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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mass signature campaign in two more districts

Source: The Daily Star

Jatiya Adivasi Parishad organises a mass signature campaign in front of Dinajpur Press Club yesterday demanding constitutional recognition to the indigenous people. Photo: STAR

Hundreds of people of Dinajpur and Joypurhat districts yesterday took part in a mass signature campaign demanding constitutional recognition of the indigenous community.

The campaign organised by Jatiya Adibashi Parishad, was held in front of Dinajpur Press Club and Abul Kashem Maidan (ground) in Joypurhat.

In Dinajpur, the indigenous people gathered in front of the press club in the morning. Before start of the mass signature campaign a human chain was formed demanding constitutional right of this community.

In Joypurhat, hundreds of people of the district put their signature for constitutional recognition of the indigenous people.

At the rallies, the speakers said positive efforts needed to help the indigenous community. Recognition of indigenous people in the constitution would help improve their lost, they observed.

The community suffer greatly for high rates of unemployment, mindless imprisonment, drug abuse, alcoholism and diseases, all due to sheer negligence, the speakers said.

They urged the prime minister and her government to come to the aid of this disadvantaged community of the country.

The month-long mass signature campaign also started in Chapainawabganj and Thakurgaon on Monday.

Call to empower indigenous women to end discrimination

Source: The Daily Star

Some eminent personalities yesterday stressed the need for initiatives of both government and non-government organisations to empower indigenous women for betterment of their life standard and end discrimination against them.

Indigenous women fall victim to different sorts discriminations and deprivations severely. The government and non-government organisations should work together for their capacity building to end discriminations and improve their life standard, they said.

The remarks were made at a seminar styled “Indigenous women: Issues and challenges” organised by the Indigenous People Development Services (IPDS) at the at the Catholic Bishop's Conference of Bangladesh in the city.

Speaking as the chief guest, HE Dr Stefan Frowein, ambassador and head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Bangladesh, said indigenous women are victims of double discrimination, first for being women and then for coming from ethnic minorities.

The government, civil society, development partners and indigenous and non-indigenous communities should work together to forge effective policies and programmes to eliminate discrimination against women and empower them, he said.

He laid emphasis on necessary financial and political support and dialogue at the policy-making level to address the problems of indigenous communities.

Frowein said the European Union has been the major contributor in addressing the vulnerability of indigenous communities in the country by providing € 16 million funding for the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Development Fund and € 6.6 million for education programmes in CHT.

Criticising the country's political leaders, National Human Rights Commission Chairman Dr Mizanur Rahman said, “No one raises voice when hundreds of indigenous people are evicted from their land and hundreds of tress from the country's forests are cut down.

“But several hartals are called for political purpose when any political leader vacates their residence.”

While featuring different forms of discrimination against indigenous people, he said they never get proper justice despite repeated violation of their basic human rights as they are poor and come from minority communities as discriminatory system is prevailing in the country.

Mizanur added that his commission would place recommendations to authorities concerned to include provision in the constitution recognising indigenous communities.

Presenting the keynote paper, Information Commissioner Dr Sadeka Halim placed some recommendations for empowering indigenous women.

These include reservation of seats for the indigenous women in parliament, introduction of reserved seats in local government bodies and ensuring participation of indigenous women in local and national development.

IPDS President Sanjeeb Drong said according to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, indigenous women are victims of a 5-layer discrimination, firstly for being a woman, secondly for being indigenous, thirdly for being indigenous women, fourthly for being poor and marginalised and finally for being migrated women.

There are around 15 lakh indigenous women in the country, he informed.

Hill Women Federation former president Choitali Tripura, Joyenshahi Adivasi Parisad Chairman Ajoy A Mree and A'chik Michik Association President Sulekha Mrong, among others, were present at the function.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

'Punish killers of Hindu family members'


Chittagong, Nov 19 ( — The national platform of religious minorities have demanded trial of the perpetrators who brutally killed 11 members of a Hindu family by burning them alive seven years ago.

The incident took place at the home of Tejendra Sheel at Sheelpara of Dakkhin Sadhanpur of Banshkhali Upazila on the midnight of Nov 18 in 2003.

Bangladesh Hindu, Buddha, Christian Oikyo Parishad on Friday held a protest rally and a silent procession demanding punishment of those guilty.

Two surviving sons of Tejendra — Bimal Sheel and Nirmal Sheel — were also present at the rally that took place at Andarkilla.

Bimal filed a murder case following the killing.

