.

As the protests continue from strength to strength, youth are having their resolve tested by contradictory claims and threats. And less internet-savvy citizens in Bangladesh who may not know what a blog is must have concluded by now that it is something quite anti-Islamic.

On February 28, Jamaat-e-Islami leader Delwar Hossain Sayed was sentenced to death, leading to cheers in the Shabagh intersection, and deadly clashes between Islamists and police in Dhaka and other parts of the country. Jamaat-e-Islami say they will retaliate with a 48-hour “shutdown” of Bangladesh starting Sunday, March 3.

This post was written with contributions from the Global Voices Bangladesh authors team

ISN logoThis post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

February 22 2013

Bangladesh Raises Voice to End Violence Against Women

With fists raised to the sky, thousands of Bangladeshis throughout the country stood together in city streets and plazas last week chanting “no more, no more!” to demand an end to violence against women as part of the “One Billion Rising” movement.

Bangladesh was among the 203 countries around the world that organised anti-violence demonstrations for February 14, 2013. More than 13,000 people throughout all 64 districts in Bangladesh “rose” up in protest.

For the southern Asian country, the “One Billion Rising” movement hits home. A reported 174,691 women in Bangladesh were the victim of violence, including acid attacks, abductions, rapes, murders, trafficking, and dowry-related violence, between 2001 and 2012, according to a report by the country's police.

And according to the United Nations Human Development Report, Bangladesh has the worst record for rape in the region, meaning that statistically one in every 1,000 women is raped.

One Billion Rising, the V-Day campaign's largest global action, was named for the fact that at least a billion women worldwide will experience sexual or physical violence in their lifetime, according to the UN.

Below are some photos from the movement, courtesy of the One Billion Rising Bangladesh Facebook page.

Parliamentarians solidarity with One Billion Rising campaign

Parliamentarians’ solidarity with One Billion Rising campaign

Action Aid Bangladesh's protesting violence against women by singing.

Action Aid Bangladesh protesting violence against women through song.

Garments workers RISING in Gulshan, Dhaka.

Garment workers rising up against violence against women in Gulshan, Dhaka.

Men and women from small town Sirajgonj RISING.

Men and women from the small town of Sirajgonj rising up.

UN showed their solidarity.

The United Nations in solidarity with the movement.

People RISING at Shilpakala Academy, Dhaka.

People rising up at Shilpakala Academy, Dhaka.

Bidrohi- an inspiring dance performed by Shadhona at Shilpakala Academy.

Shadhona performs an inspiring dance known as Bidrohi at Shilpakala Academy.

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Lighting candles in memory of women subjected to violence during the 1971 Liberation War during the One Billion Rising protests in Shahbag’s Generation Square.

More photos and stories are available on One Billion Rising Facebook Page and on their blog.

February 20 2013

What Bangladeshi Youths Feel About 21 February

Farah Subhan at Amader Kotha highlights what the Bangladeshi youth feels about 21st of February, the day commemorating the martyrs of the Bengali language movement, also known as the The International Mother Language Day.

February 19 2013

Videos from #Shahbag, Bangladesh's Generation Square

The movement for justice against Bangladesh's war criminals at Shahbag or “Generation Square”, as it is now being called, has entered its fourteenth day.

Under the International Crimes Tribunal, political leaders from the Islamist party Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are being indicted for genocide, rape, arson, looting and other crimes against humanity committed during Bangladesh's Liberation War of 1971. The tribunal has already delivered guilty verdicts to two war criminals.

On 5 February 2013, the International Crimes Tribunal sentenced the General Secretary of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami party, Abdul Quader Mullah, to life in prison for killing 344 people, rape, and other war crimes. The public rejected this verdict and gathered at Shahbag in a protest called by the Bloggers and Online Activists’ Network (BOAN), demanding that Mullah be given the death sentence.

