Right means a claim of some interests recognized and protected by the Law adverse by an individual or a group of individuals which has some moral and legal basis and which is essential for his or her development in the society. And human rights are the rights which are possessed by every human being irrespective of his or her nationality, race, color or religion etc. Human rights are the inherent and real rights that can be claimed by any person as a human being. In the Constitution of every state, there are some articles regarding human rights. So, in our Constitution, there is also a chapter (Third Chapter), which has some articles (from 27 to 43) about fundamental human rights. Basically, human rights situations include some specific matters such as all kinds of children’s rights, women’s rights, situation of refugees, acid crimes, indigenous people, condition of labor etc. Discussion about Human Rights situation in Bangladesh is given below:
Constitutional guarantees of fundamental rights as well as Human rights in Bangladesh:
27. Equality before law.
All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.
28. Discrimination on grounds of religion, etc.
(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race caste, sex or place of birth.
(2) Women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres of the State and of public life.
(3) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth be subjected to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to access to any place of public entertainment or resort, or admission to any educational institution.
(4) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making special provision in favor of women or children or for the advancement of any backward section of citizens.
29. Equality of opportunity in public employment.
(1) There shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in respect of employment or office in the service of the Republic.
(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, be ineligible for, or discriminated against in respect of, any employment or office in the service of the Republic.
30. Prohibition of foreign titles, etc. No citizen shall, without the prior approval of the President, accept any title, honor, award or decoration from any foreign state.]
31. Right to protection of law.
To enjoy the protection of the law, and to be treated in accordance with law, and only in accordance with law, is the inalienable right of every citizen, wherever he may be, and of every other person for the time being within Bangladesh, and in particular no action detrimental to the life, liberty, body, reputation or property of any person shall be taken except in accordance with law.
32. Protection of right to life and personal liberty. No person shall be deprived of life or personal liberty save in accordance with law.
34. Prohibition of forced labor.
(1) All forms of forced labor are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
(2) Nothing in this article shall apply to compulsory labor.
- by persons undergoing lawful punishment for a criminal offence; or
- Required by any law for public purpose.
35. Protection in respect of trial and punishment.
(1) No person shall be convicted to any offence except for violation of al law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than, or different from that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.
(2) No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once.
(3) Every person accused of a criminal offence shall have the right to a speedy and public trial by an independent and impartial court or tribunal established by law.
(4) No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
(5) No person shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment.
(6) Nothing in clause (3) or clause (5) shall affect the operation of any existing law which prescribes any punishment or procedure for trial.
36. Freedom of movement.
Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the public interest, every citizen shall have the right to move freely throughout Bangladesh, to reside and settle in any place therein and to leave and re-enter Bangladesh.
37. Freedom of assembly.
Every citizen shall have the right to assemble and to participate in public meetings and processions peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of public order health.
38. Freedom of association.
Every citizen shall have the right to form associations or unions, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of morality or public order;
39. Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech.
(1) Freedom or thought and conscience is guaranteed. Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech.
(2) Subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence-
- the right of every citizen of freedom of speech and expression; and
- Freedom of the press, are guaranteed.
40. Freedom of profession or occupation.
Subject to any restrictions imposed by law, every citizen possessing such qualifications, if any, as may be prescribed by law in relation to his profession, occupation, trade or business shall have the right to enter upon any lawful profession or occupation, and to conduct any lawful trade or business.
41. Freedom of religion.
(1) Subject to law, public order and morality-
- every citizen has the right to profess, practice or propagate any religion;
- every religious community or denomination has the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.
(2) No person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or to take part in or to attend any religious ceremony or worship, if that instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own.
42. Rights to property
. (1) Subject to any restrictions imposed by law, every citizen shall have the right to acquire, hold, transfer or otherwise dispose of property, and no property shall be compulsorily acquired, nationalized or requisitioned save by authority of law.
(2) A law made under clause (1) shall provide for the acquisition, nationalization or requisition with compensation and shall either fix the amount of compensation or specify the principles on which, and the manner in which, the compensation is to be assessed and paid; but no such law shall be called in question in any court on the ground that any provision in respect of such compensation is not adequate.
