Tag Archive | "Bangladesh"

Bangladesh Burning


c31_0RTXQSP7From Bangladesh Corespondent Rezwan…

Bangladesh has more 4,000 ready-made clothes factories of different sizes, which are earning more than three-quarters of the countries export revenue. The world’s third-largest garments export industry employs more than 3 million workers, 90% of whom are women.

Over two decades these garments factories contributed to changing the role of poor Bangladeshi women who mostly used to work as housemaids. Although the cost of labor is low Vikas Bajaj wrote in the New York Times what positive impact this industry had on the families and off-springs of the female workers and how it empowered them.

As a developing country Bangladesh is under close scrutiny by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and Corporate Social Responsibility Stakeholders regarding compliance. In the past five years both CSR experts and buyers report improved labor and social compliance standards. But there are still some areas of compliance that needs further improvement. The government has been stringent on eradicating child labor and increased fire safety measures but some entrepreneurs are more keen on profit rather than improving working conditions.

The recent tragic fire at Tazreen Fashions Ltd’s nine story factory building in Nischintapur, Ashulia (near the Capital Dhaka) that killed more than 110 garments workers, has raised many questions. Although the factory had a total of 335 fire extinguishing equipment and 300 trained employees to fight fire in emergency situations, there was no visible efforts to douse the flames. The fire alarm went off at right time but witnesses claimed that a number of doors were locked by the management preventing the workers from escaping.

As the images of burnt bodies emerged in the social media and in TV broadcasts many people were shocked and outraged. Thousands of angry garments workers protested today (Monday) demanding justice and better working conditions. Many netizens vented their rage in Facebook, blog and other social media asking many questions.

Rahnuma Ahmed writes:

“Fifty-nine of the 111, which means more than half, were burnt beyond recognition. I heard a firefighter say on television, the bodies had been reduced to a skeleton.”

She quotes Abir Abdullah, a photographer:

“It was difficult for me to take the photograph, disfigured still beautiful, with a small ornament visible on her destroyed nose. I felt sad to take the photo [but] at the same time I felt grief and anger inside me [I still took it wanting] to show [everyone] the gruesome portrait to [make them] understand and make the world realize, how much importance they get when dead but nothing when alive.”

Seeker writes:

Dr Kamal Hossain, a prominent lawyer and politician commented that the lives lost in Ashulia Fire Tragedy is life lost to greed, profit. He termed these deaths as evidence of life’s worthlessness on the face of commodity and business aspirations. Shocking – yes, truly shocking that this is the case in 21 Century Bangladesh. But it’s a sad reality.”

Also theories emerged as to whether this incident was a deliberate act of arson. A female worker was nabbed today in a nearby garments factory trying to arson it. She confessed to police that she was paid Taka 20,000 ($250) for this crime. The Prime Minister said at the parliament that the fire was pre-planned and interlinked with several violent incidents taking place in the country lately.

But Rahnuma Ahmed lashes at all these theories and explanations:

The problem, say BGMEA leaders, is the rush, the panic. The problem, they say, is mid-level management. The problem, they say, is the short circuit.

 “Mid-level management” is an easy cop-out, it seeks to prevent questions being raised as to precisely why people who are callous and indifferent, who treat workers like cattle, who cuss and swear at them, who lock exits, who tell the workers to get back to work when a fire breaks out, are hired in the first place. The answer is ugly. To rake in more and ever-more profits.

The stairs to the exit and the one to the storehouse were side by side, a flagrant violation of rules. As I watched BGMEA leaders blame the fire brigade for having issued safety licences, blame the factory inspector, I wondered how could they not just break down and cry? Is it because they are scared of being implicated? The “brave entrepreneur” story is a capitalist myth.

The government has declared compensations for the victims and the nation will observe the day of mourning. It also vowed to shut the factories which do not have sufficient fire escape installations. However Kuloda Roy [bn] blames the government and political parties of the country for ignoring the issue of improving the working conditions of the workers for long. He also blames the civil societies.


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Human Rights Watch


From Bangladesh Corespondent Rezwan…

In Bangladesh a number of local airlines sprung up in the past decade. They are not to be compared with the budget airlines of other countries because they are not cheap. They are just balancing the supply side of a growing demand of local aviation industry. The state carrier Biman’s inability to cater the market has further strengthen their position.
But that does not mean that there is enough competition to stress on making the service better. One such example is that how they treat the disabled passengers. A paraplegic and a wheelchair user wanted to book a flight in Regent Airways from Chittagong to Dhaka. They refused the booking saying that they do not have lifts to carry a wheelchair passenger to the Dash -8 aircraft, he/she has to climb the stairs. This is a direct turnaround from what they advertise on their web page:

The international law says carriers are required to provide boarding assistance to passengers with disabilities by providing a mechanical lift or other device. The citizen charter of CAAB also ensures the rights of the disabled people.
The sister of the passenger posted the complaint in Regent’s Facebook page and she got a reply with an apology. The message also says that they were unable to provide the service as as they don’t have the required mechanical lift. Biman, the major Ground Support Equipment [GSE] provider at all Bangladeshi Airports, also does not have any passenger lift car suitable for small aircraft such as the Dash-8.

