Thursday, April 30, 2009

JMB patrons sued in Rajshahi

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A torture victim of Islamist militants filed a case against about 70 people including two former BNP ministers and a lawmaker yesterday with the Rajshahi court in Bagmara upazila in 2004.

The accused include former post and telecommunication minister Aminul Haque, former deputy minister Ruhul Kuddus Talukhdar Dulu and former BNP lawmaker Nadim Mostafa.

Abed Ali, an UP member of Mirjapur village, lodged the complaint against them for abetting militants who maimed him as he denied paying them extortion.

They have already been accused in several cases for abetting Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) led by Bangla Bhai. Aminul has been on the run since he was sentenced 31-and-a-half years in jail.

After the case was lodged, the third court of judicial magistrate in Rajshahi ordered police in Bagmara to investigate it and take legal actions, said Babul Hossain, lawyer of the complainant.

Other accused include Rajshahi district BNP General Secretary Shish Mohammad, Union Council Chairmen Rofikul Islam of Bihanali, Besaratullah of Basupara union, JMB advisers Abdus Sattar and Lutfar Rahman, JMB's killing squad member Mostafijur Rahman Mostak.

The complainant said he delayed filing the case, as he was scared of the political and financial clout of the accused.

He alleged JMB militants unleashed a reign of terror by killing and torturing people in the name of eliminating underground operatives at Bagmara and its adjoining areas in 2004.

On April 13, 2004, JMB cadres abducted him from his house and took him to a JMB camp at Razakar Ramjan Kaya's house at Hamirkutsa. They demanded Tk 1 lakh from him.

As he denied paying they tortured him for two days. Later, he had to pay Tk 50,000 and came out of the camp crippled on the third day into his abduction.

Managed tender proceeding at Rajshahi Rail Bhaban

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A syndicate of contractors in collaboration with some corrupt officials of Western Zone of Bangladesh Railway reportedly managed a tender proceeding at Rajshahi Rail Bhaban yesterday for construction of a foot over bridge at Bonarpara Railway Station in Lalmonirhat.

On the last day of dropping schedules yesterday, only five schedules were dropped against some 300 schedules that were sold since the authorities floated the tender in the first week of April, said BR officials.

Many of the contractors who bought schedules preferring anonymity alleged that they did not dare to submit their schedules as the syndicate threatened them.

They added that the syndicate negotiated with most of the contractors and gave them Tk 1500 each against the price of schedule Tk 1000.

Later, the negotiators filled their papers together at a city hotel and dropped as per plan.

Two senior railway officials were also seen at the hotel during negotiations and filling up of schedules, said sources.

Mamun Enterprise has become the lowest bidder offering Tk 10,12,855 against the estimated cost of the bridge Tk 20 lakh.

When contacted, Yusuf Ali Mridha, additional chief engineer (bridge) of West Zonal BR, denied any flaws in tender proceeding. He denied the allegation against him that he assisted in drafting the schedules.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Heatwave, power outage make life miserable in Rajshahi

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The scorching heat coupled with erratic power supply has crippled the life in Rajshahi and its surrounding districts.

Besides, acute water scarcity and mosquito menace have added to the suffering of the common people.

The heatwave has also been hampering the harvest of Irri paddy as farmers as well as labourers are unable to stay in the paddy fields for longer time under the blazing sun.

The farmers are complaining of huge load-shedding against the power authorities' claim for rationing power in urban areas for smooth power supply to irrigation sector.

The northern districts are facing average 300 megawatt (MW) of load shedding against the daily demand for 750 MW now.

PDB officials said with a local generation of around 266 MW, the PDB is to manage the demand with only 466 MW supply in the last few days.

Acute water crisis in many areas compounded sufferings. Out of the demand for 226 lakh gallons of water, Rajshahi City Corporation supplies only 106 lakh gallons which are less than 50 percent demand.

Among 6,500 tube wells in city areas, most of the wells are not functioning as the underground water level went down. Moreover, water pumps are not also working following power cut at regular intervals.

The heat has been so intense that the city roads wore almost a deserted look in the afternoons. It also forced businessmen to keep down their shutters.

However, the adverse weather conditions also worked in favour of a few traders, as there was a brisk business of green coconuts, watermelons and ice creams.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Khapra Ward killing day observed in Rajshahi

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The historic Khapra Ward Day was observed at Rajshahi Central Jail and in the city yesterday with a vow to continue movement to ensure trial of the war criminals of 1971.

On this day in 1950, prison guards following order of a jailer opened fire on communist prisoners who were fasting in protest against torture and sub-standard food in the jail. Seven communist leaders were killed in the firing.

The slain communist leaders are Sukhendu Bhattacharya of Mymensingh, Baloram Singh of Dinajpur, Sudhin Dhar of Nawabganj, Delwar Hossain and Hanif Sheikh of Kushtia, Bijon Sen and Anwar Hossain of Khulna.

Taking permission from the home ministry, some 31 people belonging to Communist Party of Bangladesh, National Awami Party (Nap) and Workers Party visited Khapra ward inside Rajshahi Central Jail yesterday.

They placed wreaths at the Shaheed Minar built in front of the ward and held a memorial meeting there. NAP's district unit President Fazlul Haque, General Secretary Mustafizur Rahman Khan Alam and CPB's city unit President Abul Kalam Azad spoke.

NAP, CPB and Chhatra Union jointly brought out a procession in the city and then held a discussion on the day.

In 1972, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Comrade Moni Sing visited the Khapra Ward.

Friday, April 24, 2009

AC chair coach dropped from Padma Express

Friday, April 24, 2009

Despite good demand, the Western Railway Authorities dropped the lone air-conditioned (AC) chair coach from Padma Express train that runs between Dhaka and Rajshahi from yesterday.

The train starts for Dhaka from Rajshahi in the afternoon and leaves the capital for Rajshahi at midnight.

The railway authorities said the AC chair coach has been added to a Dhaka-bound train from Khulna as the AC coach of Chitra Express needs repair.

"The Padma Express will get back its AC coach within two weeks when the AC coach of Chitra Express will be repaired," said the chief commercial manager of Western Railway.

"We have decided to drop the coach temporarily following its 30 percent demand. Moreover, the Padma Express has an AC berth-coach alongside the AC chair coach," he added.

However, the passengers have complained that the dropping of AC chair coach would have a bad impact on the service of Padma Express as its demand have risen this summer.

They say they prefer AC chair coach to AC bus for Dhaka as the chair coach costs only Tk 334 per seat while a seat of AC bus costs Tk 500.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rejoinder, our reply

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Engineer M Enamul Haque, lawmaker from Rajshahi-4 (Bagmara) constituency, in a rejoinder to The Daily Star report headlined, "PM issues cheques, MP's men take away," published on April 18, differed on some points of the report.

The rejoinder disagrees with the report's assertion that the cheques issued by the prime minister for the victims of atrocities committed by Bangla Bhai-led gangs were taken away by his men, saying, "The cheques are account payee which leave no scope for anyone else other than the account-holders concerned to convert those."

It also differs on locals' allegations of listing 'fake victims' as grant recipients, saying, "I on my own responsibility prepared the list of victims irrespective of party and acceptable to all."

Our Reply
After receiving the rejoinder, we have further investigated the story and have found our story to be based on fact.

We, therefore, stand by our story.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Militancy threat to Islam and country's peace

Monday, April 20, 2009

Leaders of Quami Madrasa and Olama Oikya Parishad in Rajshahi yesterday vowed to remain vigilant so that none can use quami madrasas as cover for their terrorist activities.