43. Protection of home and correspondence.
Every citizen shall have the right, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interests of the security of the State, public order, public morality or public health-
- to be secured in his home against entry, search and seizure; and
- to the privacy of his correspondence and other means of communication
RIGHT TO LIFE
The right to life, being the “supreme right” of any individual, the state is bound to ensure its enforcement under Articles 31 and 32 of the Constitution, and also under its international treaty obligations. Under international law, there may be no derogation from this right even during a state of emergency.
Extra Judicial Killing: “Crossfire’s and Encounters”
Since 2004, after formation of the State’s ‘elite’ force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) the sword “crossfire” has been increasingly resorted to by law enforcing agencies. The official narrative in such cases follows a wearyingly familiar pattern – thus the story goes, “after the arrest of infamous terrorist “A” leads were found to an illegal arms location. And during a crackdown at this arms location other terrorists attacked and in that Crossfire terrorist “A” was killed.” Such crackdowns at the arm locations invariably take place in the early morning and the neighborhoods around these crossfire are unable later to confirm having heard any gun shots, and even if they did they were limited to only the number of people that were killed. There is serious and mounting concern that such incidents of “crossfire” are in fact deliberate killings.
According to the data compiled by ASK’s Documentation Unit, in 2008 175 extra-judicial killings took place, compared to 180 in 2007. An important point to be noticed here is that the number of killings without arrest in 2007 was 81 and in 2008 it was 127.
Table IV. 1: Death by Law Enforcing Agencies 2008
|Law Enforcement Agency||RAB||Police||RAB & Police||Joint Force/Army||BDR||Total|
Sick (in Custody)
Suicide (in Custody)
Deaths in Prison
Of the 72 prisoners who reportedly died in prisons across six divisions, 31 died in the Dhaka (see Prisoners’ Rights Chapter).10 There was no information made available on the cause of death in any case.
Violence between political party cadres
Given the continuance of the Sue till mid December, political activities were limited, leaving less scope for acts of extreme political intolerance. Despite these restrictions, a number of persons died or were injured in political confrontation. In AL vs. BNP collision 45 persons were injured and one died, AL vs. Shabbier collision 25 persons were injured and in BNP vs. BNP collision 55 persons were injured and one died.
Human Rights in Bangladesh 2008
Table IV. 2: Political Violence in 2008
|AL vs. BNP
AL vs. Shibir
BNP vs. BNP
Police vs. Polical Parties
Police – BNP
Despite the articulation of proper and effective public health treatment as a fundamental principle of state policy in the Constitution some, 52 (till 23 October) persons reportedly died due to medical negligence.
Gonopituni (mob assault)
Mob assault demonstrates an extreme example of public lack of confidence in the justice system. Such incidents of mob violence on alleged dacoits and robbers were reported from Noshing, Citation, Kasha, Damudia, and Natore.22 In a particularly disturbing development, where the public and law enforcement agencies colluded in committing such an extra-judicial killing, a group of alleged muggers was reported to have died of “mass-beating and crossfire”.
Table IV.3: Border Killings in 2008 (Till October)
Death from physical torture
Every year cross border firing by Indian Border Security Force (BSF) has reportedly violated the right to life. This year, according to ASK reports, 51 persons were killed in such incidents, 49 were injured and another 19 were abducted.24The main reason for such deaths is, reportedly, border crossing.
Bangladesh’s commitments to promoting workers’ rights devolve from its ratification of several international treaties, the Constitution and national laws.
However, the application of these laws has been poor and some of the State’s economic policies (i.e. laying off of jute workers) have negatively impacted upon workers’ rights. During 2008, as discussed below, the rollback of the EPR and further amendments to the labor Code effectively weakened the conditions for enforcement of labor rights,
particularly in the Ports.
On 7 October, several hundred RMG workers staged a day long demonstration in front of Imam Dyeing and Garments, demanding removal of its general manager, Kamrul Islam, and alleging that he subjected women Workers to almost daily harassment.
