Thursday, June 28, 2001

'Translucent Forces' And Two Colors in the Bangladesh Rainbow!

The grisly toll and 666:

6th March 1999 : Jessore, Udichi Bomb Blast- (10 Dead) : 8th March 1999: Khulna, Ahmediya Mosque Blast- (6 Dead) : 20th January 2001: Dhaka, Communist Party of Bangladesh Meeting Blast- (6 Dead) : 14th April 2001: Dhaka, Chayyanaut Concert Blast- (10 Dead) : 3rd June 2001: Gopalgunj, Baniarchar Church Blast- (10 Dead) : 16th June 2001 :Narayangunj, Awami League Office Blast- (22 Dead); (Total 64 Dead in bomb blasts since 1999).

The first in the ongoing series of bomb blast in Bangladesh was on the 6th of March 1999, the second and third blast left 6 people dead respectively. The Narayangunj blast is the sixth incident of explosions since it all began in 1999 (flip it over, and it becomes 6661!), and this coincides with the sixth month of the year 2001, June. For those uninitiated to the superstitious 666, let me state that the numerical troika is associated with the 'devil' in many cultures, including the folklore of Bangladesh. Till the 'Devil in the Desh' remains unscathed and unexposed - I'd pretty much like to refer to him/them as the 'unseen force'. No objections I hope?

For those of us witnessing the series of drama unfolding in Bangladesh ever since I wrote 'Death Proof' Security and Pre Polls jitters on June 10, what is becoming increasingly apparent is that the battle lines have been clearly drawn between 'us' versus 'them' and ofcourse a third 'unseen' force that remains 'necessarily elusive'. The pronounced nervousness of the Awami League would have us half believe that there will be only two colours in the Bangladesh rainbow - take it or leave it, and it is going to be - black or white? The third force is what we shall for argument sake term 'translucent' - and they can well take on any hue of the rainbow! However, for those of us with a euphemistic mix of the black and white equals 'grey matter', the skies over the watershed motherland could not have been more grey due to the incessant rains and clouds of the ongoing monsoon, and in part more ominous, as mother nature, too, seems overwhelmed by an aura of grief, following the blast in Narayangunj on June 16.

But before I ramble on - I would like to thank the many readers on this forum who offered very valuable comments subsequent to my piece of June 10, and while there was a lot of curiosity about my 'source of information' and doubts expressed about 'wild speculations and predictions', I also had to face the ignominy of being branded a 'conspiracy theorist with suspect motives', and one particularly brutal insinuation of being a 'flag waving sycophant'. In any case, this time around I would like to go back on the premise of some of the hypotheses that I had argued earlier - and take it from that point onward.

A 'Family Affair' - When Familiarity Breeds Contempt?:

Sheikh Hasina's personal security paranoia and alienation from the people was evident when she chose to use a Government helicopter for her 22-kilometer journey to Narayangunj, three days after the blast. In tow with her was the Awami League Leader Major General (rtd.) Shafiullah, best remembered as the Chief of the Bangladesh Army who on August 15, 1975, woken from deep slumber by a SOS phone call from Hasina's father, could do nothing to save the beleaguered President. I make these comparisons only to remind readers that both Sheikh Mujib and Ziaur Rahman were victims of recalcitrant elements of the Bangladesh Army, and no amount of security could save their lives. However, in the case of Sheikh Hasina there seems to be a hidden agenda which has more to do than just security, and we will have to wait and watch the situation over the next two weeks to find out exactly what they are. For the moment we may only make murky guesses!

Only weeks before she gives up power, it is tragic yet true, that Hasina has chosen to meddle in the affairs of the Bangladesh Army accused of being ' highly politicized' by the Indian media following Roumari. Among the more pertinent aspect of the Security Bill that was passed by the Parliament on the June 20, and approved by the President - is a clause that allows for her and her sister to dictate terms of their personal security arrangements, 'at anytime and any place necessary' to the Special Security Force (SSF). In effect the SSF will spiral down to becoming a 'personal bodyguard detachment' and poised to run at the whims and fancy of the two 'venerated sisters'. It also allows the SSF draconian powers, to conduct search, arrest and cause the death of any citizen of Bangladesh perceived as a threat to the 'sisters' security without any legal implications. All of this at taxpayer money - but that is not all. The tab taxpayers will have to pick up in this security charade is unofficially estimated at a cool 4 million US dollars plus, plus - per month! What is not understandable is the sheer timing of her 'insecurity' and, while debate rage about the constitutional validity of the Bill, there are a few facts that should not escape our 'grey' memory. When Sheikh Hasina for instance returned to Bangladesh from India in 1981, her security could not have been more dangerous than present times. The killers of Sheikh Mujib were on the loose and she was a soft target - and it was the people of Bangladesh that protected her. By 1984 the same 'killers of her father' had formed the Freedom Party and their heavily armed cadres carried out many assassinations; yet they never took any pot shot at Sheikh Hasina or other members of her family, even after they were voted into Parliament in 1988? The passage of this Bill is a strong indicator that Sheikh Hasina has connived with 'translucent forces' within the Bangladesh Army and a section of the media to have things her way, and have the more 'chetonized' lot within the forces back up her plan for a declaration of state of emergency should things get out of her firm egoistic grip - or a straight forward pro-Awami Army takeover - regardless of whether or not polls are held? Democratic fascism ala Baksal - who knows.

Having said all of that, it is worthwhile to inform the readers as to the Awami connections in the three out of the four recent promotions of Major Generals. Major General Tareque Siddiqui is the brother-in-law of Sheikh Rehana, Major General Ishak Ibrahim was a course mate at Sandhurst of the late Sheikh Jamal, and Major General Shahab Sikder was a member of the notorious storm troopers of Sheikh Mujib, the murderous Rakkhi Bahini - and it is none else but him that heads the Special Security Force today. What is, however, ironic is that the 82 officers from the rank of Majors to Colonels, who were promoted by Sheikh Hasina on the dint of their merits recently, will have their hard earned reputations tainted in the event of Awami League's defeat in the upcoming polls. Lest we forget - many senior Army officers were neutralized over the last five years because of their promotions during the BNP era.

