Thursday, July 31, 2008
Jagannath on road to oblivion
The century-old temple faces demolition amid shifting of blames and responsibilities
Demolition of the frontal façade of Jagannath Mandir at city's Tantibazar is going on while the authorities concerned are still unsure about who has the responsibility to save the 100-year-old temple.
A big obstacle in saving the structure lies in the fact that the authorities are yet to make a complete list of city's heritage buildings.
The temple committee started knocking down the structure on Saturday night. A new building is being constructed inside the temple compound.
According to locals, the temple was built by Hariprashanna Dey, Kartik Sen and other elite of the trader community of the area.
Taimur Islam, conservation architect of Urban Study Group, said the 19th century temple is known for it decorative ceramic tiles and moulded tiles.
Corinthian capitals, small ornate domes, pilasters, relief work, decorated cornice and parapets are some of the important features of the temple.
"Parts of the parapets are broken now. The structure has an oriel window jutting out of the wall. The pinnacle was once broken by the Pakistan Army during the Liberation War. Then it was redeveloped," he said.
"We are trying to raise funds to save it. The façade can be preserved and partially reconstructed. We have sought one-month time from the temple committee to provide necessary technical assistance to save the façade."
Taimur contacted Rajuk's authorised officer of the area when he found that the demolition was going on Sunday. The authorised officer responded by sending an inspector immediately to the spot.
Babul Das, head of the temple committee, said they have tried their best to save the façade of the temple but they could not do it due to lack of funds.
"We wanted to save the façade but we do not have enough money. The architects told us that they would manage funds but they couldn't. Therefore we are not in a position to save it,” he said.
“The best we can do is to reconstruct the whole thing after demolition. But we have to knock it down for the new building," said Das. “The façade stands as an obstacle to the worshippers coming to the temple,” he added.
"Due to the rickety façade we are facing problem in worshipping. We have a string of Puja in the next few months -- Jhulon, Monosha Puja, Janmashtami, Bishwakarma Puja and Durga Puja. So we will have to prepare the temple now,” the temple committee chief said.
Das said Rathjatra is the most gorgeous religious event at this temple. But in the last Rathjatra they faced problems because they had lots of worshippers who faced difficulties getting into the temple.
“Till now we have broken only the pinnacle of the façade which can be reconstructed," he said.
Kajal Devnath, president, city unit of Hindu, Bouddha, Christian Oikya Parishad, said he is trying his best to save whatever is left.
"I have told the Urban Study Group that if they can take the responsibility and provide technical help in saving the structure then I can convince the temple committee," he said.
If a sponsor is not found or the government do not come forward in time then it will be hard for anyone to save it. This is the stark reality, he said.
Asked what steps the recently formed heritage committee under the government's Urban Development Committee, will take regarding the matter, one of its high officials said that since their convenor is not in the country they are waiting for him to return.
On his return, the committee will take action. Official letter will be sent to Rajuk about the buildings which were not listed but are invaluable from architectural point of view.
"The two main jobs of the heritage committee are to prepare a list of the heritage buildings and to apply to the authorities concerned to save the buildings. But the committee cannot take any action. We are not empowered to stop any demolition work. We can only make a request," said a high official seeking anonymity.
"Right now we are observing what the temple committee does. We have informed the concerned Rajuk officer about the demolition," he said.
But Aminur Rahman Suman, Rajuk's authorised officer of the area, said none from the committee has contacted him.
“I sent a inspector to the spot Sunday evening following a verbal request from an architect. As far as I know they have stopped the demolition. But it would have been easier for me if I had a written complaint,” he said.
These buildings are under the jurisdiction of DCC according to clause 111 of the Dhaka City Corporation Ordinance 1983, he said.
"It would have been of great support to us had there been a list of these heritage buildings. Since I don't have any list how will I know which one is a heritage building and which one is not?”
Asked, Sirajul Islam, DCC's town planner, said DCC, Rajuk and Disaster Management Bureau are responsible for the risky structures in the city.
He said DCC is responsible for the maintenance of any structures, be it a building or a footpath. DCC has a technical committee comprising representatives from Rajuk, PWD, house building and disaster management committee, for identifying risky buildings in the city.
"After identifying a building we make an assessment of the building and serve a notice to the owner for necessary repairs to make it risk-free. If he does not comply, then we serve another notice to knock it down,” he said.