Terming militancy as a 'threat to Islam as well as to the country's peace', they said they are ready to assist the government in combating militancy.

"Include alems (Islamic scholars) in the law and order committees in districts and hold them responsible if any quami madrasa is found involved with militancy," Maolana Hafez Abdus Samad said at a press conference of the organisation in the city.

"Since Islamic teachings do not support terrorism, a man supporting terrorism cannot be an alem just by posing to be so," said Sheikh M Taiyebur Rahman Nizami, president of Rajshahi chapter of Quami Madrasa and Olama Oikya Parishad.

"With a thousand-year-old history of good activities in this sub-continent, quami madrasas are helping people to achieve good education. They are not associated with any kind of terrorism or criminal activity," he said.

The killers of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, president Ziaur Rahman and four national leaders and those who are fuelling militancy are not educated in any quami madrasa, he added.

Among others, Maolana Salim Uddin Kashemi, Maolana Mufti Shahadat Ali, Maolana Abdul Gani, Maolana Mufti Abu Taher, Maolana Abdul Quader, Maolana Mufti Mozammel Haque, Maolana Mufti Rezaul Karim and Maolana Mostafizur Rahman Kashemi were present at the press conference.

Criticising the law minister, the telecommunications minister and the director general of Islamic Foundation for making 'unhelpful' remarks about the quami madrasas, speakers at the conference demanded withdrawal of the comments.

They urged all to deal with quami madrasas very honestly for the interest of religion and national unity.

They also called upon the government, people and journalists to remain careful about any foreign conspiracy.

Victims of JMB Torture: MP's men finally return all cheques

Monday, April 20, 2009

Local Awami League (AL) lawmaker's men in Bagmara have returned all the cheques they took away from the victims of atrocities committed by Bangla Bhai-led gangs.

Additional Deputy Commissioner (Education and Development) Satyendra Kumar Sarker told reporters yesterday that the victims had all the cheques with them.

Following government directives, the Rajshahi administration yesterday launched an investigation into the allegations against Enamul's men who reportedly took away cheques worth Tk 19 lakh granted by the prime minister for the victims.

Sarker, also the investigation officer, quizzed 20 people, including 18 victims whom the local lawmaker's men took to the Bagmara UNO's office.

He told journalists that no 'strong evidence' had been found to prove the allegations.

"We shall fax the investigation report to the authorities concerned in Dhaka by tonight," Hafizur Rahman Bhuiyan, divisional commissioner in Rajshahi, told The Daily Star in the evening.

Sources said, following the reports published in The Daily Star, the Prime Minister's Office directed Bhuiyan to report within 12 hours about the fate of the cheques granted by the premier for the victims in Bagmara.

When the victims following instructions of the MP's men gathered at Bhawaniganj, upazila AL Organising Secretary Mahabubur Rahman and Mougachhi UP AL General Secretary Abdur Razzak Mollah returned cheques, each worth Tk 1 lakh, to 16 victims at around 11:00am.

Victims Asir Uddin and Manik Pramanik got back their cheques on Saturday.

Three of the victims -- Ataur Rahman, Rafikul Islam and Amjad Hossain Dugu -- earlier refused to hand over their cheques to the local lawmaker's men.

The MP's men took all 18 victims to the local Sonali Bank branch to deposit the grant money with their accounts at the bank.

"We helped them in bank affairs as most of them don't know anything about it," said upazila Jubo League president Abdus Salam.

When contacted, victims Asir Uddin and Abdul Gafur said they had no other option but to tell the investigation officer what the MP's men had asked them to say.

The two said they told the investigation officer that the cheques had never been taken away from them.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

JMB Torture Victims: MP's men return two cheques

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Local Awami League (AL) lawmaker's men in Bagmara yesterday returned only two cheques, each worth Tk 1 lakh, out of 19 they took away after prime minister's adviser HT Imam on Wednesday distributed those among the victims of Bangla Bhai-led gangs.

Coming under pressure following a report published in The Daily Star yesterday, former UP chairman and upazila AL treasurer Aminul Islam Chowdhury returned the two cheques to Manik Pramanik of Jhikra and Asir Uddin, a freedom fighter of Khalispur. Both Manik and Asir refused to talk to reporters.

Sources said the two were asked to give MP Enamul Haque's men half of the money after converting the cheques and also threatened not to talk to the media.

Soon after they were given the cheques at around 12:00noon, upazila AL General Secretary Zakirul Islam Shantu and upazila Jubo League President Abdus Salam took them to Bhawaniganj Bazar to show local journalists that the victims have the cheques, not them.

Ataur Rahman of Hamirkutsa, a torture victim, Parijan Bibi, wife of victim Rofikul Islam, and another victim Amjad Hossain Dugu, who did not hand over cheques to the MP's men, are still under pressure for giving the MP's men half of the grants.

When asked how the list of victims was prepared, Shantu said, "The victims applied for the grants and the lawmaker took necessary steps for getting them the grants."

He also said they are preparing a fresh list of victims and it will be completed within this month.

Asked whether any announcement was made seeking applications from the victims, he said it wasn't formally announced. However, 20 people have so far applied for grants.

Three cheques could not be distributed because of complications regarding names of victims, AL lawmaker Enamul Haque told The Daily Star.

"None of the victims would get any grant unless I had managed those for them. But a vested quarter is now trying to make it a big issue," said the MP.

Meanwhile, Shefaul Karim, deputy commissioner (DC) of Rajshahi, put the total number of cheques for the victims to 25 instead of 24 mentioned earlier by local MP Enamul.

When asked about allegations against the MP's men, the DC said he knew nothing about the matter.

"We have nothing to do with it. The affected people can file complaint with the prime minister's office from where they got the cheques, not with us," he said.

When contacted, the acting Superintendent of Police (SP) in Rajshahi Abdul Kuddus Chowdhury said, "No one has lodged any complaint with us in this regard."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

PM issues cheques, MP's men take away

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The local Awami League (AL) lawmaker's men in Bagmara upazila have allegedly taken away cheques worth Tk 19 lakh granted by the prime minister for the victims of the cruelties committed by Bangla Bhai-led vigilante gangs.

They are now pressing the recipients to hand them the rest two of the 21 Tk 1 lakh cheques distributed on Wednesday.

The victims said they have been threatened not to speak to the media about the matter.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Adviser HT Imam distributed the cheques among those who had suffered at the hands of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) cadres in 2004 and 2005.

During the cheque-giving ceremony at Bhwaniganj School playground, the prime minister held a teleconference with Bagmara residents.

She said her government would ensure justice for those who fell prey to executed Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) second-in-command Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai and his henchmen.

After the meeting, some local AL leaders including upazila AL General Secretary Zakirul Islam Santu, Mougachhi Union AL General Secretary Abdur Razzak Mollah and upazila Jubo League President Abdus Salam asked the recipients to meet them with the cheques at Enamul Haque's cold storage the next morning.

Ataur Rahman, a torture victim, said after he and Parijan Bibi went there, MP Enamul told them to do as Salam asks.

Parijan was given the cheque for his husband Rafiqul who was tortured by Bangla Bhai but is now behind bars for suspected links to Purbo Banglar Communist Party.

Salam took the two to a room and asked to give him the cheques.

"He said, 'As our MP had to spend time and money to have the funds approved, you should share the grants with us. After cashing the cheque, we will keep Tk 50,000 and you'll have the rest'," Ataur continued.

