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Post-Eid politics to hit point of no return

Shahid Islam
 
Everything is mortal, excepting the Almighty creator. And, there is specified shelf time for every creation and entity; like the displayed commodities of a super store.
By Bangladesh standard, it was a long spell of political hibernation; so to speak, as the country’s main opposition parties resisted the temptation to launching any movement to dislodge the government that faced no opposition in the parliament and the street. The post-Eid politics will bring an end to that lull and politics will hit the point of no return.
Full Story
Shahid Islam
 
Everything is mortal, excepting the Almighty creator. And, there is specified shelf time for every creation and entity; like the displayed commodities of a super store.
By Bangladesh standard, it was a long spell of political hibernation; so to speak, as the country’s main opposition parties resisted the temptation to launching any movement to dislodge the government that faced no opposition in the parliament and the street. The post-Eid politics will bring an end to that lull and politics will hit the point of no return.
Khulna city poll
Contrary to the popular perception of the oppositions’ inability to wage an anti-regime war, the BNP thought it wiser to stay quiet so that once in power, it too could invoke this example of peaceable postures to keep the opposition of the day at the bay and, hit it hard if there seemed lack of discretion or compliance of the same magnitude. That’s good politics, rarely seen in this country.
That peaceful posture is paying off. The just concluded Khulna city poll has reportedly been robbed by the ruling party with the help of police and party thugs. That surprised no one, given the public perception about the incumbent regime’s existential mindset. Yet, the BNP tried to stick to the race until the last moment and considered it as a test case to gauging its prevailing popularity.
The rigging and the robbing notwithstanding, the BNP managed to bag over 36 per cent of the popular votes; something it always claims to have among the voters. The party is also stronger, more stable and structured after the arrest and conviction of its leader Khaleda Zia.
Besides, with swelling anti-establishment public sentiment—for reasons among which price hikes of the essentials top the list due to the ‘satellite-launching’ speed and trajectory the price hikes have assumed lately—the BNP’s popular votes could hit the 40 percent margin if there’s a fair election by the end of the year. Add to it another 5 per cent sympathetic votes to get Khaleda Zia out of a premeditated shackle on charges that are untenable on probative matrices.
 
With or without Khaleda
Sources say, the BNP’s main focus for now is to get its leader Khaleda Zia out of the prison; an undertaking that seems more onerous by the day as the court order relating to her bail has already been supplanted by new warrants of arrest.
The bargain with the government will hence centre on the formation of a transitory national government to aid the election commission in consummating an election deemed as fair and inclusive; perceptually and literally. That requires dissolution of the existing parliament and the cabinet so that ruling party candidates cannot use parliamentary and constitutional privileges during the campaign which opposition candidates are not entitled to.
That is precisely why the BNP believes the induction of the military in the process is a sine qua non to satisfactorily fulfill this historic mission of re-installing the derailed democratic wagon into its deserved slot. The people too consider the military as an apolitical institution focused on preserving supreme national interests and ensuring mitigation of threats to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation.
 
Option for the government
Whatever one may see or believe, the legal and moral ground for the government to pitch up a hard bargain to deprive the BNP and its allies of the choice to creating a level playing field for the upcoming election is at the best wobbly.
After all, one election (2014) has been considered by national and international observers as a total washout and wastage of national resources due to the en-mass boycott by the country’s main opposition parties. Another attempt to copy- cat the same formula will put constitutional politics and the aspiration of democratic governance into a life threatening coma, for sure.
 
Cost of arrogance
Yet, there’s an school of thought that believes the government will do everything possible to keep the BNP out of the electoral race; mindful that the election on a level playing field will bring disaster to the ruling party. We’re not sure if that’s what the ultimate plan of the government is, and if so, the ball will go to some third party who will not tolerate the ‘circus of destruction’ to prolong.
That ‘unconstitutional’ specter is bound to replay because global powers, including the regional power India, will not want Bangladesh to plunge into the parapet of extreme radicalism to destabilize regional and global politics, and economy.
 
Rohingya crisis
And, unlike in the past, the global powers this time has a major agenda along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border; where minority Muslim Rohingyas from Myanmar has been rushing toward Bangladesh in droves to avoid genocide and slaughtering in their homeland. The Rohingya crisis has turned into an ideal case for international humanitarian military intervention and, may prompt the UN Security Council to dispatch forces if politics in Bangladesh enters into a dreaded phase of destabilization.
At the least, the US and its NATO allies are poised for such a move in order to fulfill their dual purpose of circumventing  the rising China on one hand, and, displaying the rare humanitarian gesture of benevolent military intervention after blotting their images in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and many other Muslim countries.
 
Dormant dagger
An added dimension to that dreadful scenario will be the resurfacing of the militant Islamists who had been driven underground by the country’s security forces. This time around, hitting hard the Islamists—who remain concealed in cloak and dagger—will be difficult due to their merging with the general population to join the upcoming ‘democracy-restoration movement’ along with other opposition parties. And mind you, that movement will be short, perhaps from July to November; when a hard bargain, coupled with graduated street agitations, will catapult the political balloon to its climax.
If the government caves into the popular demand of facilitating a credible, inclusive election, the balloon will fly to the oblivion. If it bargains hard and sticks to the authoritarian playbook of the present, a ‘surprised projectile’ will shoot the balloon down and set the nation into a long spell of uncertainty.
Let’s be warned, no amount of ‘developmental glorification’ will work under such a horrid circumstance; which we all want and pray not to happen. Happy Ramadan.