"Now the problem is most of the risky buildings are heritage buildings. If we could know which of them are heritage buildings it would have been easier for us to take proper steps. We heard that a list of heritage buildings will be prepared by the Urban Development Committee," he said.
Sirajul mentioned that 19 people died in 2004 due to building collapse in Shankharibazar. At that time DCC prepared a list of risky buildings but Jagannath Mandir was not on the list. At that time it was a stable structure.
The partially demolished façade of Jagannath temple stands with a broken pinnacle.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Vandana K Mittal
INDIA, RIGHT now, is in the grip of a ‘bomb fever’. Watching news reporters do the bomb count since Saturday (July 26) it seems the easiest thing to do in India is to leave green, packaged bombs all over a city with no one in the crowded city ever seeing anyone actually in the act of planting those bombs. From electricity transformers to shop-fronts to temples and now finally up onto peepal and aam trees, the trail of these green packets of terror is baffling and ever growing.
While the Muslim terrorists are high on the suspect list other wild theories are also doing the rounds on the gossip circuit. Some blame the state government and some the Congress. Whichever way you look at these theories one thing is clear; all this is, actually, shadow boxing between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the general elections next year. It is disturbing to see that at a time when terrorism is looming on the national horizon as a huge threat to the lives of the people and the security of the nation, our political parties are deliberately or otherwise busy blaming one another.
If nothing else, the blame game dexterously takes the attention away from the real issue of the terror tentacles that seem to have spread effortlessly and swiftly through the entire nation. It is no longer possible to conjure up images of Kashmiri separatists or the underworld supported terror groups in Mumbai. Terror is neither confined to any one state nor to any one ethnic profile. It is no longer possible to weave the story of disaffected and under privileged people falling to the lure of terror.
That stage is long gone. While we, as a nation, stuck our head in the sand and pretended that once we had a peace deal with Pakistan stitched up all terror would just fade away, the trainers have successfully trained their cadre within India and moved into the background. The professor (of terror) has done his job; the students are able and willing to carry the torch now.
The signs have been there all along, but, for some inexplicable reason we are unable to follow any lead back to its mastermind and therefore, smash the nerve centres of the terror network. Lashkar-e-Toiba, HUJI, SIMI and many other names have become household names in India but in spite of eerie similarities between the various blasts in the last few years our intelligence agencies seem unable or unwilling to piece the clues together and give a definitive answer to the nation.
I use the word ‘unwilling’ simply because in this country no matter what the disaster, the trail always goes back to the divisive and destructive politics of the country. Ask any citizen in and around Delhi and they will tell you about the large unauthorised shanty towns, full of Bangladeshis that have sprouted all over the city in the last 15 years. Most of them though economic migrants, do pose a serious threat to the nation.
No matter how similar the language and culture of West Bengal and Bangladesh, the fact remains that Bangladesh is a separate sovereign nation and the presence of their citizens in our country in millions is proof of our ineffectual border control and opportunistic vote bank politics. Yet, the reality today is that the question of these illegal immigrants cannot be raised by anyone, in India, without being branded a communalist and anti-Muslim.
This has been a boon for agencies like the Pakistani ISI to simply shift base to Bangladesh and infiltrate the masses moving across the border with some of their own cadre. They move into India and become a part of these extended Bangladeshi colonies. From here to setting up localised terror hubs is just an easy step. One cannot help but marvel at the naiveté with which the news channels report that a teacher, a barber or a local shopwallah has been found to have terror links to Pakistani or Bangladeshi agencies. What do they really expect the terrorist to look like; the poster boys of Al-Qaeda in their full bearded glory or the suave, sinister bad guy of a Bollywood film?
What better way to destroy a country from within but to merge with its people, to live like them, to be one of them and then at an opportune time betray the trust the locals put in them? This is also the best way to sow the ideology of terrorism (Islamic or otherwise) into young, impressionable minds. We all have an idea of what is happening from Kashmir to Assam to Gujarat and yet all this is destined to remain anecdotal conjecture because facing the truth is always politically inconvenient to one group or another.
