Monday, January 23, 2012

Borders Of Blood

Apparently they fire “criminals violating border norms”, said the BSF DG in 2010.

These incidents are normal, happen all the time and the state has no serious concern about this, says the LGRD minister of the ruling party.

These incidents should not be “hyped” by media, says the Indian Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee in India.

Possibly Bangladesh is the only country where lives have lesser value tags attached to them when compared to the value of the cattle crossing the border. Possibly Bangladesh is the only country where the powerful need to be protected and the powerless killed in order to maintain a balance of survival.

In the border areas, there seems to be a complete impertinence to life and norms. Cattle trade being illegal in India, almost 20000 cows are herded and sold from Punjab, Bihar and Haryana to Bangladesh through Murshidabad alone. Caught up in the game of the brokers (dalals), and the owner (ghatiyal), the labourer (rakhal) is the one who profits the least and gets hit the most. The brokers comprise of all shapes and sizes, starting from BSF, police and custom officials’ category. They are known as the “Commission”. When cows are at times caught on the border, they are often sold back to the owner at a higher price instead of a legal auction.

The 2216 kilometres of India’s borders with Bangladesh are death traps for Bangladeshis today. Rakhals carry blue and yellow chits with different symbols drawn on them indicating that they have a “passport” to pass through the borders. They are safe, meaning that both police and customs have received their fair share.

In spite of all that open knowledge, I don’t know how any Bangladeshi minister can show indifference to murder; I don’t know why the political parties don’t invest on a BSF march instead of Tipaimukh, Teesta and many others that we watch these days.

With Odhikar’s figure of slain Bangladeshis standing at a 39 and Ain-o-Shalish Kendro’s at a 31 in 2011 alone, how can the BSF bullets be justified by citing irrelevant examples of drug and cattle smuggling? Mr. Syed Ashraful Islam, how can illegal trade cost life? If so, how come the biggest scoundrels and smugglers of Bangladesh still ride on their SUVs and befriend political parties and eventually even become part of them and get elected in the process? What systems are we subscribing to, Mr. Islam? Are we applying for permanent positions in the club of the corrupt and blind? And will you take responsibility of your statement of the government “not being worried”?

I was speaking to a bright, young girl yesterday who had organised a lot of young voter movements during the last elections. Hurt and distraught, she sat in front of me, talking about the 22-year-old Rasheduzzaman from Sharsha Upazila who was shot dead by the BSF just the other day. I had no words to restore her faith in democratic process that often breeds monsters in place of responsible lawmakers.

How could BSF, within a few days after the Indian media had just aired the scenes of gruesome torture of a Bangladeshi youth, repeat the same act? To the best of my knowledge, BSF cannot claim impunity and can only fire in self-defence. Are we really expected to believe that the illegal traders have more strength than the ‘border beasts’ that kill them in retaliation?

I humbly suggest that we put up a wall etching the names of the fallen at the hands of the BSF at a significant point in Dhaka. Let this memorial wall be erected somewhere near our diplomatic zone where every diplomat crossing the installation will take time and reflect on the hurt that the citizens of this country suffer because of Indian insensitivities and aggression.

I couldn’t sleep last night. I didn’t even have nightmares. I simply stayed awake thinking of the families who lost their children to BSF. I also played out scenes in my head reflecting the torture that is no less than the Americans torturing at Abu Ghraib, no less than the British torturing the Iraqis, and no less than the Pakistanis raping us in 1971. If we could once, as a nation, come together and fight against atrocities, let us not falter and fail our conscience today.

Let us carefully reflect on the reality: while the lions in the borders roar, how and why should we grant access to the same people behind the lines waiting to access our transit points? They need to control their beasts first before wanting a substantial share of our resources. Should that not be the case, after all?