Speakers at the rally expressed frustration over the delay in holding the trial process as well as the court's decision to grant bail to the accused.

Nirmal on Friday told that police arrested 14 of the 31 accused, who admitted setting fire to the house as part of a plan hatched by BNP leader and Kalipur Union chairman Aminur Rahman Chowdhury.

He said seven of the 14 have recently secured bail and "they are now threatening us."

"We also objected to the final charge sheet which did not include the name of the mastermind Aminur Rahman Chowdhury."

The Criminal Investigation Department has submitted the witnesses' statements after investigation to the public prosecutor.

Nirmal demanded formation of a judicial probe commission, adding, "The present prime minister vowed to bring the culprits to justice but nothing has happened so far despite the fact that seven years have elapsed."

Friday, November 12, 2010

'Mysterious' fire destroyed the palace of Chakma Chief 'within minutes'

Source: The Daily Star News

Remnants of the palace of Chakma Circle Chief Raja Debashish Roy after a mysterious fire ravaged the site in Rangamati town on Wednesday night. Inset, a locker recovered from the fire-damaged rubbles. Photo: STAR

The fire on Wednesday night totally destroyed the palace of Chakma Circle Chief Raja Debasish Roy.

The fire fighters could save nothing as the fire burnt the palace to ashes within half an hour.

A five-member inquiry committee headed by additional deputy magistrate (ADM) Md Nurul Alam Chowdhury, was formed soon after the incident.

The probe body was asked to submit report within three days.

No member of the royal family was present during the fire. Raja Debashis Roy was in Bangkok and his daughter was in Dhaka.

Meanwhile, no staff of Raja Debashis Roy could say from where the fire originated. They could not say the extent of damage. Also nobody could say what precious assets were burnt.

Fire Brigade officials also did not give any report about how much property of the Chakma dynasty was burnt in the fire.

“No staff at Chakma Rajbari could estimate the extent of damage. Only Raja Debashis himself would be able to give exact information about the loss,” Abul Hossian, an official of district fire station told this correspondent.

However, he said that at least half of the valuable royal assets could be saved if a fire boat and two divers were at the fire station.

Subrata Chakma, personal secretary of Raja Debashish also said that he did not know how the fire was originated and what types of properties were burnt and how much loss was caused.

He said some valuable assets including a chair which was used by Queen Kalindi Rani, books, documents and some important papers on 'Raj Punnah' were there when the fire broke out.

The palace almost remain vacant when Raja Debashsis goes out, he added.

“One thing astonished me that the fire engulfed the palace from all directions and burnt it within a few minutes", Bitu Chakma, councilor of Rangamati municipality said.

“We could not identify the reasons behind the fire as nobody could say anything,” Babul Uddin Sarder, officer in-charge (OC) of Kotwali police station, said.

State minister for CHT affairs ministry Dipankar Talukder, Chairman of Rangamati Hill District Council Nikhil Kumar Chakma, Rangamati Region Commander and Rangamati Deputy Commissioner Sourendra Nath Chakrabarty visited the spot yesterday.

Additional police and army were deployed around the palace after the fire.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Restore '72 constitution

Source: The Daily Star

HRCBM leader stressed the need for ensuring secularism in the constitution

Speakers at a discussion yesterday categorically demanded restoration of the '72 constitution to establish a non-communal democratic and repression-free country and protect human rights.

They made the call while speaking at the discussion meeting styled "Characteristics of '72 constitution and necessary and unnecessary amendments" organised by the Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee at the Bilia auditorium in the city yesterday.

Speaking as the chief guest, Law Minister Barrister Shafique Ahmed said the path of returning to the '72 constitution has been widened through the Supreme Court verdict.

Referring to a BNP leader's comment that the Supreme Court does not have the power of constitution amendment and it can be done in the parliament only, the minister said the Supreme Court is the guardian of the constitution. So, it is not necessary to go to parliament in this regard after the verdict.

“We will republish the constitution as per the Supreme Court verdict that dropped out some provisions of the constitution. After republishing, we will take it to the parliament for further opinions,” Shafique added.

About cancellation of registration of religion-based political parties, the minister stated that after republishing the constitution, the Election Commission (EC) will scrutinise that ideology of any political parties whether that may conflict with the constitution or not. If conflict arises, the EC will certainly cancel registering.

“All the political parties must have consistency in their ideologies with the constitution,” he said.

Speaking as the special guest, noted jurist Barrister Amir-ul Islam suggested reforming the caretaker government system saying, “There should be permanent ombudsmen comprising of retired bureaucrats of different ministries to appoint the chief adviser and other advisers of caretaker government.”