Now my question is there are other airlines like United Airways who use Dash – 8 aircrafts in Bangladesh airports. Was it too hard or expensive to buy mechanical liftsfor all the airports. And how did they get the license without securing these basic requirements in the first place? I think its time somebody should sue them all to get the basic rights.



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The Perils of Facebook


From Bangladesh Corespondent Rezwan…

Facebook is becoming a popular social media in Bangladesh like the rest of the world. It is not only limited to interaction between friends but also used as an useful tool to disseminate news and information. More importantly Facebook is also being used to discuss political views.

Bangladeshi Facebook users frequently express their opinions, anger, rights, likes and dislikes and some of them are filled with emotions. Once someone posted this status in a Facebook wall which became viral: “I may be poor, but I have a Status”. Now this slogan also has a separate Facebook page.

But sometime your Facebook status can bring peril. Ruhul Amin recently has been in trouble because of his Facebook status. The recent death of prodigies Tareq Masud and Ashfaque Munier in a road accident has lead many users venting their reactions and anger in Facebook. Ruhul also expressed his strong reactions which led to actions against him as initiated by the Bangladesh High Court.
What was Ruhul’s status? BDNews24blog [bn] quotes from the web news network BDNEWS24.com:

The Highcourt has asked why Ruhul Amin Khondker, a teacher living abroad, won’t be brought to justice because he expressed that the Prime Minister should die.

The blog informs:

Ruhul, a lecturer of The Institute of Information Technology of Jahangirnagar University is now on a study leave in Australia. Ruhul had posted a Facebook status where he expressed “why the prime minister do not die”. This was prompted by the reaction to the death of five persons including internationally renowned filmmaker Tareq Masud and the CEO of the TV channel ATN News Ashfaq (Mishuk) Munier in a road accident near Manikganj. A local newspaper carried the story on the Facebook status of the teacher. The court learned the news and took a Suo motu action.

Mr. Ruhul posted two statuses on his wall. He wrote on Saturday 7.40 pm: “the consequence of issuing driving license without written exam – five dead including Tareque and Mishuk Munier. Everybody dies except the prime minister”. Another status on Sunday morning at 4:59 am read: “Driving License without written exam? Can you imagine this in any civilized society? Where the whole world is becoming strict on issuing driving license, the Hasina government is issuing license without examination.”

The main anger behind the status is the reaction to the news [bn] that the Shipping Minister had requested the Roads and Highways Minister that 21000 applicants (some claim 24000 people) should be provided [bn] driving license without completing all the tests (since many are not literate enough).

The post at BDNews24blog attracted many comments [bn]. Some supported Ruhul and some had other ideas.

Rabbani said:

I also support Ruhul’s status and term the rule of the highcourt as a misuse of power and rule of law and it is agaisnt the human rights of common people. Ruhul with his words has protested against the negligence of the political leaders about the 12000 deaths on the road each year.

Mohammad Morshed Alam thinks this law is a blow to the freedom of speech. He comments:

Isn’t attack on freedom of speech against democracy? Hasn’t this weakened the trust on our judicial system? Dear judges – please refrain from taking away the hast hope of the citizens. (Friday the 19th of August)

Mohsin Rahman says:

The teacher commented from his personal anger which in fact reflects many citizen’s thoughts. What the teacher couldn’t do was achieved by those judges. The issue has been highlighted and publicized by the media. (Friday the 19th of August)

Hasan says:

I fear to comment on this, if accusations against me are brought for contempt of court! 😛 (Friday the 19th of August)

Ratan Adhikary says these comments are out of line. He says:

This is way out of line. What Part-time lecturer Muhammad Ruhul Amin Khondoker said cannot be supported in any way. We hope Mr. Ruhul and his supporters become aware of their behavior. (Friday the 19th of August)

Netpoka says:

This type of comment is very indecent. But on what basis is this against the law, can anyone tell? (Friday the 19th of August)

Anik Iqbal is a blogger. He posted in a group mail of the students of Jahangir Nagar University (published with permission):

I am interested to see whether government can really strongly build the case and justify their argument. but if they decide to go for it, a lot will be at stake. the government’s character as the protector of its citizens’ personal rights will be in question. again, their attitude might be termed as oppression and silencing people’s opinions by force. whether or not they win the case, chances are that it will damage their image, which is already in jeopardy.

Ruhul Amin gave an interview via email to Bangla News [bn] where he provided the context of his statements:

Dear brothers and sisters:

I should not reiterate what we have lost in the tragic death of Tareq Masud and Mishuk Munier. The day they died I was reading online versions of Bangladeshi newspapers. I also tried to find other news items on this. I was moved by the hundreds of comments left on those news items. I was so full of emotion, I compiled some of the quotes and posted in my status.

