Thursday, August 23, 2007

Curfew causes people immense sufferings, journalists assaulted

Law enforcement agency personnel assaulted a number of journalists including The Daily Star's Dhaka University (DU) correspondent since the curfew was imposed on Wednesday night.
Thousands of people who had to crash at places other than theirs for the curfew clamped on the capital and five other divisional headquarters Wednesday night hurried to go home after the government relaxed the restriction for three hours from 4:00pm yesterday.
Desperate for the safety back home, they however suffered badly due to severe transport crisis.
Patients faced tremendous sufferings, as no vehicles plied the city streets, medical employees failed to attend their duties and the pharmacists, with or without the knowledge of the curfew, kept their stores closed.
Emergency patients from districts outside Dhaka who had no knowledge of the city were stuck at various entry points for hours, while patients from within the metropolis either were forced to pay a few times high fares for transports or had to wait for many hours.
Meanwhile, the city dwellers flocked to the markets to make sure they have enough provisions for the days to come, but found most of the malls, department stores, and kitchen markets shuttered.
Buses, auto-rickshaws and other vehicles including rickshaws charged more than twice the usual fare. Still, people moved in thousands towards the bus terminals, railway stations and launch terminals in whatever way they could. Many set off on foot, shouldering the luggage.
Since the curfew was imposed on Wednesday night, fourteen journalists from the daily Samakal were also reportedly beaten up, arrested and taken to Mohammadpur and Mirpur police stations.
Mirpur police filed a case against one of the journalists and sent him to court yesterday.
Two journalists from Ajker Kagoj, two from Jai Jai Din, two from Bangladesh Today, daily Amar Desh reporter Nesar Ahmed, daily Korotoa reporter Sabbir Mahmud, Jahangir Alam of UNB, Dinkal photographer Babul Talukder, and reporters Wahiduzzaman and Fariduddin Ahmed were allegedly assaulted yesterday by the law enforcers while covering the curfew.
On Wednesday night, several journalists were reportedly beaten up and a number of them arrested while they were headed for home during the curfew.
Anis Alamgir, news chief of Bashakhi TV, was among many of the injured senior journalists who were beaten up.
Twelve of the arrested journalists have been released, according to the police.Anis Alamgir, head of news at private TV station Baishakhi, was arrested while returning home on Wednesday night. He was taken to Mohammadpur Police Station where he was severely beaten up by law enforcers.
Alamgir received multiple injuries to his legs and arms.
Three reporters -- Liton Haider, Biplob Rahman and Rommo -- were arrested by the law enforcers as they were returning home from work, despite showing their press identity cards.
Expressing deep concern over harassment of journalists, Bangladesh journalists associations requested the authorities to take steps so that no journalists are subjected to any harassment in discharging their professional duties.
It may be mentioned that Information Advisor had assured the editors that press ID would be recognized as curfew passes which was repeatedly confirmed by Press Information Department last night.
The Daily Star photo: (top) People scramble to board a train at Airport Railway Station Thursday as curfew was relaxed for three hours from 4:00pm, (middle) A sick woman being taken to hospital on a rickshaw as her attendant holds the saline bag. The photo was taken from Malibagh during curfew hours, (bottom) Farmgate, one of the busiest spots in Dhaka, gave a deserted look during curfew hours.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bangladesh govt imposes curfew to quell chaos

Bangladesh's military-backed government on Wednesday imposed an indefinite curfew in six major cities, clearing the streets and shutting down cell phones in the wake of worsening violence between students and police.
At least one person died and 100 others were hurt as riots spread across the country since erupting on Monday some soldiers manhandled some students at Dhaka University during a
football match.
The government shut down all universities in the country and colleges in the metropolitan cities sine die, asking students to vacate halls and appealed for calm.
"This is a temporary measure. The curfew will be lifted as soon as the situation improves," Fakhruddin Ahmed, head of Bangladesh's interim government, said in an address to the nation over state-owned radio and television.