The practise of appointing advisers from the judiciary is jeopardising both the institutions---judiciary and caretaker government, he said.

Barrister Islam suggested inclusion a provision that will declare the process of taking state power unconstitutionally as sedition.

Necessary provisions should be included that will mention punishment of sedition and crime against humanity, he said.

Prof Ajoy Roy, president of Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities, stressed the need for ensuring secularism in the constitution to establish non-communal Bangladesh.

Presiding over the function, Justice Gholam Rabbani, president of the Ekattorer Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee, demanded necessary amendments in the constitution to recognise the indigenous people.

The committee coordinator Shahriar Kabir viewed that the fundamentalist groups will surely wiped out if the '72 constitution restored.

He demanded state declaration of November 4 as the National Constitution Day and laid emphasised preserving rights of franchise of eunuchs in the constriction.

Committee Vice President Shamoli Nasreen moderated the function while Dr Shahdeen Malik and Tureen Afroz of the Law Department of Brac University also spoke.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Muslims in Bangladesh beat, deprive Christians of work

Source: Christian Today

LOS ANGELES – Muslim villagers last month beat a 63-year-old Christian convert and his youngest son because they refused to return to Islam, the father told Compass.

The next day, another Christian in a nearby village was beaten and robbed in related violence in southwestern Bangladesh.

Aynal Haque, 63, a volunteer for Christian organization Way of Life Trust, told Compass that his brothers and relatives along with Muslim villagers beat him and his son, 22-year-old Lal Miah, on Oct. 9 when they refused to recant Christianity. The family lives at Sadhu Hati Panta Para village in Jhenaidah district, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of the capital city, Dhaka. It is in the jurisdiction of Sadar police station.

Haque’s relatives and villagers said that he had become Christian by eating pork and by disrespecting the Quran, he said.

“I embraced Christianity by my own will and understanding, but I have due respect for other religions,” Haque said. “How can I be a righteous man by disrespecting other religions? Whatever rumors the villagers are spreading are false.”

At a meeting to which Haque was summoned on Oct. 9, about 500 men and women from several villages gathered, including local and Maoist party leaders.

“They tried to force me and my son to admit that we had eaten pork and trampled on the Quran to become Christian,” Haque said. “They tried to force us to be apologetic for our blunder of accepting Christianity and also tried to compel us to go back to Islam. I told them, ‘While there is breath left in our bodies, we will not reject Christianity.’

“When we denied their allegation and demand, they beat us severely. They ordered us not to mix with other Muslim villagers. They confined us in our house for five days.”

Haque has worked on his neighbors’ land for survival to supplement the meager income he earns selling seeds in local markets, but the villagers have now refused to give him work, he said.

“Every day I earn around 50 taka to 100 taka [70 cents to US$1.40] from the seed business,” he said. “Some days I cannot earn any money. So, I need to work villagers’ land for extra money to maintain my family.”

His youngest son also worked in neighbors’ fields as a day-laborer, besides attending school.

“We cannot live if we do not get farming work on other people’s land,” Haque said.

Haque, his wife and youngest son received Christ three years ago, and since then they have faced harassment and threats from Muslim neighbors. His other grown son and two daughters, as well as a son-in-law, also follow Christ but have yet to be baptized. There are around 25 people in his village who came to Christ under Haque’s influence; most of them remain low-profile to avoid harassment from the villagers, he said.

The weekly worship service in Haque’s shanty house has been hampered as some have been too fearful to attend, and the 25 members of the church fear the consequences of continuing to meet, Haque said.

Officials of Way of Life Trust tried to visit the area to investigate the beating of Haque and his son but were unable due to security risks, said Jatish Biswas, the organization’s executive director. They informed the district police chief, who instantly sent forces to provide safety for the Christians, Biswas said.

Villagers thought that if they were able to get Haque to renounce Christianity, then the other Christians would quickly return to Islam, according to Biswas.

Hearing of the incident in Sadhu Hati Panta Para the next day (Oct. 10), Muslims in Kola village about five kilometers (nearly three miles) away beat a Christian friend of Haque’s and robbed his seed shop.

Tokkel Ali, 40, an evangelist in one of the house churches that Way of Life Trust has established, told Compass that around 20 people arrived at his shop at about 11 a.m. and told him to go with them to Haque’s house.

