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An uneasy calm

Cadres of Awami League candidate demolishing ballot box at a Primary School polling centre in Noakhali.

Sadeq Khan

An uneasy calm has descended on Bangladesh. The shock of daring ‘vote dacoity’ and violent exclusion of voters from polling centres brandishing and using fire-arms and lethal weapons right in front of the eyes of law-enforcement agencies (some police officers themselves engaged in voter intimidation throwing out voters and helping ruling party agents to seal most ballot papers and stuff ballot boxes idly watched by colluding polling officers) in the five stages of upozilla elections has left the mofussil public in particular in a state of stupor.

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Cadres of Awami League candidate demolishing ballot box at a Primary School polling centre in Noakhali.

Sadeq Khan

An uneasy calm has descended on Bangladesh. The shock of daring ‘vote dacoity’ and violent exclusion of voters from polling centres brandishing and using fire-arms and lethal weapons right in front of the eyes of law-enforcement agencies (some police officers themselves engaged in voter intimidation throwing out voters and helping ruling party agents to seal most ballot papers and stuff ballot boxes idly watched by colluding polling officers) in the five stages of upozilla elections has left the mofussil public in particular in a state of stupor.

In the big cities and their suburbs, government repression of opposition activists, their arrests on trumped-up charges, and abductions followed by extra-judicial killings of opposition elements, well-known or unknown, had gone on through the six weeks of upozilla polls. Criminal gangs contracted by ruling party candidates to carry out voter intimidation are having their hey-day all over Bangladesh as their pay-off, sections of the police joining with them in their crime-sheet acts or sharing their loot anyway for overlooking such acts. March 31, the last day of the staggered upozilla polls was supposed to be a terminal date after which the mainstream opposition promised to assess the public mood, regroup their forces on the ground and begin their political counter-offensive against ruling party excesses of misappropriation, misfeasance and state terror to enforce a dialogue for modalities and schedule of a fresh general election. Public mood is aghast at the indifference of the party-in-power to the sorry plight of social order and of the national economy, the ministers and high officials of the government remaining nonetheless engaged in revelries and celebrations, wasting crores of public donations in hosting international events and earning a mention in Guinness World Records. So far the mainstream opposition has not come forward with any coherent plan action beyond war of words in public debate over credits for the declaration of independence and the war of liberation.
Ali Riaz, Professor and Chair of the Department of Politics and Government at the Illinois State University, USA, in an article in the April edition of Current History on the “Crisis of Democracy in Bangladesh” has contended that the political crisis as prevailing in Bangladesh after the one-sided January 5 elections to stage a return to power of the incumbents with a more naked authoritarian agenda is in fact encouraging Islamic extremists for a covert come-back to Bangladesh politics with their terrorist ways as the only effective option against the tyranny of one-party rule. Analysing the results of upozilla polls in which candidates put up by the Jamaat-e-Islami (and of course the BNP) were declared elected in a substantial number of seats despite the hurdles of a highly partisan election administration, state-sponsored violence and abuse of the process of law for suppressing opposition candidates, Ambassador William B. Milam, now a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, USA, came to a different conclusion.
After reading Ali Riaz in Current History, Milam wrote in The Express Tribune of 8 April, 2014 issue as follows:
“The political box into which the country’s political leaders have dragged it will undoubtedly erode the enormous economic gains made by Bangladesh in the past two decades, in part by releasing political forces that have been bottled up or latent for many decades. The one-party government (the opposition is bought and paid for) has thrown aside what clearly the great majority of the populace saw as its mandate: to come to an agreement with the opposition that will produce a credible second election and end the egregious violence.
“The Awami League (AL) government appears to have chosen to ignore popular will and to be planning to stay in office without an election until 2019. Signs of this include the government doing its best to marginalise the main opposition by continuing to arrest its leaders, denying space for any political opponent to protest peacefully (media supporters of the opposition are being silenced or threatened). Pro-regime intellectuals are calling for a ‘democratic dictatorship’ (an oxymoron that we have heard before from authoritarian regimes around the world), human rights abuses are increasing (especially enforced disappearances and extrajudicial murder), and AL party leaders are thumping their chest over wins in the later rounds of local elections despite their overt ballot stuffing.
By 2019, at the rate these things are proceeding, there will not be much of the regular opposition left to run against a powerful AL-controlled government. Nor will a civil society third force, the much-talked about and hoped-for panacea of the liberal secular centre-right, develop in such an atmosphere. And if threatened, the AL might proceed to the next logical step, i.e. a one-party state to eliminate any possibility of an opposition. Interestingly enough, the AL came to power (and was supported by India) on its platform of ridding the country of extremism. But Riaz (along many other observers) believe that the government’s clearly authoritarian mindset and increasingly authoritarian actions, will ‘encourage the extremists’.
“There remain some extremist (militants) in Bangladesh, and the government’s actions will surely stir them up and add to their recruiting message. But there are extremists that are not militants, and they are not just more numerous, but also more dangerous. These are the extremists within political parties — both major parties — who will drive their leaders to more extreme measures in order to keep the government in power or to bring the government down (extremists in the opposition party who may be driven underground) and may see no other option but the use of increased violence to do so.”
Thus Milam finds it unlikely that ‘Islamic terrorism’ will find root in the Sufi-oriented and democratic-minded Bangladesh. He thinks instead that the Awami League, in effect, is rejuvenating its sworn enemy as its ultimate challenger for power by stronger appeal to the electorate:
“Ironically, it is the party that the AL has sworn to destroy that may be its biggest threat. The Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (BJI) is waiting in the wings. Its reputation for honest and efficient governance is drawing Bangladeshis who are fed up with the corruption and nepotism of the major parties, and it made surprising gains in the early rounds of the local elections before the ballot-box stuffing started. One wonders whether a reborn, renamed, reformed BJI, if able to shed its collaboration image, might turn into the centre of the opposition. I do not believe that its scriptural philosophy would appeal to the bulk of Bangladeshi voters, but if this renamed party ran on a platform of efficient and honest government, it might sweep the table. I hear that some of those Bangladeshis who oppose the AL government are asking already: Where else could we go?”
There are also other Bangladeshis who still believe that the only solution of the political crisis in Bangladesh, as the politicians have failed, is in a military solution, which is inevitable since the crisis has already assumed a sort of geopolitical dimension involving global and regional powers. They point out that over the past few years, a chasm has grown between India and the US (and the EU to some extent) with respect to South Asia outlook. The western countries supported a democratic transition in Bangladesh where elections reflect the choice of the people of Bangladesh. India's unconditional support for a brutal undemocratic regime in Bangladesh is influencing Western countries, especially the US, to rethink their earlier Bangladesh policy of looking at South Asia through the prism of India. And they quote the posting of Bangladesh by the International Crisis Group amongst the top ten areas of conflicts to watch in 2014. (vide Louise Arbour, “Next Year’s Wars”, Foreign Policy, 30 Dec., 2013).
Bangladesh situation is considered dangerous and so tendentious as may flare up into a regional crisis. The International Crisis Group noted that the opposition Bangladesh National Party boycotted the elections, accusing the ruling Awami League of authoritarian rule and of plans to rig the polls. The boycott deepened the crisis and led to more deadly violence. More than half the constituencies had no contest and in the remaining seats, voter turnout was poor. The election was considered unacceptable by the international community. But rivalries for elective power aside, the roots of Bangladeshi political polarization run deep. Over the past two years, a government-appointed tribunal has carried out profoundly flawed trials for war crimes committed during the country's 1971 war of liberation from Pakistan. To date, everyone on trial is a Bangladeshi citizen. No one from the Pakistani military, the main force resisting the liberation of what was then East Pakistan, has been indicted. Making matters worse, the sentencing to death of six members of the BNP and Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami parties -- for allegedly trying to sabotage the country's formation -- has inflated religious-versus-secular social divisions and spawned the radicalization of newer groups like Hefajat-e-Islam. The only way out is via credible elections and a stable, responsive government, for which there is no consensus nor any inclination to compromise. The risks are manifold. Since 1971, the military has attempted some 30 coups, about a fifth of them successful. In two, heads of governments were assassinated, including Sheikh Hasina's father. Today, the military remains a risk. Finally, the potential radicalization of Rohingya refugees, human rights concerns, and Bangladesh's complicated economic trajectory all make for an explosive mix.