The BJP cannot raise the issues of security because it is already branded a communal party and is seen as anti-minorities, the Congress cannot do it because it risks losing the Muslim vote bank and its (debatable) secular credentials and there is as yet no other political leader or party that has the will to take on this threat to our country from the terrorists trained by our ‘friendly’ neighbors. Till such a time as our leaders gather the will to work for what is right and not what is merely convenient this issue of Islamic terrorism will remain an ‘inconvenient truth’.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Four days after the Ahmedabad blasts, Bangladesh is emerging as the deadly link to the bloody affair. The connection is not only through the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islam (HuJI), the terrorist organization based in Bangladesh which is believed to have masterminded the operations in cahoots with members of the disbanded SIMI.
The link is also through the over two million illegal Bangladeshi immigrants who have crossed over to India in the last three decades.
Intelligence officials believe that these illegal Bangladeshis are not only providing a haven to HuJI operatives but are also extending other services to them, including material required for assembling bombs.
"Although Bangladeshis enter India illegally in search of economic opportunities, some of them get into jihadi activities. If not directly then indirectly," said a central intelligence official. These officials believe that the arc of terror has widened in India because, over the years, Bangladeshi migrants have spread their enclaves to various parts of the country. Starting with border districts of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura in the early 1980s, Bangladeshis are now in Delhi, Jaipur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bangalore, Mysore, Hyderabad among other places.
A former BSF officer along the Bengal border believes that around 400 Bangladeshis enter India everyday through Murshidabad, Malda and Cooch Behar in West Bengal.
This makes their number around 12,000 a month and almost 1.5 lakh illegal Bangladeshis per year. Most of these illegal migrants are tradesmen: low-end fitters, locksmiths, painters, cutters, welders, rickshaw pullers, cycle wallahs or plain labourers. "These are the sort of persons whose services come in handy for assembling bombs," an intelligence official said, adding that HuJI has purposely given up use of RDX to avoid easy detection before the act."
The Ahmedabad bombs were assembled from gelatine sticks and used potassium and sodium. Shrapnels were put in the improvised bombs. Such stuff can be carried separately without any suspicion being aroused. Of course, a timer and detonator was added. "This is fairly unsophisticated technology which even locally based operatives can put together," a source said.
This, however, does not mean that educated individuals are not involved; in fact it's such people who provide ideological basis for terrorism. This is evident from, among other things, the 14 page e-mail document they sent minutes before the first blast in Ahmedabad. The document titled, 'The Rise of Jihad, Revenge of Gujarat', goes on to display awareness about many happenings in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh and even the terminology used by Narendra Modi such as Gujarat's asmita (pride).
HuJI's main aim is to establish an Islamic state in Bangladesh and assist in the formation of an international Islamic Caliphate. It has wide contacts with international Islamic terror groups especially in Pakistan.
Friday, July 25, 2008
New Delhi (ANI)
The banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has arrived at an agreement with the Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (HUJI) to operate jointly in Assam.
According to informed sources, the ULFA leadership, which has taken refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh, has taken this step to keep their local benefactors happy. Sources said it has agreed to provide logistical support to HUJI cadres for it to effectively target civilians and other “manned” installations in Assam.
The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami Bangladesh (HUJI-B) was established in 1992, reportedly with assistance from Osama bin Laden’’s International Islamic Front (IIF).
The outfit’’s activities, however, were first noticed in June 1996 after the Awami League (AL) came to power. It was subsequently proscribed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led coalition Government on October 17, 2005.
The HuJI-B is led by Shawkat Osman alias Sheikh Farid. Imtiaz Quddus is the general secretary of the outfit. The outfit’’s operations commander, Mufti Abdul Hannan has been under arrest since October 1, 2005.
According to informed sources, this reported pact is being seen as a godsend for the ULFA, whose credibility with the masses in Assam and in neighbouring areas, has all but vanished. Once regarded as the saviour of the Assamese people for championing the cause of establishing a sovereign Assam through an armed struggle, the ULFA today stands exposed as a terrorist grouping.
Experts are of the view that this rebel outfit is running out of ideas to motivate its cadres - established and new, and therefore, it is desperate to remain relevant. The ULFA leadership has arrived at this understanding with the HUJI-B with the objective of spreading a reign of terror in Assam.