The 'Dekchi' Blast at Narayanganj: 'Translucent' forces at work:

"We shall have to take revenge for the incident in Narayangunj. If it is my blood that you are after, come and get me, but please spare my party workers and my children" Sheikh Hasina's plea to 'unseen forces' at a rally Narayangunj on June 19, 2001.

"There will be only one political party in Narayangunj from today, and it will be the Awami League"- slogan of Awami League workers after the blast.

Following the blast at Narayangunj on June 16, 2001, several factors have cropped up as to what lies ahead for the bleak future of Bangladesh, especially in the run up to polls 2001 and who has gained 'what' and 'why' , this time around and the five previous havoc still remains a mystery. It is also important to note however, that it is for the first time that the blasts were targeted directly at the Awami League, and unlike the five previous occasion's it will be worthwhile to see the reactions and whether the 'real' culprits will at all be apprehended? The first heavy hands of blames were cast at the BNP, Jamaat e Islami and 'anti-liberation' forces (this being the standard Awami propaganda) -in a clear 'us' versus 'them' divide which ironically has few takers. Giving all the 'devils their due' all that I have been able to gather as a 'background' and 'foreground' to 'dark plots' are as follows:

As things stands till date, it appears that the prime target was Mr.Shamim Osman the Awami League MP from Narayangunj, who had earned notoriety and national headlines as being one of the 'godfathers' of the Awami League terrorist cadre in his area. Residents of Narayangunj are used to seeing him with his heavily armed supporters who form a tight cordon whenever he steps out of his house, even frisking bystanders at will. He forcefully evicted sex workers from Tan Bazar, one of the oldest brothel in Asia in 1999 to 'free his constituency of vices', but in doing so he compelled them to move to Dhaka and what we have since inherited is a 'floating sex trade' that contributes to seriously destabilize the social environment of Bangladesh's capital. Following the Ramna Blast, Osman organized a public mock trial that sentenced the Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia, and the Jamaat-e-Islami Chief, Matiur Rahman Nizami, to death for causing the blast. Effigies of both the leaders were hung in symbolic execution. Osman status as an ex-officio judge, jury and hangman in his 'princely constituency' thus became complete.

The Awami League believes that it was this protest that led to the BNP and the Jamaat to carry out the bomb attack, and there are even suggestions that Khaleda Zia 'may be arrested' for her involvement. Signed, sealed, delivered and 'bombed' - this looks like a open and shut case, and for those that died and those that assembled in Narayangunj on the fateful evening, hoping for 'justice' from the powerful MP, who sat in arbitration into petty disputes - their deaths have been reduced to meaningless body counts. While unofficially intra-party feuds are not being ruled out, the Home Minister's promises of 'thorough investigation' and 'vows to get to the bottom of the incident' are lies that we have more or less gotten used to. 'Translucent' forces are of course regrouping elsewhere, for another strike - another day.

Uncanny Escapes-one too many:

Mr. Osman landed up in hospital with splinter injuries - and many believe it was a 'miraculous escape'. However, it is now confirmed that several Awami League leaders were seen outside the arbitration hall, extremely nervous, agitated and anxious before the blast. Osman was interrupted by an 'unidentified person' who beckoned him several times to come out of the room - to which he did not heed. Eyewitness accounts suggest it was finally Mr. Khokon Shaha, the General Secretary of Narayangunj Awami League who finding no other means to extricate the MP from his 'throne', enticed him out, on a plea that his (Osman's) uncle-in-law was looking for him on an 'urgent matter'. Thirty seconds later the 'dekchi' or cooking pot bomb (and some reports suggest a brief case bomb) exploded, killing twenty-two people. While a remote control device is supposed to have caused the senseless havoc, the crude architecture used in construction of the powerful bomb is indicative that a timing device could well have triggered it.

Such 'miraculous escapes' and last minute 'divine intervention' by 'unidentified members' of the 'translucent forces' to save the 'select few' is nothing new. For instance, in the first blast at Jessore, the third blast at the Communist Party meeting, and the fifth blast at the Ramna Botomul, the 'noted actor and TV personality' of Bangladesh, and Awami League 'cultural activist' Mr. Hasan Imam also 'miraculously escaped'. In the first blast at Jessore, he was called off the stage, together with members of a visiting Indian cultural troupe minutes before the blast! The same sequence of chilling 'miraculous escapes' of macabre familiarity was repeated in the CPB Meeting at Paltan Maidan, and later at the Ramna Botomul . Either Mr. Hassan is the luckiest person on God's earth - or knows a thing or two about dodging 'unseen forces' that we don't! I will leave readers imagination to run riots……….

Either Awami League or no polls?

One of the hypotheses I had put forward to readers of this forum in my last piece, was 'translucent' forces carried out the bomb blast at the Beniarchar Church at Moksedpore, Gopalgunj, on the 3rd of June, in a bid to scare the 1500 or so foreign observers due for Polls 2001, and conduct pre polls monitoring. The blast was carried out to propagate the theory that 'Muslim fundamentalists' were targeting Christians and it is very unsafe for them to come to Bangladesh. That plan backfired as we all know - but what transpired on the June 19 more or less confirms my earlier contentions.

Instead of directly suggesting that 'foreign observers' stay away from the upcoming polls, an Awami League delegation met the Chief Election Commissioner and informed him that they will not permit the proposed 200,000 odd local observer to oversee the polls. The local observers were to work as facilitators to provide input to the foreign observers. Given the evolving scenario, foreign observers need not come at all - unless they are planning on a picnic - which given the volatile situation will not be worthwhile in any case! The prospect of Polls 2001 is getting increasingly bleaker so let us clap one hand clean?

Communal Provocation's - Playing with Fire:

Nothing plays better in Bangladesh than religion. The recent communal provocation following Khaleda Zia's sudden visit to a Hindu Temple is a case in point. Her public statement that if Awami league is voted to power, 'uloos' will be heralded from mosques was what was reminded to us by Sheikh Hasina. The cultural inadequacies of both leaders were clearly spelt out - as 'uloofication' is not specifically a Hindu rite but is practiced by many Muslims in the Middle East till this day. It is an ancient rite of celebrating any auspicious occasion.