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Plunder, poorism and profit

Fazal M. Kamal in New York

This is, unquestionably, an ancient question: How much profit is enough profit? Obviously, when profit maximization is the top priority, sometimes the only objective, it may be attained regardless of the costs society has to fork over. This, of course, is no secret; and is practiced with great gusto in most countries where success is measured purely in terms of Mammon’s lust.

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Fazal M. Kamal in New York

This is, unquestionably, an ancient question: How much profit is enough profit? Obviously, when profit maximization is the top priority, sometimes the only objective, it may be attained regardless of the costs society has to fork over. This, of course, is no secret; and is practiced with great gusto in most countries where success is measured purely in terms of Mammon’s lust.

Here’s one instance when the pursuit of happiness morphs into pursuit of sheer profit. “Laura Christian's daughter was 16 years old in 2005 when the Chevy Cobalt she was driving hit a tree. The air bag didn't deploy, and Amber Marie Rose was killed. In the last two months, General Motors has recalled more than 2.5 million vehicles worldwide after linking defective ignition switches in similar cars to air bag failures — and to 13 deaths and 31 crashes. And there are indications GM approved the switches in 2002 even though it knew they did not meet specifications.” (USA Today)
Similar issues have been known to occur with other manufacturers and producers, and the primary cause has been the luster of the Bottom Line. Factotums of corporations often cite the pressure to satisfy shareholders as the main reason they have to go to such lengths, including certainly steps that can easily endanger the lives of consumers. It seems companies must demonstrate that every year the profit is moving unrelentingly northward.

