Politics heats up as Khaleda confined, blockade called
In the beginning of the year, politics heated up as police confined opposition BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia to her Gulshan office on January 3 night. As the police did not allow Khaleda to leave her office to join a party rally, she called for an indefinite transport blockade on January 5. Several sand-laden trucks had been parked at the entrance of the office while additional forces, equipped with armoured trucks, water cannon, and members of Rapid Action Battalion had also been stationed there. Although barricade were removed on January 19, Khaleda continued to stay there till April 5 when she returned her home after three months after securing bail in two corruption cases. Khaleda’s youngest son Arafat Rahman died in Malaysia. Demanding a fresh general election under a non-party and neutral government, the blockade along with frequent general strikes virtually collapsed the country, hampering general public life including business and educations in its beginning. But it lost steam for lack of picketing by activists in March and April. At least 134 people were killed and scores injured in violence during the blockade. In the year BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was arrested twice and released. BNP leader Reaz Rahman was hit by four bullets in the left leg undefined miscreants.
Millitants regroup, IS claims attacks on religious leaders, establishments
Militant groups reorganised themselves and staged a comeback during the year, perpetrating atrocities. The government found it tough to rein in the sudden surge in militancy. Many of the incidents, including the killings of foreigners and secular bloggers, were claimed by Middle East-based Islamic State while the government continued to say there was no IS in the country. Attacks on religious establishments and leaders also dominated the scene. A bomb explosion in a mosque of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Rajshahi killed at least one person during Friday prayers when Muslims celebrated Eid-e-Miladunnabi on December 25. Several bombs exploded in two mosques in Chittagong naval base during Friday prayers leaving more than a dozen people injured on December 18. At least two people were killed as three improvised bombs detonated on Shia people when they were about to start Ashura procession at Hussaini Dalan in old Dhaka, the Siah headquarters in Bangladesh on October 24. About one month after gun attack on praying people in Shia mosque left muezzin killed in Bogra on November 26. Bomb and gun attack on a temple of International Society for Krishna Consciousness in Dinajpur left several injured on December 10. Former Power Development Board chairman and pir Khizir Khan was killed at his Khanka Sharif in Badda on October 4 and priest Luke Sarkar in Pabna was hacked at his house in Ishwardi of Pabna on the same day. Islamic Sufi shrine Lengta Fakirer Mazar custodian Rahamat Ullah, 50, and disciple Abdul Quader, were killed immediately after the Juma prayers on September 5 by slitting the throats inside the shrine in the port city Chittagong.
Spate of blogger killings
Killing of one after another blogger with secularist view has posed a threat to freedom of expression. The year’s killing spate began on February 26, when science writer Avijit Roy, also co-founder of Bengali-language blog Mukto-Mona, was hacked to death near crowded TSC area of Dhaka University. Killings of Niloy Chakrabarti, who used the pen name Niloy Neel, in Dhaka took place on August 7, Ananta Bijoy Das in Sylhet on May 12, Oyasiqur Rahman at Tejgaon in Dhaka on March 30, Jagriti Prakashani publisher Faisal Arefin Dipan in Dhaka on October 31. Unidentified miscreants also hacked Shuddhaswar publication publisher Ahmed Rashid Tutul, along with two other writers and bloggers — Rono Dipam Basu, and Tareq Rahim on October 31. Detective said nature of all attacks and killings were similar.
Leaders of Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party engaged in debates over whether the telephonic talk between India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah and BNP party chairperson Khaleda Zia took place or not.
Hasina’s condolence at the death of Khaleda’s son
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina went to BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia’s Gulshan office to console Khaleda on her youngest son Arafat Rahman Koko’s death, but could not meet confined Khaleda, who was ‘tranquillised’ by her doctor.
Mamata in Dhaka after 17 years
Paschimbanga chief minister Mamata Banerjee arrived Dhaka on February 19 night on a three-day visit. Mamata during her visit assured Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina that she [Mamata] was serious about Teesta water sharing deal and would play a positive role so that it could be signed soon. Mamata later accompanied Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s Dhaka visit in June.
7 killed during bank robbery
Armed robbers barged into a private bank, killing seven people, including its manager and a businessman, and looting money before shooting and bombing their way out at Kathgora in Ashulia industrial area on the outskirts of Dhaka On April 21.