He added:

I say without any hesitation that I do not have any personal grudge against the Prime Minister and do not pose any threat against her by my status in any manner. I just wanted to share with my friends the reactions of common people on that road accident. So by terming this statement as completely my own statement is against the truth. I have trust on my Prime Minister, especially as a teacher of an independent university. Moreover, if that status hurt others feeling I am truly sorry for that.

Ruhul ends with this:

The misinterpretation of the status has lead to unwanted consequences. I hope the unfortunate matter will end here.

Anik conludes:

I am keenly following the developments. this case, at the least, will decide the future of the flourishing of electronic media and define people’s right to share their opinions over this very modern and powerful medium.


This post was originally written in Bangla by Bijoy in GV Bangla.


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Mass Beheadings Of Foreigners In Saudi Arabia


From Bangladesh Corespondent Rezwan…

Nothing can justify a capital crime, but capital punishment cannot ensure a cure or deterrent for such crimes. Bangladeshis were shocked to learn that eight Bangladeshi migrant workers were beheaded in public in Saudi Arabia on 7 October, 2011, under Qisas (an eye for an eye) law for being involved in robbing a warehouse and killing a security guard, Hussein Saeed Mohammed Adulkhaleq, an Egyption national. Three other Bangladeshis were sentenced to prison terms and flogging.

As videos of similar Saudi beheadings[Warning: Graphic content] were widely circulated in social networks, netizens were enraged about this horrific punishment questioning about the process of the trial and the role of the Bangladesh Government in ensuring these poor migrant workers’ rights.

Zahid Masudul Abedin writes:

Almost every nation in the world exercises capital punishment. Our country also belongs to the group. But how brutallly the execution of punishment can be is evident from this type of public beheading. I understand that the law must be properly implemented, but can’t we refrain from this kind of beastliness from the middle ages?

Mosaddik Uzzal questions :

We are not against capital punishment, because this may increase the rate of crime in the community. But why eight people had to die for one person’s death? What kind of law is this?


Niaz Murshed Chowdhury  has some points to ponder:

These (horrific) scenes are so ubiquitous in Saudi Arabia that they do not create any reactions among the Saudis. Rather the policy makers vouch for this punishment saying that implementing “God’s Law” warns people, makes them careful. It reduces crime in the society. I have read the same kind of logic in many internet postings. Many believe that this is not barbarism, rather an effective tool to reduce crime in the society. I have read and understood all this, but could not fathom why the “Gods Law” initiated 1,400 years ago could not eradicate capital crimes like killing from the Saudi communities? Why they had to behead 158 persons in 2007 and 108 people in 2008? Was not 1400 years enough for the “Gods Law” to eradicate these kinds of crimes?

According to news reports  the Bangladesh government had tried through diplomatic channel since 2007 to seek pardon for the eight Bangladeshis. Even the president of Bangladesh wrote a letter to the Saudi King asking for forgiveness. The Saudi foreign office replied that only the victim’s family can forgive the perpetrators. The Bangladesh government did seek forgiveness from the victim’s family in Egypt but they refused.

Swadesh Roy writes in the Times Of Assam:

The persons who were beheaded, their trial were basically far from international standard. All proceedings were in Arabic. Accused persons could not understand it. The court did not arrange any system to help the accused understand it. Besides, most defendants had no defense lawyer. Eventually, for the language barrier and lack of any help from the lawyer, they could not defend themselves. So, it is not a trial of any international standard, it is actually a mock trial.

Niaz mentions that confession through tortures and framed cases are regular affairs in such mock trials. He also quotes from the Amnesty report:

The Egyptian man was killed during a clash between the Bangladeshi workers and a group of men who allegedly were stealing electric cable from a building complex where the Bangladeshis worked.

He asks why the media is ignoring these “group of men” and why they had been absent in the trial process?

And of course there are some people who are more equal than others. Niaz mentions the hypocrisy existing in the Saudi Law presenting the case of William Sampson, who survived such capital punishment because he was a British national. Sampson wrote in the Guardian:

Finally released in August 2003, after 964 days of solitary confinement, torture and dehumanising terror, I harbour no illusions about what saved me: my passport. …Meanwhile, of course, Saudi’s poor migrant workers from Somalia, Bangladesh, the Philippines or Pakistan are virtually doomed if they face a capital charge.

Manob O Manobota has this to say to the King of Saudi Arabia:

Do you know whether these convicted did have the liberty and means to tell the truth to your judges or the verdict was made without due process?

It may be noted here that Indonesia has banned the sending of maids to Saudi Arabia after a migrant worker from West Java was beheaded in that country for killing her employer, who abused her.