"Showing utmost patience in the evolving situation, the government has taken measures, including the imposition of
curfew, to protect public life and property and to stop illegal activities," he said.
to ordering the curfew, the caretaker government appealed to all concerned to maintain peace and discipline in public life and refrain from disorderly acts and cautioned stern action against the perpetrators in order to bring back normalcy and protect life and property of the citizens.
It also
warned tough action against trouble makers and asked the media to play “responsible role” in projecting news so the government does not require to impose censorship under the emergency rules.
"We don't like to impose censorship, but that does not mean we will not do it if necessary… We've confidence in the press and seek cooperation from them," he told newsmen yesterday.

Students now demand an end to emergency rule, imposed on January 11 following weeks of street violence by major political parties.
Police with loudspeakers urged people to stay home as the curfew came into effect at 8 p.m. Security forces were seen patrolling the deserted streets.
The curfew order came after students took their protests from university campuses to the streets of the capital, burning cars and buses and battling with security forces.
Clashes were also reported elsewhere in the country, including Sylhet in the north and the port of Chittagong in the south.
Students also clashed with police in three other cities.
Huge public and private properties were destroyed.
Wednesday saw the first death in three days of mayhem during day-long clashes between police and thousands of students in and around northeastern Rajshahi University (RU) when around 200 including police and journalists were injured.
The violence poses the most serious challenge to the emergency government since it took power six months ago.

Read The Daily Star reports:

Curfew imposed to quell chaos

Curfew temporary step against violence: Chief Adviser

1 killed, chaos outside the capital

Media asked to act responsibly

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Violent student protest erupts after army, police beat up university students mercilessly

over 100 students wounded, violence spills out 2nd day on Dhaka University campus, protest at other varsities and colleges halt academic activities

across Bangladesh fought with riot police yesterday and today in what is the
most serious challenge yet to the military-backed government. (Read The Daily Star article)
To protest the attack on students and to demand withdrawal of army camp from Dhaka University where the clash took place , students of seven universities and many colleges in and outside the capital burst into protest yesterday, bringing academic activities to an abrupt halt.
More than 150 students and four police were injured in the confrontations in which police fired rubber
bullets and tear gas canisters as well as using water cannons and repeated baton charges.
Students pelted police with stones and bricks.
Police beat up Dhaka University's Acting Vice-chancellor Prof AFM Yusuf Haider, Proctor AKA Firoz Ahmed, the acting VC's personal assistant, and other DU employees in the Central Shaheed Minar area.
Five on-duty journalists of different dailies were also injured during the clashes.
The untoward incident erupted yesterday at around 3:30pm (BDT) when army personnel mercilessly beat three DU students and humiliated a teacher over a petty dispute concerning comments passed by spectators watching a soccer match on the university gymnasium ground where an army camp is situated. Violence erupted on the second day today on the DU campus when hundreds of students confronted police at different points on the university premises.
The angry students are fighting running battles with police as the riot police charged dozens of tear gas shells on the students following yesterday's clash that left more than 150 students and four policemen injured.
The DU Teachers' Association has backed the protesting students and threw an ultimatum to the university authorities to pullout the army camp from the campus by tomorrow noon.
Thousands of students at DU fought running battles with police last night demanding removal of an army camp from the campus and an apology from the army for beating up three students earlier in the afternoon.
Taking positions in took positions inside their dormitories, students pelted police with stones and brickbats. They put tires and other things on fire at places to save themselves from the tear gas.
The demonstrators burnt effigies of the army chief and other flammable items like chairs and tables. They put up barricades on the road in front of some two dormitories with big branches of trees.
Today, at least two police personnel were injured today when students and police confronted amid an indefinite student strike at DU protesting yesterday's police and army brutality. The strike is being observed by boycotting classes.
The disgruntled students also vandalised nearly 100 vehicles at Shahbagh intersection and Aziz Super Market as the overnight battle raged on. They also set fire to an army jeep and beat up an army personnel in front of Aziz Super Market.