Demonstration Continues at Shahbag. Image by Zahidul Salim. Cpyright Demotix (18/2/2013)

Demonstrations continue at Shahbagh. Photo by Zahidul Salim. Copyright Demotix (18/2/2013)

Dipu, director of Yellow Rose Cine, shared this video on the Shahbag Movement on Facebook:

A student at the Ahsanullah Institute of Science and Technology, Kazi Shudipto, uploaded this video on YouTube:

Tasmia Tahsin also shared this video on YouTube:

Enamul Haque uploaded this inspirational video, The Uprising by Saad Mahbub on Vimeo:

The Shahbag movement is constantly giving rise to new songs, poems, cartoons and plays. All songs, videos and documentaries can be found on Shahbag Movement.

Protesters say they will continue demonstrating until all their demands are met.

This post was prepared with help from Dipu.

February 18 2013

#Shahbag Protesters Big Farewell to Brutally Murdered Blogger

Shahbag crowd praying blogger Rajiv's janaza. Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (16/2/2013)

#Shahbag crowd praying blogger at Rajiv's janaza(funeral). Image by Mohammad Asad. Copyright Demotix (16/2/2013)

As protesters continued their chants at Shahbag calling for Bangladesh's war criminals and affiliates of the Islamist party to be beheaded, one of their own, Ahmed Rajib Haider was brutally killed outside his home in capital city Dhaka on February 15, 2013.

The following day thousands gathered around his body at the site of the protests, Shahbag square, to pay their last respects.

Haider blogged under the pseudonym Thaba Baba (Captain Claw) and was on the forefront of the bloggers and online activists-led Shahbag protests. For years he had been writing against war criminals and Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh.

His writings and activism had even irked the Islamist party's student wing Jamaat-Shibir. Their blog Sonar Bangladesh (now blocked in Bangladesh for inciting hatred) published a series of hate-filled posts on the main organizers of #Shahbag protests. The first feature [pdf] was on Rajib Haider.

Hundreds of thousands of people are joining the Shahbag movement to demand harsher punishment for Bangladesh's 1971 war criminals. During the 1971 liberation war an estimated 200, 000 to 3 million people were killed by the Pakistani army and approximately 250,000 women were raped. Local political and religious militia groups like Razakar, Al Badr and Al-Shams, many of whom were also members of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, aided Pakistani soldiers in the killings, particularly those targeting Hindus.

Blogger Rajib Haider. Image courtesy his Facebook Page

Blogger Rajib Haider. Image courtesy his Facebook Page

As the news of Blogger Rajiv broke on social media erupted with shock and outrage. Blogger Ranadipam Basu
wrote [bn]:

রাজীব হায়দার, ভাই আমার, তোমার স্মৃতির ভার বইতে পারছি না আমি…!

Rajib Haider, my brother, I cannot take the burden of knowing you anymore.

On the following day his co-activist at the Shahbag movement Russel John Tweets:

@EkusheyIt's a new day, everyone is here, except for Thaba Baba whom I used to call Kola Baba. You'll be missed dearly. #Shahbag

Mrittumoy Ishot Comments on a post of Hasib at Sachalayatan:

নিজের গায়ে আগুন লাগায় দিতে ইচ্ছে করছে আমার। কোন প্রগতিশীল ব্লগারকে খুন হতে দেখতে পারি না। কিছুতেই না।

I feel like burning myself. I cannot stand for the killing of a progressive blogger. Never.

Hasib writes in another post at his personal blog about the probable cause of death of Rajib:

খুন করার জন্য থাবাবাবাকে বেছে নেবার কারণ পরিষ্কার। থাবাবাবা ধর্মবিশ্বাসের নাস্তিক ছিলেন এবং সেটা তিনি উচ্চস্বরে জানানও দিতেন। জামাতের উদ্দেশ্য এখানে এই ধর্মবিশ্বাসকে আশ্রয় করে একটা বিভক্তি টানা। তারা এই বিভক্তি তৈরী করতে সফল।

It is clear why Thaba Baba was picked up and  killed. He was an open atheist. The main target of the Jamaat (Islamist party) is to create division among bloggers using religion. They were successful.