Unheard Voice points out that there are many more Bangladeshis waiting to be beheaded:

These men didn’t have any power, money, influence. They hold green colored passports that have very little international leverage and they work and live under conditions just above slaves. When they die, they are easily replaced and forgotten. 16 more are waiting in line to take the 8’s place.

Rubana Haque is in grief seeing the silence of the world:

Strangely, the world seems unsure and divided on the concept of peace. On one hand, three outstanding women have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their contribution to the non-violent movement in their countries: Liberia and Yemen, and on the other hand, eight of us have just been beheaded in the most violent manner in Saudi Arabia.
While Saudi Arabia seeks to secure justice through capital punishment in its soil, the Nobel committee has commended these three women for strategically voicing out their protest. Point is, when will the world wake up to shun the violent governments and when shall we all stand united on the idea of peace, the chimera of our modern times?

First published in Global Voices Online


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A Violation of Humanity


From Bangledesh Corespondent Rezwan…

Bangladeshis were shocked by widely published photographs of the dead body of a 15 year old Bangladeshi girl hanging on the India-Bangladesh border Fence. According to news reports the girl named Felani was shot dead by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) at Anantapur while she was illegally crossing the border with her father while traveling back to Bangladesh.

Mahmud Faisal elaborates how the girl was caught in this tragic fate:

Her father managed to cross the barbed wire, but Felani’s clothes got stuck in the wire and she started screaming in fear. Noticing her BSF shot instantaneously and a bullet went through her body. But she did not die. If BSF wanted it could end her misery by putting more bullets into her. But they waited four hours to be sure that she stopped screaming and she is dead. She was screaming “water, water” while she was hanging in the barbed wire, hurt. Nobody listened to her and BSF finally took away her dead body. After 30 hours she was brought back to Bangladesh like hanging a dead cow (in a bamboo poll).

In a recently published 81-page report titled, “‘Trigger Happy’: Excessive Use of Force by Indian Troops at the Bangladesh Border,” Human Rights Watch found numerous cases of indiscriminate use of force, arbitrary detention, torture, and killings by the Indian Border Security Force, without adequate investigation or punishment.

“The border force seems to be out of control, with orders to shoot any suspect,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The border operations ignore the most basic rule of law, the presumption of innocence.”
Bangladeshi human rights organization Odhikar says in a report that BSF kills one Bangladeshi in every four days. It also says that BSF killed 74 innocent Bangladeshi citizens in 2010, injured seventy-two and kidnapped 43. In the past decade more than 1000 Bangladeshis were killed in the border regions by BSF.

Alfaz Anam says:

In Saturday’s Naya Diganta (Bangla News Daily) we see a photograph of the body of little Felani in red cloth hanging on the barbed wire of India-Bangladesh border. Seems like a piece of Bangladesh hanging. Why was she killed? [..]

Bangladeshi citizens are being subjected to this inhuman atrocity out of extreme hatred towards them. BSF could easily arrest Felani and take necessary legal measures. But they did not as she is a Bangladeshi. Death is her ultimate punishment.
In this way Parul (another 13 year old civilian Bangladeshi girl killed in 2009 by BSF) and Felanis die everyday. These are not highlighted in the news prominently. They do not have any security. Six Bangladeshis were killed in the first week of new year (2011). [..] India has also borders with alleged enemy state Pakistan. In Kashmir there are regular shootouts between border guard. But no civilian is killed like this. It seems that unarmed Bangladeshis are greater enemy than Pakistan to the Indian guards.
Rahnuma Ahmed highlights in a post titled “Killing Thy Neighbors” why despite all these threats people cross border between Bangladesh and India legally and illegally:

The fence divides and separates. Villages. Agricultural lands. Markets. Families. Communities. It cuts across mangrove-swamps in the southwest, forests and mountains in the northeast.

It split up Fazlur Rehman’s family too, the fence snaked into their Panidhar village homestead, his younger brother who lived right next door, is now in another country (Time, February 5, 2009). Other border residents have had their homes split in two, the kitchen in one country, the bedroom in another.

Banner of the Blog Platform Amar Bornomala

Netizens are also frustrated with feeble government response. Helal M Rahman at Blog Platform Amar Bornomala complains:

After all these incidents the highest authorities of the government remain silent and they are not doing anything to stop these indiscriminate killings.
Blogger Arif Jebtik writes [bn]:

This will continue to happen. Nothing will change. A long highway will be built with loans from India. Cars from neighboring states will roll into Bangladesh on that highway. We are civilized hosts, we will never treat them with bullets rather with steamed fine rice and Hilsha fish curry.

The BSF chief will continue to preach about peace and friendship after bagging Jamdani Sari as gifts for his wife.

Via SMS we will merrily spread the information that the Bangladesh cricket captain Shakib Al Hasan has been sold in auction of the Indian Premier League for 30 million Taka ($425000). Our housewives will continue to watch Indian TV serials and shed their tears during tragic scenes.