Teacher-Student Centre (TSC), Mall Chattar and Register Building areas virtually became battleground as chase and counter-chase took place between police and students.
Students of different other universities
and colleges brought out processions chanting slogans against the army, wore black badges, vandalised vehicles and blocked vehicular movement on roads protesting the incident.
Due to the protest, academic activities came to a halt at at different major educational institutions including Jahangirnagar University, Rajshahi University, Chittagong University, Kustia University, Jagannath University, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Shahjalal University of Science & Technology, Carmichael University College in Rangpur and Barisal Govt Brajo Mohan College.
Photo: BBC News

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Bangladesh calls for aid to flood victims

Death toll 587, millions marooned, crops damaged, diseases spread fast, fresh flooding apprehended

"When I spoke to her from the deck of the small motor launch we had hired for a trip up the Jamuna River, Panu Begum was sitting on the roof her house.
"She had been living on the small strip of corrugated tin for five days. The water below was too deep to stand in," BBC reporter John Sudworth writes about a Bangladesh flood victim. (Read full BBC article Disease stalks Bangladesh flood victims)
Badly devasted by the fury of the second phase flooding, the country struggles to feed millions of hungry marooned people who are also catching waterborne diseases.
Bangladeshi newspapers reported 587 deaths
due to flood-related incidents like drowning, waterborne diseases and snakebites.
Experts apprehend more death due to scarcity of drinking water and fast spread of waterborne diseases across the flood-ravaged country.
Bangladesh government today asked the donors for $150 million additional budgetary support and food aid to cope with the emergency caused by the devastating floods that have blighted millions of lives across the country.
The floods over the past few weeks have damaged crops worth about Tk 2,000 crore in 262 upazilas of the 39 flood-hit districts. The flood-affected people, who were preparing to return home following the devastating floods, are now trapped again as many areas were freshly inundated by rain-fed rivers.
Rise of the three major rivers -- Padma, Jamuna and Meghna -- water at many points and several rivers in the northeastern region following heavy rains in the upstream is threatening another fresh flooding in the country.
Vigorously active monsoon over the eastern part of Bihar, West Bengal and Sub-Himalayan West Bengal and the Ganges and Brahmaputra and Meghna basins, both in India and Bangladesh, have caused the fresh rise of water levels in rivers.
The Daily Star Photo: (top)
A woman watches in despair her flood-ravaged vegetable field in Narsingdi. Most of the farmers lost all their produces on hundreds of acres in the district; (bottom) Five children of a family sleep on the pavement as their parents left them in search of food. The family recently took refuge in the capital after flood washed away their home in Mymensingh.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Days of former bigwigs in Dhaka jail

Gone are the days when they had to take the trouble of just saying what they needed and very few in the world had the heart to stop them from getting it. Now it is they who cannot defy what they are told to do.
Had the seemingly untouchable former bigwigs who ruled Bangladesh like kings had even thought for once they might face such treatment? I have doubt. Had they thought about it, they would definitely had a limit.
The Daily Star has an update what they are doing now behind the bars.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My Lord, we beg to differ

Yes, there are many grand examples of the Supreme Court serving the nation in times of crises. However, there are just as many examples of when it did not, Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam writes as he opposes Bangladesh chief justice Mohammad Ruhul Amin's Saturday's statement: "The Supreme Court played a role in the past at critical junctures of the nation. It is doing so at the present and will also do so in the future to pull the nation out of mire."
"May we suggest with all due respect your high office demands and deserves, that if the Supreme Court had played such a role in the recent past then we would not be where we are today. Why after 15 years of democracy, however flawed, we needed an emergency to bring about the reforms that the nation needs so badly, which regrettably are becoming increasingly doubtful?" Mahfuz Anam asks.
"Permit us to recall the writ petition challenging the legality of President Iajuddin Ahmed assuming the post of the chief adviser, clearly violating the constitution that specified the steps necessary to be taken before the president may assume that crucial post. Unquestionably the subject of the writ petition was one of the most important there could be before the higher courts. Not only as an interpretation of the constitution but also as a crucial matter facing the nation at that moment in time, the writ petition merited a hearing. The hearing on the writ petition was proceeding and the honourable judges of the High Court Bench had announced that they would pronounce their ruling the following day. But just when they were about to do so, a note from the then chief justice, hand carried by the attorney general, informed the judges concerned that the whole proceeding had been stayed. It is indeed very rare that a CJ stays a hearing while it is in progress. Rarer still is the staying of the case when the bench was about to pronounce its ruling on it. We all recall the chaos that the stay order led to, including the converging on the chief justice's chamber, vandalism, burning of cars on the court premises, and the arrest warrants against eminent lawyers. All of that left the judiciary tainted and the image of the CJ tarnished.
"Tell us My Lord, was that an example of saving the nation from a crisis or throwing it into a deeper one. A proper judgment on that writ petition could have saved our democracy from entering the current emergency phase with its concomitant dangers."
Read full commentary