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Government’s hesitation on banning Jamaat-e-Islami politics
Shakhawat Hossain
 
In a mysterious stance, the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL)-led ruling alliance continues to forget its repeated promise to impose an “immediate” ban on Jamaat-e-Islami although the top brass of ruling BAL on different occasions had publicly threatened to do so. 
Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), which has been on the receiving end of the war crimes tribunal. The tribunal has sentenced some of the party’s top leaders for crimes committed during the nation’s liberation war in 1971. The war crimes tribunal verdicts have also described Jamaat as a ‘criminal party’, prompting demands for putting the party on trial for war crimes and its banning.
Full Story
Shakhawat Hossain
 
In a mysterious stance, the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL)-led ruling alliance continues to forget its repeated promise to impose an “immediate” ban on Jamaat-e-Islami although the top brass of ruling BAL on different occasions had publicly threatened to do so. 
Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), which has been on the receiving end of the war crimes tribunal. The tribunal has sentenced some of the party’s top leaders for crimes committed during the nation’s liberation war in 1971. The war crimes tribunal verdicts have also described Jamaat as a ‘criminal party’, prompting demands for putting the party on trial for war crimes and its banning.
Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, yet the most controversial political party of the country, is now in the throes of an existential crisis. It has been disqualified from contesting in elections by the country’s Supreme Court in August 2013, and its registration has been declared illegal, some of its top leaders have been sentenced to death and the rest of its leaders have gone into hiding to avoid arrest. All of these seem to have inflicted sever blow to this political party like before. 
Under such a circumstance, it is not a big problem for the government to ban the Jamaat as the Election Commission (EC) has already cancelled its registration following a High Court order. What is important is to see whether the government is sincere to act accordingly.
So far, the government seems not be honestly and practically sincere to put any ban on the Jamaat right now due to shadowy reasons unknown to the countrymen as it could ban the Jamaat politics any time through an executive order or by enacting a law after the High Court (HC) had declared the Jamaat’s registration illegal. But, it seems that the ruling BAL is keeping Jamaat alive as a part of its political game.
More interestingly, a fresh amendment to the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act 1973 has reportedly been finalised by the law ministry but it is yet to be tabled in the cabinet meeting for getting its final nod even after four years elapsed. 
However, Law Minister Anisul Huq on January 01, 2015 informed the parliament that the draft of International Crimes Tribunal Act Amendment has been submitted to the Cabinet Division in a bid to ban the Jamaat and its associate bodies. “The bill will be placed in the parliament upon the approval of the cabinet whenever the government decides,” Anisul added.
Later on, Minister for Liberation War Affairs AKM Mozammel Haque had said that a bill imposing a ban on the politics of Jamaat-e-Islami would be placed in the coming budget session of the Jatiya Sangsad (Parliament) that began on June 1, 2016. 
But, the trial process of Jamaat is yet to be started till date as the draft of International Crimes Tribunal Act could not be amendment, it is learnt.
 
Jamaat top brass hanged
Six opposition leaders have now been executed for war crimes since the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, set up a war crimes tribunal in 2010. Five were top leaders of the Jamaat party. The International Crimes Tribunal have so far sentenced around 25 people to death and more than 18 to jail for varying terms on charge of genocide and crimes against humanity. In 2013, the convictions of Jamaat officials for war crimes triggered the country’s deadliest violence in decades. About 500 people were killed, mainly in clashes between Islamists and police, and thousands were arrested.
Motiur Rahman Nizami, the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was hanged at a prison in the capital, Dhaka, in May, 2016 Just days after the nation’s highest court dismissed his final appeal to overturn the death sentence for atrocities committed during the country’s 1971 war of independence with Pakistan.
Lastly, Mir Quasem Ali, a leader and financial backer of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, was sentenced to death in 2014 for offences including murder and torture during the war with Pakistan. The tycoon, 63, was hanged in September 2016 at a high-security prison outside Dhaka. He declined to seek a presidential pardon, which would have required an admission of guilt. At his trial, Mir Quasem Ali was accused of involvement in a “reign of terror” in the city of Chittagong. He was found guilty of eight of the 14 charges he faced.
These execution raised fears of a fresh wave of violence in the majority Sunni Muslim country, which is reeling after a string of killings of secular and liberal activists and religious minorities by suspected Islamist militants. In 2013, the convictions of Jamaat officials for war crimes triggered the country’s deadliest violence in decades. About 500 people were killed, mainly in clashes between Islamists and police, and thousands were arrested.
 
War Crimes Investigators seek Jamaat ban
War crimes investigators have also recommended banning the Jamaat-e-Islami and six organisations that were associated with it back in 1971, as they have found the involvement of these anti-liberation bodies in grievous crimes committed during the Liberation War.
Officials of the war crimes probe agency also recommended confiscating the assets of these organisations.
The six organisations were Islami Chhatra Sangha (ICS), Jamaat’s then student wing, Shanti Committee, Razakar Bahini, Al-Badr Bahini, Al-Shams Bahini and the Jamaat’s mouthpiece daily Sangram. 
Of the six, Shanti (Peace) Committee, Razakar, Al-Badr and Al-Shams are inoperative now. The ICS was renamed as Islami Chhatra Shibir in 1977, while Sangram continues to be a Jamaat mouthpiece, documents say.
 