But we will never shed tears for our sister who was butchered in the border inhumanely.

We will just utter the magic words like parrots, long live India-Bangladesh friendship.


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A South Asian 2010


From Bangladesh Corespondent Rezwan…

You cannot leave the South Asia region out of the picture as with nearly twenty three percent of the world’s population, events in this region apply an enormous impact on the international system. Global Voices covered some of these events from a citizen media perspective. Let us review the popular posts of 2010 from this region.

Freedom Of Expression and Censorship:

The Pakistani blogosphere entered into a huge debate on the creation of a Facebook page calling for creation of cartoons of prophet Mohammad on May 20. The situation got worse when a Lahore high-court slammed a ban of the entire Facebook domain and the netizens protested against the blanket ban. The government changed this decision later and promised to monitor popular websites including Google, Youtube, Facebook, Hotmail which could be posting blasphemous content objectionable to Muslims.

At the same time Bangladesh also temporarily banned Facebook. The official statement mentioned that the site had been blocked for hosting anti-religious and pornographic contents. But some bloggers felt that the ban was imposed mainly because obscene caricatures of the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition (both female) were being shared by some users.

Human Rights:

In India there had been eight murders and 20 serious attacks on RTI activists in the past year. Amit Jethwa, a prominent environmentalist and Right to Information (RTI) activist, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen in July after he had filed a public interest litigation in the Gujarat High Court naming a member of parliament.

India’s cyber law has been subjected to controversy because of its misuse. A government employee from Kerala got arrested for forwarding an email joke about the election debacle of the ruling party to a few friends.

Beating two boys in front of police and an enthusiastic crowd. Screenshot from YouTube Video

Pakistanis were in shock as the news and a video of the brutal mob-lynching of two teenage brothers were aired in local media on 22nd of August, 2010. The gang rape of a trainee nurse at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) also triggered widespread protests.

The Blasphemy law in Pakistan had been criticized and questioned by human rights activists because it had more often been used as a tool to spread violence and incite fear specifically among the minorities. An example of this manipulation of the law is the case of Aasia bibi, a Christian woman who was sentenced to death on the charges of Blasphemy.

In Sri Lanka, Sarath Fonseka, the opposition candidate who was competing with the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the 6th Presidential Election had been arrested by the military police and was jailed later.

After many protests the Bangladeshi ready-made garments workers secured a significant hike in the minimum wages.

After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, India encountered a major terrorist attack in February, 2010 when a bomb blast at a restaurant popular with tourists in India’s western city of Pune, Maharashtra killed 9 people and left 57 people injured.

Meanwhile Pakistan had been rocked by many suicide bombs and terrorist attacks in 2010.

However one positive thing we found that many of the Pakistani bloggers rejected this religious hatred.


2010 was particularly a bad year for Pakistan in terms of disasters. Pakistan faced its worst flood in the past 80 years, as in July-August 2010 heavy monsoon rains have caused severe flooding on the Indus river plains, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, lower Punjab and parts of Balochistan. The floods have claimed more than 2000 lives and about 20 million people, one-tenth of the Pakistan population, have suffered and most of them became homeless. The government response to tackle the situation was widely criticized.

On the contrary, it was heartening to see that common people, especially many youths of Pakistan travelled to the affected areas to help the victims. And more so Pakistani netizens were in forefront as they made their actions visible though live blogs Twitter, images and videos. Several Global Voices authors based in Pakistan including Awab Alvi, Faisal Kapadia, Sana Saleem and Salman Latif reported from the ground.

View of #Islamabad crash site from rooftop. Image from Twitpic by Rezhasan

In July Pakistan suffered its worst ever air disaster when a flight from Karachi of a private airliner crashed into the Margalla Hills in Islamabad, killing 152 people. In May an Air-India Express plane arriving from Dubai had crashed in Mangalore, south India, killing most of the people on board and netizens were outraged by the fact that the short runway was too dangerous for larger planes.

India had its share of oil spill disaster as in August a container carrier collided with another marine vessel close to Mumbai shore causing a huge oil spill, which threatened the flora and fauna of the nearby beaches.


2010 was a turbulent year for Nepal in the political arena. In February pro monarchy groups demanding restoration of constitutional monarchy forced its capital to shut down. By May the maoists, who has a strong position in the parliament, launched a nation wide indefinite protest demanding that the incumbent government be dissolved. The government succumbed to the pressure and the Prime Minister Madhab Kumar Nepal resigned on the 30th of June, 2010. Nepal plunged into a leadership vacuum as five rounds of election in parliament failed to produce a clear winner as the new Prime Minister in August. There was no end of this political stalemate in sight till the end of the year.

In June the whole Cabinet of the government of the Maldives submitted their resignation to President Mohamed Nasheed, on the grounds that their work was severely restricted by an opposition-led Parliament. Bloggers provided logical opinions on how to solve this crisis.