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Diary: Week Nineteen

"Let's go home, let's go home," I hear someone singing inside me the happy tune over the last few days. More and more the thought of seeing my loved ones are getting stronger.
And as I near the ending of the fellowship, I started getting excellent story ideas but, alas, it's too late to do all of them. I have less than two weeks and several other things to do, like buying gifts, packing up my personal stuff and those at my apartment, seeing all the friends I have here, settling bills, and above all, doing official things like diaries, essays etc.
One of the fellows told me it's time now to stop working since we've such short time for doing all these, and I agree. But, my wife would say it's still a long time.
I also have other things to do: preparation for workshops in Bangladesh. As my mentor and I are planning for it, we decided to talk with the leaders of some departments in the Post-Gazette to know about PG strategies in running the departments.
We started it last week when we held meetings with the PG Advertising Director Randall Brant and New Media Manager Mary Ann Brown.
This week, we held meetings with marketing director Tracey D'Angelo and circulation marketing manager Tom O'Boyle.
When I was thinking about a primary outline for what would be my role and what Greg's in our workshop, the points I noted down for discussion includes, other than the reporting, writing, revision, internet use etc skill,
newspaper industry in the U.S., it's development, role in the society, state of it's freedom, overall operation, gradual slide in print edition circulation and strategies to cope with it, and digital convergence.
Greg will have to speak about most of these. Greg will also talk about his own side, the OpEd/Forum page.
But he also has other things to do: talking about newspaper management that includes editorial policy, new media development, marketing, advertisement and circulation.
As I am also interested about these, we planned to hold meetings with the leaders of the departments who won't share their strategies with anyone from other newspapers in the U.S. And that's the reason I also don't want to put these here.
But is is very interesting to see changes in all their strategies after newspaper circulation started falling down.
I did not write any new story this week, and my editor gave me two story ideas on the last day of the week. I'm going to write a story on abdominal aortic

Bangladesh's Refugees Dream of Pakistan

They call themselves the forgotten refugees, dreaming of a land many have never seen - Pakistan.
Crowded into impoverished shanty camps across Bangladesh, they are remnants of the mass migration that accompanied the break-up of the Indian subcontinent along religious lines at independence from Britain in 1947, Associated Press Writer Julhas Alam writes.
Bangladesh is often the forgotten third country of partition. The departing British lumped what is now Bangladesh together with Pakistan because of their shared Islamic religion. But the two regions are more than 1,600 miles apart on either side of India and have a different languages, cultures and histories.

Read full article

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

One in four consumers victim of cybercrime

U.S. consumers lost more than $7 billion over the last two years to malicious software and e-mail phishing schemes unleashed by cybercrooks, according to a study by Consumer Reports magazine.
One of the most surprising findings of the study was the percentage of people who continue to be duped by phishing scams, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes quoting Jeff Fox, technology editor for the magazine.
Phishing schemes trick people into divulging personal data using phoney e-mails designed to look as if they are coming from a company the person does business with, such e-Bay or a bank. Full Post-Gazette article
Read related articles: Nothing 'cool' about this eBay 'cat'
Gumshoe chases Internet villains in Eastern Europe
To catch crooks in cyberspace, FBI goes global