A case study: Right to Liberty and Security: Arrest of Meshed Hasan
Meshed Hasan, age 23 years, a labor rights activist, was arrested on 15 January at night by National Security Intelligence in Dhaka and accused of breach of Emergency. He monitored labor rights in garment factories for the Workers’ Rights Consortium (WRC), an NGO, largely on behalf of US colleges and universities, to ensure compliance with codes of conduct stipulated by international buyers. While in custody, Hasan was not
Allowed to meet his relatives. Press reports indicated that he had confessed to the allegations against him, but this was denied by his family sources. The police ultimately submitted a final report to the Court stating that there was no case to answer.
Restrictions on Trade Unions Relaxed
On 8 September, the Government relaxed the ban earlier imposed under the Emergency Rules on trade-union activities at industries, commercial enterprises, ports and factories on certain conditions, permitting them to recommence on a limited scale. This allowed
Elections for Collective Bargaining Agents (CBA), subject to the prior permission of
Police commissioners in City Corporation areas and of District Magistrates elsewhere. It also allowed trade union meetings of unto a maximum of 100 persons, subject to 48 hours prior notice to Metropolitan Police Com-meetings of over 100 persons, subject to prior permission from such officials. Meetings of 500 plus persons remained prohibited.
Further relaxation of the ban allowed indoor meetings at trade union offices or officially authorized places. The order also noted that the agenda of such meetings should be restricted to labor and organizational is-sues. It barred live reporting of such programmers on radio and television. It also prohibited the use of de-vices that could make the discussions audible outside the meeting venues.
Safety and Security at Work
Bangladesh is not lacking in verbal commitments to workers’ rights, having ratified several ILO conventions, while its laws guarantee health and safety and other working conditions. But, a graphically illustrated report by Bangladesh Occupational Safety Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE), showed that deaths and injuries of workers remain unacceptably high, with little or no redress. For example, in the first six
Months of 2008, 166 workers were killed in workplace accidents. In addition, 214 workers were killed in incidents while traveling to and from the workplace and 191 were killed in work related violence (torture by employers, hijacking or robbery, baton charge or firing by police etc). Altogether OSHE reported that 953 workers were killed in a variety of ways. The survey indicated that the highest number of casualties took
Place in three sectors, garments (788), followed closely by transport (566) and construction (123). The survey blamed these incidents on lack of proper implementation of law, hazardous and out-dated in-salvations, ineffective machinery and inadequate safety tools and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at workplace. It highlighted, in particular, the grossly inadequate capacity within the Government, with a mere 20
factory inspectors being responsible for implementing health and safety laws in public and private sector concerns nation-wide Alerted to these pervasive violations of the right to life of workers in the construction sector, the High Court, on 29 February 2008, asked the Government to explain within four weeks why its failure to establish an agency to enforce the Bangladesh National Building Construction Code 2006 should not be held to
be in violation of the law. The High Court also directed the Government to submit a statement setting out steps taken to ensure the safety of construction workers since the
Code was adopted on 15 November 2006. By year end, no further developments were reported in this matter.
Table XVIII.1: Numbers of deaths and injuries reported to the Factory Inspectorate 1995 – 2004
Situation of Migrant workers
Bangladesh has yet to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of Migrant Workers and their Families (1990).None of the employing countries have signed the convention. The Emigration Ordinance 1982 in Bangladesh does not provide protection for migrant workers. The main government agencies which serve as channels of recruitment – the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET), the Bangladesh Overseas Employment and Services Limited (BOESL) – as well as licensed private recruitment agents, provide little access to information or to legal remedies before workers travel abroad or on their return. In receiving countries, only ten Bangladeshi embassies have labor attaches.
Conditions of Employment
An estimated five million Bangladeshis are working abroad. According to Central (Bangladesh) Bank data, the amount of foreign remittance, from professionals and workers, rose to $7.94 billion in the last fiscal year 2007-08 (the second highest foreign currency earner for the country). The Government in this financial year gave emigration permission to 663,000 workers.
Most migrant workers are engaged in the notorious ‘3-D’ – dangerous, dirty and demeaning – jobs. Due to a flawed immigration policy and poor enforcement, migrant workers have been victims of corruption by middlemen before departure; their employers in the host country confiscate their passports, force them to sign revised contracts in language they do not understand, pay low wages, delay payment and provide no medical care.
In the last four and a half years, 6,547 Bangladeshis working abroad died at work.