After three years of respite Hartal, a South Asian form of strike action, came back in Bangladesh as the opposition alliance took the streets to to press for its 11-point demand to the government.

Protests in Kashmir turned violent since June after the security forces killed a number of youths. When the Jammu and Kashmir Government banned the SMS service to stop the flow of information and rumors, many news outlets used Facebook to reach netizens. The Indian blogosphere discussed about scopes for reconciliation and peace.

The incumbent President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa pre-poned the presidential election scheduled in 2011 presumably to harness his immense popularity after defeating the Tamil Tigers last year. With the opposittion candidate Sarath Fonseka behind bars and amidst low turn out, the victory of Rajapaksa was predictable.


This year India hosted the Commonwealth Games for the first time and its plan to showcase its new status as a global power was marred by criticism and controversy. In the end India successfully completed the games.

Bhutanese women created the stirrings of their first feminist movement of sorts when they took on a traditionally male dominated sport Khuru (game of darts).

2010 was an eventful year for the South Asia region. Please stay tuned in 2011 for the stories seen through the eyes of the netizens. If you would like to contribute to widen our coverage across different language blogospheres in this region please contact us.

First posted in Global Voices


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From Bangladesh Corespondent Rezwan…

The population of Bangladesh is increasing and there is a growing demand of land mass for housing. As it is already considered a densely populated country, finding empty lands for development of housing complexes can be a tough ask. Political and business powerhouses grab government and private lands and the security forces or the law can barely do anything to protect the rights of general people.

Shahjahan Siraj describes in a podcast report at Panos London how land owners are turning beggers because of land disputes:

Disputes over land are the biggest single cause of court cases in Bangladesh. It’s usually the rich and powerful who win.

Recently in the Rupganj Upazilla near capital Dhaka Bangladeshis saw another kind of land grab. Protests of land-owners turned deadly as more than 50 people were injured and one person died (three more reported missing) from the clashes with the security forces. At least 10000 people were demanding cancellation of the government decision to acquire about 5,000 bighas (appx. 1653 acres) of land in Rupganj for an army housing project. The police has brought charges of vandalism against approx. 4000 people as they torched an army camp.

According to media reports [bn] the army had established 4 camps in Rupganj Upazilla 6 months ago and were carrying out the land acquiring tasks from there. Locals said that the personnel from these camps were forcing them to sell off their land very cheaply.

The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) in a press release alleged that a vested group has instigated landowners and local people through spreading ‘hostile’ and ‘fearful’ rumors against army and the army housing project in the area. They denied about the existence of army camp naming them temporary offices manned by army officials to facilitate the project.

Some bloggers are reacting with anger over this incident. Blogger Dinmojur at Somewherein Blog writes in details about the army housing project (AHS) and how the army approached with the difficult task of acquiring so much land (1653 acres) for the project:

Those who have the faintest idea of buying and selling land knows one can never purchase all that land together without force. Not everyone will want to sell their ancestral house, family graveyard, and their means of livelihood. [..]
So the army took the hard path. [..] Showing their power of uniform they stopped all buying-selling of land in 24 Moujas. They had only one demand – if anybody wants to sell land then they will have to hand it over to the army. And as they had to assert power why buy at a fair price?

The blogger posts evidence that the formal approval for the project from the land authorities is still pending. But the AHS project has already received payment of installments from potential buyers – many army officers for this project. The blogger also points to the advancing business interests of Bangladesh army. A recent BBC documentary showed how Bangladesh army has become a big conglomerate.

However, blogger Osthir Prithibi has questioned the hyped criticism and negativity against the army and requested not to jump into conclusion without much information.

Blogger & journalist Maskwaith Ahsan at Somewherein Blog vents his frustration on the politics behind the incident and the blame game:

We clever people still are contemplating – there is fire in Rupganj, so what! We don’t know when this fire will spread in our houses. We stick our head in the sand in leisure and inaction and watch the breaking news counting..Nur Hussain, Richil, Jamal.. all these dead bodies…

Then the war criminals will try to exploit this incident to stop the trial against war criminals, BNP (opposition party) will try to shed some popularity of Awami League (ruling party). Because the only goal of BNP is to come to power again. The party is greater than the country. And of course the land is greater than the people.

Mustak Khasru at Somewhere In Blog writes [bn]:
The law of acquiring land in the country of 166.4 million people should be repealed. The cultivable land in this agriculture based country is decreasing exponentially. If we can’t stop it people will be hungry and turn carnivorous.
The protests of Rupganj perhaps has made Bangladeshis realize that the lower middle class has overcome the fear of army in this democratic country but the weary middle-class has to wake up.

First published in Global Voices Online. The protests of Rupganj perhaps has made Bangladeshis realize that the lower middle class has overcome the fear of army in this democratic country but the weary middle-class has to wake up.