Diary: Week Eighteen

When the copy editor throws your story saying why the newspaper needs to publish it and it comes out as the cover story later, you definitely have reasons to believe that you had not done that bad. You get back your confidence, shattered for the copy editor's yelling.
That's what happened last week. I also received a good number of emails and phone calls after my story on Attention Deficit Disorder was published in the Health and Science section on August 1.
And with a 'high' mood I worked on the Bangladeshi chemist's invention of arsenic removing
filter. It took me more than a week to complete because Prof. Abul Hussam was traveling and did not have all the papers and documents I needed with him.
I at last got him Tuesday over phone and interviewed him for a long time about his present works. It's quite interesting that George Mason University, where he is working as an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has launched a foundation, named Abul Foundation after him, to assist the research for clean water. It is also going to launch a Center for Clean Water and Sustainable Technologies soon.
When I started writing, I came across several other things and had to go back to Dr. Hussam several times. And every time I made it sure that I do not forget to tell him that I would call him again.
When I submitted the story on Thursday, my editor was happy with it. To give it a better look, I collected a drawing of the arsenic filter. With two photographs, a drawing and a fair content, I hope the story will have a good display.
I don't want to say more about it because it's coming out Wednesday.

I was on a hurry to finish it by Thursday because my sister-in-law from Indianapolis were coming to my place that afternoon. I was waiting for them eagerly because we would go to Niagara Falls on Friday.
And everything happened as planned and it's simply mesmerizing. I felt I can stare at the water falling down for hours. I just kept on pressing the shutter button of my camera the whole time I was there. I saw Niagara through the view finder of my camera.
We took a boat ride and I took the risk of taking photographs braving the splashes that made us wet.
And I couldn't help going up the stairs to touch the water falling down from the U.S. side. I've never been to heaven (!) but had a heavenly feeling there.
Nature hugs you there, takes you to her bosom, makes you hers.
We came back to Pittsburgh the same day.

We drove to Washington, D.C. Saturday because My nephews -- Rio and Ilham -- and their mom want to see Capitol Hill and White House. One of our Bangladeshi friend working with University of Maryland was very sincere to entertain us as best as he could at his house.
Although we were exhausted, we didn't have lack of enthu to go to Ocean City in Delaware the next morning. Three other Bangladeshi families joined us.
Once we were there, I was a little bit frustrated because I didn't think it to be so small. But I enjoyed the waves there -- strong and can be dangerous if you are not alert. Several of our team members had bruises in their whole body as the strong current threw them to the sea-bed and rolled them.
Atlantic is always tricking the humans there. You need to know the character of the waves. They are your friend if you can read them and act accordingly. You can easily go to their top and slide down on their back smoothly if you know swimming and have good timing sense.
But you should also have respect for this giant mighty innocent force. A tall and handsome African American man who appeared to be a good swimmer was showing tricks to his friends, most of who are women. The ocean didn't like it much maybe because he was doing it for a long time. And the Atlantic sent a strong wave to pull his shorts to his feet. Tons of water also brought as much laughter.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

From hay day to doomsday

As trucks lined up yesterday at Banglabandh land port to carry jute goods to Nepal for its growing carpet industry, an opposite development took place in Bangladesh. The curtain finally fell on the four state-owned jute mills marked to be closed down by the caretaker government.
This latest move, sudden and widely debated, has once again brought to the fore discussions about the future of jute, globally and in Bangladesh, Inam Ahmed writes in The Daily Star.

"And at the centre of the debate lies a number of critical issues -- slow productivity in the jute industry complicated by even slower to come technological improvement, lack of domestic support for jute and rather incentive for discarding jute farming, the immediate global jute trade pattern that shows an uncertain situation but somewhat rosier picture in the long term, the diversification of products and so on."
Read article

Once bigwigs now face poll exclusion

A good number of former ministers and lawmakers including some bigwigs who have been detained on corruption charges will not be able to contest the next parliamentary election if they fail to free themselves from conviction before the polls.
Detained Awami League President Sheikh Hasina will be disqualified from contesting the polls, if she is punished on charge of corruption under the Emergency Power Ordinance rules. The authorities are also preparing to file corruption cases against BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia.
One will be disqualified from contesting any polls including the parliamentary election if he or she is convicted by the trial court.

Read The Daily Star story