Missing Salah Uddin found in India hospital
Two months after being picked up allegedly by law enforcement agencies in Dhaka, BNP joint secretary general Salah Uddin Ahmed was found alive in a government-owned mental hospital at Shillong in the Indian state of Meghalaya on May 13. Salah Uddin, who was BNP spokesperson, was ‘picked up’ from a house at Uttara on the night of 10 March. Meghalaya police arrested him on charge of entering the country without travel document.
Holy dip turns tragic
At least 10 Hindu devotees were killed in a stampede triggered by rumours of a bridge collapse when thousands crowded the bank of Old Brammaputra at Langalbandh in Sonargaon for a holy dip on March 27 morning.
Fragile attempts of dialogue to resolve the crisis
Eminent citizens, business leaders as well as others took initiatives of a national dialogue to resolve the crisis but the attempt was in vain. Nagarik Samaj, a new forum of prominent citizens, on February 9 made fervent appeals to immediately convene a national dialogue to resolve the crisis facing the nation. The appeals were conveyed to president Abdul Hamid, prime minister Sheikh Hasina and former prime minister and BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia in separate letters signed by immediate past chief election commissioner ATM Shamsul Huda on behalf of NagarikSamaj. Hasina on the day told her cabinet colleagues that the people vocal about dialogue were not saying anything about violence during the blockade. Earlier on January 28, Business leaders appealed to the ruling and the opposition alliances to immediately resolve the prevailing political standoff to save the economy, public life and property. United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon wrote letters to Hasina and Khaleda on February 18 seeking their joint efforts to resolve the ongoing political crisis.
Annisul, Khokon, Nasir win city polls
Ruling Awami League-backed Annisul Huq was elected mayor of Dhaka north while Sayeed Khokon of Dhaka south city and AJM Nasir Uddin of Chittagong city in elections held on April 28. Voting took place amidst boycott by all three BNP-backed candidates just four hours into the polling on allegation of massive stuffing and capture of polling stations by AL men and violence. Ganasanghati expressed ‘no confidence’ and CPB and SPB rejected elections towards the end of polls.
Attacks on foreigners
The US, the UK, Australia, Canada and other countries issued security alerts to its nationals in Bangladesh, following attack and the murder of foreigners in the country during September and October. Australian cricket team and South Africa, women cricket team scrapped their scheduled tours of Bangladesh apparently on the same ground. Italian aid-worker Cesare Tavella was shot dead in the diplomatic enclave of Gulshan in the capital on September 28 and within a week Japanese agro-researcher Kunio Hoshi was shot dead in Rangpur on October 3. Police on November 24 locate the grave of a Japanese woman, Hiroye Miyata, who was buried secretly at a graveyard in Uttara of the capital after she had gone missing. Police exhumed her body for autopsy on November 27 following a Dhaka court’s order. A Taiwanese couple, Wang Ming Chi and his wife Li Li Hwa, were injured during a robbery at their house in Uttara November 5 and Italian priest Piero Parolari was shot at in Dinajpur town on November 18.
Dreams drown at sea, graved in jungle
During the month of May, one after another mass graves of illegal migrants were found in jungles of Thailand, many of them reportedly of Bangladeshi migrants. Promise of overseas job without advance payment, poverty and unemployment forced many fortune seekers into risky sea journey for destinations, even in cargo vessels in Southeast Asia and many died in the boats. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina termed those who illegally go abroad to find work as ‘mentally sick’ on May 13 and drew heavy flak from home and abroad.
None of sexual assaulters on Pohela Baishakh identified
Police on December 24 submitted the final report in the case over sexual assault on women during the year’s Pahela Baishakh celebrations, saying none of the culprits could be identified or arrested, in the report given to Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court.
Cabinet reshuffle and hullabaloo over Syed Ashraf’s portfolio
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina gave the charge of the public administration ministry to Syed Asharul Islam on July 16, a week after his removal from the local government, rural development and cooperatives ministry on July 9. In the first reshuffle in the present cabinet, Khandkar Mosharraf Hossain was made LGRD minister. Again on July 14, Hasina extended her cabinet by inducting three more ministers.