"As we told him that we did not bring the cheques with us, he body-searched us but couldn't find any. 'Get out!' he screamed, seething with rage.

"He and Razzak however contacted us again and said they would never let us convert the cheques."

Describing similar experience, Parijan said, "I pray for Sheikh Hasina for what she did for us. But what's the use of this cheque if I can't get cash out of it?"

Unlike Ataur and Parijan, the 19 other victims had to give in to the pressure of the MP's associates.

"Had our MP not tried, you would never get any money. He will try for more donations for you in future. So, you better split the amount with us," Manik, another JMJB victim, quoted Salam as telling him.

"Salam had us put our signatures on the cheques, and promised to give us each Tk 50,000," Manik added.

Abdul Gafur of Jhikra, Asir Uddin of Khalimpara and Anisur Rahman of Chhoto Madhaimuri--everyone's story is much the same.

Talking to The Daily Star last night, Enamul Haque denied the allegations.

He said, "My men were only trying to help them cash the cheques. None of the victims will be deprived of the money granted by the prime minister."

The MP said at least 24 cheques, each worth Tk 1 lakh, have been issued for the JMJB victims in Bagmara. Three were yet to be distributed as identity of the claimants could not be confirmed.

Asked if he knows that the cheques were indeed taken away from the recipients after they went to his cold storage, he said he would look into it.

"I asked my men to arrange for the victims to gather at my place so they can be photographed and shown to the prime minister," he added.

"Most people in our area are illiterate. They don't know how to open a bank account and cash cheques. So I asked my men to help them."

Enamul said some quarters are out to make an issue of the matter.

Abdus Salam too dismissed the allegations as baseless.

Zakirul Islam Santu said they had asked the cheque recipients to get together for a group photo with the MP. "We didn't ask for their cheques."

He added that there are at least 600 JMJB victims in Bagmara. As only 21 have received aid from the PM's fund, many feel aggrieved. "Maybe some of them are spreading this sort of falsehood."

Meanwhile, locals alleged that a few of the grant recipients are 'fake victims'.

Yasin Ali, vice-chairman of Bagmara upazila parishad, said, "We know of some people getting financial assistance though they were not subjected to JMJB brutalities."

Bagmara upazila AL President Abdus Sobhan Chowdhury said, "Bangla Bhai's cadres ransacked my house and drove my family out of home in 2004. Still, I was not considered a victim."

He said he wonders how Fazlur Rahman, families of Golam Rabbani Mukul, Monwar Hossain Babu and Shushanta were left out of the victims' list.

JMB patron and BNP leader barrister Aminul Haque has been jailed for 31 and a half years in the case filed for torture on Fazlur.

The family of Mahbubur Rahman, who was killed by JMJB in 2005, is among those who received the grants.

The others include Saidur Rahman of Khalishpur, Nazmul Haque Tipu of Kalapara, Amjad Hossain of Senpara, Subed Chandra Sarker, Bablu Sarker and Nayan Kumar of Boro Koya, Abdul Barik of Badanna, Sayed Ali of Koalipara, Ashraful, Afzal, Nazrul Islam and Akkas Ali of Khoyra.

Some 25 people were killed and several hundred mimed in JMJB's terror campaign across Rajshahi, Natore and Naogaon.

Bangla Bhai along with JMB supremo Shaekh Abdur Rahman and four other top militant leaders was executed in 2007.

Former minister Aminul seeks review of cases

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Former post and telecommunications minister Aminul Haque, through his attorney, applied to the deputy commissioner's office of Rajshahi for review of all 13 cases filed against him during the last caretaker government.

Enamul Haque, a High Court practitioner, came to Rajshahi and submitted an application to the deputy commissioner's office on Thursday afternoon in this regard.

The application also appealed to withdraw six other cases against Aminul three in Dhaka and three in Naogaon.

In the application the attorney termed the cases against Aminul 'false and politically motivated' and those were filed to harass him and tarnish his image.

"We submitted the application as a government circular said it would allow applications for review of the false political cases," said Ashrafuzzaman Mollik, a lawyer of Aminul in Rajshahi.

Aminul, a minister of the BNP-Jamaat-led alliance, went into hiding the moment the caretaker government took over and now he is staying abroad, one of his close aides said.

Aminul allegedly patronised Islamist militants by using local police and district administrations in Rajshahi during 2004-05.

JMB operation commander Bangla Bhai before his execution disclosed Aminul's name as one of the patrons of Islamist militancy and later Aminul was jailed for 31 and a half years.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tagore's Kacharibari at Patisar losing its shine

Non-coordinated development work for poet Rabindranath Tagore's Kacharibari at Patisar in Naogaon has done some damage to this protected site, a part of national heritage.

The local administration has carried out the development work hastily in and around the Kacharibari in the last five months without informing the Department of Archaeology, the custodian of the protected site.

The local administration also claimed that the land around the Kacharibari (zamindari estate building) is a vested property, which belongs to the district administration.

On the other hand, the archaeology department claimed that some development work violated the antiquity rules and no archeological expertise was involved in the work.

Meanwhile, academicians and researchers also blamed the archaeology department for its indifferent attitude to this site of historical importance.

As part of the development work, a boundary wall was erected on the east of Kacharibari after demolishing a row of houses bearing the memories of the poet, witnesses said.

Badrul Alam, a supervising officer of the archaeology department, said any construction that may hamper taking photo of a protected site is not allowed as per antiquity rules.

But the new boundary wall is creating obstacles to taking snaps of the Kacharibari.

"A great damage was done to this site of historical importance through demolition of old houses," said Atful Haque Siddiki, a retired schoolteacher.

Moniary Union Chairman SM Faruk Bakht said a garden is being prepared inside the boundary wall while a permanent stage was built for cultural functions within the boundary wall.

A sculpture of the poet, created by a Rajshahi University student, was also placed inside the Kacharibari.

The district council has constructed the boundary wall of Rabi Sarobor (pond), reconstructed roads and planted saplings while the Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) dug a dighi (big pond) across a road on the east of the Kacharibari.

"A replica of Rabindranath's Padma boat will be erected in the dighi… the Kacharibari will be turned into a museum and many items have already been collected from different districts to this end… all these are for beautification of the Kacharibari," said Atrai Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Zahangir Alam.

Replying to queries, Zahangir, also a researcher on Tagore, said, "We didn't touch the protected building, we have carried out the development work on the land belonging to the district administration."

"Besides, we didn't find any records showing that the archaeology department has the authority over the land. The land is recorded as a vested property," he added.

Dr M Saifuddin Chowdhury, a folklore teacher of Rajshahi University, said, "The Kacharibari is a protected monument; nobody can develop it personally without the permission from the archaeology department."

Dr M Saifuddin, who wrote a book on Rabindranath, also blamed the archaeology department for not conserving the building properly. "The present look of the Kacharibari has no similarity with the original one," he said.

Local people, however, hailed the local administration for recovering the vast land in front of the Kacharibari from illegal occupation.

When asked about the development work, Dr Shafikul Alam, director of the archaeology department, said, "Even sticking a pin in a protected site is prohibited. However, we are looking into the matter."

Two years ago, the department implemented a project to conserve the Kacharibari.

Dr Alam also refuted the allegations that the Kacharibari was not conserved properly.

Barind Multipurpose Development Authority


Secretary Azizur Rahman of Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) was suspended yesterday after being caught red handed on Thursday night trying to leak out a question paper for a written test for employment in the organisation.

The suspension came at the directive of BMDA Chairman and Rajshahi Divisional Commissioner M Hafizur Rahman Bhuiyan for "breaking trust of the organisation", said BMDA Executive Director Abdul Mannan. "Departmental action will be taken against Azizur," he added.