Khaleda Zia's visit to the temple was a calculated move to break the Awami League vote bank prior to the polls, and woo Hindu voters to BNP. The open armed resistance to stop her from visiting Southern Bangladesh and her desperate bid to break through the Awami League gun toting cadres cordon, the entire day of June 17 was ostensibly to visit the region NOT on a pre-polls tour - but specifically to reach Chitomaree in Bagerhat district. It was the murder there last year of Mr.Kalidas Boral a powerful lawyer and elected Chairman of Chitolmaree upazilla and the local convenor of the local Pooja celebration committee's - following his expose of an Awami League syndicate in the local smuggling network - that had the Hindu community irate. The sandal and shoe throwing incident directed at the Home Minister and the nephew of Sheikh Mujib, Sheikh Helal (they 'miraculously escaped' in a Government helicopter the combined public wrath) at a memorial service for Boral has been a major bone of contention in relationship's of the Hindu community at large and the Awami League local leadership in particular.

In any event, it is now confirmed that more than two thousand members of the Hindu community were supposed to formally join the BNP and a secret rendezvous between Khaleda Zia and leaders of the Hindu community of Chitalmaree was planned at the Bagerhat Circuit House. The veil of secrecy was exposed when intelligence reports reached the Awami League 'high command' that several community leaders had already assembled at the venue. Messages were sent to the Awami League armed cadres to resist and thwart Khaleda's visit 'at any cost' - and resulted in four ugly incidents were her motorcade was ambushed and she finally had to abandon her idea of the planned tour, and return to Dhaka

The repression and intimidation on the Hindu community by the Awami League in Chitalmaree following Boral's murder is well known, and it has not been helped in any part by the Government stalling of its promised 'Special tribunal' to try his killers. Large sections of the Hindu community - who have traditionally been loyal to Awami League - have deserted its fold. If readers will recall my hypotheses in the last piece, a communal provocation at these fragile times will wreck havoc and MUST be resisted. I make a call to all conscious forum members to closely monitor developments in this sensitive area and make it a priority agenda to resist provocation's and promote harmony - and ensure that minorities are allowed to exercise their right to franchise without fear or favor.

'How many Paddy How many Rice' and 'Push thy name is father'!:

Finally with the Security Bill passed and the Gonobhaban formally allocated for her stay by the 'people of Bangladesh' - Sheikh Hasina's insecurity seems to have diminished enough for her to predict future course of action and re-inject her 'fighting spirit' in a display her very quarrelsome disposition. At a rally in the Paltan Maidan celebrating 52 years of the Awami League and 5 years of her 'glorious' governance on June 23, she warned the BNP that while she had to restrain herself and her followers being in Government, the upcoming days will not be easy or smooth sailing for anyone. 'tothyabodhok shorkarer shomoi budjhiya debo - koto dhaney koto chaal' - translation- 'after the caretaker Government is installed we shall show you how many grains of rice kernel is thrashed out of the paddy'.

That statement in our culture suggests a taking stock of grains by landlords from tenant farmers. Farmers were savored this particular reprimand if the rice they handed over to the landlord was less than what they thought was due - based on a visual calculation of acres that had the ripening paddy. It usually means the next time around -the entire paddy field will be up for close scrutiny, a death knell for the ones caught cheating!

A jest of a translation is 'how many paddy how many rice' in colloquial Banglish! However what we need to watch out while our Leaders fight for their own 'turf' in the fiefdom called Bangladesh - is there anything we the hapless 'serfs', can do to counter act - or describe our pathetic own fate?

Shall we call our fate 'thelar naam babajee' or in Banglish 'Push-thy name is father'? Any cultural background to this proverb will be welcome?

Thursday, June 14, 2001

Shetubondhon - Re: 'Death Proof' Security and Pre Polls Jitters

A respnse to Mr.Rashedul C.

Now we don't hear 'Uloos' though but Taliban fundamentalists have turned some Mosques and Madrasaas into arms training academy.

Not hearing 'uloos' - this is a farce and gross exxageration? Our minority Hindu community has not been debarred from raising 'uloo dhoni' and never will be - and no one dare even try.

If what you are saying is true,than does it not prove that it is the Awami league - scared of Khaleda Zia's threats, that has put a stop to 'uloos' as part of its communal agenda in the politics of Bangladesh?

This is the age old, most boring and unsubstantiated propaganda of the Awami League that you are now repeating. For benefit of the readers of this forum, Mr.Rashedul C, can you please tell us exactly which madrasa of Bangladesh, have the 'Taliban fundamentalist' turned into 'arms training academy'? I need names of these so called madrasas and correct addresses - and I promise a thorough investigation to readers in this forum.

The only real threat is now the extremist group Harkatul Jihad. They will try to make an unstable situation in Bangladesh before and during the elections. Look at what this group has done in recent time. Incidents starting from the bombing at Udichi function in Jessore, unearthing of a huge bomb at Kotalipara to assassinate the Prime Minister, bomb explosion at the CPB rally at Paltan maidan on January this year, the killing of a cop inside a mosque and recently the Ramna Batamul bomb blast.

Again another round of Awami League's unsubtantiated propaganda. Harkatul Jihad came to limelight in 1998 when it apperently entered the house of the pro-Government poet and 'intellectual' Shamsur Rahman to 'kill him'.Further investigations revealed that the culprits were activist of Awami League. All the kat mullahs arrested (and they were more than a dozen)subsequent to that incident were found 'not gulity' in court and freed.

As far as Udichi, CPB and Ramna Botomul blast's are concerned,the Awami League has so far not been able to arrest or charge sheet any Harkatul Jihad member, despite the time wasted and the vituperative media propaganda since.

About Kotalipara - again we have no other evidence that those involved and charge sheeted are members of Harkatul Jihad, and we will have to wait till the verdict of the court proves their guilt.

Funded by Saudi billionaire terrorist Osama Bin Laden this group has started reqruiting people from different parts of the country and is sending them to the Sunderban forest for arms training.

Another example of the 'overheated Awami imagination' at work!! If you are so sure that they are training in the Sunderban forest's - how come you have not sent in your law enforcement team to wipe them out? Are you not acknowledging the failure of the Awami League by this self defeating statement? If Awami Legaue knows and have access to their whereabout and is not doing ANYTHING about it - only proves that it is not the so called Harkatul Jihad, but indeed the Awami League that is being funded by Osama bin Laden, to carry forward the Taliban agenda in Bangladesh.