Irrational and absurd
For example: if a commercial enterprise earns two units of profit the first year, the following year it has to garner more than two, the year after that it has to be more than that, ad infinitum. If in the third year the number declines to less than the figure for the previous year then it’s believed the company has incurred a loss! Evidently, this is irrational and some may even describe this line of reasoning as absurd. But in the real world of wealth accumulation, this is the reality and more significantly acceptable.
That naturally brings us to Wall Streeters. In an article in The Guardian Suzanne McGee says: They swagger. They strut. They show off. They tweet. … Some of them even compare notes over which TV studios have better green rooms, coffee and makeup artists. (Sad, but true.) …“The system glorifies stars, and billions and billions of dollars are invested on what they do – or what they say they are doing,” McGee quotes Daniel Wiener, CEO of Adviser Investments of Newton, Mass., as saying. And adds, “The system is geared to creating and promoting those stars, too…”
And the system also creates, apparently, people like Jordan Belfort, who wrote about his exploits while serving time in what maybe euphemistically called a low-security prison. And his written life story in turn was utilized to make the very successful movie The Wolf of Wall Street, which exhibited to what outrageous lengths he went to generate money and a lifestyle merely because the existing system allowed him to do so.
Meanwhile, here’s something else to chew on: Wealth in the US rose $34 trillion since the recession though 93 percent of the people got almost none of it. According to a report, “That's an average of $100,000 for every American. But the people who already own most of the stocks took almost all of it. For them, the average gain was well over a million dollars -- tax-free as long as they don't cash it in.”

Incentives to be more reckless?
In addition, another report has this revealing quote: “Like racism – there is poorism. And [businesses] who service low income people are tainted with this sort of prejudice that they must be doing something unseemly down here,” says Joe Coleman, president of RiteCheck, a check-cashing chain that services low-income communities throughout New York City.
All this against the well-known background of the US government helping the financial institutions out of the hole they had dug for themselves. And the rescue came from the taxpayers’ money though the majority of the people received barely any assistance, if at all, while Wall Street honchos not only continued to be conspicuously generous with themselves whilst getting aid from the state but also persisted with the practice of unabashedly showering lavish perks and privileges and humongous bonuses on their star personnel.
Commenting on the now-famous bailouts Sita Slavov of the American Enterprise Institute says in a recent article, “… focusing on whether the bailouts have turned a profit misses the point. The real cost of the bailouts is that they demonstrated the willingness of the government to save large financial institutions that get themselves in trouble. In doing so, they have created a moral hazard problem, giving banks an incentive to be even more reckless in the future.” After all, avarice and ethics have never cohabited comfortably ever.
She goes on to state: “There's evidence to back up this claim. In a study forthcoming in the Journal of Financial Economics, Ran Duchin and Denis Sosyura, both from the University of Michigan, found that banks began making riskier loans and investments after being approved to receive TARP funds. Viewed by itself, this increase in risk-taking doesn't necessarily reflect moral hazard. But a few additional pieces of evidence suggest that moral hazard played a role in the increased risk-taking.”

Free enterprise or bullying?
The economist-commenter concludes by asserting: “Many economists believe that the benefits of the bailouts – limiting the financial meltdown and preventing a much deeper economic downturn – outweighed their costs, including the hidden cost arising from moral hazard. And they might be right. But focusing on that question distracts from the real underlying problem: we have a deeply flawed system in which policy makers and the public are essentially held hostage by financial markets and ‘too big to fail’ institutions. That's not free enterprise; that's bullying.”
The chief point of all this is that what is now practiced and known as free enterprise has lost its moral anchoring. But if a nation or society has to remain robust and healthy and retain its humanism some modicum of ethics must temper the relentless hunt for ever-increasing mounds of lucre at any cost. This irrationality just cannot continue to dominate the human enterprise. At least to some acceptable degree the welfare of the majority has to be computed into the equation. In spite of all its inadequacies and deficits the Obama administration, by diligently attempting to raise the minimum wage and injecting some sanity in the inequality of incomes for men and women, is trying to bring a sense of equilibrium, albeit in comparatively miniscule increments.


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POLICY SHIFT BLAMED
Gonojagoron Manch breaks apart

Faruque Ahmed

It is quite surprising to the nation to see that police were using baton on Gonojagoran Manch spokesperson Imran H Sarkar and his followers last week at the Shahbagh city centre where he led the biggest gathering of protesters for almost two months from February last year demanding ban to religious politics and death to senior Jamaat leaders facing the war crime trial.

 

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Faruque Ahmed

It is quite surprising to the nation to see that police were using baton on Gonojagoran Manch spokesperson Imran H Sarkar and his followers last week at the Shahbagh city centre where he led the biggest gathering of protesters for almost two months from February last year demanding ban to religious politics and death to senior Jamaat leaders facing the war crime trial.

 

How could police publicly manhandle the person who was enjoying gunmen protection from the authority throughout the year with VIP status?
Police also used baton on the occasion on another group of Manch activists led by ‘children of freedom fighters.’ They had broken into violence to disrupt a gathering of Imran Sarkar at Shahbagh and the clash was virtually a follow up action of a chase and counter-chase between the two factions on the previous day.