A seven-member employment committee headed by Mannan gathered at the organisation's conference room Thursday afternoon for preparing questions for the test of 34 staffs in five different posts.

A draft copy of the question paper went missing around 9:00pm, committee members said. Azizur was seen suspiciously going out of the conference room several times.

Half an hour later, committee members Magistrate Monwar Hossain Mollah and Magistrate Asaduzzaman caught Azizur as he tried to conceal a draft copy of the question paper in a book. He was about to sneak it out in his pocket, they added.

Dr Jahangir Alam, additional deputy commissioner (revenue) in Rajshahi and a member of the employment committee, said Azizur confessed to his crime and sought apologies.

"Assuming the question paper had been leaked, we had to prepare a fresh set of questions working overnight," he said.

A source said 342 candidates took the written test yesterday for the posts of a law officer, five assistant engineers, five data entry operators, five surveyors and 18 office assistants.

When contacted, Azizur Rahman refuted the allegation saying some unknown colleagues are conspiring against him.

Azizur was earlier suspended in 2002 over a store corruption charge.


Food output to rise by 2.11 MT in three dists, experts tell Rajshahi seminar

Experts at a seminar here yesterday urged the government to include the proposed surface water based North Rajshahi Irrigation Project (NRIP) in the upcoming budget to increase food production in there district.

They said, implementation of the Tk 860 crore project would help increase food production by 2.11 lakh tonnes by providing irrigation facility to 74850 hectares of land in Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj and Naogaon.

A feasibility study of the project was completed in 1988 and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JAICA) expressed its willingness to assist the project, sources said.

Bangladesh Water Development Board (WDB) with assistance of joint forces organised the seminar on the proposed project at a city community centre.

WDB additional director general M Habibur Rahman, chaired the seminar. Prof Dr AFM Anowarul Haque, vice chancellor of Rajshahi University of Engineering and Technology (Ruet) attended the seminar as chief guest.

Buet's water resources engineering department teachers Dr M Fazlul Bari and Dr M Monowar Hossain, Ruet teachers Dr Shafiuddin Miah and Iqbal Matin, RU teachers Dr Chowdhury Sarwar Jahan and Dr Golam Sabbir Sattar addressed the seminar, among others.

Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) executive director SM Abdul Mannan, Rajshahi Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ibrahim Khalil, journalists and development workers also spoke.

The speakers said, the excessive extraction of groundwater by deep tube-wells of BMDA over years has already started leaving an adverse impact in Rajshahi region. This is also causing incidents of land subsidence and water crisis, they added.

Use of groundwater for irrigation also increases risk of long-term environmental pollution as the surface is being contaminated with iron and other chemical substances, they said.

The proposed project covers 178200 hectares in Chapainawabganj, Rajshahi and Naogaon, of which some 133700 hectares are arable.

Among the arable lands, about 74800 hectares targeted under the project, are yet to be brought under irrigation by BMDA.

WDB assessed that about 80 cubic meter water per second, needed for irrigating the lands, would be collected from Padma river and would be circulated into the 52.50km main canal from Godagari-Nacheral to Khatirpur, 239km branch canals and 427 sub-canals.

A main pump machine and a booster pump will be set up in Godagari and Amnura areas while there would be two power stations under the project.  

Mon. January 29, 2007
Prepaid Meters For Deep Tubewells In 7 Northern Dists
Govt to lose Tk 12 cr as BMDA chooses 'highest bidders'

The government will lose Tk 12 crore as the Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) is set to award work for installation of prepaid meters in deep tube wells for irrigation to highest bidders, ignoring lower ones. The works in seven northern districts will be awarded in eight groups.

Sena Kosh Associates, which made the highest bid Tk 33.68 crore in one group got the work while other bidders offered prices between Tk 21 crore and Tk 25 crore, sources said.

Some deprived participants said, the BMDA, violating tender conditions, refused to detail necessary software architecture of the meters to bid winners, but asked them to provide samples within seven days.

Nuruzzaman, owner of Orient Trading that got works in Rajshahi and Naogaon Region-1 by offering Tk 6.34 crore for installing 2550 meters, lodged a complaint with BMDA against the alleged irregularities.

He said, no farm would be able to provide samples without the necessary software database as BMDA sought only meters that matched existing ones.

Meantime, BMDA has asked Sena Kosh Associates, the farm quoting the highest bid of Tk 4.84 crore to sign an agreement within a month to install 1200 meters in deep tube wells in Chapainawabganj, the sources said.

MH Corporation, one of the lowest bidders which quoted Tk 3.59 crore, was denied on the plea that it could not provide meter-samples in time.

"The irregularity may affect farmers with an increased price for irrigation water", said a BMDA official.

He explained that BMDA used to earn around Tk 45 crore annually by selling water to farmers. Its income increased by around 15 per cent since introduction of computerised meters in 2005.

The tenders for prepaid meters were floated in October last year and the lowest bidders were chosen in November 20.

Imtiaz Ahmed and Shamsul Huda Company won the work in Naogaon Region-2 to install 1300 metres at a cost of Tk 3.69 crore while Micro Tech won works in Joypurhat and Dinajpur. Sigma Engineering won the work in Panchagarh by offering prices between Tk 24,500 and Tk 30,000 per meter.

All bid winners were asked to provide samples without necessary details and were denied after the January 25 deadline.

Sena Kosh quoted Tk 40,000 per prepaid meter. It will install 1000 meters in Thakurgaon. Two other firms allegedly chosen by it (Sena Kosh) participated in the tender, the sources said.

Earlier in 2005-06 financial year, BMDA purchased some 2000 prepaid meters for Rajshahi, Naogaon and Chapainawabganj at about Tk 39,000 per meter from Sena Kosh, the sources claimed.

"The BMDA tender process is merely a pre-designed game with participants", said a deprived contractor.

BMDA superintendent engineer Khalekuzzaman denied the allegations and said, "Many of the tender participants were liable to be rejected as they had no experience. Yet we gave them opportunity considering their lowest offers".

"We can't show them our entire database. We detailed our designs in tender documents", he said replying a question.

He also said the enhanced project cost will not increase price of irrigation water.


Thu. April 08, 2004

Drought brings windfall to water traders
Boro in Barind region hit, yield may slide 10pc

A government-subsidised development agency and an NGO are apparently cashing in on the acute scarcity of irrigation water for Boro rice cultivation in the Barind region.

Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) is reportedly charging high prices for irrigation in the region, where a drought-like situation coupled with power crisis is all set to decimate the Boro production by at least 10 percent this year.

The BMDA that enjoys an average of Tk 50 crore in government subsidy a year is collecting around Tk 100 for an hour of irrigation using a deep tube-well.

Besides, CARB, a local NGO owned by the BMDA executive director, is also exploiting the farmers' plight for profiteering by selling irrigation water at twice the rate of the BMDA in Godagari upazila of Rajshahi, sources alleged.

The Barind region consists of Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj and Naogaon districts. A senior BMDA official said they had already informed the agriculture ministry of their apprehension of a 10 percent reduction in Boro harvest in the region this year following the irrigation exigency.

Abu Bakar Siddique, a farmer of Jotefatur village, said they were being compelled to buy water at high rates, as there was no alternative.

Mobarak Hossain of Amtali in Godagari has cultivated Boro on five acres of land. "I could water my land only 10 times, instead of the required 18 times for a sufficient irrigation. If two more weeks go with such scanty irrigation, my paddy will dry up in the fields."