Law to ban Jamaat-e-Islami
Bangladesh’s Parliament on February 18, 2013 also amended a law to allow the prosecution of the country’s largest Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami for war crimes, in a move that could pave the way to it being banned.
News of the move was greeted by loud cheers from thousands of protesters in central Dhaka who have been demanding a ban on Jamaat, whose leaders are on trial for war crimes allegedly committed in the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
The then Law minister Shafique Ahmed told AFP that under the new law “any organisation including Jamaat can be prosecuted” by a special court for war crimes and if found guilty “it can be banned” from politics. Previously only individuals could be prosecuted for war crimes.
“It’s one step towards banning Jamaat,” the then deputy law minister Qamrul Islam told AFP.
The move comes after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had earlier indicated that she would back a ban on Jamaat, whose members are suspected in the murder of an anti-Islamist blogger, as it had “no right to be in politics in free Bangladesh”.
 
‘Law ministry has nothing to do with Jamaat ban’
“Noting that the case for banning Jamaat is now pending with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, Law,” Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anisul Huq on June 2, 2015 told parliament that his ministry has nothing do with it.
Replying to a supplementary question from Tarikat Federation chairman Syed Nazibul Bashar Maizvandary MP, the minister suggested him to move the Appellate Division for the quick hearing in the case filed by Tarikat Federation.
Tariqat Federation secretary general Rezaul Haque Chandpuri and 24 others filed the writ petition on January 25, 2009 seeking that Jamaat be disqualified as a political party because its charter, which acknowledges the absolute power of Allah, violates the constitution.
 
Is Jamaat still a card in the game of politics?
Although the government could ban the Jamaat politics any time through an executive order or by enacting a law, the ruling BAL has long been using Jamaat as a card in its game of politics.
According to political analysts, the government is not at all sincere in its efforts to ban politics of the Jamaat-e-Islami as it seems that the Awami League-led coalition uses the Jamaat-e-Islami as a ploy instead of banning it to keep the major opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP) under pressure just for having its strategic political as well as electoral ties with the Jamaat. 
Jamaat is a part of the BNP-led 20-party Alliance, the government is always locked in a blame game. Every now and then they hold the BNP and the Jamaat responsible. 
Referring to the High Court ruling on Jamaat, a BNP leader said the party was barred from fielding candidates. “I ask the government, why are you hesitating now?” he asked. 
Some political analysts feel that the ban on Jamaat will consolidate the hardliners’ vote behind the BNP, thereby helping the Opposition grab power in Dhaka. But the point is not who stands to gain in the poll. The larger issue is Bangladesh’s continuous battle to preserve its democratic and secular spirit, the founding principle upon which the country broke away from Pakistan in 1971. Through its political practices Jamaat has tried to radicalize a largely secular country with moral and material help from patrons in Pakistan and other Islamic countries. The party is at odds with the country’s history. Still, the question remains: Can a democracy stamp out an ideology by banning it, rather than engaging it politically and testing its strength in the electoral arena?
 
(Shakhawat Hossain is Dhaka-based freelance Journalist and political commentator)

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A million is ten times more than a lac/lakh

F R Chowdhury

Most Bangladeshis still remember late Sirajur Rahman of BBC. In those dark days of Bangladesh when it was still under illegal occupation of Pakistan Army, people in Bangladesh used to eagerly wait for BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) news to know about the progress of the liberation war. The voice of Sirajur Rahman broadcast over BBC became known to everyone in Bangladesh. In 1991 when I was offered a job by Her Majesty’s Government and relocated myself in the United Kingdom, my house happened to be pretty close to Mr Rahman’s. We became quite close friends. Later (after my retirement) we also participated together in some TV programs as well.

Full Story

F R Chowdhury

Most Bangladeshis still remember late Sirajur Rahman of BBC. In those dark days of Bangladesh when it was still under illegal occupation of Pakistan Army, people in Bangladesh used to eagerly wait for BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) news to know about the progress of the liberation war. The voice of Sirajur Rahman broadcast over BBC became known to everyone in Bangladesh. In 1991 when I was offered a job by Her Majesty’s Government and relocated myself in the United Kingdom, my house happened to be pretty close to Mr Rahman’s. We became quite close friends. Later (after my retirement) we also participated together in some TV programs as well.

Mr Rahman would very often narrate many historical incidents to which he was a witness. It was because of my friendship with him that I came to know about many historical events. One day he was telling us about the day Sheikh Mujibur Rahman arrived London after being released from captivity in Pakistan. He said that he was called by the head of the South Asia division of BBC and told to cover Sheikh Mujib’s transit/ visit. There was not enough time for him to attend airport instead he went to Claridge Hotel where Sheikh Mujib was going to stay.
According to Mr Sirajur Rahman about a few hundreds of Bangladeshis gathered in front of the hotel. Suddenly Sheikh Mujib came out in the balcony and wanted to know if Siraj was there. Sirajur Rahamn was a short man and he had to shout in response with raised hands to declare his presence. He was called by Sheikh Mujib. Mr Siraj pushed through the crowd and managed to reach the President. The President took him to his room and wanted to know what all happened since he had left East Pakistan in March, 1971.
Mr Sirajur Rahman narrated in brief the atrocities of Pakistan army, the liberation war and the role played by India. He also told Sheikh Mujib that Bangladesh is now a full independent country of which he (Sheikh Mujib) was the President. The President then wanted to know the number of people who lost their lives during the liberation war. Mr Sirajur Rahman said that lot of people were killed. He could not give a figure but it would be about three lacs. President was very sad to know about the loss of lives.
A few minutes later when Mr Sirajur Rahman was back in the waiting crowd he suddenly heard the President telling some foreign journalists that the Pakistan army killed three million Bangladeshis. He (Serajur Rahman) kept wondering how, within minutes, the figure changed from three lacs to three millions.
Forty seven years passed and still today no efforts were made officially to make an assessment of the number of people who lost their lives during the liberation war. However, the figure uttered by the father of the nation remains the official figure. Anyone who disagrees with this figure may be considered an enemy of Bangladesh and prosecuted accordingly.