IHS’s fall from grace
One clearly remembers that Imran H Sarkar was treated as the hero of anti-religious movement only a year ago but now he has been mysteriously reduced to zero thanks to turning nature of Bangladesh politics dominated by ruling Awami League and cunningly exploited by the left political groups who have no roots in the country’s national politics.
It is natural, one would wonder, why the Gonojagoran Manch has been divided and Imran Sarkar and his group is now facing the critical challenge from Bangladesh Chatra League (BCL), the ruling party’s students’ front which is out to banish Sarkar from the scene. BCL leaders have however turned down allegations that their men had attacked Imran Sarkar characterizing the fight basically as internal protest against misuse of power and the huge donations which Sarkar has reportedly collected from different business and agencies.
The division within the Gonojagoran Manch surfaced with various student groups demanding accountability of bank accounts that Imran Sarkar has handled in the name of the movement. Some groups blamed him for removing large amount of money while declaring him an ‘unwanted person’ within the Gonojagoron Manch. They have also demanded the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to probe into the accounts.
It is alleged that Sarkar and his inner circle have collected unspecified but sizeable amount of fund from businesses and individuals. People had made contributions voluntarily at the beginning to accelerate the anti-Jamaat movement to ensure execution of party leaders facing the ICT trial. But later Imran and his group forced other people and business to pay threatening that they will be branded as anti-liberation force if they don’t pay.
Imran Sarkar’s critics said he has misappropriated fund and now trying to float a party of his own exploiting the Gonojagoran platform and its money essentially focusing on issues like accelerating the trial of Jamaat leaders and making sure that they would be sent to the gallows. In doing so he is however consciously targeting to bring pressure on the government, his critics say.

Shift in strategy
The government strategy may have shifted meanwhile and perhaps heeding to criticism that the Gonojagoran Manch has outlived its purpose. Insiders say the ruling party perhaps wants to delay war crime trial at this moment. The leftist backed Imran group on the other hand wants that the ICT trial must be accelerated and death sentence to Jamaat leaders and others must be implemented soon.
The political tension between the groups pushed by conflicting objectives came to its height again during the T20 cricket when the Prime Minister received donation from Islami Bank and the money was also partly committed to help the recording of national anthem on March 26 in an open air function.
Imran group, joining other hard core leftists objected to Islami Bank’s donation and attempted suggest it as a sell out to anti-liberation forces. Some cultural groups of extreme left mindset also put the threat that they will boycott the recording if the money was not returned. Since the cheque was received by the Prime Minister, the criticism was almost openly directed at her raising tensions further.
Reports said Imran Sarkar’s group began preparation to observe the Pohela Baisak from a separate platform in front of the Institute of Fine Arts on Dhaka University campus. BCL men dismantled the stage saying they had no permission from the varsity authorities.
In fact, the divergence of political targets and socio-cultural objectives became visible between Imran-led Gonojagoron Manch and that of the BCL soon after launching the Manch in February last year. BCL moved quickly to take control of the movement as directed by the top ruling party leadership.

Why the policy change?
Sources say the Awami League had never wanted to make madrasha teachers and students its political enemy, except fighting the Jamaat-e-Islaam isolating it from the broad based rural religious community. But the left cultural groups and some atheists grabbed the Manch to hit hard the Muslim religious sentiment by circulating texts insulting the prophet of Islam and religious values to ensue a bigger fight spreading over the street.
Consequently, the ruling party Awami League turned out to be identified as the biggest enemy of Islam by rural based clerics and it partially explains how Imran and his mentors lost political support of Awami League in the process.
So when the BCL is opposing Imran, it must be realized that it is the political decision of the ruling party at the top. Moreover, as we see, the atheist led left won the fight from Gonojagoron Manch to force the government to amend the ICT law to put Abdul Qadir Mollah to the gallows.
But on the other hand it prompted the debut of Hifajat-e-Islam, comprising of the rural clerics to emerge at the center of the country’s mainstream politics and this in turn give Jamaat-e-Islami the opportunity to freely move and survive. The latest Upazila Elections result showed Jamaat has lost a leader to the gallows but won the vast support of the nation to chart out a clear future.
Besides, the left parties proved despite their presence in parliament they have no support base to run for the Upazila elections and even the Jayiya Party is melting down while Jamaat has registered a distinct rise at the cost of both.
In Bangladesh the leftists always live in the shelter of Awami League. But the enemy within the pro-religious people that they have created for Awami Lrague may haunt the party over the years to come. Imran Sarkar may not be traceable soon but Hifajat may continue to hunt the atheists from the scene.


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ABM Musa no more

Holiday Report

Veteran journalist ABM Musa passed away at a city hospital on Wednesday. He was 83.
The veteran journalist was at life support at Lab Aid Hospital for the past few days and doctors removed his life support around 1:15pm on Wednesday,
He was hospitalised on January 1 and attended treatments for over a month before being admitted again in February for several complications.He relapsed again on March 29 and was attending treatments since.
Musa left behind his wife, three daughters, one son, friends, well- wishers and a host of relatives to mourn his death. President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed deep shock and offered condolences to the family of the noted journalist.
Meanwhile, people from all walks of lives gathered at the Jatiya Press Club (JPC) on Thursday to bid farewell to veteran journalist ABM Musa.

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Holiday Report

Veteran journalist ABM Musa passed away at a city hospital on Wednesday. He was 83.
The veteran journalist was at life support at Lab Aid Hospital for the past few days and doctors removed his life support around 1:15pm on Wednesday,
He was hospitalised on January 1 and attended treatments for over a month before being admitted again in February for several complications.He relapsed again on March 29 and was attending treatments since.
Musa left behind his wife, three daughters, one son, friends, well- wishers and a host of relatives to mourn his death. President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed deep shock and offered condolences to the family of the noted journalist.
Meanwhile, people from all walks of lives gathered at the Jatiya Press Club (JPC) on Thursday to bid farewell to veteran journalist ABM Musa.