First published in Global Voices Online.


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The Art Of Heart And Mind


From Bangladesh / Indonesia corespondent Rezwan…

One of the most renowned Bangladeshis painters in the world is Shahabuddin Ahmed. He was bo rn in 1950 and studied at the Academy of Fine arts. In 1971 he joined the Liberation war for Bangladesh and fought for independence. Later Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman learnt about his painting skills and met him. He told him to go to Paris and learn painting like Picasso, Van Gogh et al. His life cherished desire was to become a Zainul Abedin, the master painter of Bangladesh, who was also his mentor. In October 1974 he went to Paris to study painting on a scholarship and has been sharing his time between France and Bangladesh ever-since. He comes to Bangladesh regularly to stay, paint and to exhibit. He lives with his wife Anna Shahabuddin and they have two daughters named Chitra Shithi and Charyapad Shahabuddin.

Shahabuddin’s works are displayed in many galleries across the globe including the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland and Bourg-en-Bresse Museum France. In 1992 he received the 50 Master painters of contemporary arts, Olympiad of the Arts, Barcelona, Spain. In Bangladesh he received the Independent Day Award (Shwadhinata Puroskar) in 2000.

Here is an introduction of his art work from The Arts Trust. Some excerpts:

Shahabuddin’s works reflect contemporary life and times. Its essence glorifies life’s struggle-he fought an actual battle for the liberation of Bangladesh-with victory in the end, transcending time and space. With great erudition and skill, he relies heavily on the power of motion as his mode of artistic expression. His endeavour to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos through the use of colour – most often monochromatic with splashes of bright unusual colours – canvas and brush has perfectly amalgamated life and art. [..]

What has made Shahabuddin, who has been greatly influenced by Francis Bacon and the European movement, to be one among the 50 best painters of the world? His baroque like figures turned towards space seeking light and energy, are a strange mixture of Western influence rooted to his place of origin. He emerges as an international painter with an unmistakable individuality.
Here is a review of his 27th solo exhibition which took place last year in Dhaka. You can view some of his paintings in

The Arts Trust Website and in Bangla Gallery. Here are more of his paintings on auction.

I was watching an interview of him in a Bangladeshi TV channel and I was very inspired by his words. What I found disheartening that Shahabuddin Ahmed does not have any website of his own. I hope someday we will see his work and words reaching every corner of the world via his website/blog.


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Third World Greed


From Indonesia / Bangladesh Corespondent Rezwan…

This is a story of any developing country where the rich and powerful reign and the the people do not exercise or do not have their equal right.

I was surprised to see some street vendors trying to sell a photocopy version of an edition of Tempo news magazine (in Bahasa) . I did not understand what the vendor was saying but the news was allover in the media in the following days. It turned out that on 28th of June Tempo published a report on huge bank balances of certain high police officials and the cover showed a caricature of a policeman holding ropes tied around three pigs. The report titled “Fat Account Police Officers” analyzed central financial transaction reports and found that there are tens of billions of Indonesian Rupiah transferred from unspecified third parties in the accounts of at least seven high-ranking police officials.

The officers implicated in the article include Insp. Gen. Budi Gunawan, the head of internal affairs and a former adjutant to the president during the Megawati Soe-karnoputri administration; former Mobile Brigade chief Insp. Gen. Sylvanus Yulian Wenas and lecturer at the Police Leadership School Insp. Gen. Bambang Suparno and former National Police chief detective Comr. Gen. Susno Duadji.

What followed can be the plot of a thriller: the magazine publications were purchased outright by groups making the edition unreachable to readers and the police threatened to sue Tempo (which they dismissed later) on charges of disrespectfully making caricatures of them. The police interpreted the Tempo report as depicting the police force as animals especially swine, which is forbidden to Muslims. But people are cleverer than them – the photocopy editions were in circulation in the following weeks and Tempo decided to reprint the edition. Widespread protests followed and the president was under pressure to announce an investigation.

On 6th of July the corruptors divulged their power by throwing a number of Molotov Cocktails in Tempo office. The National police spokesman said that the attack was intended to shine a bad light on the police as if the staffs orchestrated the attack. Later in the month four ‘Tempo” staffs were interrogated by the police as if they were the suspects. One staff received threat from a third party.

Not only that Tama Satrya Langkun of Indonesian Corruption Watch, who contributed to the report was brutally assaulted and stabbed.

According to public demand the police investigated into 23 suspicious bank accounts of police officers and only found 2 problematic accounts. Indonesian police also claimed that they have made progress in the investigation of the attack on Tempo magazine and the anti-corruption activist.

However people are calling for independent police probe to authenticate such claims. The president said there is no need to involve other organizations such as anti-corruption commission (KPK).

The conclusion of the story can be perceived by many. You can fill in the gap with your experience. Unless there are a radical upheaval of people asking for accountability, justice and equality, the rich and powerful will continue to do what they do and get away with their crimes.