While teenagers like the 14-year-old Jinnah wanting a little more money for their pockets get into deals with the traders on the borders, carry out their missions and earn as less as Tk 2000.00 per crossing, and while they save as much as Tk 6000.00 in three trips and buy jeans and a mobile phone storing at least 200 songs, including hits like “Paglu”, who should we blame when they receive bullets piercing through their necks, exiting through their backs?

Is it illegal trading or our own insensitivities that grant audacity to our big brother in the block?

BY :  Rubana Huq.

Beijing ready for connectivity with Dhaka thru’ Myanmar

China says Bangladesh's proposeddeep seaport in Sonadia Island is of strategic importance to the country and ishelpful to become the regional transportation and logistic centre.

''So long Bangladesh side showsenough will and determination, this project can obtain positive progress verysoon,'' outgoing Chinese Ambassador Zhang Xianyi made the remarks in hispre-departure interview with UNB on Saturday.

During Prime Minister SheikhHasina's visit to Beijing last year, Bangladesh sought the Chinese assistanceto build the deep seaport. The Ambassador said Chinese enterprises haveadvanced technologies, equipments and ample funds.

He said China Harbour EngineeringCompany Ltd., having rich experience in this sector, has set up its office inDhaka and is ready to participate in this project in commercial manner. Xianyisaid Chinese enterprises are also ready to cooperate with enterprises from othercountries to jointly take part in this project.

Asked about the much talked abouttri-nation road and rail links, he said China stands ready to work togetherwith Bangladesh and Myanmar to establish the road and railway links among thethree countries at an earlier date.

"There are already severalroutes that connect China and Myanmar. For routes between Bangladesh andMyanmar, I hope Bangladesh can have more consultation with Myanmar to push thisprocess forward.''

The Ambassador said the Chineseside always attaches importance to the connectivity among China, Bangladesh andMyanmar. "'We believe, this is conducive to the economic, cultural, peopleto people links, and to peace and stability of this region.''

Asked about Chinese assistance indredging of riverbeds in Bangladesh, Ambassador Xianyi said that against thebackdrop of climate change, river dredging becomes even more important. Eachyear, the Chinese government provides training to Bangladeshi officials andtechnicians, he said.

On September last year, he saidChina Harbour Engineering Company Ltd was selected to implement a project forJamuna River dredging (14 kms).

Asked about the construction ofthe 7th and 8th Friendship Bridges, the ambassador said that the constructioncontract on the 7th China-Bangladesh Friendship Bridge at Kajirtek was signedon January 3 this year and the works will start very soon.

About the 8th Friendship Bridge,he said consultations are going on between the two countries and hopefully,there will be a positive result soon.

Asked about bilateral trade andeconomic cooperation, Xianyi said the two-way trade volume in the first 11months of 2011 reached US$ 7.5 billion with an increase of 21.3 percentcompared with the same period in 2010.

Bangladesh's export to Chinareached US$ 400 million, an increase of 79.5 percent, while the Chineseinvestment in Bangladesh in 2011 amounted to more than $ 200 million.

Ambassador Xianyi said Bangladeshand China signed agreements on introduction of 3G technology and expansion of2.5G network as well as construction of Shahjalal Fertilizer Factory. Theconstruction work will start very soon. Besides, China exempted debts ofBangladesh worth more than 600 million RMB.

Asked about providing duty-freeaccess to more Bangladesh products, the Ambassador said that since July 1,2010,China began offering zero tariff treatment to 4,762 Bangladesh products,covering 70 percent of Bangladesh exports to China.

As a result, he said Bangladesh'sexport to China has increased by 91 percent in 2010 and 79.5 percent in 2011."As next step, China will increase this ratio to 97 percent,'' he said,adding Bangladeshi businesses can make full use of widely open Chinese marketand increase their exports to China.

Replying to a question abouteasing visa regime for Bangladeshi businessmen and tourists, Xianyi said theChinese embassy has already eased the visa procedure for Bangladeshi businesscommunity.

In 2011, the Embassy of Chinaissued visas to more than 20,000 Bangladesh citizens.