Noted politicians, senior journalists, academics, cultural activists, civil society members and commoners paid their last tribute to Musa by placing wreaths at his coffin from 12:30pm to 1:30pm on the day. Many were seen struggling to hold back tears.
Among others, noted politicians including Industries Minister Tofail Ahmed, Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu, BNP’s Standing Committee Member Barrister Moudud Ahmed and Acting Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir took part in the namaz-e-janaza.
A corpse-carrying vehicle with Musa’s body left the JPC around 2:05pm for his village home Kutubpur under Fulgazi Upazila of Feni where he was buried at his family graveyard following his last janaja after Magrib prayer.
ABM Musa was born at his maternal uncle’s house at Dharmapur village under Fulgazi thana of Feni on February 28 in 1931. He started his career as a journalist in 1950 with the then Daily Insaf. He switched over to the then daily Pakistan Observer from Insaf in that year.
He covered the war fields in 1971 as a correspondent of BBC and Sunday Times. One of the founder members of Jatiya Press Club, he was elected its general secretary thrice and president for four times.
ABM Musa was also a founder of Pakistan Journalists Union and elected general secretary of the then East Pakistan Journalists Union.
After the independence, he joined Bangladesh Television (BTV) as its director general and later became editor of the then Morning News. He was also elected Member of Parliament (MP) from Feni constituency in 1973 as an Awami League candidate.
ABM Musa joined as a regional director of United Nations Environment Programmes in Bangkok in 1978. He was director general (DG) of Press Institute of Bangladesh (PIB) from 1981 to 1985.
The veteran journalist joined BSS as its managing director and chief editor on May 15 in 1985 and was with the national news agency till March 23, 1987. He joined Daily Jugantar as its editor in 2005 and worked about a year.
He received prestigious national award Ekushey Padak and many other awards for his outstanding contribution to journalism.


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Election scenario in India

Shamsuddin Ahmed

If pre-election forecasts come true Narendra Modi of BJP will become the next Prime Minister of India raising concerns in neighbouring countries. Scant or no faith in secularism Modi at an election campaign meeting said: “people tell me that their woes lay in secularism."

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Shamsuddin Ahmed

If pre-election forecasts come true Narendra Modi of BJP will become the next Prime Minister of India raising concerns in neighbouring countries. Scant or no faith in secularism Modi at an election campaign meeting said: “people tell me that their woes lay in secularism."

Construction of Ram Mandir at the site of Babri Mosque in Ayoddha is one of the priorities laid in his election manifesto. The Babri Mosque built in 12th century was demolished by the militants of RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal – all front bodies of Bharatiya Janata Party – led by BJP senior leaders including L K Advani more than a decade ago that had wounded the sentiment of the Muslims of India and across the world.

National unity at stake
Equally worried is ruling Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi at the Modi’s election prospect. Expressing grave concern she said unity of India will be at perils under the leadership of Modi, a Hindu chauvinist. She recollected the 2002 Gujarat riot in which about 2000 people, mostly Muslims, were butchered. And also the latest Muzaffarnagar riot that left about 200 Muslims killed in August-September last year in Uttar Pradesh which was fanned up by Hindu militants.
Mausam Ali, a tweeter of Patna wrote: BJP, Rastriya Sevak Sangha (RSS), Vishaw Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal believe in divisive and fascist ideology. They are busy in creating hatred, propaganda against Muslims. They are the root cause of communal riots in India. They are creating riots and blame Muslims and others, and they have the art of blaming Muslim community as the original sinner.
As chief minister of Gujarat in 2002 Narendra Modi was in deep trouble. A train travelling through the state carrying several hundred Hindu pilgrimages was set on fire by a mob resulting in death of 89 people. Rumour spread that mob was comprised Muslims. That followed the riot when an estimated 2000 Muslims were slaughtered. Modi as Chief Minister was accused of orchestrating the riot. The Supreme Court held that Modi could be prosecuted for promoting Hindui-Muslim enmity. He resigned but in the election that followed he returned with a thumping majority on Hinduyata slogan.
The concern of people of Bangladesh may be genuine. The country is virtually surrounded by India with 4096 km porous border. Some of the BJP leaders still propagate ‘Akhand Bharat’ (undivided India) with Afghanistan as the border on west and Myanmar on the east, which means wiping out Bangladesh and Pakistan from the map. Although all the communities of Bangladesh live in peaceful harmony, Hindu bigots in India may be prompted by the Hinduvata leaders to cause communal unrest in a bid to fulfill the objective of undivided India.