Sunday, June 10, 2001

'Death Proof' Security and Pre Polls Jitters

01. Dynasty ('Die Nasty"): Gratitude for Service of Ghosts?

"Death is the greatest kick of them all, that's why we save it for the last."
Carlos Casteneda.

With four weeks to go before the Awami League hangs its glove to a neutral caretaker Government and paves way for Polls 2001, the mood in Dhaka is somber and apprehensive. Hushed debates have started in earnest as to whether the polls will be held at all - and if they will not - what then? Fueling speculations are the jitters the overtly confident Awami League in power since 1996 betrays, as it prepares all set to pass a controversial bill in the ongoing Parliament session (Jatiyo Shongshod) to guarantee 'life-long security' to the outgoing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, her sister Sheikh Rehana and others in the extended 'dynastic family'. In demanding, the late Sheikh Mujib's offsprings are compelling a 'gratuitous goodbye' gift from the taxpayers of Bangladesh - reminding them it was their father who led the Independence struggle in 1971, and as his surviving kin it was, as the PM unashamedly put it -'not unusual to expect so'. Finely tuned to stake this claim is a press campaign of pro-Awami' intellectuals' arguing and counter claiming 'goodies' or spoils. The formidable list states that the widow of the slain Ziaur Rahman, the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Leader Khaleda Zia, enjoyed similar 'status and privilege', if not equal security in the recent past.

Petty as ever, this controversy has spiraled down to how many residences Khaleda Zia was 'awarded' while she was a 'widow and housewife', and 'platinum ornaments' priced over a million takas,'recovered from Sheikh Mujib's residence after his assassination' and handed over to Sheikh Hasina. One commentator stated that Sheikh Hasina was 'neither a widow nor a housewife' hinting squarely at the Prime Minister's estranged relationship with her brilliant yet eccentric spouse Dr. Wazed Ali Mia. Sheikh Hasina's public remarks that she has to 'pay rent to live in her husband's house' and has 'nowhere to go'- is also the first official acknowledgment of her troubled marriage. Bangladesh may have buried two 'great' leaders in its bloody history - but their ghosts continues to haunt us, in the widows and children that they have left behind.

This 'life time' security guarantee demanded by the PM could well prove a catalyst to a fair run of the caretaker Government, and is being termed by experts as 'blatantly unconstitutional'. The BNP has hinted of another round of hartals to protest the Bill, should this come through the Parliament as it inevitably will, and given that they have been effectively made defunct in street agitations - thanks to the Awami goons and misuse of the Public Security Act (PSA), the opposition may take this as an opportunity not to be lost.

The further the polls are delayed or constitutionally if the caretaker Government can remain in power for six months - from the stipulated three, BNP may make use of the time for a bloody showdown of revenge - to gain lost ground by regrouping some of its own terror elements. The losers of course will be Bangladesh and its common citizen.

It is the public paranoia of Sheikh Hasina that 'killers of her father' (condemned to death during her tenure) are lurking in the shadows and will assassinate her once she steps down, that has shattered everybody's confidence. Used to a phalanx of bodyguards, be it the Special Security Force (SSF) commandos of the Army, Police and all intelligence agencies of the Bangladesh Government following her every move over the last five years, it is therefore hard to figure out what really is envisaged in the upcoming Bill, and how a 'fool proof' replication of the existing arrangement would work out, in the event of an emergency that could well threaten the PM's life. Ironically in demanding her security and asking for a 'special law', Sheikh Hasina has committed a fundamental thumbnail faux pas, in that security is a matter never discussed in public.

However, a sample of the security she currently enjoys and is quite unwilling to forgo. The PM's security detail when it goes literally 'whistling' through Dhaka is a sight, which annoys commuters and pedestrians because it means roads being blocked off by the Police, allowing only 'Her Majesty' to pass in comfort, while the less fortunate have to sweat it out in the sweltering heat. For those stuck in perennial jams that Dhaka witnesses as a matter of routine these days, it means valuable hours being lost between two points. Armed presence of security men is known to harass and intimidate anybody that makes the mistake of showing irritation as attempts to 'breach' this exercise. More than two dozen cars, Pajeros, Police vans, motorcycles, ambulance, etc., precede or follow the motorcade, even between the short distance of her official residence and office.

Never in the thirty-year history of Bangladesh, however, has a civilian ever attempted or killed any Government leader. Lest we forget, the attempt on Sheikh Hasina's life in the Ershad era was carried out by an uniformed policeman in Chittagong. The 70 kg bomb discovered close to venue she was supposed to address a public meeting, and an 80 kg bomb recovered in a secondary sweep in Kotalipara, Gopalgunj in October of 1999, suggest failures of her own intelligence apparatus - and part of the security detail that she wishes now, to protect her life. An FBI team that came to investigate the attempted assassination from the US left Dhaka, without making any statements.

But is there anything called 'death proof' security which seems to be in a round about way what Sheikh Hasina in all her infinite wisdom is asking for? I ask - who is she afraid of and by any parameter of judgment has she or her existing security personnel, been able to effectively analyze 'threat dossiers' of potential assassins out to eliminate her, her sister and other members of her family?

Sheikh Hasina's alienation from the people at large is complete and contributes to her fear psychosis as her term comes to a natural close. Like her father during his last fateful days, she is guided in part by a handful of sycophants and close circle of relatives and crony Ministers - that wish to convey to her an impression that all is hunky dory in the Sonar Bangla of her father dreams - other than her security!

While many in by far the 'supportive' Awami press are now playing turncoat in open offensive criticism, in what is construed as her failure to contain partisan violence unleashed regularly by her henchmen or their out of control progenies, corruption, nepotism, terrible economic down turn, subservient policy towards India, and inflow of illegal arms and ammunition in the eve of polls - Sheikh Hasina has more to contend with than just security. Her credibility factor and unwillingness to conform to guidelines of the incumbent neutral caretaker Government as it comes to power by end July stands foremost in her millstones, with doubts being expressed whether she stands a chance for a second term.