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A royal wedding and mellowed British monarchy

Abdul Hannan
 
What was remarkable and of profound significance behind the pomp and pageantry of attending royal family, celebrities and literate at the Royal wedding of Meghan Markle with prince Harry was the acceptance of the bride into the Royal family with due deference and dignity without condescension or  murmuring demur. The bride, Meghan Markle is a mixed race American divorcee Hollywood actress, 3 years older than Harry in age. It was indeed an incredible amazing sight to watch the presence of the Queen 92 and her husband prince Philip 96 who had undergone a hip surgery only a month ago to bless the wedding couple.
Full Story
Abdul Hannan
 
What was remarkable and of profound significance behind the pomp and pageantry of attending royal family, celebrities and literate at the Royal wedding of Meghan Markle with prince Harry was the acceptance of the bride into the Royal family with due deference and dignity without condescension or  murmuring demur. The bride, Meghan Markle is a mixed race American divorcee Hollywood actress, 3 years older than Harry in age. It was indeed an incredible amazing sight to watch the presence of the Queen 92 and her husband prince Philip 96 who had undergone a hip surgery only a month ago to bless the wedding couple.
The Queen and prince Philip sat quietly at close distance from the African American mother of Meghan throughout the wedding service in the Windsor castle chapel. Also, what was of no less importance than watching  Prince Charles, the heir apparent to the throne and her future father in law take the arm of Meghal to walk her down the isle to the alter. It was royal etiquette at its best.
It was monarchy evolving as an institution in keeping with changing times transcending iron crust royal prejudices of rules, race, class and colour. It felt less like history and more like myth. British monarchy now has  made a giant leap forward from past church inhibitions  prohibiting royal marriage with a divorcee, which forced king Edward v111 to abdicate the throne in 1937 in favour of his lady love, Simpson, a twice divorcee American socialite. Meghan’s royal wedding embodies and legitimises the culture of tolerance in a multicultural society Britain has become, anti immigrant Brexit, notwithstanding.  
The organisation and planning of the wedding ceremony and service make it abundantly clear that Meghan wanted to make a point of her racial identity to put her heritage first and at centre stage in full view of built in attending white celebrities and royal audience. A woman of strong personality and an advocate of women’s empowerment, she once eminently said, ‘woman must have a seat at the table and if not available, she must create one’. Dressed in majestic wedding attire, she conducted herself in the wedding service with extraordinary courage, grace and regal dignity without betraying the slightest nervousness. 
The long impassioned sermon by charismatic African American Bishop on virtues of  love and  inclusion, vice of ‘dysfunctional’ relations was perhaps a powerful implicit  indictment of royal fickle marriages and marital scandals of alleged infidelity in recent times particularly that of Prince Charles with princess Diana leading to divorce and his marriage later with Camilla Parker, divorce of Prince Andrews with Sarah Ferguson,  princess Anne’s divorce and abortive love affair of  Margaret, Queen’s sister  with Peter Townsend. The sermon visibly unnerved the Royal family who looked at the Bishop with gaping wonder and listened to his sermon with raised eye brows. The British people are usually reticent in expressions. Bishop’s frank and forthright message in the sermon was a breath of fresh air into the stiff royalty that must have felt a trifle stifling.
There was an impressive presence of African American celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Clooney, the tennis champion with her husband. The prayer by priest of black church of England and the solo music by Sheku Mason, the first black musician to win BBC young musician award in its 30 years history and the gorgeous rendition of Ben key’ s  ‘Stand by me’ performed by Christian choir of Black Britons were all stamps of assertive black presence in the congregation. There have never been so many minorities of clergy men and musicians before at the Windsor chapel. In a place predominently so white and in an institution exclusively so white it was a gesture of profound significance. It was  hugely symbolic on a global stage with potential to change world view of  the Royal and perhaps even Britain’s view of itself.
The royal wedding of Harry and Meghan is a fusion of pageantry and pluralism, monarchy and modernity.  The royal couple is a potential agent of change for the Royal family.
 
Abdul Hannan is a former diplomat.hannanabd@gmail.com

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PM visits Kolkata with no agenda over Teesta water sharing

Special Correspondent
 
Bangladesh Foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali on Wednesday indicated that there is no progress over Teesta water-sharing deal saying ‘You’ll come to know about it in due time.
The foreign minister was briefing reporters at the Foreign Ministry on the PM’s Kolkata visit.
He, however, said there will be a meeting between prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during the visit.
Full Story
Special Correspondent
 