Maoists’ anti-poll campaign
BJP has already been saying Bangladeshis in thousands have crossed the border into Assam and living there illegally. The party has been seeking to push them back to Bangladesh. But the fact remains that most of those Muslims had been living there since or before the partition of India.
Meanwhile, the Indian Maoists continued anti-election campaign across the red corridor that runs through the central India. At least two paramilitary troopers were killed and ten others were injured on April 7 in blasts of landmines planted by the Maoists at Aurangabad in Bihar State. Aurangabad goes to polls on April 10. Five of the injured were reportedly lying in critical condition. At least 15 troopers were killed in Maoist ambush in restive Bastar region of Chhattisgarh state last month. Security forces and political leaders are the Maoist targets. The rebels have urged the people to boycott the polls.
During the Chhattisgarh state assembly election campaign in May last year, and almost the entire state Congress leadership were killed in a major Maoist attack. It is believed that political leaders during the current election campaign are in the field by compromising with the local Maoist leaders.

Kejriwar slapped again
Indian election observers were stunned at the slapping of Arvind Kejriwal, former Chief Minister of Delhi and head of the Aam Admi Party (AAP) by a young man, identified as auto-rickshaw driver. TV footage on Tuesday showed Kejriwal in a truck at a road show during election campaign in Delhi. The attacker pretending to be AAP supporter approached Kejriwal with a garland to adorn but slapped him on the face instead.
This was the second time APP leader was slapped besides throwing rotten eggs at him. Such incidents of assault of political leaders are unusual in Indian electioneering.
AAP, a new political party was born with an anti-corruption crusade launched by Anna Hajaree in 2010. With mass support the party had won the Delhi assembly election last year and Kejriwal was the chief minister with support of the Congress. In less than two months Kejriwal had to resign as the Congress withdrew support, ostensibly under mounting pressure from corrupt business tycoons and mafia groups who control the Indian politics.
Observers say, obviously an ordinary auto-rickshaw driver cannot be political rival or enemy of Kejriwal. It is viewed that none but the same elements have hired goons to insult Kejriwal in an attempt to distract him from pursuing honest politics and the movement against corruption, ineffective government and political scandals that have rocked the country. But undaunted, Kejriwal continued his campaign to unmask political corruptions and scandals. How long he sustains the anti-corruption movement is a matter to be watched.


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The Shahbag Mancha turns anti-liberation, pro-Jamat!

M. Serajul Islam

The news about the Shahbag Gonojagoron Mancha (SGM/Mancha) in recent days is shocking to say the least. Police beat up and threw the Mancha from Shahabag andsome of its leaders have also been arrested! Mancha spokesman Imran H Sarker (IHS) accused the police as a force of an un-democratic government.Some of the SGM leaders have accused the ruling party of talking with Jamat in secret and accepting money from Jamat organisations for national causes!

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M. Serajul Islam

The news about the Shahbag Gonojagoron Mancha (SGM/Mancha) in recent days is shocking to say the least. Police beat up and threw the Mancha from Shahabag andsome of its leaders have also been arrested! Mancha spokesman Imran H Sarker (IHS) accused the police as a force of an un-democratic government.Some of the SGM leaders have accused the ruling party of talking with Jamat in secret and accepting money from Jamat organisations for national causes!

The Chatra League accused IHS and his colleagues for taking money from anti-liberation forces and IHS personally of being a yaba addict! They also beat up the SGM activists in Shahbag for their audacity and again in front of the police station where they had gone to file a case against Chatra League/Jubo League leaders. A few SGM activists were also seriously injured and hospitalised.

Unbelievable development
These developments are unbelievable. When the SGM was launched the day the ICT spared Qader Mollah the death sentence on February 5th last year, the media went ecstatic and spared itself no efforts to lift these young men and women to the loftiest heights. A group of well known faces with links to the cultural wing of the ruling party were so excited that they landed in the Mancha and became its self appointed guardians.
The media ignored that these individuals were old enough to fathers and grandfathers of the Mancha youth and had no business guiding a bipartisan movement of young men and women with their well-known pro-AL and anti-BNP/Jamat agenda to boot. Instead it orchestrated the claim of these pro-AL cultural activists that the SGM is the answer to the nation’s prayers where the youth of the country had risen to free politics from corruption and moral degeneration and the country of anti-liberation elements by establishing the spirit of 1971. The pro-AL cultural activists drew the line for the people; either they supported the Mancha to be with the pro-liberation forces or go against it and be with the anti-liberation and anti-Bangladesh forces!
Some of the earliest slogans of the Mancha were anti-government. That was expected. The youth had descended at Shahabag because they were angered by the verdict of the government established ICT not to send Qader Mollah, the worst among those accused of crimes against humanity, to the gallows. The pro-ALcultural activists, the self appointed guardians to the Mancha, however ensured that the Mancha’s anger would not fall upon the AL led government by craftilyshifting its focus from the failure of the ICT/government to the Jamat and the so called anti-liberation forces for allegedly opposing the war crimes trials. They thus turned a movement that had all the potentials of becoming “the Bangladesh spring” to bring the country back from political and moral degeneration, into an AL led government’s movement against the BNP that was gaining in strength among the people because of its failure on the entire gamut of governance.