War criminals SQC, Mojaheed, Kamaruzzaman hanged
Condemned war crimes convicts Bangladesh Nationalist Party standing committee member Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Jamaat-e-Islami secretary general Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed were hanged on early November 22 and Jamaat senior assistant secretary general Mohammad Kamaruzzamanv on April 11, at Dhaka Central Jail.
Gruesome child murders shock country
The year had witnessed gruesome killings of children. A group youths, beat 13-year-old Samiul Alam Rajon to death on July 8 in Sylhet, accusing him of theft. On the night of August 3, Mohammod Rakib, 12, died in Khulna after his former employer pumped air through his rectum for taking job at another car repair workshop. A Khulna court sentenced two accused to death for killing Rakib on November 8 and a Sylhet court sentenced four persons to death for torturing and killing Rajon on the same day. Teenager Md Raja, 17 was beaten to death in the capital’s Hazaribagh area by a local Chhatra League president Arju Mia for allegedly stealing a mobile phone set on August 17. Arju was killed in ‘encounters’ with RAB and police the next day. Besides, on August 5, Rabiul, 11, was murdered with crowbar blows on his head in Barguna. At least eight children died of Dinajpur in three weeks in June due to excessive use of pesticides in litchi orchards. The bodies of eight newborns were found wrapped in a polythene bag floating in the Teesta River in Dimla upazila of Nilphamary on June 2 sending a wave of shock in the area.
India and Bangladesh swap border enclaves
Several thousand people of India and Bangladesh, who used to live without state and basic rights in enclaves inside Bangladesh and India, got their citizenship on midnight past July 31 when both countries swap border enclaves amid tears of joy and festivity. The territories were exchanged between Bangladesh and India under the Mujib-Indira Land Boundary Agreement and the 2011 Protocol for exchange of 162 enclaves, transfer of adversely possessed areas and demarcation of 6.5 kilometres of unmarked border lands. People finally decided where they would go on November 30, as some broke down in tears at the border point while leaving behind their birthplaces, homesteads and many friends and fellows after a long 68 years of ‘confined living’.
BCL atrocities continue
At least 10 teachers were injured as ruling party-backed Bangladesh Chhatra League activists attacked teachers at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology who were holding demonstration demanding removal of vice-chancellor Aminul Haque Bhuiyan on August 30. The teachers who had been staging movements since April 20 for the removal of vice-chancellor, however, called off their agitation on October 9. The BCL activists continued their terror activities by attacking opponent activists, engaged in intra party clash, tender manipulations, extortion on the campuses at different universities across the country—most often causing closure of academic activities.
Imposing and withdrawal of VAT on private universities
The government on September 14 was compelled to withdraw its decision of imposing 7.5 per cent VAT on tuition fees of private universities amid weeklong student protests against the decision that crippled the capital’s daily life.
HC declares actions of Operation Clean Heart ‘illegal’
The High Court declared the actions taken by army-led joint forces under the code name Operation Clean Heart between October 16, 2002 and January 9, 2003 as ‘illegal’ on September 13. Petitioner’s lawyer submitted that no blanket immunity could be given to the joint forces who killed at least 58 people, left hundreds of others injured, maimed, caused financial losses to them and arrested over 11,000.
Police kill 3 people protesting at sexual harassment in Tangail
Three people were killed as police opened fire at locals who clashed with the police during their protests against an alleged sexual harassment at Kalihati upazila in Tangail on September 18. Witnesses said locals of Kalihati and Ghatail were staging protests on Tangail-Mymensingh Highway against the alleged sexual harassment of a local woman in front of her son on September 15.
Medical admission question leak
Rapid Action Battalion arrested seven people, including three physicians and teachers of two coaching centres, in Rangpur city over question leak in the admission test for medical and dental colleges on September 22. Admission seekers held protests for fresh admission tests for couple of month but the government did not pay heed to their demand saying no questions were leaked.
Hasina receives Champions of the Earth award
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina received the highest environmental accolade of the United Nations Environmental Programme, ‘The Champions of the Earth’, award in recognition of Bangladesh’s far-reaching initiatives in addressing problems induced by climate change on September 28.