Fingers are being pointed at the Islamist political party Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and their student wing Bangladesh Islami Chhatra Shibir for the killing of Rajib. Sushanta writes in Amar Blog:

তবে এ পর্যন্ত যতটুকু তথ্য পেয়েছি এবং জামাত শিবিরের ব্লগ সোনার বাংলায় প্রদত্ত হিট লিস্ট এবং জামায়াত-শিবিরের অতীতের কর্মকান্ড এবং শাহবাগ-ঘটিত তাদের বিভিন্ন বক্তব্যের আলোকে ব্যক্তিগতভাবে আমার মনে কোনো সন্দেহ নেই যে এই হত্যাকান্ডের সম্ভাব্য অপরাধী জামায়াত-শিবির চক্র।

So far the information I obtained from the previous actions and rhetoric of Jamaat-Shibir and the hitlist posted on the Jamaat-Shibir blog Sonar Bangladesh, I have no doubt that they are they main culprit behind this.

Thousands of people take part in the namaz-e-janaza of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haidar at Shahbagh intersection in Dhaka. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (16/2/2012)

Thousands of people paying their last respect to blogger Ahmed Rajib Haidar at Shahbagh intersection in Dhaka. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (16/2/2013)

After Rajib died, many shared a link on Facebook which they thought was Rajib's blog. The blog contained blasphemous and hate-mongering posts. Abdullah Al Kafi analyses Rajib Haider alias Thaba Baba's alleged blog on Quantcast and says:

quantcast এ গিয়ে দেখা যায় সাইটটি ফেব্রুয়ারীর ১৫ তারিখ থেকেই দেখা যাচ্ছে এর তা হোল রাজিব হত্যার দিন, অথচ সাইটটির পোস্টগুলো এক বছর আগের, নূরানি চাপা সাইটটার অস্তিত্ব ফেব্রুয়ারীর ১৫ তারিখ এর আগে ছিলই না। রাজিব হত্যার পরপরি সাইটটি রাজিব এর নামে বিকৃত কিছু পোস্ট দিয়ে অনলাইন এ ছড়িয়ে দেয়া হোল, যাতে সাধারণ মানুষ রাজিব এর লিখা পড়তে গেলে এই পোস্ট গুলো পায়।

If you analyse the site in Quantcast then you will see that the blog only exists from February 15, 2013, the day Rajib died. The posts on the site was dated one year before, however the site didn't exist before February 15. Some fabricated posts were published on the date of his death and shared widely apparently to make people believe that he wrote them.

Kafi Khan writes in Shahbag Cyber War page:

নুরানি চাপা সাইটটা থাবা বাবা-এর খোলা না। আপনারা নিচের লিঙ্কটাতে গেলেই সব ডাটা পাবেন। এই সাইটটা গতকালও মডিফাই করা হইছে। তাইলে মরার পর কে মডিফাই করল?? আমি একটা ছবিও দিয়া দিছি!! আজব!!! এইভাবে মানুষকে দোষী বানানো কোন ঈমান এর ভিতর পড়ে??

Nurani Chapa site was not published by Thaba Baba. If you go to the following link you will find that this site was even modified yesterday, one day after his death. Then who changed it? I have taken a screenshot. Strange. Why are they trying to frame him?

Kafi Khan'snalysis - the blog was modified after his death. image courtesy Shahbag Cyber War

Kafi Khan'snalysis – the blog was modified after his death. image courtesy Shahbag Cyber War Page

In Bangladesh 89% people are Muslim. So there is a visible trend to divert the #Shahbag protests in social media by highlighting Rajib's atheism and garnering peoples reaction. Shuvo Roy Chowdhury writes in Amar Blog:

রাজীব ভাইকে নাস্তিক বলে অনেকেই আন্দেলনকে ভিন্ন খাতে প্রবাহিত করতে চায়। তাদের উদ্দেশ্যে বলতে চাই, আপনারা যারা প্রথম থেকে আন্দোলনের সাথে কোন না কোনভাবে সম্পৃক্ত, তারা হয়তো জানবেন এই আন্দোলন কোন ধর্মযুদ্ধ নয়। এটি দেশের কলঙ্ক মোচন করার লড়াই।

They want to divert the movement by saying that Rajib is an atheist. I want to say to them, those who are involved in this movement should know this is not a religious war. This is the fight to save the country from injustice.