The BMDA buys power from Power Development Board at Tk 1.86 per unit and a BMDA deep tube-well consumes power worth Tk 25 to Tk 30 per hour to pump up water, sources said. Adding overhead and other expenditures to that, the total cost for running a BMDA deep tube-well remains below Tk 40 per hour, they added.

During a field visit, the CARB personnel were found setting up power generators connected to BMDA deep tube-wells at Sarmongla in Godagari upazila and charging Tk 172 for an hour of irrigation during load-shedding hours.

Alam Pramanik, a peasant of Saranjai union in Tanore, said, "The cost of Boro cultivation this year is Tk 2,800 per bigha that includes water charges at Tk 100 per hour. The average production this year is likely to be limited to eight maunds per bigha, which means farmers will get a return of Tk 2,400 per bigha if the price of rice is Tk 300 per maund."

Asked about the so high charges, BMDA Executive Director Asaduzzaman told reporters that water charges varied between Tk 75 and Tk 90, saying nonchalantly, "The charges are quite reasonable considering the services."

On the allegation of taking Tk 100 for an hour of irrigation, he said investigation was on to look into the matter. He also claimed no power generators were used to irrigate Boro lands.

But, CARB Programme Director Zakir Hossain admitted that they were providing power generator facility to the BMDA deep tube-wells during load-shedding hours, but completely free of charge. "The tube-well operators might have been taking the money," he guessed.

According to sources, the BMDA earned Tk 2.50 crore profit providing irrigation services through 5,964 deep tube-wells in Barind region last year


Wed. January 21, 2004

BMDA succeeds when BWDB fails
1,220 deep tube-wells reactivated, irrigation facilities on 50,000 acres of Boro field restored in Dinajpur

A component of Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA) in greater Dinajpur region brought 1,220 deep tube-wells under operation facilitating smooth irrigation on 50,000 acres of Boro field.

The 'splendid task' brought the Rajshahi-based organisation hails from the government as well as from locals.

BMDA awarded all its 129 officials and employees in greater Dinajpur region with enhanced salaries by giving two incentives for their laudable role in reviving the inoperative deep tube-wells.

The irrigation machines were lying out of order for years together in the region because of negligence of the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB).

The government undertook a Tk 34 cr project to reactivate the deep tube-wells under supervision of BWDB after a drought in 1995. The BWDB spent nearly Tk 20 cr for reactivating the deep tube-wells in five years since 1998, but failed to yield positive result.

The government detected negligence and irregularities on the part of the BWDB officials for their failure in reactivating the irrigation machines. So, the administration handed over the deep tube-wells to BMDA in January, 2003 as it (BMDA) has extensive experience as well as necessary expertise.

BMDA which earned widespread criticism in Rajshahi region for excessive use of ground water and drawing high water prices from growers in Barind areas, became successful in Dinajpur region.

The reactivated irrigation machines provided facilities to 20,456 acres of land in the region and helped fetch foodgrains worth nearly Tk 31 cr as well as promotion of 20,000 grower families last year, a BMDA press release said. The BMDA also earned Tk one cr as water bills from the growers, the press release added.

Inspired by last year's success, the BMDA undertook an ambitious programme of irrigating 50,000 acres of land and collecting Tk 3 cr water bills in the ongoing Boro season, official sources said.

Besides, BMDA has also developed water distribution system and irrigation canals that helped check misuse of water in the region.

"It is the hard work of our officials and employees that made the impossible possible", said BMDA executive director Asad-uz-Zaman adding that the government just provided the remaining project money of Tk 11 cr for its implementation.

While implementing the project, BMDA workers confronted the BWDB officials who were not happy with the handing over of their tube-wells and also the growers who pay irrigation water bills, he informed.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

JMB men held in Naogaon active members of Jamaat

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The three JMB suspects held with jihadi publications in Naogaon on Tuesday are members of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, police said.

Abdul Karim, 28, a bakery employee, is the president of Shikarpur union Jamaat in Sadar upazila, Naogaon. On the other hand, Shahadat Ali, 32, a tailor, and Hafez Faruk Hossain, 28, a teacher of Shikarpur Hafezia Madrasa, are Jamaat activists, according to police and local Jamaat leaders.

The police say the arrestees have confessed to having links with outlawed militant outfit Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) under Jamaat cover. The three were plotting to carry out subversive activities on Pahela Baishakh, the police add.

Acting on a tip off, the police arrested Abdul Karim of Chalk Kalidas in Alupatti, Naogaon on Tuesday. Following his statements, the police raided Shahadat's house and arrested the three.

The police also seized over 50 jihadi publications including books written by militant kingpin-suspect and Ahle Hadith Andolan Bangladesh (Ahab) chief Dr Asadullah Al Galib. There were also books published by Jamaat and Islami Chhatra Shibir.

"The three were arrested following specific information of their active involvement with JMB," said M Mofazzel Hossain, superintendent of police in Naogaon, over phone.

Madrasa teacher Faruk had sheltered JMB leader Minhajul Islam, who has been handed down death sentence in the August 17 blast case in Naogaon, say the police, adding Minhajul got a job at Shikarpur Hafezia Madrasa on Faruk's recommendation.

Shahadat and Karim were engaged in luring youths to JMB and jihad against the country by distributing books among them. They both were also engaged in collecting funds for JMB, the police inform.

Soon after the arrests, a number of Jamaat leaders including Sadar Jamaat Ameer Abdur Rahman and Naogaon municipal Jamaat nayeb-e ameer Aynul Haque rushed to Naogaon Sadar police station.

As the Jamaat leaders requested the police for the arrestees' release in presence of the Naogaon SP, they were kept confined for three hours and later released with the undertaking that they won't do so in future.

The local Jamaat leaders denied the arrestees' link with JMB and said their arrest is "conspiracy" against the party and Islam.

Jamaat leader Abdur Rahman said local Awami League leaders threatened them with such fate if they didn't stop politics just a day before the arrest.

"Faruk and Shahadat are active Jamaat workers. They used to hold regular meetings and maintain report cards. They were falsely blamed as JMB activists," said Aynul Haque.

Replying to a question, Haque said they have yet to find any JMB activists inside their party.

"We are sure of the three arrestees that they have no relations with JMB."


