August 22, 2007

Dateline Dhaka: Breaking News and Analysis Gut Reactions

List of blogs monitoring the situation in Dhaka with (more or less) regular updates:

UV
The 3rd World View
Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying
Shocholayoton (Bangla)
Shadakalo
bdfact
E-bangladesh (audio)

Last Update: (really tired and sleepy, so no hyperlinks) Apparently the government has declared today a holiday. Awaiting confirmation on that. BTTB submarine cable is down according to a DP commenter. Ties in with loss of internet access in some areas, and even more ironically with jokes cracked on Shadakalo's blog.

If one thing is clear, these last three days have highly polarised us. Commenters on UV are a good sample to glean that from. Talking in support of the students instantly make one anti-army and showing even the slightest sympathy for any military/police personnel can be treated as being anti-students. This no doubts suits someone's interest or the other, but hardly the national interest.

Does anyone realise that those students and the soldiers are the same age? The same colour? The same nationality? What divides them so much then?

Not to sound too gloom-and-doom, but I leave you all with one of my favourite Ginsberg quotes: "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness".

Update 8: New Age has not updated its newspaper to the new edition. Anyone has any idea why? BDnews24 is still showing stale news. Is there really a news blackout out of Dhaka?

More importantly, has anyone in the CTG or the military taken a history course? I ask because news blackouts in Dhaka do NOT send the right message to Bangladeshis.

Update 7: BBC news on television shows footage of people going home with their hands raised up above their heads to show security forces that they were not involved. It's hard to believe one's eyes. Even harder to hear John Sudworth describing it, without telling us how widespread this phenomenon was. Is this really what we've been reduced to? (h/t Mash for the link to the video. The rest of it isn't a pretty picture either.)

Update 6: Deshi bloggers have recently become something of an up and coming force in the distribution of the most politically volatile commodity in the world: information. Somewhereinblog and Shocholayoton are good examples. Keep your eyes on them for alternative news (whose anti-military bloggers I don't always agree with), and keep your eyes on any attempts to censor them and/or intimidate their workers during the curfew. More than expatriate bloggers on blogspot and elsewhere, these guys are taking some risks. (h/t RA)

I'm going to go tend to my bhaat and daal on the stove. That is how much I'm worried about home: I'm cooking daal. I think you need to be me to understand that.

Update 5: I don't have any independent confirmation of this, and would appreciate anyone corroborating this: E-bangladesh's latest audio update (linked below) says that GoB is thinking of internet censorship. Among the list of websites to be blocked include E-Bangladesh itself, Drishtipat (of course! We all know how this "human rightists" damage your international bhaabmurti... whether you are AL/BNP/CTG it really doesn't matter.) and all blogspot addresses. That last means this webpage as well.

Oh well, at least I'll have something to tell the grandkids....

Update 4: Have it from good sources that DS front page news people are staying overnight at the offices, too scared to go venture out. That would explain why they haven't been arrested yet. Although by tomorrow, I'm sure someone or other will insinuate as to how this means that DS/Mahfuz/Mahfuz-Debopriyo Chokro (I love chokros!) is in cahoots with the CTG.

Random thought continued from update 1: I don't know what's going on this night in Dhaka. I'm afraid that students who remained behind are being subjected to all sorts of things ranging from inconvenience to harrassment to violence. I'm afraid that people are being randomly arrested.

But what is the purpose? Is this the moment when the military steps in from behind the curtain? Frankly I don't think so, mainly because if the rumours are true, their main backers are the US and UK and we all know how allergic their media elites and certain groups within their states are to the words "military dictatorship". So again, what is the purpose of all this?

My hunch, and I might be completely wrong, is that this is the army's show of strength after what it and the students perceive as the "humiliation" of the DU eviction and "picture no.5". This is their way of showing their junior/mid-ranking officers and the populace alike who's in charge. That at least is the original intent with which this curfew and tonight's "raids" (or whatever they'll be come to be called) have been undertaken.

A good friend of mine worries that in doing so, they might over-reach. Once the army is deployed, there is a logic to itself and command and control might get difficult in the field. I'm with him. Isn't that what led to this situation in the first place?

Update 3: Shocholayoton reports that among the journalists arrested was a blogger called Biplob Rahman, who is also a journalist for bdnews24.com and writes for Baadh Bhangar Awaaj. Towards the end, one of the commenters say that he has been freed.

BDnews24.com seems to have come under enormous strain, as have new media pioneers such as bloggers. Why is a good question, and one I hope to answer in more detail in another post. Part of it has to do with the fear of everything new, so prevalent among people who prefer hierarchical order over anarchic creative destruction.