The HuJI-B has been for waging war and killing progressive intellectuals and draws its inspiration from Osama bin Laden and the erstwhile Taliban regime of Afghanistan.At one point of time, the group issued a slogan - “Amra Sobai Hobo Taliban, Bangla Hobe Afghanistan” (”We will all become Taliban and we will turn Bangladesh into Afghanistan”).HuJI-B recruits follow a radical form of Islam. Their principal area of activity is in the coastal area stretching from Chittagong south through Cox’’s Bazaar to the Myanmarese border. It has indulged regularly in acts of piracy, smuggling and arms running.The group reportedly maintains six camps in the hilly areas of Chittagong, where its cadres are trained in the use of weapons. Unconfirmed reports also indicate that it maintains six training camps near Cox’’s Bazaar. On the other hand, the ULFA considers itself a “revolutionary political organization” engaged in a “liberation struggle” against India for the establishment of a sovereign, independent Assam.
It does not consider itself a secessionist organization, as it claims that Assam was never a part of India. It claims that the Assamese are confronting the problem of national identity, and therefore, it seeks to represent “independent minded struggling peoples” irrespective of race, tribe, caste, religion and nationality.
The Government of India (GOI), however, has classified it as a terrorist organization and banned it under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in 1990.
The latest development from the Central Government’’s point of view is that it has decided to keep the plea of the Dima Halao Daogah (Jewel) (DHD-J) insurgents, which has its pockets of influence in Assam’’s Karbi Anglong District (bordering Nagaland), for ceasefire pact, pending, but decided to intensify its armed operations against the ULFA.
The Home Ministry took this decision on Thursday (July 24) after a review meeting with top officers of the State Government and paramilitary forces.
Joint Secretary (North East) Navin Verma, State Chief Secretary P.C.Sarma, DGP R.N.Mathur and IGP (Special Branch) Khagen Sarma, besides DG, CRPF and additional DG, Border Security Force (BSF) and senior Army officials, attended the meeting chaired by Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta.
The meeting primarily reviewed the deployment of the forces in the trouble-torn North Cachar Hills, where a number of projects including the mega Lumding-Silchar Gauge Conversion Project have come to a grinding halt following endless bouts of killings in the district.
Since May, at least 27 persons, mostly belonging to railways, were killed.The stalling of the project work and train services in North Cachar Hill, where work on East-West Corridor is also going on, has led to a storm of protests from the neighbouring States of Mizoram and Tripura, which were faced with crisis of essential commodities.The meeting also assessed the situation arising out of the unilateral declaration of ceasefire by the 28th battalion of the ULFA. The violence in the Bodo Territorial Autonomous District area was viewed with concern and effective measures to deal with this were discussed, sources said.
The Centre and the State have reportedly agreed to wait and watch the situation for the moment, as the Government already has a ceasefire pact with a rival faction of the DHD.The cadres belonging to the 28th battalion have since moved to the designated camps, though the government is yet to come out with a set of guidelines.
Sources said the review meeting decided to intensify operations against the ULFA in coming days. In this connection, the Army gave its inputs and Centre has now given the green signal to resume operations against the outfit, sources said. (ANI)
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
by Prasenjit Chakraborty
IN 2005, the parliamentarians from different commonwealth nations assembled in London to participate in a meeting of Commonwealth Parliamentary Forum. One Member of Parliament (MP) from Bangladesh got introduced with a member of the Indian delegation team. During an informal chat between the two, the Bangladeshi parliamentarian admitted that fundamental forces based in his country have the design to cut a part of Indian union and form a greater ’Islamic Bangladesh’. The plan includes taking over of the north eastern region and West Bengal of India. The Indian MP was Kiren Rijiju, elected from Arunachal Pradesh. He disclosed this when addressing the gathering at a seminar held in Kolkata recently. Without naming the Bangladeshi leader, he said that the matter is of great concern because unabated influx from the neighbouring country has been posing a threat to the safety and sovereignty of our country.
Some may take it lightly, because the issue has been raised by the leader of a party of their dislike. But no one can deny the fact that the illegal migration from Bangladesh to India has caused a havoc in the life of indigenous people. It has almost killed rural traditional economy in some places and compelled the locals to live with adversities. The main danger of infiltration lies in national security. According to the data available, more than 55 lakhs of Bangladeshi infiltrators reside in Assam only. In West Bengal, the number is around 80 lakhs. Tripura has four lakhs Bangladeshis staying without permission.