About 900 died in the first five months this year. Insecurities had increased to the extent, that suicides among construction workers were on the rise and were mostly stress related. For example, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) expressed extreme concern over reports of high numbers of attempted suicides among migrant workers mostly from the Indian subcontinent since 2007.
Throughout 2008, a large number of Bangladeshi migrant workers were deported from Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The Government was unable to provide protection at their workplace but some action was
Child rights situation
Over the years Bangladesh has made some progress in achieving social indicators relating to health, nutrition and education of children.
Bangladesh is obligated to protect children’s rights under national law, and under several international human rights instruments. The Constitution guarantees judicially enforceable fundamental rights to all citizens including children and ensures affirmative action for children.
In addition, it provides for fundamental principles of state policy which act as guiding principles for formulating national policies and laws relating to human rights of citizens.
Despite regularly reiterating its commitment to the promotion and protection of child
rights, the state frequently fails to reflect this in its policy and practices.
Subject to this caveat, a more committed and responsive policy environment has begun developing recently for children, with several national policies acknowledging child rights as an integral part of the national development goal. For example, the current Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) includes two specific sections on child rights
and has formulated a Policy Matrix that sets out annual targets and child rights based indicators
. However, there is to date no Government report identifying progresses made to
Achieve the PRSP goals. The Government has also formulated three National Plan of Actions for Children (NPA) as a follow-up to the CRC, of which the current NPA covers the period 2005-2010.
National Child Labor Elimination Policy 2008 The Government finalized the National Child Labor Elimination Policy in July 2008. The policy aims to
develop long term plans to prevent and eliminate child labor and short term, time-bound plans to rehabilitate children engaged in hazardous and worse forms of work.
National Child Labor Elimination Policy 2008
The Government finalized the National Child Labor Elimination Policy in July 2008.
The policy aims to develop long term plans to prevent and eliminate child labor and short term, time-bound plans to rehabilitate children engaged in hazardous and worse forms of work.
Violence against children
From January 2008 to 16 December 2008, the key children’s rights’ watchdog BSAF reported on 2,755 in-accidents of violence, abuse, exploitation and acts of negligence against children. By contrast, in 2007 the number of total incidents was recorded as
3, 975. In 2008, it reported that 155 children were killed, 114 girls were raped, 386 children went missing, 42 children committed suicide and 15 children suffered acid attacks.
The table below further illustrates the nature of the most common forms of violence reported:
Table XX. 1: Reports of Violence against Children 2008
|Nature of violence||Total|
Rape and murder
Other sexual violence
Others types of violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect
Total Number of Incident
Child labor remained a major concern, with an estimated 7.9 million children working in the formal and informal labor sectors. Among them, over one million are considered to be engaged in hazardous jobs and at risk.
Recently, ship breaking yards have been identified by the Government as another hazardous place of work for children.
A 2008 research report identified that at least 25% of ship breaking workers are
Children (estimated 8,000 children) with 10 percent being aged under twelve years. Such work is extremely hazardous given the high number of accidental deaths, disability and exposure to harmful and toxic sub-stances in the yards. The report recommended that the government enhance labor inspections at the ship yards, amend the 2006 Labor Act to ensure no child below 16 years can engage in hazardous work and finalize the adoption of the Ship-breaking Policy Paper to put in place guidance and mechanisms to improve
and monitor ship yards.
Arrest and detention of children
Arrest and detention of children continued in 2008, with a slight reduction in the total number of new admissions compared to higher number of release from jails. According to Save the Children UK, from January to October 2008, there were 939 new admissions in 57 jails, and some 1098 children were released from the jails in the same period.
Of these children, 82 children (from January to May 2008) were arrested under the Special Powers Act, sideswipe a Police Headquarters directive of 7 August 2006, pursuant to the National Task Force decision that no children would be arrested under the Special Powers Act.
Trafficking of children
One media monitoring report states that 112 children were trafficked in this year.
However, these reports, which are limited to known and reported incidents, do not reflect the actual extent of the problem. In June, the Bangladesh police launched an Anti-Trafficking unit under the Criminal Investigation Department to investigate and intercept trafficking incidents in-country.