Jamaat campaigning against govt's move to try war criminals

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jamaat-e-Islami has launched a countrywide campaign against the government move to try war criminals.
Terming the government move 'anti-Islamic', Jamaat has started distributing booklets and leaflets across the country claiming its party men to be innocent of any war crimes.
Meanwhile, Jamaat leader Mobarak Ali of Eklaspur village in Comilla, arrested in the capital's Pallabi while distributing leaflets and booklets on Tuesday night, was taken on a two-day remand yesterday.
Mobarak, an employee of Public Works Department (PWD) and a resident of the PWD Staff Quarters at Rupnagar in Pallabi, was caught by locals and handed over to police.
Abdul Malek, officer-in-charge (OC) of Pallabi Police Station, told The Daily Star that Mobarak admitted that he is a local Jamaat leader and distributed leaflets and booklets.
"Mobarak, arrested under section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPc), was produced before the court," Malek said.
Our court correspondent adds: The Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate's Court placed Mobarak on a two-day remand after Alamgir Hossain of Pallabi Police Station, also the investigation officer, sought his five-day remand.
Sources said Jamaat has assigned its several hundred activists to distribute leaflets and booklets in the capital and elsewhere in the country.
The booklet titled 'Allegations of war crimes against Jamaat and its leaders are false and motivated' has been published by Chairman of Jamaat's publication department Maulana Abu Taher Muhammad Masum.
It reads, "Although the head of the post-independence Bangladesh government, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had settled the issue of war crimes with cancellation of the Collaborators Act, the issue has been raised after 38 years of the country's independence for political gains."
None of the Jamaat leaders had been involved in any killings, rape, looting, arson or any other crimes during the liberation war. Those who want to banish Islam-oriented politics from the country have raised the issue to misguide people, it said.
"They have failed to bring allegations of corruption, terrorism and militancy against Jamaat. Their target is not only Jamaat but also all Islamic parties, people and their institutions," the booklet reads.
"If Jamaat comes under attack unlawfully in the name of trial of war criminals, we shall fight it politically and lawfully," it said.
It further reads that a deep conspiracy is being hatched at the national and international level against Islam and Islam-based politics. Since the conspirators do not dare to attack Islam directly, they have opted for an alternative way.
As part of an attempt to create a rift in the BNP-Jamaat alliance, Awami League raised the issue and launched an anti-Jamaat campaign.
Meanwhile, a press release issued by Jamaat's Assistant Publicity Secretary Nurul Islam Bulbul said as an authorised political party, Jamaat published the booklets that are sold on the open market and anyone can buy those.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Broad-gauge intercity train from today

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Silk City Express, a broad-gauge intercity train, starts plying on Rajshahi-Dhaka route today.

The train will depart from Rajshahi at 7:30am with an aim to reach Kamalapur within 1:30pm while the same train will leave Kamalapur at 2:40pm with an aim to reach Rajshahi at 8:50pm.

"It is an historical event that a broad-gauge train is going to enter Kamalapur station directly," said AKM Mushfiqur Rahman, general manager of Bangladesh Railway (west zone).

Rahman said four more broad-gauge trains that are currently plying up to Dhaka Cantonment Station will start plying up to Kamalapur within three months once proper signaling system is installed.

The four other trains are the Sundarban Express and the Chitra Express from Khulna, the Nilsagar from Sayedpur and the Padma from Rajshahi.

Apart from the Silk City and the Padma, the railway authorities are planning to start a new train soon, said senior officials.

The railway network in most part of the west covering Rajshahi, Khulna and Dinajpur regions was broad-gauge while Dhaka had meter-gauge rail network, making the broad-gauge railway communication impossible from Kamalapur to these regions.

The trains would address the problem and end suffering of passengers.

For running both types of trains from Dhaka to Rajshahi and Khulna regions, the railway authorities have already converted the line into dual-gauge.

Three meter-gauge trains the Ekota Express and the Drutojan Express from Sayedpur and the Lalmoni Express from Lalmonirhat have been plying up to Kamalapur for the last several years.


Ex-mayor Minu, wife apply for review of 'false' cases

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Former mayor of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) Mizanur Rahman Minu and his wife Salma Shahadat have applied to the government for withdrawing "false political" cases filed against them.

Minu, also the organising secretary of BNP, applied for withdrawing eight cases, while his wife for one case.

In the applications, they claimed that the cases were filed by the immediate past caretaker government to harass them and tarnish their image.

Minu along with his lawyers submitted the applications to Shefaul Karim, deputy commissioner of Rajshahi, on Sunday for forwarding those to the authorities concerned.

"The former mayor and his wife submitted the applications taking opportunity of a government circular for reviewing false political cases filed during the tenure of the caretaker government", said Minu's lawyear Ankur Sen.

Minu was arrested on June 6, 2007 in connection with an extortion case and sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment. Later, the High Court acquitted Minu of the charge.

Minu and his six aides were sued for misappropriating CI sheets worth Tk 60 lakh and rice from government relief fund. Four cases were filed against them.

Assistant Commissioner of Taxes Moshtaque Ahmed filed a case against Minu for hiding income of over Tk 39 lakh and evading tax of Tk 9 lakh.

In another case, Anti-Corruption Commission sued Minu for accumulating wealth worth around Tk 2.27 crore and hiding information of wealth worth around Tk 1.92 crore in the statement.

ACC filed another case against Minu for alleged irregularities in allocating land for construction of shops and markets.

Minu's wife was sued for amassed wealth worth around Tk 71 lakh and concealing information of assets worth around Tk 5.1 lakh in the statement submitted to the ACC.

Minu is now on bail in all the eight cases.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

24 arrested in Rajshahi sent to jail

A court here sent 24 cadres of Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and Purbo Banglar Communist Party (PBCP) to jail custody yesterday when they were produced before the court.

Police implicated three PBCP leaders in murder cases and sent eight persons as JMB suspects and 13 others as underground PBCP suspects to jail under section 54 of CrPC.

"Even if we caught them on suspicion, we are still investigating their roles", said Abdul Kuddus Chowdhury, additional superintendent of police in Rajshahi.

PBCP commanders Amjad Hossain Baxi and Abul Hossain and another leader Sajjat Hossain were shown arrested in different murder cases.

The eight militant suspects of JMB are Fazal Haque, Abdul Jalil, Raziqul Islam Rocket, Hafizur Rahman, Afsar Ali, Moazzem Hossain, Habibor Rahman and Yaad Ali.

Thirteen other PBCP suspects are Rafiqul Islam, Shafiqul Islam, Abdur Razzak, Abdul Jabbar, Meser Ali, Ahad Ali, Uzzal, Shahjahan Ali, Shamsul Haque, Taiyabur Rahman, Abdur Rouf, Moslem Uddin and Delbor Rahman.

Police in a special drive arrested 24 persons from Bagmara upazila in the district on Thursday.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Funding Militants: Kuwait-based NGO director deported

Friday, April 10, 2009

The government on Wednesday deported Sudan national Abbas Bao, director of Bangladesh chapter of Kuwait-based NGO Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS), and asked him not return as he is an "unexpected" person in the country, sources say.

The sources from the Special Branch (SB) of police say they called him in at their Uttara office on Tuesday and asked him to leave the country immediately.

A senior SB official confirmed that Bao left the country soon after that meeting.

"He is one of the listed people who are prohibited to stay in or enter the country," the official added.

There are allegations that RIHS used to provide funds to the militants of Ahab, JMB and other organisations, investigators had said earlier.

Contacted, ABM Zakir Hossain, officer-in-charge of Uttara police, said he saw Bao to go to the SB office, which is located in the same building of the police station.

The NGO Affairs Bureau cancelled RIHS's registration in May 2007 following a government decision made over intelligence recommendations. Ahle Hadith Andolan, Bangladesh (Ahab) chief Asadullah Al Galib helped RIHS get registered in November 1996.

RIHS Deputy Director General Bao was serving as the NGO's country director. He came to Bangladesh in 1996 and married a Bangladeshi woman, who hailed from Kishoreganj. He also has two children.

Sources say there is another African national, Abdur Rahman, who is a close associate of Bao and also married the sister of Bao's wife.

Earlier, one Akramuzzaman was the director of the RIHS Bangladesh chapter. His nephew Nasrullah was a Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) leader and was killed in a blast in Rangamati while making bombs, the sources add.

After the government banned al-Qaeda donor-suspect Al Haramain Foundation [now outlawed worldwide] in 2003, many Haramain staffs including five foreign nationals joined RIHS. Four of the foreign nationals were later withdrawn from the country following the August 17 serial blasts in 2005.

Meanwhile, RIHS has appealed to the Bureau for reconsidering cancellation of its registration, officials say.