Enough rambling! I present The 3rd World View with far better updates than I can possibly provide.

Update 2: So my fears are subsiding just a bit. Not a lot, just a small amount. The journos picked up have been freed according to BDnews24.com front page:

The police have released up to 12 journalists, two hours after their arrest during the curfew Wednesday night, police and reporters said. Asif Ahmed Rommo, senior sub-editor of bdnews24.com, who was arrested along with two colleagues, phoned the office from home after his release. "I walked home. We were kept at Mohammadpur Police Station for two hours," Rommo said. Mohammadpur police sub-inspector Muktar Hossain told bdnews24.com that all the journalists were freed. Scores of journalists were arrested or beaten by the army during the first few hours of the curfew. Army officers arrested three journalists—Liton Haider, Biplob Rahman and Rommo—as they were heading home after work.

This sounds more like frustrated/humiliated army men blowing off steam at these civilian types than a concerted move planned from HQ. Of course, these journos could have been picked up to brief them about those lines in the sand I was talking about, but my gut feeling is that that talk would have taken more than 2 hours.

Reports of army moving through the city abound.

Update: E-Bangladesh is reporting that army patrols are back on campus, with certain student leaders and teachers being "sought after". A friend of a friend confirms that they had their apartment on DU campus searched by the army.

So the move is: withdraw the camp, call a curfew and then put the army back in? This should go down well..... yes, that's sarcasm, my only defense at times like this.

Journos are definitely getting arrested, in what I see as a move to intimidate the press. Mobile networks are off. TV channels are not allowed to do talk shows. People who talk about how the internet and global communications has revolutionised politics should take heed: the government is the government because it is the most powerful entity within the state. Which is why good politics is important and a focus on the quality of governance and human rights issues are more important than economic development (or what goes in its name anyways!).

I slept five hours last night. Probably dreamt of a riot-ridden city, dhawa-palta dhawa, don't remember. Woke up to find a curfew imposed, and people on UV crowing on about "how right they were all along" that these students were goons.

Yes, whenever things go wrong, a certain section will always blame the masses, whoever the masses happen to be. Things are going wrong for the masses, but its the masses themselves at fault. If only they had a Mahatir (sorry we don't use that name anymore) a LEADER to lead them into the light which they themselves have forsaken.

It's as if we have not had strong leaders in the past. It's like the masses are allowed to determine their own destiny under emergency law, so they are to blame for inflation, for jute mill closures, for harrassment of businessmen, for harrassment of a teacher, that most noble profession which we have thoroughly degraded from all sides - AL, BNP, Jamaat, military, all of them.

Leaders do not outlive their people. Lesson number one of history. Sadly, no one seems to learn it and calls for these "leaders" to teach the masses a lesson.

Enough with the emotional blubbering, onto the news. If you like me just woke up a few hours back and are flabbergasted at the speed of developments, check out this post on DP, shadakalo's take here, The 3rd World View here and bdfact here to bring yourself up to speed.

Latest from Dhaka is that the army has arrested and beat up journalists during curfew hours. The journalists belong to bdnews24, CSB, Boishakhi and Samokal. Only the last I believe is a newspaper, so basically they're concentrating on new media thus far. Setting up new lines in the sand that should not be crossed. The old print media is well aware of those lines. Bdnews is reporting on the arrest during curfew on their front page (I don't have access), while commenter bdfact on UV tells us who the reporters used to work for.

When all else fails, blame the media. Chopping off the messengers' head for bringing the message is a time old move. I don't recall it having improved any situation.

One last honourable mention in all this must go to the Honourable Advisor, Barrister Mainul Hosein. I once labelled the guy Dhakar Dhokabaaj (DD). Today he has once again lived up to his title by giving out this quote that you can find on the BBC's website:

We request channels to stop televising footage of violence until further notice because this might instigate further violence

Ahhh yes! It's these TV channels that are the cause of all this trouble, that is the cause of the contagion through which the protest spread! If these TV channels weren't there, then people frustrated by food inflation, by floods, by unemployment, by government harrassment and eviction, by government demolishing of their homes and by ARBITRARY USES OF POWER would have remained safely on their couches (sold to buy food)... their khaat palongs (sold to buy food)... their paatis and not rioted.

At this point, I honestly don't know if Mainul Hosein is a dhokabaaj or a dhokafied scapegoat in the making.

Visit the blogs linked for regular updates. I will update this space as regularly as I can. Like most NRBs, I was worried about my family before talking to them. I hope and pray that all your loved ones in Bangladesh are alright too.

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