While polls come knocking on the door - there appears to be no efforts on her part to neutralize the fascist grip she already has on power - specifically the administration. Be that relocating Divisional Commissioners and top Police brass in District towns, appointment of partisan judges in the High Courts, or promotion of 'like minded' Generals in the Bangladesh Army - the 'no poll' hysteria may not be written off as a bunch of baloney. Bangladesh seems all set for another round of disquiet in the next four weeks and it could well start with the neutralization of the 'old administration' by the caretaker Government. To complicate matters further, one of the demands the opposition during the tenure of the caretaker Government will raise, is the removal of the Army Chief of Staff, Major General Harun ur Rashid, for his highly political speech at a rally of freedom fighters on the 26th of March, instant

02. Regional Subversives and Foreign Observers: The Awami nervousness?

The blast on the 3rd of June, at a Sunday Church prayer that killed ten Christians at Baliarchar, in Moksedpore of Gopalgunj comes at a particularly vulnerable time for Bangladesh. As I have always maintained in my previous articles, the Indian intelligence agency RAW is directly linked to all the bomb blasts in Bangladesh since March 1999; so far 44 innocent people have been killed and more than 250 injured. The 'fundamentalist conspiracy' propaganda used deliberately as a cover up for these explosions has failed to produce any culprit, and worse nobody has been tried or found guilty in that many years.

We had expected similar backlash and name-callings after the Baliarchar blast - but among the three possible reasons that is being played about, 'fundamentalist conspiracy' is the third and least acceptable. What is interesting to note is that the pro-Government slogan shouting brigade and the press has now lost all interest in the 'fundamentalist' propaganda and have maintained a 'spectacular silence'. The repeated cry of 'wolf' is indeed petering out, and as reported in sections of the press, the high priestess of Rabindra Shangeet, Ms. Sanjida Khatun, and part of the Awami 'cultural elite' whose Chayyanaut organized the Bengalee New Year's concert on 14th of April instant, where a bomb blast left more than 10 dead - refused to make any public comment or issue 'statements' against 'fundamentalist conspiracy' in the Church blast, although she was requested repeatedly by her party colleagues to do so. Sanity seems to be prevailing somewhere!

What really could be a definite motive to the blast is RAW's nervousness of a fair and free election in Bangladesh, given that there has been a great shift to the old fashioned patriotism, where 'anti-liberation' meant 'anti-Indian' - to a new level of pride, post the recent border clashes with India, where 'Bangladesh' today, means an independent country of the world than a mere neighbor of a larger 'big brother' out to jeopardize any chance of peace, prosperity or stability.

Having said that, Polls 2001, has the focus and interest of the world community at large, specially its development partners eager for democracy in Bangladesh. The anticipated arrival of over 1500 or so foreign observers have caught elements within the Awami League and RAW's Bangladesh chapter on the wrong foot. The ultimate loss of face to both these co-conspirators is the fact that more than 200,000 local observers are being trained, and the foreign participants are simply not coming in for any picnic! Diplomatic sources confirm that the foreign observers will come in at least four weeks ahead of the polls date and aggressively conduct 'pre-polls monitoring'- in essence, the neutralization of administration that the Awami league is so desperately trying to resist, and the rampant and wide spread use of armed terrorist elements to sustain their mandate or so called 'popularity' is effectively going to be up for international scrutiny.

This is a personal observation. The blast at Baliarchar, is an indicator that RAW had hoped to scare away foreign observers from the upcoming elections, by suggesting that 'Islamic fundamentalists' in Bangladesh are now targeting Christians. It had, however, not bargained for the mute reaction of the peaceful Christian community at large, or any interest at finger pointing for the slaughter of their fellow members, other than request for 'official investigation'. The presence of the Italian Father Mimmo who was leading the prayer, and the reported presence of 'two mysterious strangers' minutes before the blast, could well have deterred the RAW from carrying this incident any further, other than to mislead the general public in an English newspaper with India links in Dhaka. Citing 'defense sources on conditions of anonymity', the newspaper reported that the bomb 'looked like a pineapple and was made in Chile!'

It will therefore come as no surprise to me that over the next four weeks there could be organized provocations and a large scale pogrom of Hindus, an already vulnerable and sensitive - yet the largest minority community in Bangladesh. If that happens an exodus of Hindus to India, reminiscent of 1947, may result and could pave the way for a state of emergency to be declared and the Army to takeover state power in Bangladesh. We had better watch out - for if such a fate befalls Bangladesh, the fragile fabric of communal harmony, that die-hard religious extremist elements on both sides of the border, have been trying to tear apart- will leave us not too happy as to the future of Bangladesh.

Sheikh Hasina last ditch attempt at 'death proof security' reflects the torrid state of fear that has overwhelmed Bangladesh. Sitting at the highest office yet so insecure reveals a distance that has occurred in our 'highly friendly' relationship with India. The refusal of the Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee to meet her just after the border clashes may indicate why the Prime Minister of Bangladesh is fearful of losing her life, and it has perhaps more to do than the perceived propaganda of 'threats from Islamic fundamentalists'!!

Friday, June 08, 2001

Shetubondhon - Post Roumary Debates with Sukhamaya Bain - 4

Dear Mr.Sukhamaya Bain :

My comments: These testify the sorry state of the border between Bangladesh and India. The fact that Bangladesh also adversely possesses a large number of Indian territories testifies that India is not acting so much like a big power belittling Bangladesh.

One can't deny the fact that Bangladesh ratified the 1974 Indira-Mujib Border Treaty in 1975. Unfortunately India has not done so for that many years, so the onus is pretty much on India to exonerate themselves from this 'big brother' allegation that we make as a pathological habit! In terms of acreage of land : India's still has a higher chunk in its 'adverse' or other possession - and please refer my piece with Fazlous Satter, 'India: save Your Mangoes and Gunnybag!' in this same forum to give you a clearer insight.

"Some bitter statistics: Bangladesh has a 4156 kilometers of border with India out of which 3976 kilometers are land and the rest 180 kilometers are navigable. 6.4 kilometers of this huge border remains undemarcated i.e 2 kilometres in Muhurirchar, 1.5 kilometers in Balibaree and 3 kilometers in Lathitila. Conversely India has 'adverse possession' (read occupation!) of 3500 acres of Bangladesh territory and Bangladesh has 3000 acres of Indian Territory."
My comments: Murder and torture of alleged criminals in police custody are quite common in Bangladesh. Bangladesh should do a thorough and honest investigation of the allegation made by India, and punish the criminals.Otherwise, Bangladesh has very little to apologize for on these two incidents.