MP shoots at nine-year-old child
Nine-year-old boy Shahadat Hossain Sourav was shot in the legs by local ruling Awami League lawmaker Manjurul Islam Liton at Sundarganj in Gaibandha on October 2. Detectives on October 14 arrested him in the capital. Manjurul was arrested after a court earlier on the day stayed a High Court order that asked him to surrender to Gaibandha Chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court by October 18. The court on November 8 granted anticipatory bail to Manjurul.
Blocking and unblocking of Facebook, Twitter
The government’s blocking of access to social media Facebook and internet-based communications apps like WhatsApp and Viber on November 18 created hullabaloo among users. It, however, unblocked Facebook on December 10 and Viber and WhatsApp on December 13. The government on December 13 unblocked access to micro-blogging site Twitter and communication apps Skype and Imo that was blocked on the previous day.
Death trap or manhole
Five-year-old boy Nirab, while playing with friends, fell into a manhole near Jagarani Club at Shyampur in the capital and after four hours he was found dead at Shyampur sluice gate on December 8 night.
Handing over of Anup Chetia to India
The government on November 11 secretly handed over to India separatist leader United Liberation Front of Asom general secretary Anup Chetia and two of his associates Babul Sharma and Lokkhi Prashad. On December 21, 1997, Anup was arrested in Dhaka with the two associates on charges of trespassing into Bangladesh with fake passports hiding their identities and illegally carrying foreign currencies.
Noor Hossain handed over to Bangladesh
A day after Bangladesh handed over ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia to India in secrecy, the Indian Border Security Force on November 12 night handed over the prime suspect in Narayanganj seven-murder, Noor Hossain, to Border Guard Bangladesh authorities. Noor Hossain, who rose from a transport worker to a city councillor, also Awami League Siddhirganj’s unit senior vice-president, went into hiding following the murder of seven people.
Charity turns into tragedy
At least 25 people died as hundreds of people rushed through a small gate into a house in Mymansingh before dawn of July 10 to get the free clothes as Zakat. Police arrested eight people including Shamim Talukdar, also Nurani chewing tobacco factory owner, who organised the distribution of the free clothes among the poor.
Biranganas get recognition as FF after 44years of independence
the government issued a gazette notification recognising 41 ‘biranganas’ (war heroines) who were violated and dishonoured by Pakistani soldiers and their local collaborators during the 1971 Liberation War, as freedom fighters on September 29, after 44 years of liberation of the country.
Modi visits Bangladesh
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi came to Dhaka on a two-day visit in June 6-7. The two countries signed and exchanged 22 instruments, including four agreements, three protocols, 14 memorandums of understanding and one letter of consent. Seven, out of the 22 instruments, were signed and exchanged directly and indirectly allowing India multi-modal transit for passengers and goods through roads, railways, rivers and seaports in Bangladesh. However, the two sides preferred to use the word connectivity to describe these facilities. India announced a $2 billion second line of credit for Bangladesh for undertaking various development projects in the area of public transport, roads, railways, inland waterways, ports, ICT, education and health etc. On June 7 afternoon, BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia called on Modi. Modi while meeting president Abdul Hamid at Bangabhaban, received the Award of Liberation War Honour on behalf of Atal Behari Vajpayee for the latter’s role during the liberation war of Bangladesh.
Salary hike for public servants
The government issued the much-awaited gazette on the new pay scale on December 15 which will be implemented from next month with retrospective effect from last July. The pay scale was approved by the cabinet on September 7 and since then many cadres and low ranking officials as well as university teachers, government college teachers, took to the street for restoration of time scale, selection grades and status. New pay scale fixed Tk 86,000 as the highest monthly salary up from Tk 45,000 and the minimum basic pay at Tk 8,250,up from Tk 41,00. Besides, the cabinet on October 19 approved proposals of raising the monthly salaries and perks of president, prime minister and ministers as well as lawmakers. As per the proposals, the president’s salary was increased to Tk 1.20 lakh from Tk 61,200 and that of the prime minister to Tk 1.15 lakh from Tk 58,600 while the salary of a minister to Tk 1.05 lakh from Tk 53,100.
AL takes most municipalities
During the last week of year, first-ever partisan elections to 234 municipalities were held amid widespread rigging, intimidation, violence. Ruling Awami League mayoral candidates won 168 municipalities while opposition BNP candidates took 19, Jatiya Party bagged one and independent mostly rebel candidate of AL took 27. Results of 20 municipalities were postponed by Election Commission.