Although NGOS have identified bilateral agree-mints between source and destination countries as vital for rescue, repatriation, and legal protection of trafficked persons,
no visible success has been observed this year to draw up such agreements
Violence against Women
The submission by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to the Government of a Policy Against Sexual Harassment in Higher Educational Institutions and also the submission to the Government of a draft proposed Domestic Violence law by a coalition of women’s and human rights organizations mark important progress on two areas of long standing campaigns. The momentum for a policy against sexual harassment was augmented by the groundswell of demands of students, teachers and women’s rights organizations and a wide base of civil society to prevent and punish sexual harassment, after repeated incidents in Jahangirnagar University and Dhaka University went without any effective action, and despite mounting student’ protests including hunger strikes. In August the High Court had ordered the Government, on the basis of a writ petition filed by the Bangladesh National Women Lawyers association (BNWLA), to show cause why there should not be a law regarding prevention of sexual harassment of women and girl children whether in Government or semi-Government offices, and educational institutions. Following another writ petition in November, the High Court directed the Jahangirnagar University Authorities to show cause why the Syndicate’s decision to exonerate Sanower Hossain Sunny, a teacher of the Department of Drama and Dramatic Theory, of charges of sexual harassment and the suspension of six students of the University including four of the women who had originally made complaints against this teacher and two others who had given evidence against him should not be held to be without lawful authority. The High
Court also stayed operation of the orders of the Syndicate suspending the six students.
The Gus’s setting up of a 16 member national drafting committee and its efforts to consult with and so-licit opinions from a wide range of stakeholders including academics and members of civil society prior to submission of the Draft Policy to the Ministry of Education on 13 November was welcomed. However, the Policy had not yet been adopted at the time of going to press. On 30 June “The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill” was submitted to the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, by a coalition of forty human rights and women’s rights organizations. Salient features of the proposed bill included a comprehensive definition of domestic violence and the provision for protection orders, introduction of recognition of matrimonial property and right to reside in the marital home. No steps .were taken by the Government to date to act on this proposal
Table XIV.1: Comparative Data on Reports of Violence against Women from 2004 to 2008
|Category of Violence||2004||2005||2006||2007||2008|
(Dowry Related Violence)
Violence against Domestic
Fatwa Instigated Violence
The number of reported cases of rape had increased from 436 cases in 2007 to 486 as of end December 2008.
Amongst these, four involved allegations of custodial rape by the police, the number of reported cases of dowry related violence was 296 in 2008 compared to 294 the previous year.
Table XIV.2: Sexual Violence against Women in 2008
There were 20 reported cases of fatwa instigated violence as of December 2008 compared to 35 at the end of 2007. There has been a considerable increase in reporting on the incidence of violence again domestic workers, rising to 108 reports between January and December 2008 ranging from physical assault to rape and murder, with three of these cases resulting in suicide. There was no available information at the time of going to press on the nature of action taken to address such incidents, or whether each incident had resulted in investigation or prosecution of those responsible.
Table XIV: 3: Violence against Domestic Workers in 2008
Death from un-known causes
Table 1: Rape 2008
|Month (s)||Total number of victims||Total number of women||Total number of children||Gang Rape||Killed after being raped||Committed suicide after being raped|
Liberty and Freedom of Choice in Marriage
With regard to women’s right to independent identity and freedom of choice and mobility, an encouraging de-elopement emerged from a writ petition filed by Aim o Salish Kendra (ASK), and the concerted efforts of human rights lawyers. On 14 December the High Court ordered the release of Dr Humeral Abedin, a 33 years old Bangladeshi expatriate in the UK. Dr. Abedin’s parents had been charged with confining her in Dhaka on the pretext of being “unmarried” and “mentally ill” and from obstructing her from associating with a person of her choice on the grounds of his religion. The High Court ordered the police commissioner to ensure her safe passage to the British High Commission and requested the British authorities to arrange for Dr. Abedin’s safety in their custody until her departure for the UK.
There are nearly 300,000 Urdu-speakers in Bangladesh, half of whom live in 116 camps all over the country.
Refusing to claim or denied, citizenship rights until very recently, they have been unable to admit their children in government schools or get housing outside the camps and have faced discrimination with regard to employment in the public and private sector.