Murder and "torture" in police custody are not defensible. But murder and 'torture' in police custody (which indeed I had a first hand taste in 1999) is not only common in Bangladesh but also in India as also other countries in our pompous 'Sub continent'. Can we forget the blinding of criminals in Bihar in the late eighties?

While Bangladesh needs to its part, we must not be partisan if we desire fairness, Mr. Bain. How about asking the Indian Authorities to conduct a 'thorough and honest investigation' to the hundred of murders, kidnaps, rapes and mutilation that Bangladesh 'civilians' living around our borders have had to endure for all these years? Chronoligically it would make some sense if we accepted these investigations on a 'first come first served basis', i.e first murder investigation first and on and on ....

About soldiers being 'murdered' in custody ... Mr. Bain, there is a secret buzz in the Bangladesh's defense circle, that I wish to make public now, that many of the BSF were killed in 'friendly fire'. Given the unplanned, and bizzarely executed 'rambo' like attack that the BSF launched, where they thought they could have a 'clean walkover', we should not rule out the possibility that the BSF in the confusion of darkness, fear of the unexpected and ferocious counter attack of the BDR and dissipated morales reigning supreme at the time, could have well killed their own men! This has happened in many wars - even in Vietnam.

The Hindu-Muslm hatred and conflict problem should have been addressed in terms of social reforms, in terms of educating the masses, not in terms of creating some more permanent divides.

For Iswar sake Mr. Bain - lets not get into this Hindu-Muslim fervour, when the irony of the whole tragedy in Roumari is out of the 15 Indian dead, 2 of the BSF men were Muslims!

This is pretty much a Bangladesh-India dispute - not a Hindu-Muslim dispute.

Thursday, June 07, 2001

The Carnage in Kathmandu and Cows Climbing Trees!

1. Of Bad Table Manners and Machineguns in the Menu!:

It could well have been Prince Charles wiping out the entire royal family in the Buckingham Palace with a 'machine gun' at dinner, because the Queen had objected the choice of his bride, Camilla Parker Bowles. Realizing the seriousness of his action, the Prince, later inflicts a gunshot into his 'back' that leaves him critically wounded and he dies 48 hours later! However this was not the House of Windsor neither England where it all happened, but the idyllic Himalayan mountain Kingdom of Nepal, among the world's poorest countries as also the only Hindu state. Wiped out in the House of Tribhuvan in Kathmandu was King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah, revered and worshipped by his subjects as living reincarnation of the Lord Vishnu, his Queen Aishwarya and nine others in a bizarre massacre that will remain a sordid mystery in the days to come.

The citizens of Nepal protesting violently the death of the its King and his family in Kathmandu streets have only one demand.' Correct information' on the tragedy that bedevils them - as all that have been fed to them thus far, be it the suspicious 'official accounts' or the inconsistency of the media at large - equals almost to reports (to use a Bengalee proverb) of 'cow's climbing trees'!

Murder so gruesome - and an elimination of an entire royal family, in a nation, where it has been popular for its peaceable existence with its subject's and a symbol of its sovereignty, leaves perplexingly a lot of unanswered question. With absolutely no verifiable or acceptable account as to the causes of the carnage, the speed at which a 'villain' was identified in the person of the heir apparent Crown Prince Deepeendra, thereafter named King as he lay in coma hours before he died, the sustained erasure of hard evidence in the palace, the hasty cremations of the royal's carried out without any coroners inquest or the participation of any world leaders - all points to a deep rooted conspiracy and cover-up that the Nepalese and for those of us in the region have reasons to be anxious about.

Together with all of that, the reaction of commoners to the new King Gyanendra's coronation and the open hatred displayed on television by commoners - indicates the Nepal is in for a rough ride in the days ahead. As I sit to write this piece the three member probe committee formed to let the Nepalese know 'within the next three days' as to what transpired on the night of Friday the 1st of June 2001, has had a split. One member resigned suggesting that under the Nepalese constitution 'no investigation may be carried out into affairs of the royal family'. Take it or leave it - the fate and future of Nepal appears to be signed, sealed and delivered - with deadly consequences to the region at large.

2. The scriptwriter's revised first draft :

Of all the conflicting reports coming out of Nepal the one those surprises me the most is the manner it is being played about by the media in general and the Indian media in particular - that be press or television coverage. On the face of it - and in the absence of any 'King Queen' story since Lady Di - what we are being led to believe would be grinding of near perfect ingredients - all set for a South Asian masala cine-drama about to explode at the box office. Dubious scriptwriters are hard at work polishing off blemishes in the first draft -and the subsequent draft's are turning out to be more fictional and quixotic than ever, and being reduced to a farce as the day go by!

3. 'The story' thus far:

A 'private' family dinner in a desolate, deserted and macabre palace - provides an ideal location. No 'security' in place for the royalty of a country that takes pride, in having the largest numbers of serving or retired Army General's in its populace. The supplier's of the worlds' biggest overt mercenary force in the indomitable Gurkha's who provide security for British installation's worldwide (including the UK High Commission in Dhaka, Bangladesh). No butler or chambermaid in attendance or any cooks to cater to the royal palate and other than those that died - there was apparently non-other present in the palace that eventful night?

In the thick of a family meeting, heated words are exchanged, when the compulsively obsessed 'in-love' Prince Deepeendra pleads to his family to accept Ms.Devyani, (seen in his doting company by adoring commoners at a pizza parlor next door to the palace called 'Fire & Ice') as his wife.

The Queen refuses and she has her reasons. The lady in question although adequately blue blooded in that, portions of her acceptable gene come from the Rana clan of Nepal through her father, she unfortunately carries the 'not so blue genes' of the Scindia family of Gwalior in India through her mother. One Nepalese journalist on the CNN quite wryly commented that the 'Queen did not want any Indian connection in the royalty'. There were also 'dark suggestions' from the royal astrologers about the nuptial - how pathetic?