Bangladesh Foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali on Wednesday indicated that there is no progress over Teesta water-sharing deal saying ‘You’ll come to know about it in due time.
The foreign minister was briefing reporters at the Foreign Ministry on the PM’s Kolkata visit.
He, however, said there will be a meeting between prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during the visit.
According to visit plan, Prime minister Sheikh Hasina leaves Dhaka for Kolkata on Friday to attend Visva Bharati Convocation Ceremony as the Guest of Honour and receive Degree of Doctor of Literature at Kazi Nazrul University, Asansol.
She will also inaugurate Bangladesh Bhaban jointly with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi at Visva Bharati and hold a meeting with him there.
A VVIP flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines carrying Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her entourage will take off from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at8:30am(local time)on Friday for Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata.
From there, Sheikh Hasina will depart for Visva Bharati, Santiniketan by a helicopter.
Vice-chancellor of Visva Bharati Sabuj Koli Sen will receive the prime minister at Santiniketan.
Narendra Modi will receive Sheikh Hasina at Rabindra Bhaban. She will then place flowers at Rabindra chair.
She will depart for convocation venue at Amrakanan and attend Visva Bharati Convocation Ceremony.
Hasina will take part in the convocation procession and oath ceremony.
Both the prime ministers of Bangladesh and India will deliver their speeches at the function.
After the convocation ceremony, the Bangladesh prime minister and her Indian counterpart will jointly unveil the plaque of Bangladesh Bhaban.
After the inaugural function, Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi will sit in the meeting over lunch. After the meeting, she will depart Santiniketan for Kolkata by a helicopter.
On her return to Kolkata, prime minister Sheikh Hasina will visit Jorasanko Thakur Bari. Later, local chamber leaders will meet her.
On May 26, the prime minister will go to Kazi Nazrul University, Asansol to receive the Degree of Doctor of Literature.
Chief minister of West Bengal Mamata Banarjee will deliver her speech as the guest-in-chief at the convocation.
After the programme, the prime minister will return to Kolkata. She will then visit Netaji Museum (Netaji Bhawan) and place wreaths on the bed of Netaji and sign the visitor’s book.

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Assam plans ‘Gana Satyagraha’ against Indian Citizenship bill

Special Correspondent

The All Assam Students Union (AASU) and 28 organizations representing different ethnic communities of the North Indian state has announced a mass hunger strike in Guawahati on May 29 demanding withdrawal of the Indian Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, constitutional safeguard for the indigenous people of Assam, implementation of the Assam Accord and sealing of the Indo-Bangladesh border. 
As part of the AASU’s multi-pronged strategy to protest the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and demand an error-free NRC for Assam, a vigorous mass movement would be started throughout the State with support from the 28 ethnic bodies from June, which has been named as ‘Gana Satyagraha’.
Full Story

Special Correspondent

The All Assam Students Union (AASU) and 28 organizations representing different ethnic communities of the North Indian state has announced a mass hunger strike in Guawahati on May 29 demanding withdrawal of the Indian Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016, constitutional safeguard for the indigenous people of Assam, implementation of the Assam Accord and sealing of the Indo-Bangladesh border. 
As part of the AASU’s multi-pronged strategy to protest the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 and demand an error-free NRC for Assam, a vigorous mass movement would be started throughout the State with support from the 28 ethnic bodies from June, which has been named as ‘Gana Satyagraha’.
In the first part of June, a huge public rally will also be organized in Guwahati.
“Sarbananda Sonowal-led government must understand that their conspicuous silence on the matter is being closely observed by the people of Assam. The Chief Minister need not follow the commands of New Delhi at the cost of the very identity of the indigenous communities of Assam,” AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya said addressing the media here today.
The ethnic bodies have appealed all the like-minded public organizations, individuals, women’s groups, etc., to join the mass movement that would continue throughout the State. All the 29 organizations would sit for a meeting on June 2 to decide further course of action to take this movement to every corner of the State.
Aditya Khaklari, general secretary of the All Assam Tribal Sangha, said the State government’s silence over the move to grant citizenship to illegal foreigners was unfortunate. “Most of our ministers and MLAs in the State Assembly are the people who actively participated in the Assam Movement that was launched against the illegal foreigners. However, at this crucial hour, when an unconstitutional and pro-illegal migrant legislation is being proposed, no strong voice of protest comes out from the power corridors,” he added.
All Bodo Students Union leader Promod Bodo asserted that the amendment being sought by the Union government is tilted towards the illegal foreigners and existing Indian citizens as the small ethnic groups of the Northeast are bound to suffer because of it.
Terming it as a political conspiracy, AASU general secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi said that being a communal Bill, it was totally against the spirit of the Indian Constitution.
The AASU also urged the officials and employees associated with the NRC update work to stay alert against the possible use of fake documents by illegal migrants to get their names enrolled in the NRC.
 
Protest continues
Meanwhile, Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) on Tuesday organised a protest rally in Dibrugarh to reiterate its opposition to the proposed amendment in the Citizenship Act.
The members of the district unit of the AJYCP supported by members from the Krishak Mukti Sangram Sammittee, Asom Gana Parishad, Gorkha and Koiborta communities took out the protest march from Old Government Boys’ School playground to Phool Bagan, Mariwaripatty, HS Road, Thana Chariali and back to the school ground. 
The protesters numbering around 300 carried placards, banners and raised slogans. They said that the amendments, seeking to grant citizenship to Bangladeshis will not be accepted.
Former Tingkhong MLA and AGP leader Anup Phukan who addressed the rally said that State Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who is referred to as ‘Jatiya Nayak’ must make his stand clear on the controversial Bill. “It is time for him to realize that he owes an answer to the people who have crowned him with the title of ‘Jatiya Nayak.’ If he disrespects the popular sentiments of the State, he is most likely to pay for it in the coming years,” said Phukan. 
The Tinsukia District Journalists’ Association (TDJA) has also strongly opposed the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. Opposing the proposed bill , the scribes’ body sent two separate memorandums to the Prime Minister of India and the Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee through the Deputy Commissioner of Tinsukia recently. 
In the memorandums signed by Anuj Kalita and Manoranjan Das, the president and the secretary of TDJA respectively, the scribes’ body said that the proposed bill would be highly unfavourable to the interest of the native people of Assam and to the federal structure of the State. 
“At present, based on the Assam Accord , at the intervention of the Supreme Court of India and on the instruction of Central Government, the Government of Assam is engaged in intensive updating of National Register for Citizens (NRC) to include people permanently residing in the State till March 24, 1971 and to treat them alone as genuine citizens of the country. The present attempt of the Central Government to extend citizenship beyond the cut-off date of March 24, 1971 is not acceptable because Assam is already overburdened with a huge influx of foreign nationals from Bangladesh causing serious economic, social stress and identity crisis for the indigenous communities. Under these circumstances, the proposed amendment poses existential threat to the existing indigenous communities.”
“In view of the above, we request you to withdraw the proposed amendment bill at the earliest and not to grant citizenship to any national of foreign origin after March 24, 1971,” urged the scribes’ body.
Meanwhile, a huge protest rally was brought out on Tuesday at Kakopothar to register protest against the proposed Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016. 
The initiative for this rally was taken by Kakopothar Press Club and all the organizations of Kakopothar area cooperated in it. The leaders of the organizations vehemently protested the proposed bill. 
Later, the protesters sent a memorandum to the chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee through the Circle Officer of Doomdooma Revenue Circle.
 