Urdu-speakers came to the erstwhile East Pakistan for various reasons. Some came with the ideals of building a Muslim nationhood in the newly carved state of Pakistan and many, especially those from Calcutta and Bihar fled the communal riots which broke out before, during and in the years that followed the partition of India. Under the Pakistani regime, their ability to speak Urdu attracted favors: they easily got government jobs(Especially in the railways), housing opportunities, and gained in status. For nearly a quarter of a century many were the middle-men, between the ruling Pakistani elite and the Bengalis.
With the language movement and the gradual and deepening call of Bengali nationalism, the situation changed. The Urdu-speakers had come to ‘build Pakistan’, were Urdu-speakers and many decided along with some Bengalis, to side with the Pakistani regime. Some Urdu-speakers however, took on the cause of Bengali nationalism and fought alongside the Muktijoddhas.
Following the independence of Bangladesh, some prominent Urdu-speakers were accused of involvement in war crimes or collaboration with the Pakistani regime. In an effective reprisal against the entire community for the acts of such individuals, the Urdu-speakers, from one day to the next, lost jobs, homes, security, status and many, their lives. As many of their leaders refused citizenship of the newly independent nation, they were moved into refugee camps across the country, where most of them have remained to this day, and remained as stateless persons for almost four decades. Urdu-speakers face dire living conditions in the camps, with families in rooms sometimes as small as Urdu-speakers face dire living conditions in the camps, with families in rooms sometimes as small as eight feet by eight feet. There are long queues for the latrines and a total lack of privacy. The first thing any Urdu-speaker does after putting aside enough money is to try to move out of the camps. Not being Bangladeshi citizens they have not been allowed to vote, hold a passport or get jobs and had no political clout to demand action to resolve their predicament. As a result, the vast majority has been pushed into the informal sector and work as rickshaw-pullers, drivers, butchers, barbers, mechanics, tailors and craft workers, earning meager wages.
Religious Minorities situation:
Individual Cases in 2008
As noted in previous years’ reports, incidents of harassment against the Hindu minority community continued at a low level, almost as a persistent “background noise” in the country’s overall human rights situation. There were arguments, often by those who wished to deny specific religious discrimination that such incidents of harassment, looting, rape, etc., occur against all impoverished communities in Bangladesh. Religious minorities continue to be most vulnerable. As reported in the press, sixteen year old student Purnima Mohanta was kidnapped from her house by assailants in October 2008.
Attacks were also reported against 40 minority families in Brahmanbaria as was the murder of priest Anurani Biswas.Meanwhile, the legal case filed by Dr. Bimal Sheel in the horrific Banshkhali murder case (2003 arson murder of eleven Hindu family members) continued to make its way through an uncooperative justice system, due to alleged involvement of Aminur Rahman Chowdhury, brother of former state minister Jafrul Islam Chowdhury.In July, Aminur, chairman of Kalipur UP, was arrested in connection with the case. In many cases of attacks against minority community, the local police appeared reluctant to take the cases seriously.
In cases where there is sustained reporting, it is often revealed that land grabbing is a primary motive behind the violence, and thus we return to the VPA as a root cause. Attempts to grab land are always accompanied by violence, as in the Ishwarganj case where the family of goldsmith Anal Roy was kept confined to their own home for almost a year by attacks from neighbours over a land dispute. In Rupganj, local thugs demanded Shadeb Roy sell his land to them and “move to India”.The murder of a Buddhist nun in Rangamati in Chittagong Hill Tracts was also reported to be in connection with a land dispute. Even media visibility is not sufficient protection, as attempts were made to grab land belonging to Janakantha journalist Niranjan Pal as well as famed columnist and economist Birupakkha Pal, and the family of television producer Anjan Roy (see above).
Other incidents of land grabbing were reported at Shahjadpur temple and on 3,000 decimals of land belonging to the heirs of Uma Rani Sarkar in Ghatkoir village, Naogaon.