The media hype
The media sided with the AL cultural activists by creating media hype that the nation never saw in its history and labelled the Mancha as beginning the “second liberation war” led by the youth to finish the incomplete war of liberation of 1971 that had ended before the anti-liberation forces could be eliminated. The Mancha, the AL cultural activists supported by the media created a frenzy of patriotism among people of all ages, from all walks of life who did not see the politics behind the Mancha as they were led to believe that the youth would save the country from its tryst with political and moral degeneration. They went to the Mancha in hundreds of thousands to become a part of history. In the frenzy and the media hype, the cultural activists delivered the Mancha to the Awami League lock, stock and barrel that quickly moved from behind the scene and turned the Mancha into a heaven-sent opportunity to finish the BNP/Jamat politically.
The police ensured security for the Mancha and government ensured all the logistics to the movement. The authorities asked no questions that the Mancha had laid siege in a nerve centre of the city with two major hospitals right across the place of siege. The AL ward commissioners in Dhaka city organised the logistics for many students to visit Shahabag. The party provided the logistics for many people of Dhaka and out of Dhaka to visit the Mancha and paid those that it sent to Shahabag.The media ignored the AL led government’s role in felicitating the SGM in all ways possible including raising the huge sums of money for sustaining the Mancha. Instead, it credited the Mancha for launching a movement that it concluded was the most spontaneous since the war of independence; that would unite the country based on the spirit of 1971!

Parliament praised Mancha
IHS and his colleagues became national heroes. No one was required to check their backgrounds. The media judged that on part of the people.IHS was turned into a national figure overnight that one could aspire to be after a lifetime of dedication and efforts. The parliament discussed the Mancha, praised it for starting the incomplete liberation war and predicted it would free the country of the anti-liberation forces and establish Bangladesh for which millions had given lives in 1971. The parliament changed the ICT laws so that the Mancha’s demand to hang Qader Mollah could be carried out retroactively. The AL led government was just too glad to pamper the SGM and take “orders” from it because the movement was pushing the BNP into political quicksand while the actual control of the SGM was in its hands, delivered to by its loyal cultural activists and a media largely loyal to it. In that conspiracy, it was not just that a movement of youth that could have done so much for the country was sacrificed on the alter of politics; the country was also led to believe that an utterly partisan movement was a national movement!
Thus after the first week of the emergence of Mancha, it looked like the BNP/Jamat was certain to sink in the political quicksand that the Mancha had become for the two by the committed efforts of the AL cultural activists and the media. The BNP was saved with help coming from unexpected quarter that the pro AL cultural activists and the media failed to comprehend. That help came when the anti-Islam and anti-Prophet postings in the blogs of some of the SGM leaders became public. These postings were abhorrent that the people deserted the Mancha as quickly as they had accepted it. In retrospect, the Mancha was a national movement for the first 10 days or two weeks only till the depth of the abhorrent postings sank in the minds of the people before which they left everything pending to make it to Shahabag and become a part of the “second liberation war”. In part, in the frenzy even 5/6-year-old kids were chanting “death to Qader Mollah” before the TV cameras and no one cared the psychological dangers to them of such actions.

Desertion of Shahbagh
The media ignored the desertion of people from the Mancha following the publication of postings in the anti-Islam blogs afraid that it would endanger the movement gravely. It also did not reveal the reason for the desertion that was clear to the people. The people could no longer identify with a movement some of whose leaders could humiliate Islam and its Prophet the way they did and the leaders of the movement would blame Jamat instead of taking responsibility and condemning their own. Just as the media deliberately ignored the huge imprint of the AL led government in the activities of the SGM, it also ignored that the only reason for people to desert Shahabag was the fact that they were not willing to take such heinous attacks on Islam and Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) lightly. A couple of private TV channels even used dishonest techniques to show that the crowds were still in Shahabag when they had in fact left it to a large extent.
The post-anti-Islamic blog period was a huge disappointment for the cultural activists and the pro-AL intelligentsia. They watched in its wake their chance of putting the knot around the Jamat, kick it out of politics for good by having it banned and establish secularism without any visibility of religion (Islam) in public life, fading. In fact when history would dispassionately be written on the SGM, it would no doubt reveal that the Mancha was never really a movement of the youth to lead Bangladesh to a new dawn where the country would rise like the Phoenix from the ashes; where the spirit of 1971 would be restored. It was always a movement of the ruling party against the BNP/Jamat. When the nation would be able to read that history, it would know how a movement that had glorious potentials was wasted because it fell prey to the politics that it promised to throw to the gutters by becoming a part of it, deliberately or otherwise. When the verdict of history would be served, the media must take a major share of responsibility for wasting such a promise for its politically partisan role to favour the ruling party. As for the pro-AL cultural activists and the AL, they did what was expected of them; use an opportunity to bury the BNP without caring for the interests of the youth or the nation.

