Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets and blocked intersections in Dhaka on March 1 to protest the death of a writer and commentator in prison, who had been charged under Bangladesh's controversial Digital Security Act (DSA). The deceased, popular author and blogger Mushtaq Ahmed, had been arrested last May after posting comments on social media in which he criticized the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 10 others were also charged with sedition under the DSA that month, including political cartoonist Kabir Kishore, who remains imprisoned. At a court hearing last month, Kishore passed a note to his brother stating that he had been physically abused in prison, resulting in severe injuries. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is demanding his release, and that the claim of maltreatment be investigated.
Authorities in Bangladesh are surrounding the Rohingya refugee camps with barbed-wire fencing and watchtowers, turning them into what refugees and rights groups liken to a "prison." Southeast Asia-based NGO Fortify Rights says construction on some 28 kilometers of fencing is nearly complete around parts of the camps, which are home to some 900,000 Rohingya pushed out of Myanmar. Humanitarian workers fear the fencing could hamper aid delivery and block access to medical clinics. Bangladeshi officials say the fencing is a response to growing concerns about crime and gang violence; humanitarian groups say any security measures must be proportionate. "The civilian and humanitarian character of the camps must be maintained," the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, warned in December.
The richest one percent of the world's population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1 billion people who made up the poorest half of humanity during a critical 25-year period of unprecedented emissions growth, according to a new study by the aid group Oxfam. The report, "Confronting Carbon Inequality," is based on research conducted with the Stockholm Environment Institute and has been released as world leaders prepare to meet at the UN General Assembly to discuss global challenges including the climate crisis. The report assesses the "consumption emissions" of different income groups between 1990 and 2015—the 25 years when humanity doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It found:
Tropical Cyclone Amphan unexpectedly intensified into a rare "Super Cyclonic Storm" on May 18—becoming the northern hemisphere's strongest tropical cyclone yet in 2020. Amphan made landfall two days later, leaving a trail of destruction along coastal areas both in India and Bangladesh, impacting tens of millions of people. At least 77 deaths in India and 25 in Bangladesh have been reported so far. Over three million people in both countries remain displaced from their homes, taking refuge in community shelters—obviously placing them at risk of contracting COVID-19. In India's West Bengal state, thousands of people evacuated from their homes are crammed inside buildings that were being used as COVID-19 quarantine centers, because there is no other shelter available. (ReliefWeb, The Watchers, ThirdPole)
Bangladeshi counter-terrorism authorities announced the arrest in Dhaka April 7 of Abdul Majed, who faces the death penalty for involvement in the 1975 assassination of the country's founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Independence leader "Bangabandhu" Rahman served as the country's first prime minister from 1971 until the 1975 coup in which he was killed along with his family. Only his daughters Sheikh Hasina Wazed and Sheikh Rehana Siddiq survived, as they were in West Germany at the time. Although forbidden from returning to Bangladesh during the subsequent 15-year period of military rule, Sheikh Hasina became prime minister in 1997 and then again in 2009. Majed has publicly admitted his involvement in the massacre, but, like the others involved, faced no legal consequences during the period of military rule. After Sheikh Hasina first became prime minister, Majed went into hiding. In 1998, he was tried in absentia and sentenced to death. The Supreme Court of Bangladesh in 2009 upheld the sentences of Majed and 11 others convicted in the case. In 2010, five of the convicts were hanged; five remain at large, and one has died of natural causes.
India's northeastern state of Assam has exploded into protest over the Dec. 11 passage of a new national citizenship law. The army has been deployed, a curfew imposed in state capital Guwahati, and internet access cut off. At least five people have been killed as security forces fired on demonstrators. The new law allows religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to apply for Indian citizenship. This means it effectively excludes Muslims, and mostly apples to Hindus and Sikhs. Critics of the ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) say it therefore violates India's founding secular principles. But while secularists and Muslims are protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act on this basis elsewhere in India, the biggest protests have been in Assam—motivated by fear that the state will be overrun by an influx from Bangladesh, threatening its cultural and linguistic identity.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Dec. 3 that the Bangladesh government is violating the right to education of nearly 400,000 school-age Rohingya refugee children by barring UN humanitarian agencies and NGOs from providing the children with any formal, accredited education. The Bangladesh government's policy prevents Rohingya from integrating into the local Bangladeshi society. In furtherance of this policy the government bars Rohingya children from enrolling in schools in local communities outside the camps or taking national school examinations. According to HRW, the Bangladesh government is violating its international obligations to ensure the right to education under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights treaties, and its obligation to the integration of refugee children into national education systems under the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees.
Thousands of university students have held protests in Bangladesh, blocking roads in Dhaka and other cities, since the Oct. 6 killing of an undergraduate student, Abrar Fahad, who was beaten to death at the prestigious Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology (BUET). Several campus militants of the Chhatra League, youth wing of the ruling Awami League, have been arrested in the slaying. BUET administrators initially said Fahad died while being "interrogated" on suspicion of belonging to the Islami Chhatra Shibir, youth wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami, an oficially banned opposition group. But protesters say what was really at issue was Fahad's recent Facebook post critical of a water-sharing agreement just signed between Bangladesh and India during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to New Delhi. Under the agreement, signed one day before the murder, India is granted the right to withdraw 1.82 cusec (185,532 liters per hour) of water from Feni River.