I was happy to see that the Star devoted a whole cover story on how hartals affect the ordinary citizen. We have gone past the stage when hartal can be considered an acceptable form of protest. When the means of protest becomes mindless vandalism and a reign of terror to make sure people don't come out on the streets then it can no longer be considered an acceptable form of protest. In the last spate of hartals people died and the loss of property has been immeasurable. Add to that the shameful attacks on minorities which were also part of the political strategies of those who called the hartal. It was just to instill more fear and spread it nationwide.
All this points to the fact that these people do not have the support of the general populace because the general populace has to go on making a living and feeding their families. We already know what hartals have done to this economy; your story highlighted the human misery these hartals have caused.
The writer of the article “Jamaat gaining?”, in the Star's last issue, has rightfully indicated that Jamaat-e-Islami has become the main beneficiary of the current political situation of the country. In fact, since February they have been able to channel every single incident happening in this country to their benefit. The war crime trial issue, the main weakness of the party, has been thrown into question and within days it became a matter of secondary importance in people's mind, due to Jamaat created violence. Had I read this article in the second week of February I would have criticised the writer for asserting so confidently 'it is almost certain that a free and fair election will ensure BNP's return to power'. It is true that the pattern of Bangladeshi electoral victory has always been in favour of the opposition. But when BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) appeared confused about the Shahbag movement towards the beginning, I for one thought 'there goes the possibility of BNP winning the next election if it is carried out under a neutral system'. It seemed then that Awami League would be the ultimate gainer of the Shahbag movement. But now? Would a free and fair election really put BNP, a party that mocks our history, uses misnomers such as 'genocide', sides with war criminals, and terms nationalistic feeling as atheism, into power? Would BNP, the party under which terrorist organisations like Jama'tul Mujahideen Bangladesh thrived, really come back to power? I gave my vote for the trial of the war criminals. Can I trust the party that calls me an atheist for joining the Shahbag movement and demanding the trial of the war criminals with continuing this trial? No.
I express my gratitude to Syed Bardul Ahsan for his article “The Moon, Old Women and Quislings” published last week. The writer has correctly pointed out the blasphemy in spreading such a rumour which led to unnecessary and untimely deaths. However, to my utter surprise, I find that our country's Islamists groups, that demand death for 'atheist bloggers' in our country did not raise the same amount of hue and cry for the acolytes of the collaborator. Was it not an assault on Islam? It also seems to me that a section of these people are abusing social media sites to spread such rumours. If the government is not capable of tackling the problem why do they not close down social media sites such as Facebook? They shut off YouTube when the insane movie 'Innocence of Muslims' was uploaded on the site. That incident did not become a threat to national interest like the rumours that are being spread, using Facebook, are. I am not against free speech but I believe that in a country where people are so gullible and intolerant that they come to the streets to act like a mob, burn and vandalise homes and temples of other religious communities just because someone has posted fake photographs or posts on the internet, such a country does not deserve to have free and unrestrained media.
Segun Bagicha, Dhaka
Waiting to be Noticed
I am a foreigner who has been living in the area of Jobarpar, 4km from Agailjhara and about 12km from Gournadi in the Barisal District, for the past three years. Recently we woke up to discover a bridge had collapsed into the river. This small place, probably unknown to many in Bangladesh, is now without the only connecting bridge from one side of Jobarpar to the next. Children going to school, expectant mothers needing to visit the Church of Bangladesh clinic and local people going to and from other connecting towns for work have been really inconvenienced – never mind the safety aspect of a broken bridge lying in the river!
To cross from one road to the next, people will have to walk 2km either way as the foot bridge has just deteriorated over the past few years, never been repaired and is now unusable. 'What can we do?', 'Can someone help?', I am also asking the same questions. What can and will be done about this? I have seen how long it has taken to repair roads and build new bridges. How long will these poor people have to wait for someone to acknowledge their problem?