“The presence of so many people, most of whom I did not know, and the way they were talking, seemed ominous to me, and I refused to go with them,” Ali said. “I said, ‘If he wants me to go to his house, he could call me on my mobile.’”

One person in the crowd pointed toward Ali, saying that he was a Christian and had made otherwise innocent people Christians by them feeding pork and letting them disrespect the Quran, said Ali. Islam strictly prohibits eating pork.

“That rumor spread like wildfire among other Muslims,” Ali said. “All of a sudden, a huge crowd overran me and started beating me, throwing my seeds here and there.”

Ali said he lost consciousness, and someone took him to a nearby three-storey house. When he came to, he scrambled back to his shop to find his seeds scattered, and 24,580 taka (US$342) for buying seed had been stolen, along with his bicycle.

Accustomed to earning just enough each day to survive, Ali said it would be impossible for him to recover and rebuild his business. He had received loans of 20,000 taka (US$278) from Grameen Bank (Nobel Peach Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus’ micro-finance entity), 15,000 taka (US$209) from the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee and 11,000 taka (US$153) from Way of Life Trust to establish the business. Ali ran a similar seed business in Dakbangla market in Kola village.

“How can I pay back a weekly installment of 1,150 taka [US$160] to the micro-credit lending NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations]?” he said. “I have already become delinquent in paying back some installments after the looting of my money and shop. I’ve ended up in deep debt, which has become a noose around my neck.”

Ali said he has not dared filed any charges.

“If I file any case or complain against them, they will kill me, as this area is very dangerous because of the Maoists,” he said, referring to a banned group of armed rebels with whom the villagers have links. “Even the local administration and the law enforcement agencies are afraid of them.”

Ali has planted 25 house churches under Way of Life Trust serving 144 people in weekly worship. Baptized in 2007, he has been following Christ for more than 10 years.

“Whenever I go to bazaar, people fling insults at me about that beating,” he said. “Everyone says that nothing would have happened if I had not accepted Christianity, an abhorrent religion to them. People also say that I should hang myself with a rope for renouncing Islam.”

Since the beating, he has become an alien in his own village, he said.

“Whatever insinuation and rumors they spout against me and other believers, there is no language to squash it,” he said. “I have to remain tight-lipped, otherwise they will kill me.”

He can no longer cross the land of one of his neighbors in order to bathe in a nearby river, he said.

“After that incident, my neighbor warned me not to go through his land,” he said. “Now I take a bath in my home from an old and dysfunctional tube-well. My neighbors say, ‘Christians are the enemy of Muslims, so don’t go through my land.’ It seems that I am nobody in this village.”

Biswas of Way of Life Trust told Compass that Christians in remote villages lack the freedoms guaranteed in the Bangladeshi constitution to practice their faith without any interference.

“Where is religious liberty for Haque and Ali?” Biswas said. “Like them, many Christians in remote villages are in the throes of persecution, though our constitution enshrined full liberty for religious minorities.”

Way of Life Trust has aided in the establishment of some 500 house churches in Bangladesh, which is nearly 90 percent Muslim. Hinduism is the second largest religion at 9.2 percent of the 153.5 million people, and Buddhists and Christians make up less than 1 percent of the population.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

HC issues directives to stop stalking

Source: The Daily Star News

The High Court on Tuesday directed the inspector general of police to take immediate steps to arrest all stalkers on charge of harassing girls and women in public and work places.

It also ordered deputy commissioners across the country to remain on high alert over the incidents of stalking.

A division bench comprising Justice Md Imman Ali and Justice Obaidul Hasan passed the order following a writ petition by Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association.

Advocate Shahina Nasrin, a Supreme Court lawyer and a leader of the association, filed the writ petition with the HC on Monday in the backdrop of the persistent incidents of stalking across the country.

The judges directed the home secretary and the IGP to take steps for the protection of the victims of stalking.

They also ordered the police to take legal actions against perpetrators and stalkers.

The court asked the law secretary to consult with other high officials concerned for formulating guidelines and a policy to address the problem.

It also directed the government to turn in a report within a month on steps it will take to implement the directives.

December 6 has been set for further hearing on the issue.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Girl takes her life on kidnap

Source: The Daily Star News

Rajshahi stabber held; writ petition filed for guideline against stalking

L-R: Sushil Shil and Nabibur Rahman

Just six days after Chanpa Rani Bhowmik had been fatally run over by two bike riding stalkers of her daughters in Faridpur, a thirteen-year-old girl committed suicide yesterday after her male stalker kidnapped and confined her in a room in Sirajganj.