CPI-M) seriously concerned
Meanwhile, the politburo of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has expressed serious concern over the developments in Assam and the North East on the issue of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
In a press statement on Tuesday, the CPI-M politburo said that the fragile unity of people belonging to immense diversity in the region has come under a severe strain due to the Central Government’s efforts to amend the Citizenship Act on the basis of religious affinity of the people. This has come at a time when the linguistic minorities are under severe pressure due to incomplete and deliberate discrimination in the process of the updating of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the category of doubtful voters, it added.
At this juncture, the unity of the people belonging to different religions, languages and ethnicity must be the foremost objective. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS’s) playing with emotive issues for electoral gains is worsening the situation, observed the CPI-M politburo.
It reiterates that the Assam Accord must be strictly adhered to and its gains must be consolidated. The proposed Citizenship Act (Amendment) Bill must be withdrawn. The CPI (M) will oppose in the Parliament any proposal to amend the Citizenship Act that is based on the religious affiliation of the people to determine their citizenship. This proposal is completely unconstitutional, said the CPIM politburo. 
It also welcomed the political developments in Karnataka “where the BJP-RSS design to cobble a majority through horse-trading was thwarted.” The BJP has made it a practice to form governments even after losing elections like they did in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, and entering the Bihar government, betraying the people’s mandate. The parties assuming office now in Karnataka together command the support of 56.6 per cent of the people who voted in these elections as against the 36.2 per cent polled by the BJP, said the CPI-M politburo.
The CPI-M politburo has also expressed serious concern over the continuous attacks on the livelihood of the vast majority of the people by the policies pursued by the BJP government. Prices of petrol and diesel have skyrocketed, reaching the highest ever levels. Rural distress continues to aggravate. The rural economy has never seen such disastrous conditions in independent India as under this Government’s rule in the past four years, it said.

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Comments: Making Assam to burn over citizenship issue By Nava Thakuria Assam, if not the Barak valley, is definitely burning. At least, if someone follows the media reporting and related contents, it’s convincing that the Brahmaputra valley of the northeastern State has been witnessing an uproarious situation for few weeks now. Other Sates, precisely Meghalaya, maintains their stand in favour of Assam. Few observers may compare the situation to the days of Assam agitation, which culminated in 1985 with an accord signed by the agitators and the Union government in New Delhi. Millions of participants in the six years long agitation wanted to deport all illegal migrants (read Bangladeshi nationals) from Assam (means India), but the leaders agreed in the accord to accept all the migrants till 25 March 1971 in the State. The agitation witnessed the sacrifices of over 850 martyrs and thousands others in different shape and sizes, who all wanted to deport the illegal migrants with the national cutoff year (1951). But the accord only agreed to identify only those people, who entered Assam after 24 March 1971, as illegal foreigners. Need to be mentioned that the accord was never placed in the Parliament for endorsement. After more than three decades of signing of the accord, the people of Assam (more precisely the civil society group representatives and media stalwarts in Brahmaputra valley) are fantasizing of another uprising. This time it is against the Centre’s initiative to grant citizenship to those religious asylum seekers from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hundreds of Assam based organizations, including few from other parts of the region, are on the streets asking the central government to withdraw the citizenship amendment bill 2016. They came out with clear demand that the Narendra Modi led government’s move to grant citizenship to those asylum seekers (including Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christians from the three neighboring countries and must had taken shelter in India prior to 31 December 2014) must be abandoned. Their logics include that Indian citizenship cannot be conferred on the basis of religion as it is a secular country and if done it would go against the spirit of the constitution. The other one, which has been supported by 95% protesting organizations, argues that Assam has already taken the burden of numerous illegal migrants (from 1951 to 1971) and it must not get more migrants, as they would destroy the State’s demography and Assamese as a language. The protest escalated when the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) over the amendment arrived in Guwahati in the first week of May for hearings. A number of indigenous organizations, local politicians, intellectuals, media personalities etc of the State assembled on the venue and raised their voices against the bill. However, subsequent hearings in Silchar of Barak valley witnessed a different picture as most of their organizations supported the bill. Otherwise almost all organizations in Brahmaputra valley and showing a rare unity the editors of prominent newspapers and news channels based in Guwahati came out with strong statement opposing the Centre’s move. They not only issued media statements elaborating their point of views, but also met the State chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, responding whom the Bharatiya Janata Party’s leader assured that he would not do anything wrong to Assam. But contrary to all hue and cries, a forum of nationalists came out with a media statement, which was subsequently published in various newspapers and alternate media space, emphasizing on rational debates over the pertinent issue rather than creating sentiments with manipulated facts among the common people. Patriotic People’s Front Assam (PPFA) claimed in the statement that ‘a section of Assamese intellectuals and civil society groups tried their best to project the citizenship amendment bill in a bias perception, as if, the whole initiative is Assam centric’. Those biased individuals also stated that once it turns into a law, millions of Bengali Hindu people from Bangladesh would be dumped into Assam and the practice will continue for decades to come, it added. The PPFA statement also claimed that the motivated elements ‘cleverly avoided the fact that those asylum seekers are not merely Bengali Hindus, but also a mix of Rajbongsi, Hajong, Jayantiya, Bishnupriya, Chakma, Garo, Khasi, Boro, Adivasi etc people’. Moreover, all these people became the victims of Pakistan’s partition game plan and had to live in a foreign land, for the creation of which they were not at all responsible, the statement asserted. Extending supports to the amendment, the PPFA however insisted that the asylum seekers from the neighbouring countries must be distributed judiciously across the vast country. Moreover, those who prefer to stay legally in Assam, they should adopt the Assamese language as their medium of instruction, as it would ‘help in promoting the Assamese culture and contributing for a stronger and safer India’. The PPFA also reiterated its old stand to detect all illegal immigrants from the then East Pakistan (and later Bangladesh) with the cut-off year of 1951 as it is applicable to the entire nation. It argued that the spirit of Assam movement (1979 to 1985) was to deport all foreigners since 1951, for which the martyrs-Khargeswar Talukder being the first, sacrificed their lives. The forum also claimed that the migrants who entered India between 1951 and 16 December 1971 should be treated as East Pakistani nationals, as Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign nation only after 16 December (certainly not on 25 March 1971 as often reported in the media) following the surrender of Pakistani forces under the leadership of AAK Niazi to the Muktijoddhas (forces of Bangladesh freedom struggle). It clarified that Bangla father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman only declared the independence of Bangladesh on 25 March of 1971. But till 16 December of the year, the land was very much under the control of Pakistani authority and hence it cannot be termed as Bangladesh (so the residents as Bangladeshi nationals), the statement pointed out. Finally the PPFA statement argued that if the deportation of illegitimate immigrants (read Bangladeshi) becomes impossible or too difficult to deal with, because of serious humanitarian and international crisis, the Union government should think of offering work permits (without voting rights) to them with an aim to resolve the issue amicably. For reasons best known to the State’s media outlets, the PPFA statement was neither discussed nor followed up. However, few other organizations including Hindu Jagaran Mancha, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad etc came out with official statements supporting the citizenship amendment bill. They claimed that the initiative would not affect the Assamese community as a whole, but it would help the nation to a great extent.
Commented by : Nava Thakuria