Mancha embarrassed govt.
It was only a matter of time that the AL, having used the SGM against the BNP/Jamat would discard it eventually. In fact, itis a matter of great surprise that it sponsored the SGM so long. The Awami League knew that the SGM had become political liability as soon as it became suspect to the silent majority on the issue of Islam. Nevertheless, the pro ALcultural activists who shepherded the SGM and the so-called secular forces linked to ruling party wanted to use the Mancha to eliminate Jamat and establish secularism where Islam would not be allowed any public face did not want the ruling party to withdraw its patronage of the Mancha as it felt that the Mancha would still be useful for its anti-Islam and pro-secularism objectives; to establish Bangladesh as a secular state and not a Muslim state.
Still, politicians inside the AL were uncomfortable that in becoming the SGM’s patron, the party had in fact stepped into a political quicksand of its own when they saw the crowds withdraw from the Mancha on the perception that it comprised, in the words of HM Ershad, of ‘nastiks” and “murtads.”
Political realities are now different. The AL has returned to power through an election that has been rejected by the country outside the ruling party. It is trying to hold on to power by means where the Mancha cannot any longer help it. In fact, the ruling party is apprehensive that the Mancha could become a huge problem instead. The Mancha embarrassed the AL led government by demanding that the huge amount of money taken from the Islamic Bank for singing the national anthem for a place in the Guinness Book of Records be returned to honour the spirit of 1971. Then again, the Mancha also accused the ruling party for trying to negotiate with Jamaat and expressed concerns that the war crimes trials had suddenly stopped. Thus, although the nation was shocked that instead of the Jamaat fighting the Mancha, it was the Chatra League/Jubo League with the police savagely beating the SGM leaders, but to those who have been studying the SGM since it emerged this was nothing unexpected. To those who have been following the Mancha closely, it was also clear that the Mancha leaders and Chatra League/Jubo League would fall on each others’ throats over sharing the huge financial resources that some of the Mancha leaders had accumulated from the public that in fact was the immediate cause of the unbelievable developments that the nation witnessed regarding the Mancha recently.

Washing dirty linen publicly
Nevertheless, the dirty linen that is being washed by the Chatra League/Jubo League and Mancha leaders are simply unbelievable and in a way very sad indeed. It is indeed so unfortunate that words cannot describe that a movement of the Projonmo that could have done so much for the country and shaken the moth-eaten foundation of the country’s politics to establish the Bangladesh of everybody’s dream has petered away because, first, the youth fell pray to the very politics they threatened to throw out; second, some well known faces of the AL’s cultural front misguided the youth as their self-appointed guardians and delivered it to the laps of the ruling party; third the ruling party captured it for its political ends, and finally the media sided with the ruling party and allowed the potentials of the movement of the youth to go towards the inevitable, inglorious and premature end.
This brings to the surface the questions that are now bothering the silent majority are begging for answers. Perhaps the media that misrepresented a partisan, anti BNP/Jamat movement as that of the nation’s youth, its Projonmo, should pause and answer these questions. First whereare the cultural activists with links to the ruling party who had said that those who did not support the Mancha were against Bangladesh and its war of liberation? Second, why are they silent at the way the SGM leaders were humiliated and kicked out of Shahabag by forces that are as rejected in the country as the Shibir, namely the Chatra League and the Jubo League? Finally, how could the AL led government allow the police to savagely attack and send those to the hospital that it was patronising and calling heroes of the unfinished liberation war? Finally, why is it that the language with which the government has condemned the Mancha leaders is the same that the Jamat had used a year ago to alert the nation about the Mancha?
The writer is a retired career Ambassador. His email is ambserajulislam@gmail.com


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Comments: Muhammad sallahu alahessalam told that a day would come when the worst creature in the earth is the educated society (civil society)
Commented by : M. Serajul Islam



24 killed in bomb blast at Islamabad

Jonaid Iqbal in Islamabad

Militants struck again at Islamabad, the second time within a month.
As many as 24 were killed and more than 100 were injured in the blast at Islamabad Sabzi Mandi  [fruit vendors’ market], Wednesday morning. Most of the victims were labourers.

Full Story

Jonaid Iqbal in Islamabad

Militants struck again at Islamabad, the second time within a month.
As many as 24 were killed and more than 100 were injured in the blast at Islamabad Sabzi Mandi  [fruit vendors’ market], Wednesday morning. Most of the victims were labourers.

Sabzi Mandi is an open vegetable market area in the federal capital, reserved for auction of fruits. It is suspected that about four to five kilograms weight bomb was hidden inside a guava crate packet that was activated by remote control. The explosion caused one metre crater deep in the ground. Guavas were brought to the fruit market in on mini trucks and other vehicles from a number of suburb Punjab towns, such as Arifwala, Kabirwala, Okara, Pakpatan and Sharqpur.
The United Baloch Army claimed responsibility for the attack but officials inside Pakistan Interior Ministry dismissed the claim. In their estimate, “accepting responsibility for the attack by this organization is surprising and ridiculous.” According to the same source, the roots of this blast were somewhere else. Police sources, busy investigating the incident, suspect that the facilitator of [this] bomb blast might be among the injured and they are trying to trace the culprit.
This was the second attack at a public place in the capital within a month. On March 3, a suicide and shooting attack at District and session Court resulted in 11 deaths and injury to 29 persons.
The latest attack at the Sabzi Market cast doubts on claims made by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan that Islamabad was a safe mega town, and that the government had prepared a strategy to prevent such blasts inside the capital city.
A day earlier, [Monday night] bomb attack in the Jaffar Express train, going from Quetta to Rawalpindi, killed 12 people and injured 30 others. One bogey of the train was completely gutted in the blast.  DNA samples of 12 unidentifiable bodies of the bomb attack have been sent for testing to establish identity of the victims.
Mr. Asad Umar, MNA from NA-48, Islamabad thinks the police  as well as the government seem ill prepared to save citizens from such attacks.


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