Meanwhile, police yesterday arrested a stalker of a woman from Rajshahi, who is accused in a case for stabbing his victim's husband, son, and a relative in Naogaon.

A Faridpur court, the same day, placed stalker Debashish Saha Rony on a three-day remand in connection with the murder of Chanpa Rani, whose twin daughters Hira and Mukta were his targets.

Against the backdrop of an alarming rise in stalking of women by unruly men in the country recently, Bangladesh National Women Lawyers' Association (BNWLA) filed a public interest writ petition with the High Court yesterday, seeking direction for the government to formulate a policy and guidelines for protection of women and girls from stalking.

Petitioner Fahima Nasrin, a BNWLA leader, said under the existing law the highest punishment for stalking is three-year imprisonment, which seems inadequate as a deterrent in the face of increasing instances of the crime. The HC will hear the petition today, she added.

Yesterday's victim Rupali Rani of Bogra bordering Sirajganj, who was a student of class IX at Simabari SR Girls' School, hanged herself from a ceiling beam around 8:30am after stalker Sushil Shil, 18, kidnapped her and kept her confined in a room of his residence in Sirajganj.

Sushil kidnapped Rani around 6:30am on her way to a coaching centre in Sirajganj. He also forcefully put vermilion on her forehead to imply that she was married to him according to the Hindu custom.

Discovering Rani's body hanging from the ceiling, Sushil tried to flee the area, but local residents caught him and handed him over to police, said Amirul Islam, officer-in-charge of Raiganj Police Station.

Locals said Shushil had been harassing Rani with unwelcome advances on her way to and from school and the coaching centre over the last few months.

Rani's brother Kanak Kumar filed a case with Raiganj police in connection with his sister's death.

In another incident, police yesterday arrested stalker of a woman, Nabibur Rahman alias Luku, 35, from Rajshahi, who on Saturday had stabbed his stalking victim's husband Abdul Hannan, her son, and one of her relatives in Khash-Naogaon area of Naogaon.

Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid yesterday visited the residence of murdered Natore College teacher Mizanur Rahman in Chawk Laxmipur village under Charghat upazila of Rajshahi, and also Abdul Hannan and his son in Rajshahi Medical College Hospital.

Mizannur died in a hospital of the capital on October 24, after being severely injured from an attack by two stalkers of women, for protesting against their harassment of college girls.

HC direction sought to prevent females from stalking

Source: The Daily Star News

The High Court was requested on Monday to direct the government to formulate guidelines and a policy for the protection of women and girls from stalking on their way to and from educational institutions and other public places.

Filing the writ petition as public interest litigation, Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association also sought directions upon the government to take immediate steps for enactment of a proper legislation to address the problem.

Advocate Fahima Nasrin, a lawyer of the country’s apex court and a leader of the group, filed the petition. She told The Daily Star that the HC will hear the petition on Tuesday.

She said the highest punishment for stalking is three years’ imprisonment as per the existing law.

The jail term should be enhanced since the incidents of stalking are taking place on regular basis.

Yet another minority girl falls victim to stalking

Source: The Daily Star News

Tari Rani (middle), mother of Sirajganj stalking victim Rupali Rani, cries out loud on Monday after hearing the news of her daughter’s death. (Inset) Rupali Rani. Photo: STAR

A 13-year-old girl on Monday committed suicide in Raiganj upazila of Sirajganj in the house of a stalker who had abducted and confined her for hours, police said.

Stalker Sushil Shil, 18, of Nijhuri village in the upazila was arrested.

Victim Rupali Rani, a class nine student of Simabari SR Girl's School, was on her way to a coaching centre in Sirajganj just crossing the boundary of Bogra district at around 6:30am.

Sushil waylaid her and forcibly took her to his house. He also forced her to wear vermilion on her head--- implying that she was married under the Hindu law, our Bogra correspondent reports quoting Sherpur Police Station Officer-in-Charge Amirul Islam.

When Rupali protested the incident, Sushil confined her to a room, prompting her to commit suicide at around 8:30am, the OC added.

At one stage, Sushil discovered her hanging body and tried to flee the area. But soon the villagers caught him and handed him over to Raipur Police Station, Raipur police chief Samsul Haque told our Sirajganj correspondent.

Locals from both the districts informed the correspondents that Sushil had been harassing Rupali for the last few months.

The body of Rupali, the daughter of Sunil Bayati of Khalisabari village in Sherpur Upazila of Bogra, was kept in Sirajganj Sadar Hospital morgue.