However as the saying goes 'love is blind'… and if this AP report by Siddharth Varadarajan is to be believed, the sequence of gruesome events thereafter was as under:

'It is said by informed sources here that Deependra had had too much to drink and was told to leave. He left the room and returned with an M-16 rifle that had been provided to him along with other assault rifles three days earlier by army commanders eager for him to test them and recommend one for general purchase. What ensued was a mindless bloodbath. By some accounts, at least 19 people were killed or injured by Deependra, including two bodyguards and as many as 12 members of the royal family. After finishing the deed, he apparently went up to his room, changed into fatigues and shot himself in the head with a Koch 9mm pistol. The bullet went through his head but didn't kill him.'

'Informed sources' are ironically 'sources' that have been informed in more ways than one and in the absence of any 'eye witness' account, shall we believe that since this carnage happened inside 'closed doors' it is therefore a 'closed story' to the general public and the world at large? Specifically - are we to sit back and give our 'thumbs up' to the success of the defective M-16 rifle, that according to the first address by the new King (then regent), 'exploded and spun out of control' or perhaps a definitive 'no-no' to the Koch 9mm pistol whose bullet 'goes through the head - but does not kill'? Reminds me of a rival campaign against POLO mint in the Indian media - 'your brain does not have a hole, why does your mint need one?'

Today there is more sustained misinformation - other than the M-16 rifle it appears there was also an Israeli Uzi Sub-machinegun used during the killing. An ideal 'poster finish' picture of an inebriated gung-ho rambo like Prince Deependra - one hand firing the shoulder rested M-16 automatic, the other a pistol grip Uzi, solicited!

4. Security perspectives and India-isation of the region:

Are we to let this carnage pass by as another 'bumping off' by a contentious nations who probably did not see eye to eye with Nepal or its King? How are we to explain the many similar murders of leaders in the region in recent years where 'investigations' have covered all aspects -less the involvement of India?

There are similarities in the situation in Nepal and Bangladesh. The first, the media is totally in the grip of India, while the citizens at large are anti-Indian. As and when the situation and event's around Nepal unfolds if it does at all, it will be very difficult for India to come out looking clean in this assassination. Lest we forget, Nepal has had a period of 'economic blockade' in its recent history by India, that reduced the nation to a state of pauper during the times of Rajiv Gandhi. That punishment only because Nepal wanted a security tie with China to resist the old fashioned term 'Indian hegemony'.

The wide spread anti-India riots precipitated earlier this year when a Indian movie actor allegedly made derogatory comments about Nepalese speak volumes for the common Nepalese hatred towards India's policy in the Kingdom.. However the recent refusal by the deceased King Birendra to permit Prime Minister Koirala, to go for military actions against the anti-monarchist Maoist rebels - could well have sounded the death knell and caused him and the entire family this very tragic and untimely doom.

The involvement of the Indian intelligence agency RAW in the Kathmandu carnage has already made news worldwide as I close this piece. With a puppet King and a notorious Prime Minister highly unpopular with its people, and a systematic down playing of the carnage by the Indian media over the last twenty four hours, the consistent attempts to pass this off as a 'family feud' - are indicators that this is probably not the last that we have heard about 'assassinations from Nepal. RAW is known to eliminate its co-conspirators, and next in line could well be those that collaborated with them this instance. King Gyanendra has a lot to worry and his glum almost cartoonish facade, betrays his overwhelming, all encompassing fear

By Monday the 4th of June, Mr.Jaswant Singh the Indian Defense Minister landed up in Moscow to discuss a 6.6 billion dollar arms deals with the Soviets, to 'neutralize Chinese and American influence in the region'. The 'elimination' of the Nepalese Royal family, could well have been a small part of a larger 'security agenda' of the Indian Republic.

Friday, June 01, 2001

Shetubondhon - Post Roumary Debates with Kaushik Sen - 3

Shetubondhomn- Roumary - Re: A Personal Clarification

Dear Mr. Sen,

It is actually useless to argue with anyone who cares to learn nothing outside his own belief and passion. So I will only point out the factual mistakes in your clarification
Lakum Di Nukum Waliadin (Unto you, your belief - unto me mine) Sura Al-Kafiroon, The Koran

Yes I do realise your dissapointment in failing to 'educate' me much as you have done so many others on this forum. Please leave me happy and content with what I believe in - will you? To be very specific, I did not initiate this unneccssary argument. And, I was not the one who turned an India-Bangladesh related discussion into a personal attack. Does insulting comments targeted to individuals such as "juvenile delinquent" or "a terrorist" sound the bell, which engendered this exchange of personal nature? Why do we have to resort to such personal attacks, when the discussion is about India-Bangladesh relationship, and we can have genuine differences of opinion and feeling in this regard?

I am not an Indian kid. I am an American physician of Indian origin and an activist against a number of policies of the current government of India specially on environmental issues.

Congratulations - an American Indian, clap, clap, clap, but is'nt this again a classic egg or hen charade, i.e what came first, your American status or your Indian origin? Congratulations again for standing against many curren polices of the Governemnt of India, which ironically does not encourage me to harbor a great deal of trust. My apologies.

I am an avid reader with some understanding of the English language. Your write up did not convey specifically that you were deploring the act (Indian BSF personnel hung like animals on bamboo staves). Your attitude regarding this was at the best unclear if not glorifying.

Thanks for admitting at this stage now that it was 'unclear'. If you had read and reread and tried to understand when I kept repeating 'and then' so many times in the paragraph, you would have probably got a clearer impression. You understand your English as much as I do Mr. Sen, and your response indicates that you were more than slightly unhappy because some readers on the forum were specifically pointing to that one para .... indeed one reader even suggesting that this is exactly what he wanted to say but could not.

I was not in diapers in 1971 (diapers were not around anyway). Assuming that you were around at that time I find it unnecessarey to describe how the spirit of 1971 overwhelmed the common Calcuttans above and beyond all the cruel politics games. It is useless to recall today how we treated the 1971 refugees in Calcutta and how we roamed the streets collecting stuff for them. I am not willing to share those fond memories with hate mongers.

It seems that you were alive and kicking in Calcutta in 1971. Thanks for 'collecting stuff' for refugees in 1971 - and thanks once again for your contribution to the Bangladesh Liberation War. My experience in 1971 was of course to have a better part of a Pakistani bayonet to my right shin, which is still painful and no way a 'fond memory' like yours. It reminds me that a 'shotru' is a 'shotru' and we will have to fight them regardless of which side of history they are convieniantly positioned today. Amee shotru chini mago tumi ghoomao nirbhoiya.