Poor economic condition is often held responsible for the illegal emigration of people from one place to another by a section of media and intellectuals. It may be true in some parts of the world, but does not hold true for north eastern India-. Here, executing silent demographic change is an inseparable part of a proxy war launched by Pakistan against India. Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh are being used as tools for causing harm to the Indian society and the government, aiming ultimate consequence of soundless aggression. A collaboration of Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) and hardcore Islamic fundamentalist organisations of Bangladesh has made Bangladesh a production centre of jehadis for running anti-India activities. They produce, train and export them to different destinations in guise of poor villagers in search of food and work. Security personnel often get confused and can’t even imagine that these simple looking people could be a part of ISI’s terrible game plan and may generate destruction in any part on the soil of our nation.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Women should be debarred from holding office as heads of government or state, an Islamist party has said in Bangladesh, where women have headed governments between 1991 and 2006. The election law should be amended to make women ineligible to hold these offices, the Bangladesh Khelafat Andolan (BKA) Saturday told a government panel led by Chief Advisor Fakhruddin Ahmed, currently holding a dialogue with political parties.
Ahmed performs prime ministerial functions in a caretaker government holding office since January last year.
“We have told the government to take measures so that men hold the top executive positions and no woman assumes the responsibility of head of state or government,” BKA secretary general Muhammad Zafrullah Khan at a joint press conference along with Ahmed and his advisors.
The BKA is a fringe party in electoral terms but is said to enjoy grassroot support among the rural masses in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.
Despite its conservative political stance, the BKA entered into an electoral alliance in December 2006 with the centrist Awami League, led by former prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who heads a 14-party alliance that includes the communists.
For striking a deal with the BKA, Hasina faced serious criticism from the alliance and from within her own Awami League, before the elections were called off.
Women have always enjoyed prominence in Bengal, before and after the creation of East Pakistan, which eventually became Bangladesh in 1971.
Friday, July 4, 2008
With its West Bengal unit finding to its dismay that it's difficult to court Muslim opinion, the CPM appears to have decided to use its opposition to the Indo-US deal for its Muslim outreach. This is a tested strategy as communalisation of the foreign policy had fetched the CPM liberal electoral dividends in Kerala.
The plan is premised on two assumptions — President Bush represents a politically incorrect view point and that India's engagement with the US is a cause of concern for the community members. The Left has been using disparaging labels against those supporting the Indo-US nuclear deal.
Flashing an aggressive Muslim sensitivity card, the party believes, will help it contain the erosion of support from the community. A steady drop in the Muslim membership in the party over the past seven years and an erosion in the minority community's votes are discomforting signals for the CPM. The party's own report shows a decline in the Muslim membership from 14.9% in 2004 to 14.67% in the state where the minority community forms nearly 25% of the population . The Muslim membership figure stood at 15.2% in 2001.
At present, of the total membership of 3,21,682 in West Bengal, only 47,190 are Muslims. The party has said that the Muslim membership has declined in 20 states, including Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan (where it has dropped by nearly half from 4.4% to 2.74%) and Gujarat.
The CPM, which is jittery about the slide in the Left bastion than losing its clout in Delhi, is not taking any chances. The party is expecting its unbending anti-deal stand to help woo back some of the Muslim voters.
Though statistics are yet to be made available , Left sources said a slice of the Muslim votebase had gone to the Trinamool Congress in the recent panchayat election in West Bengal. The CPM had suffered losses in districts like 24 Paraganas, Malda and North Dinajpur with a high Muslim population.
At a time when the party, which grabbed an all-time high of 8.34% of the vote share during the 2004 Lok Sabha elections and a record performance in terms of seats, is faced with the prospect of a drop in its score, the Muslim ire would only add to the Left's gloom. The party's political organisational report finalised at the recent Coimbatore Congress said more efforts needed to be made to recruit Muslims.
The party had anticipated a Muslim backlash in the panchayat polls, but by then it was too late. By the time it began a damage control exercise, the Muslims had started to distance themselves disillusioned with the Left Front in the wake of the Sachar Committee report showing that the Muslims were way down on the social and economic ladder in West Bengal and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's utterances about clearing madrasas.
What made matters worse was the state government's land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram, in which the community was affected severely.
The Muslim population is over 50% in some districts of the state, including Murshidabad and Kishanganj.