Comments: Making Assam to burn over citizenship issue By Nava Thakuria Assam, if not the Barak valley, is definitely burning. At least, if someone follows the media reporting and related contents, it’s convincing that the Brahmaputra valley of the northeastern State has been witnessing an uproarious situation for few weeks now. Other Sates, precisely Meghalaya, maintains their stand in favour of Assam. Few observers may compare the situation to the days of Assam agitation, which culminated in 1985 with an accord signed by the agitators and the Union government in New Delhi. Millions of participants in the six years long agitation wanted to deport all illegal migrants (read Bangladeshi nationals) from Assam (means India), but the leaders agreed in the accord to accept all the migrants till 25 March 1971 in the State. The agitation witnessed the sacrifices of over 850 martyrs and thousands others in different shape and sizes, who all wanted to deport the illegal migrants with the national cutoff year (1951). But the accord only agreed to identify only those people, who entered Assam after 24 March 1971, as illegal foreigners. Need to be mentioned that the accord was never placed in the Parliament for endorsement. After more than three decades of signing of the accord, the people of Assam (more precisely the civil society group representatives and media stalwarts in Brahmaputra valley) are fantasizing of another uprising. This time it is against the Centre’s initiative to grant citizenship to those religious asylum seekers from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hundreds of Assam based organizations, including few from other parts of the region, are on the streets asking the central government to withdraw the citizenship amendment bill 2016. They came out with clear demand that the Narendra Modi led government’s move to grant citizenship to those asylum seekers (including Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christians from the three neighboring countries and must had taken shelter in India prior to 31 December 2014) must be abandoned. Their logics include that Indian citizenship cannot be conferred on the basis of religion as it is a secular country and if done it would go against the spirit of the constitution. The other one, which has been supported by 95% protesting organizations, argues that Assam has already taken the burden of numerous illegal migrants (from 1951 to 1971) and it must not get more migrants, as they would destroy the State’s demography and Assamese as a language. The protest escalated when the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) over the amendment arrived in Guwahati in the first week of May for hearings. A number of indigenous organizations, local politicians, intellectuals, media personalities etc of the State assembled on the venue and raised their voices against the bill. However, subsequent hearings in Silchar of Barak valley witnessed a different picture as most of their organizations supported the bill. Otherwise almost all organizations in Brahmaputra valley and showing a rare unity the editors of prominent newspapers and news channels based in Guwahati came out with strong statement opposing the Centre’s move. They not only issued media statements elaborating their point of views, but also met the State chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, responding whom the Bharatiya Janata Party’s leader assured that he would not do anything wrong to Assam. But contrary to all hue and cries, a forum of nationalists came out with a media statement, which was subsequently published in various newspapers and alternate media space, emphasizing on rational debates over the pertinent issue rather than creating sentiments with manipulated facts among the common people. Patriotic People’s Front Assam (PPFA) claimed in the statement that ‘a section of Assamese intellectuals and civil society groups tried their best to project the citizenship amendment bill in a bias perception, as if, the whole initiative is Assam centric’. Those biased individuals also stated that once it turns into a law, millions of Bengali Hindu people from Bangladesh would be dumped into Assam and the practice will continue for decades to come, it added. The PPFA statement also claimed that the motivated elements ‘cleverly avoided the fact that those asylum seekers are not merely Bengali Hindus, but also a mix of Rajbongsi, Hajong, Jayantiya, Bishnupriya, Chakma, Garo, Khasi, Boro, Adivasi etc people’. Moreover, all these people became the victims of Pakistan’s partition game plan and had to live in a foreign land, for the creation of which they were not at all responsible, the statement asserted. Extending supports to the amendment, the PPFA however insisted that the asylum seekers from the neighbouring countries must be distributed judiciously across the vast country. Moreover, those who prefer to stay legally in Assam, they should adopt the Assamese language as their medium of instruction, as it would ‘help in promoting the Assamese culture and contributing for a stronger and safer India’. The PPFA also reiterated its old stand to detect all illegal immigrants from the then East Pakistan (and later Bangladesh) with the cut-off year of 1951 as it is applicable to the entire nation. It argued that the spirit of Assam movement (1979 to 1985) was to deport all foreigners since 1951, for which the martyrs-Khargeswar Talukder being the first, sacrificed their lives. The forum also claimed that the migrants who entered India between 1951 and 16 December 1971 should be treated as East Pakistani nationals, as Bangladesh emerged as a sovereign nation only after 16 December (certainly not on 25 March 1971 as often reported in the media) following the surrender of Pakistani forces under the leadership of AAK Niazi to the Muktijoddhas (forces of Bangladesh freedom struggle). It clarified that Bangla father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman only declared the independence of Bangladesh on 25 March of 1971. But till 16 December of the year, the land was very much under the control of Pakistani authority and hence it cannot be termed as Bangladesh (so the residents as Bangladeshi nationals), the statement pointed out. Finally the PPFA statement argued that if the deportation of illegitimate immigrants (read Bangladeshi) becomes impossible or too difficult to deal with, because of serious humanitarian and international crisis, the Union government should think of offering work permits (without voting rights) to them with an aim to resolve the issue amicably. For reasons best known to the State’s media outlets, the PPFA statement was neither discussed nor followed up. However, few other organizations including Hindu Jagaran Mancha, Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad etc came out with official statements supporting the citizenship amendment bill. They claimed that the initiative would not affect the Assamese community as a whole, but it would help the nation to a great extent.
Commented by : Nava Thakuria