There is no such thing as an 'eternal friend' or an 'eternal enemy'!! In such 'peaceable' times our vigilance is unfortunately higher than many would expect or like.

Again one ruthless act in the past cannot justify another in the present time. Media could and did glorify many acts of atrocities in all nations but knowledgeable people usually can differentiate between propaganda and history. They can also differentiate between patriotism and parochialism.

Two wrongs have never made one right, but what happened in Roumari is no propaganda - it was reality and the sooner you accepted that the better it would be for everybody. The clear message that was sent and should have been sent a long time ago is: 'dont dare tread on Bangladesh'. This ain't Assam or Kashmir brother, and while we would prefer to be 'shanti priyo shanto chhellay' the fact of the matter is the next line is 'tobu shotru elay ostro haatay dhortay jaani'! Was it not Rabindranath Tagore the pacifist that penned them? Please help - my memory fails me! Juvenile delinquent - was he? You know better.

I do not really care how much you hate India as I am sure there are plenty of nuts in India who hate you exactly as much and they will do their best to answer your war cries. I have nothing to do with either you or them. But you are not just juvenile. Juveniles may be silly but not necessary violent and hateful. You are one of those (at least in spirit) who shoot in the schools or blow up buildings just to make a statement.

Thanks Iswar for exonerating me off this 'juvenile delinquency' charge. When I say I hate India, please be reminded that I do not mean the 'people of India' but the ruling elite in Delhi, who have been nothing more than Brahmin supremacist, a God-ordained class out to vitiate the atmosphere, essentially the fragile communal fabric that many like us are trying desperately to protect. The fallout to all of that is the kind of personal exchange that the two of us are having at this given moment (which I did not initiate, you did) - however if push comes to shove, Bangladesh will do more than blow up schools and buildings and I do not have to be the one to lead the charge of the light brigade.

When you have hundreds of civilain getting shot and killed at the border every year, with schools being shot up by Indian BSF and women getting raped and NONE OF THAT GETTING REPORTED IN THE INDIAN MEDIA, do you really expect only 'goodness' from 'likes of us'? If I am being silly - some are being naive.

And part of the immense problem with India is the fact that your media - (and that includes American Indians!) will not let Bangladesh exist with its head held high in respect and honour. Thirty years is actually a long time to live with the 'fundamentalist theocracy' propaganda that the Indian media employs to ensure that Bangladesh is not taken seriously by the nations of the world.

Jesus wanted the simplicity and purity of children, not your kind of stuff. Your attitude is neither simple or pure, it only reflects the profound identity crisis and attention craving that is evident in the visceral depth of your anti-Indian feelings. I wonder whether you heard about someone called Peter Pan.

Peter Pan ? That sounds intersting. If you feel my attitude is not pure, then my sincerest apologies and I leave it entirely to your profound gyaan to let us 'impure' (read converted nomoshudros) lot know how to act 'pure and simple', complete with the if and buts and do's and dont's. I'll ofcourse thank you immensely for your patronisation.

Simplicity and purity - should not be read as STUPIDITY.

Shetubondon - Roumary - Re: A Personal Clarification

Dear Mr. Masud,

Thanks for jumping in. Answers to your question:

1. Does Mac think think that it is an inhuman and barabric thing to impale humans and parade their dead bodies on poles regardless if those dead bodies belong to intruders?

The word 'impale' in the dictionary means 'to make a hole through with a sharp pointed object'. The Bengalee translation to 'impale' is 'shoolay' - and I will not risk a graphic description for sake of decency and being branded more 'barbaric' than I have already been !!

The Indian intruders were certainly not 'impaled'. What we and the world saw in the photograph and what I have gathered after reading reports and talking to atleast one resident of Roumari in a recent conference is - the dead bodies were merely 'lifted' the way that it was done, as it was the most convinient, fastesr and easiest method to carry the dead bodies given the exigency of the situations and while firing was continuing from the Indian side.

It would have been a different story if they were carried in a stretcher or a casket - but we have to also try and understand that it was not possible because of the remote location of Roumari. The dead bodies were not 'paraded' in any manner - they were lifted and carried to the nearest Bangladesh outpost and had it not been for the AFP photographer (who was conviniently there)- non of this hullbaloo would have erupted.

If it was any BDR men killed in the same forward area - the dead body would have recieved similar treatment, I am afraid. Let us not forget that Bangladesh had to move very, very quickly in to collect the dead BSF bodies - as there would otherwise have been no conclusive proof that the Indians intruded.The continous Indian firing was to keep the Bangladesh villagers at bay, away from their fallen comrades.

To the second part of your question : I would much prefer that you you remember the barbaric act of the BSF when they killed hundreds of men, women and children, the rapes of civilians and properties demolished by the BSF in the last 5 years alone (refer my article India : Save your Mangoes and Gunnybag!) before getting into this hypothesis of whether or not intruders or their dead bodies should be treated with barbarity. Again I repeat there is no such thing as a HUMANE war, as also non of Indian barbarity over the years have made it to the regional or world press? Why
is anybody's guess.

2. Would Mac be willing to condemn such acts of impaling human bodies ?

Since impaling was not carried out in Roumari - I do not have an easy answer to this question.

However I do believe that that human's deserve dignity in their death. History has seen this being denied to quite a few. Lets take for example Rajiv Gandhi - whose half naked and dismembered body was 'proudly and prominently' displayed by the 'civilised' and 'unbarbaric' Indian media? I remember TIME carrying only Rajiv's portrait in their cover at the same time and stating in their editorial, that while they had lots of 'available photograph's' of his battered body - it was only in respect to the fact that he was 'denied the dignity of his death' that they have not printed the same.

Similarly one remembers Ayatollah Khomeinis naked body slipping from his coffin and falling unceremoniosly to his grave during his funeral, thanks to his over zealous followers- almost all Western media carried this with no absolutely no regrets.

Instead of trying to figure out wether we do, or do not find 'display of dead bodies barbaric', and debating whether we should or should not condemn it, how about finding out from the AFP how ,much they paid the photographer for this controversial photograph (scoop)?

Last if not the least canm somebody find out from INDIA TODAY how many extra copies of their magazine sold when they carried the photograph of Roumari in their cover?

Barbarity is a product - and has a price. Period.