In another incident in Naogaon, newspapers reported that the local Jamat I Islami leader attempted to grab the land of Ananda Kuma Sheel of Komorpur village, Badalgachi Upazila.Again in Shahjahanpur Upazila under another incident in Naogaon, newspapers reported that the local Jamat i Islami leader attempted to grab the land of Ananda Kuma Sheel of Komorpur village, Badalgachi Upazila.Again in Shahjahanpur Upazila under
Bogra, Jamat leader Azadur Rahman reportedly targeted the land of Swapan Kumar Kundu, at one point re-moving all fences around the property to begin a process of “land swallowing”.
The footprint of the VPA can be seen both in the targeting of Hindu land as more vulnerable to legal maneuvers, as well as the frequent exhortations to “move to India”. If a frightened family does flee to India (or anywhere else), the “continuous” living condition is broken, and the land can be grabbed (even under the Vested Property Repeal Act, which maintains this clause). Thus in Kaliakoir, land belonging to several Hindu families including Paritosh Chandra Sarkar were targeted by local leader Hazrat Ali, who threatened physical violence and ordered the families to, again, “go to India”.In Keraniganj, the remnants of the two hundred year old Parshanath temple was obliterated by what the newspapers described as “land pirates” us-ing VPA.A Prothom Alo investigation revealed that a three acre water body belonging to the Zamindar family of Pran Gobinda Chowdhury, had been illegally occupied since 2003 by local politicians, through forged documents prepared by land administration officials with help of personnel in the District administrative headquarters. Another Ittefaq investigation discovered that over 11,300 acres of land in Jessore had been grabbed as
vested property by the family of a politician linked to the BNP-Jamat Alliance.
In another investigation, Nugatory revealed that out of 30,000 acres of land officially appropriated by the Chittagong land administration as “vested property” (not counting land privately grabbed by individuals), only 5,000 acres were actually under Government control and the rest had been occupied by “unknown parties”.
While media reporting of such incidents still remains sporadic, these occasional investigations have begun to generate awareness and focus on
Table 2: VIOLENCE AGAINST religious minority 2008
Continuing tensions prevail regarding the security of the country’s Ahmadiya community, a Muslim sect that is opposed by some hardliner religious groups. The nadir of the Ahmadiya community’s position inside Bangladesh was in 2003-2004, when their places of worship were systematically attacked, and their books were banned by the Government. Sustained civil society protests, paired with a legal challenge to the order, led to a High Court stay order on the government ban. Since that watershed ruling, while there have been occasional forays by bigoted groups, as in Khulna against Moazzem Hossain family,there have been no attacks on
Ahmadiya mosques. The Ahmadiya faith’s centennial celebrations were carried out without hindrance, with a cross-section of political and civil society leadership in attendance.
However, while there were no major incidents, we should note the organizing of a seminar by Amra Dhakabashi at Deen Hall, where discussants demanded that Ahmadiyas (“Qadiyanis” to their opponents) be declared non-Muslim.
This group, essentially involved in street violence earlier, is now pushing hate speech demands through law-based arguments. When looking at recent court case demanding ban of construction of a statue in Narayanganj, one can see possible futures where hate groups push their agenda through the courts rather than street demonstrations, allowing them to take on an apparent mantle of respectability. In the context of local politics, such attacks on the Ahmadiya community may be a “sleeper issue” for the bigoted groups. Investigative reports show collusion and tacit agreement between some officials of the earlier Four Party Alliance Government, and these street agitation movements. The Caretaker Government, while ensuring security of the Ahmadiyas, exhibited a degree of appeasement towards the anti-Ahmadiya groups. While political activity was suspended under the state of emergency, fringe extremist groups have repeatedly held defiant street protests in connection with the cartoonist Arifur Rahman’s case, attacks on statues, the banning of a play in Rajshahi University, etc.
Jobs, Education and Voting
As described in the 2006 Annual Report, the absence of significant minority representation in all sectors of government, defense and business is palpable. There were only eight minority representatives out of 300 members of the last Parliament, and based on initial set of nominations announced this year, such a trend may continue. Although minorities are relatively more visible in the media and NGO sector, their presence
is overall lacking in both private and public sectors. The lack of comprehensive statistics has made it difficult to articulate the story of systemic disenfranchisement. Nor is there any discussion on the “glass ceiling”(the point after which minorities will not get promoted) in corporate and government service.