India closes unauthorises camp office in Nepal
Special Correspondent
 
After repeated demands from Kathmandu, India has finally communicated to the government of Nepal its decision to shut its Biratnagar-based field office that was established in 2008 in the aftermath of the Koshi floods
A diplomatic spat brewed between Kathmandu and New Delhi after India’s reluctance to remove the camp. 
The then deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Nepal, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, wrote to the government of India to remove the office as soon as possible, stating that its objective had been fulfilled.
Full Story
Special Correspondent
 
After repeated demands from Kathmandu, India has finally communicated to the government of Nepal its decision to shut its Biratnagar-based field office that was established in 2008 in the aftermath of the Koshi floods
A diplomatic spat brewed between Kathmandu and New Delhi after India’s reluctance to remove the camp. 
The then deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Nepal, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, wrote to the government of India to remove the office as soon as possible, stating that its objective had been fulfilled.
India later tried to upgrade the outpost to a consulate office but the plan did not materialise due to Nepal’s denial. A small office was set up in the aftermath of the floods to assist vehicular movement across the Koshi river via India when a long stretch of the East-West highway in Nepal was damaged by floods. 
Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson for the External Affairs Ministry of India, late on Monday issued a statement saying: “The Biratnagar Camp Office of the Embassy of India in Nepal was opened in 2008 to deal with the situation arising out of devastating Koshi floods. The purpose for which this Camp Office was opened has been fulfilled.”
He further said that the government of India had already decided to “wind up the Camp Office and re-locate the personnel”. “This decision was conveyed by Indian Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi to his Nepali counterpart during his visit to Nepal last week. “ 
After the communication from the Indian side, PM Oli last week told a meeting of the Parliamentary Party of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) that India would close the Biratnagar field office. 
“Finally, unauthorised field office of India in Biratnagar has been closed, which we were struggling for,” Shrestha, who had taken the lead to close the camp, wrote on Twitter. “This is a historical victory of our Patriotic Stand. Big congratulations and thanks to PM Oli for this success.” 
Acting Nepali Ambassador in New Delhi Bharat Raj Regmi remarked that it was a positive gesture from India. “The step taken after the visit of two prime ministers is positive. We hope the decision will be implemented soon,” he said.Nepal had repeatedly raised the issue with the Indian side, asking it to remove the field office. 
The Indian side had remained silent after the foreign minister in office wrote to the Indian side again in 2013 asking it to remove the field office. Quoting some local businessmen, the Indian side later lobbied to maintain the office arguing that it had become beneficial for the traders of Biratnagar in various ways. Those standing against the office’s continuation accused India of engaging unnecessarily with the public, gathering information and influencing politics in the Madhesi constituencies.
Apart from the Biratnagar office, sources said, the Nepali side is also concerned about a growing number of Indian pension paying offices in Nepal. They claimed that there were just nine pension paying offices (PPOs) before 1990, whose number across Nepal has reached 27 now. Some interpret the network of PPOs as India’s attempt to expand its clout in Nepal. 
“In this age of digital paying system, expansion of PPOs in Nepal can’t be justified,” said officials, adding that no discussion had taken place with the Indian side on the matter. “To build trust, such as by removing the field office, India should shut down unnecessary PPOs in Nepal.”

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