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Facebook Banned


From Indonesia Correspondent Rezwan…

Bangladesh has become the second country in Asia after Pakistan to block the entire Facebook domain. On 28th May, 2010 Friday at around 8:30 the ban was executed on charges of malicious propaganda against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and hurting religious feelings reports [bn] blogger and journalist Biplob Rahman at MuktoMona blogging platform. However the site was still accessible via mobile (m.facebook.com).

Newspapers soon confirmedquoting high officials of Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission (BTRC) that Facebook was temporarily blocked.

Earlier, the BTRC had directed internet data service handlers Mango Telecom and Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Ltd to find a way to block antisocial contents posted by Facebookers.

But the two companies failed to fix the problem, which prompted the government to block the entire prophet, said the official, asking not to be named. The Daily Star

According to Facebook there are around 900,000 Facebook users in Bangladesh and 60% of them are aged between 18-24 years. Many netizens, like Sukanta Rai at Prothom Alo Blog had this question in mind:

What did Facebook do can anybody tell me?
S. M. Mahbub Morshed at Sachalayatan

After publishing perverted imagesof Hasina and Khaleda (The Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition) in the second most popular site in Bangladesh Rapid Action Battalion (RAB – a special force) arresteda youth named Mahbub Alam Rodin. Bangladeshis could not access Facebook soon after that.

Chitpotang at Unheard Voices blog wonders whether a threat from some religious parties prompted the government to take this decision:

That’s the “official” eyewash. What’s the real reason? Hmm, could it have something to do with Naya Diganta and Khatme Nabuwwat, Amini, et al’s return in the form of exportingPakistan’s Facebook ban for the Mohammed Cartoon Contest? The threats to hold a rally the day after BNP’s June rally that will be even bigger? As usual AL (Awami League) responds in only way it knows to an Islamist/Rightist threat, cave in immediately.

However Aminul Islam Sajib at Life with technology says:

Although the BTRC is saying that the site has been blocked for hosting anti-religious and pornographic contents, I feel that the site is blocked mainly for the reason that caricatures of two political leaders were shared on the site. The government could take necessary steps to remove those contents. Instead they are blocking us for their own interest and trying to make us understand that the reason is something else (anti-religious stuffs). Don’t they know that there are over hundreds of proxies such as hidemyass.com, redfish.tk (giving you the links so that you can still access the network) to gain access to Facebook. So, why ban Facebook? Banning Facebook does not block people’s access to the site. It’s like a showdown that we have banned Facebook on grounds of being abused.

The Bangladeshi netizens are astonished and outraged by all these drama. Bloggers like and https Shahriar at Cadet College Blog are explaining how to easily circumvent the ban by using https and other web proxies. However, Aranya Anam at Amar Blog warns[bn] netizens to be cautious about using proxy sites and provides some useful links.

Haseeb at Sachalayatan names the ban[bn] as “commerce of sentiments”.

Arup Rahee at Somewherein comments:

The Facebook ban is not a solution. If somebody criticizes, caricatures or opines against somebody/something, banning the media is not a solution against that – it is being proven across history.


Samir Kumar Ghosh says:

Before banning Facebook. If the government issued some alerts and some warnings – it would have been more effective.

However there were some opinions supporting the ban. Guru Bhai at Somewherein says:

When these youths should have been spending their time playing in the field or doing their home work, they spoil their time doing virtual dating (or similar things) using social networking – which is shameful for a sovereign country.

Twitter users are also expressing their reactions:

taslimanasreen: Is banning contagious !! Pakistan banned facebook ! Now Bangladesh !

julu_vai:govt. in bangladesh, by closing facebook for their own personal anger, are causing needless pain to millions. Where is my Freedom of speech?

kowsheek: Finally govt realised that facebook is injurious for pm’s health. #bangladesh

DarthShayan:People from #Bangladesh need to make a stand. We always let the political ppl dominate us. Is Bangladesh not a democracy with freedom?

A Facebook group named Withdraw the ban on Facebook in Bangladesh has been created. Kajal Abdullah at Somewherein reports that offline protests are also materializing.

Protests have been started already. Some students of Dhaka University (DU) have arranged a large protest in front of the Raju monument at midnight. They have warned that if Facebook ban is not withdrawn soon the students of DU will take up human chain and other form of protests.

Nazrul Islam at Sachalayatan says:

We want a democratic government which allows freedom of speech – ensures everybody’s freedom of expression. This government has come into power promising a digital Bangladesh. But we are witnessing that it knows nothing about the term ‘digital’. Our government does not know that these bans are not effective – there is nothing sillier than these in today’s world. If anybody wants he/she can access Facebook or everything on the internet. Still the government goes for another ban.

They will perhaps be forced to withdraw this ban within a few days. But this will remain as a bad mark in the government’s tenure.

First Published in Global Voices Online


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