New Legal Developments in 2008
In a fresh move to resolve the issue of land loss, the Government in 2008 drafted a new law “Vested Property Examination & Resolution Amendment Bill”. However, when details of this amendment were made available, civil society and human rights groups involved with landless people’s rights registered strong objections to major flaws in the law. In the face of their vigorous protests,
the Government shelved the Bill.
Prisoner’s situation: Over Crowding
Over crowding continues to be a chronic problem in Bangladesh prisons, and is a major cause of poor prison conditions. In January 2008, the total number of prisoners stood at about 78,000 against a capacity of 26,000 only.
This number exceeded 86,000 in June when the capacity had increased up to 27,368. Prisoners, even women prisoners, have to sleep in shifts due to shortage of sleeping space. The Dhaka Central Jail has above 10,000 inmates, three times more than its actual capacity of 2,682 only.
The Chittagong Central Jail accommodated 6,468 prisoners, against a capacity of 1,507 only. The usual over-crowding was exacerbated by the sudden jump in ‘mass arrests’. Reportedly between 28 May-12 June, on average some 1,698 persons were arrested every day, compared to 1,291 in May-June 2007.The consequent over crowding, and scarcity of food space and facilities has encouraged further corruption and malpractice in the jail administration. Reportedly the prison authority terminated at least 130 prison staff to control corruption.
Table XXIII.1: Prison population between January 2001 to July 2008
|Month/Year||Capacity||Number of Prisoners|
Health Facilities in Prison
Over the years, the steady rise in the prison population has not been accompanied by any initiative to set up new hospitals or to improve health care facilities in existing jail hospitals. According to the DIG (Prisons), “Not only the general prisoners, every one in jails suffers because of the shortage of doctors and other health care facilities”.
Reportedly there are only 16 doctors against 77 posts to look after about 90,000 inmates in jails all over the country. Hospital facilities are available in twelve prisons only and the remaining prisons lack any such health service facilities; none of these hospitals has an ambulance for emergency transport. Usually, these hospital beds are occupied by rich and powerful prisoners; so that other prisoners in serious condition are denied access to appropriate treatment. On the other hand, the VIP prisoners get extra priority and advantages in treatment, they even occupy all beds for prisoners available in specialized prison wings of Government hospitals. Former BNP State Minister for Home Affairs Lutfuzzaman Babar, sentenced to 17 years imprisonment in an arms case (later released on bail in December) was staying at the prison cell of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Hospital for about 18 or 19 months of his detention. Like him, most of over 150 high profile prisoners detained after 11 January 2007 and later freed on bail or parole, spent a large portion of their detention at different hospitals under jail custody. They included Tarique Rahman, Arafat Rahman Koko, two sons of former prime minister Khaleda Zia, Adviser to Khaleda Zia (MP) Salauddin Kader Chowdhury, former BNP ministers Tariqul Islam¸ Mirza Abbas, Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, Najmul Huda, Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain and Moudud Ahmed, former deputy minister Amanullah, former state ministers Iqbal Hasan Mahmud Tuku and Mir Nasir, Former BNP-MPs Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu, Hafiz Ibrahim, Ali Asghar Lobi, Manjurul Ahsan Munshi, Wadud Bhuiyan. Chittagong City Corporation Mayor (Awami League leader) ABM Mohiuddin, Janakantha publisher Atiqullah Khan Masud, Former AL Secretary General Abdul Jail were also among those who spent
Women in Prisons
As reported in the Ittefaq of 7 August 2008, there were at least 3,480 women inmates in several prisons in Bangladesh. Despite the Jail Code provisions requiring women to be segregated from men, an under trial female prisoner reportedly became pregnant and delivered a child on 21 October this year. A convict was later produced by the jail authorities before the magistrate who confessed to being responsible. During the
year, the first women-only prison constructed in late 2007 came into use with women prisoners from the grossly overcrowded Dhaka Central Jail being shifted there.
Children in jails
The High Court’s 2003 directive to transfer any children and juvenile prisoners in jails to correction centers remained unrealized five years on, with at least 387 children and juvenile offenders remaining in prisons across the country. Most of their prison time