Generation Square- Shahbag writes on Facebook:

আবারো হাতিয়ার হিসেবে ব্যবহার হচ্ছে ধর্ম, পুঁজি করা হয়েছে ধর্মকে। প্রজন্ম চত্বরে বাঙালি এক হয়েছে রাজাকারের ফাঁসির দাবি নিয়ে, কোন ধর্মীয় ইস্যু নিয়ে নয়। প্লিজ ধর্ম এবং ফাঁসির দাবি এই দুইটা ফ্যাক্ট গুলিয়ে এক করে ফেলবেন না।

Again religion is being used as a tool for politics. People have united at generation square for the maximum punishment of war criminals. Please do not mix the demand for death penalty of the war criminals with religion.

Rajib was not killed for his atheism but for his activism in the Shahbag movement, opines Shahbagh Movement:

ব্লগার রাজীব হায়দারকে কিন্তু তার ধর্মে বিশ্বাস অথবা অবিশ্বাসের জন্য খুন করা হয়নি। সেরকম হলে তাকে আরো আগেই হত্যার চেষ্টা করা হত! রাজীব হায়দার ছাড়াও আরো অনেকে রয়েছেন যারা ধর্মে বিশ্বাস রাখেন না। তাদেরকেও কিন্তু আক্রমণ করা হয়নি। রাজীব হায়দারকে খুন করা হয়েছে যখন তিনি জামায়ত শিবির যুদ্ধাপরাধীদের বিরুদ্ধে আন্দোলনে নেমেছেন, তখন!

Blogger Rajib was not killed for his atheism or religion. If that's true they could have done it long ago. There are others also who do not believe in religion. But they were not attacked. When Rajib was very active in the movement against the war criminals, then he was killed.

Thirteen days into the movement, Shahbag is now occupied by more than 100,000 protesters demanding the death penalty for war criminals. Now they are also demanding a quick trial for their fellow protester Rajib. The police has arrested 5 people in connection so far.

February 16 2013

Bangladeshi Artists Capture Shahbag Protests in Cartoon

The protests in Shahbag square in Bangladesh's capital city, where thousands of people have gathered to demand death for war criminals, rage on for a 12th day.

Every day, hundreds of people young and old, of every creed and color, join the movement calling for those who committed perpetrated mass murder, rape, arson, and other crimes against humanity during the country's 1971 Liberation War to be hanged. Protests have spread beyond beyond Shahbag square to Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet, Mynmensingh, Rangpur, and other parts of the country.

The square tirelessly buzzes with slogans, chanting, and songs. Throughout the night, protesters organize candlelight vigils, songs, poetry recitals, photo and film exhibitions of the Liberation War, and caricature exhibitions.

Several artists captivated by the movement have put pen to paper to capture the Shahbag protests in cartoon. Below are some of the cartoons that they have shared on Facebook.

Ashim Chandra Ray, a cartoonist from the renowned magazine Unmad in Bangladesh, drew this work:

Asim Chandro Roy

Artist Niaz Chowdhury Tuli from the daily newspaper Prothom Alo drew a cartoon depicting the hand of justice:

Niaz Chowdhury Tuli

Mehedi Haque from the newspaper New Age drew this cartoon:

Mehedi Haque

Cartoonist Nazmul Masum works at the daily Kaler Kantho. One of his drawings:

Nazmul Masum1

Cartoonist Shikha working with Rosh+Alo, a humour supplement from the daily Prothom Alo, drew this:

Shikha

work of cartoonist Biplob from daily Kaler Kantho’s humour supplement Ghorar Dim:

Biplob

Zunayed Azim Chowdhury, an online activist and cartoonist from daily Prothom Alo’s Rosh+Alo supplement, sketched this one:

Zonaid Azim Chowdhury

Not all of the cartoons were drawn on a paper canvas. These artists graffitied caricature in Projonmo Square:

Nazmul Masum

All cartoons featured in this post were used with permission from their respective artists.

February 15 2013

#Shahbag Blogger Hacked To Death

Engineer Ahmed Rajib Haider, a young blogger and online activist participating in the ongoing Shahbag movement in the Bangladesh capital Dhaka was brutally killed a few hours ago, reports Mamur Hossain. Hasib Mahmud writes [bn] that a death warrant was posted against Rajib a few days ago on an Islamist-run blog charging the activist with desecrating religion. Rajib blogged under the alias Thaba Baba on various blogs, including one which satirized religion.

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