Executed JMB chief Abdur Rahman himself told the media in 2004 that he used to get funds from the RIHS and Saudi Arabian NGO Rabitat-e Alam al Islami, which is allegedly run by Jamaat-e-Islami men.

The RIHS has so far erected 1,000 mosques, madrasas and orphanages across the country, many of which were used by JMB militants, said the investigators.


8 JMB men among 24 outlaws held in Rajshahi

Friday, April 10, 2009

Police captured eight outlawed Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) militants and 16 underground operatives of Purbo Banglar Communist Party (PBCP) during a ten-hour special drive in Bagmara upazila yesterday.

Led by Additional Police Superintendent Abdul Kuddus Chowdhury of Rajshahi, police in eight groups conducted the drive in Taherpur municipality, five unions of Bagmara and surrounding villages of Puthia and Durgapur upazilas.

"Our drive was aimed at improving law and order in the area", Chowdhury told The Daily Star.

He said the operatives of JMB and PBCP had been regrouping in Bagmara since the general elections and holding several secret meetings. "Most of the arrestees are suspected to have taken part in the meetings," he added.

The police and locals of Bagmara said PBCP had been preparing for retaliation against JMB killings and tortures in 2004 while JMB to arrests and executions of JMB men in later years.

The arrestees include JMB commander Fazal Haque, 48, and PBCP regional commanders Amzad Hossain, 60, Delbor Rahman, 32 and Sazzad Hossain, 20.

Other JMB militants are Abdul Jalil, 32, Razikul Islam Rocket, 35, and Hafijur Rahman, 25, Afsar Ali, 50, Moazzem Hossain, 18, Habibur Rahman, 65 and Yaad Ali, 45.

Among others, Abul Hosain, 40 of Baruihati is a listed PBCP operatives while suspected PBCP members Rafiqul Islam of Kalupara was crippled in JMB torture and Shafikul Islam, 29, formerly a journalist, was threatened to death by executed JMB leader Siddikul Islam Bangla Bhai.

Other PBCP men are Abdur Razzak, 36, Abdul Jabbar, 55, Misir Ali, 55, Ahad Ali, 50, Uzzal, 23, Shahjahan Ali, 22, Shamsul Haque, 47, Taiyubur Rahman, 19, Abdur Rouf, 20 and Moslem Uddin, 35.

The police said the arrestees would be sent to court today after a brief interrogation and further investigation into their previous records and convictions.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

'Fugitive' Rajshahi BNP leader sued for ill-gotten wealth

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has pressed charges against 'fugitive' district BNP general secretary Shish Mohammad for amassing wealth worth over 89 lakh allegedly from sources beyond his legal income.

Abdul Karim, deputy director of Rajshahi ACC yesterday submitted the charge sheet with the chief judicial magistrate court.

In the charges pressed under Section 27 (1) of the ACC Act of 2004, Abdul Karim alleged that Shish owns wealth worth Tk 95 lakh. But his actual income from known sources since 1997 should not exceed Tk six lakh including his remuneration of Tk 1.16 lakh as mayor of Mundumala municipality from January 2003 to June 2007.

Following allegations against Shish Mohammad, the ACC sent him notice to submit his statement of wealth in February 2008. A Rajshahi court later jailed him for three years as he was sued for not submitting the statement.

The ACC then investigated the case and found that he amassed Tk 89,47,607 from known sources of income. Apart from landed property, he possesses a petrol pump and a four-storied commercial building in Tanore upazila.

He also booked a flat in Dhaka before he went into hiding in January, 2007.

A close aide to former BNP minister Barrister Aminul Haque, Shish went into hiding after the state of emergency. Haque and Shish were later convicted in a case for abetting militancy and sentenced for life.

Another ACC case against Shish for allegedly misappropriating Tk 5 lakh lease money of Mundumala Hat (rural market) is under trial, said the Rajshahi ACC chief.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Jamaat asks people to join party to 'protect Islam'

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

After Islami Chhatra Shibir, now the Jamaat-e-Islami has started persuading people in Rajshahi city and elsewhere in the district to become its supporters to 'protect Islam'.

Jamaat leaders and activists, divided into four groups, are visiting different areas of Boalia and Shah Makhdum police stations in the city and Puthia and Bagmara upazilas to woo people to join the party.

Some people of these areas have already informed police and journalists about Jamaat's fresh move to increase the number of supporters in the name of 'protecting Islam'.

According to Jamaat leaders, they are visiting the areas as part of the party's month-long countrywide mass contact programme for inviting people toward Islam. The programme began on April 1.

"We are only conveying Dawat (invitation) of Islam to people, not recruiting members", Abul Kalam Azad, general secretary of Rajshahi Jamaat, told The Daily Star. He asked, "If anyone joins us willingly, what is the problem?"

Besides, Jamaat posters are seen in different areas of the city with a call for joining Jamaat-e Islami to establish a society based on justice and free from poverty and terrorism.

A businessman from Puthia said three Jamaat men went to him on Sunday and urged him to join their party to 'save Islam'. "Islam and country's sovereignty are now at stake," he quoted Jamaat men.

"There is nothing to be worried about Jamaat activities as we are keeping a watch" said Akramul Hossain, assistant commissioner of Special Branch of Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP).

SM Hafizur Rahman, additional commissioner of RMP, said none is yet to make any complaint regarding Jamaat's fresh campaign.

"We are investigating the allegation against Islami Chhatra Shibir that they are wooing kids to join the Jamaat's student wing."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

BNP activist killed over land dispute

A BNP supporter was killed and 20 others were injured while some houses and shops were ransacked in an attack allegedly by a group of Awami League activists over land dispute at Dahia village in Shingra upazila of Natore yesterday.

The deceased was identified as Abdus Samad, 38.

Ali Ahmed Hasmi, OC of Shingra police station, said there had been a longstanding dispute between two groups of people--one led by AL leader Khair and another by BNP leader and UP member Kamal--over a piece of land.

At about 6:00 am, some 200 attackers equipped with machetes, sharp weapons, iron rods and sticks swooped on the houses of Kamal and some of his supporters that left 20 people injured, locals said.

They also ransacked and looted the shops of Monser Ali, Osman, Tofazzal Mollah, Mahabur and Aftab at a nearby market during the attack.

Abdus Samad was hit by a sharp weapon causing his death on the spot as he was looking for a shelter outside his house, said Shamsul Haque, the victim's cousin.

The attackers left the scene soon after the killing, local people said.

Victim's cousin Shamsul filed a murder case with the police. Police arrested Golam Mawla and Azmal in this connection.

OC Ali Ahmed said, "The incident was not political though a number of AL men were involved in the attack."

24 deported from India sent to jail

Twenty-four people, deported by Indian Border Security Force (BSF) through two border points in Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj districts on Friday, were sent to jail yesterday.

The judicial magistrate's courts in the districts sent them to jail after police produced them before the courts in connection with the cases filed under Bangladesh Control of Entry Act 1952.

Police said these people hail from various districts across the country and suffered one month's jail term in India as they entered the country illegally to seek fortune or for treatment.

"By entering India illegally, they committed crime even under the law of Bangladesh", said Sub-inspector Saidur Rahman of Godagari Police Station.

Of the 24 deported people, 12 were captured by BDR personnel at Sahebnagar frontier under Godagari upazila of Rajshahi while the rest in Shibrampur area of Bangabari border under Gomostapur upazila of Chapaianwabganj.

BDR members handed over the captured people to police in Godagari and Gomostapur accusing them in two separate cases filed under Bangladesh Control of Entry Act 1952 with respective police stations.

Those captured at Sahebnagar frontier are Rehana Khanam of Gopalpur in Jessore district, Biplob of Shalbagan in Rajshahi city, Shahidul Islam of Godagari, Abdul Bari and Akkas Mondol of Mohonpur, Ketab Ali of Charghat in Rajshahi, Jahangir of Char Devinagar in Chapainawabganj, Mosarraf Hossain of Laxmipur, Nantu and Khokon Biswas of Kushtia, Parimal Chandra Mondol and his son Das Chandra Mondol of Faridpur.

The rest 12 people, captured by BDR men on Bangabari border in Chapainawabganj district, are from different areas of Bagerhat and Jhenaidah districts. They are two and a half years old Nodi, Sagar, 7, Shahinur, 35, Azmira, 23, Fulbanu, 25, Hasina, 28, Nurjahan, 26, Nazma, 35, Abdul Barek, 35, Saidur, 25, Sohel,16, and Ziaul, 25.

Meanwhile, the Indian border guards pushed at least 13 Indian nationals into Bangladesh through Majhardiar borderon Friday night. However, they were pushed back by Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) personnel yesterday morning.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Shibir using religion to woo kids in Rajshahi

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Islami Chhatra Shibir, student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, is wooing children allegedly using religious edicts and arousing 'fear of hell' in them.

Police and guardians said several groups of Shibir activists are now active at places under Boalia, Rajpara, Motihar and Shah Makhdum thana areas in the city who are 'recruiting' children, mostly seven to 12-year-old ones.

Shibir men approach children at school gates and playgrounds and ask them questions on religion, and eventually compel them to enrol as 'supporters', said RMP Assistant Commissioner (Detective Branch) Mahfuzur Rahman.

Following allegations from guardians of several children who were made 'Shibir supporters,' Rajshahi Metropolitan Police (RMP) have employed plain-clothes policemen to watch activities of Shibir men.

"A group of eight Shibir men called some kids including my ward when they were playing on a field near my house. They asked the children whether they fear Allah and whether they want to respond to His call. Explaining path to heaven and hell they also asked them whether they want to learn the Qur'an," a guardian in Bilshimla area told newsmen.

"As the children answered in the affirmative, the Shibir men told them that they must become Shibir supporters if they want to get blessings of Allah," said the guardian, adding that the Shibir men gave the children copies of a form as their identity as 'Shibir supporters'.

Police received similar complaints from guardians in Bahrampur, Dasmari, Dingadoba, Zinnahnagar, Khojapur, Meherchandi, Budhpara and Binodpur areas.

A general diary has been recorded following complaints from guardians, said Rajpara Police Station Officer-in-Charge (OC) Anisur Rahman.

Refuting allegations of forcing anyone, Rajshahi city Shibir President Nur Mohammad Mondol said, "We have already asked our workers to stop enrolling those who do not want to be with us."

However, several Jamaat leaders in Rajshahi said Shibir has began a 10-day programme styled 'Dawati Dasak' from March 21 for enrolling children through 'dawat' (invitation).

RMP Commissioner Mahbub Mohsin said OCs of all police stations, the Special Branch and detective branches have been alerted to look into the matter.


105 'excess' RCC staff sacked

Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC) yesterday dismissed some 105 "excess and politically appointed" employees.

The jobless staff gathered in front of the Rajshahi Nagar Bhaban in the afternoon and staged a demonstration demanding withdrawal of the dismissal order.

The RCC authorities hung notices at different sections ordering dismissal of 150 staff with effect from today (April 1).

The sacked employees are mostly from conservancy section, said a RCC official. A few staff from vehicle, immunisation, mosquito control, and water-supply sections and RCC administration are also sacked.

"We decided to fire 420 excess staff in January. But after consulting the labour leaders, we have now dismissed 25 percent of the excess staff", said RCC Secretary Emdadul Haque.

Replying to a question, he said some more staff will be sacked to save money and run civic services smoothly.

RCC councilors said nearly 500 employees were appointed on daily payment basis and they used to share salaries of some 420 staff amounting to around Tk 1.5 crore annually.

RCC officials claimed that the sacked employees had no duties to perform. They were basically used for processions and meetings during the rule of BNP-Jamaat government.


Banned Kuwait-based NGO runs covertly

The Bangladesh chapter of Kuwait-based NGO Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS) is still running its offices and covert activities although its registration was cancelled nearly two years ago.

The NGO spends at least Tk 2 lakh a month, said a few contractors who worked for RIHS. But the source of this money remains mysterious because foreign funding of RIHS was stopped and its bank accounts closed following the cancellation of registration, they said.

Senior officials of the NGO are meanwhile lobbying hard within the present government either for reconsideration of the cancellation of its registration or for getting permission to continue activities in some other name.

The NGO Affairs Bureau cancelled RIHS's registration in May 2007 following a government decision made over intelligence recommendations. Ahle Hadith Andolon (Ahab) chief Asadullah Al Galib had helped RIHS get registered in November 1996.

The organisation has appealed to the bureau for reconsidering cancellation of its registration, but a senior official at the bureau said there is no scope for reconsidering the registration.

According to RIHS staff, the NGO spends Tk 1 lakh for its office rented at House-40, Lake Drive Road, in Sector-7 of Uttara in the capital and pays over Tk 60,000 in monthly salaries to 11 staffs.

But a few contractors of RIHS alleged that the organisation is not paying them some arrear bills on grounds of its fund having been stopped. "How can they spend for running office?" said a contractor.

RIHS Deputy Director General Abbas Bao, a Sudanese national, is currently serving as its country director, said a contractor, alleging that Bao is frantic to get Bangladesh citizenship and married a Bangladeshi woman for that purpose.

After the government banned al-Qaeda donor-suspect Al Haramain Foundation (now banned worldwide) in 2003, many Haramain staffs including five foreign nationals joined the RIHS. Four of the foreign nationals were later withdrawn from the country following the August 17 serial blasts.

A Bangladeshi Haramain staff Mojibor Rahman still works as a receptionist of RIHS. The other nine staffs of RIHS are chief accountant Abdul Wadud, office secretary Fazlur Rahman, public relations officer Ataur Rahman, two officers for its orphanage section and four peons and guards.

There are allegations that RIHS used to provide funds to the Islamist militants of Ahab, Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and other organisations, investigators said earlier.

Executed JMB chief Abdur Rahman himself told the media in 2004 that he used to get funds from the RIHS and Saudi Arabian NGO Rabitat-e Alam al Islami, which is run by Jamaat-e-Islami men.

The RIHS has so far erected 1,000 mosques, madrasas and orphanages across the country, many of which were used by JMB militants, said investigators.

A senior official of the NGO Affairs Bureau said the bureau has also nothing to do with the RIHS properties and its foreign staffs living in the country.

Abbas Bao could not be contacted while other RIHS officials declined to talk to this correspondent.

When contacted over mobile phone posing to be a job-seeker, chief accountant Abdul Wadud said, "We were considering recruitment a few months ago, but now it depends on the government whether it lets us operate."

He confirmed that RIHS is running its office. However, when asked about the sources of its fund, he hung up.

While visiting the RIHS office at House-40, Lake Drive Road, in Sector-7 of Uttara around 1:30pm yesterday, The Daily Star correspondent found all doors and windows of the four-storey building shut.

A bearded young man approached this correspondent and wanted to know the reason of visit. Asked about the office in the building, he suspiciously looked at the correspondent and said there is no office and that it is a residential building and only tenants reside there.