Ivy's Poison

Ivy's Poison

The pictures on the front page of practically every major newspaper on Wednesday, January 17, conjure an ugly image of Bangladesh's political scene. Frenzied men with weapons attacking each other, their faces in grotesque contortions representing rage, venom, aggression. This would not be anything out of the ordinary given the current trends of streets looking like battlefields after clashes between opposing political groups or more realistically, between factions of the same political group. Wednesday's images, however, have taken our political image to an all-time low. They are of a woman city mayor, the first of her kind to hold such a position, being shielded by her followers from being attacked by a mob of men—supporters of an MP known for his mysterious and tenacious grasp over Narayanganj.

Despite all their attempts to protect her, Mayor Ivy was injured—a brick hit her leg and in the jostling she fell. Newspapers say around 50 were hurt though none of them can quantify the terror and despair of the people of this city who had to witness these disturbing, shameful scenes. For it is indeed shameful that a city's mayor would be attacked by members of the ruling party because she was trying to do her job.

The entire fiasco centred on the issue of eviction of hawkers from footpaths so that pedestrians could use them. Seems like a regular duty of a diligent mayor. But in Narayanganj, as anywhere else in the country, politics is far from being regular. As expected, when the eviction drive was announced, the hawkers, through their association, protested—where would they go after all?

The mayor was given a memorandum, she announced her decision to free the footpaths, the hawkers staged demonstrations, the city corporation announced a few designated areas where the hawkers could sell their ware till February 27 from 5pm to 9pm, a lawmaker gave a 24-hour ultimatum to revoke the eviction drive and give the footpaths back to the hawkers, and finally in a bizarre confrontation, the mayor and her supporters were attacked by the said lawmaker's men.

If you were a stranger to our special brand of politics, the first logical question would be: Why is this lawmaker interfering with the mayor's work? The second one would be: If the lawmaker was so concerned about the hawkers' wellbeing, couldn't he have had a discussion with the mayor and work out a solution? Thirdly, why did it all turn so violent with someone even brandishing his gun and allegedly firing shots into the air? Fourthly, and most importantly, why would a lawmaker's followers attack the city's mayor? Are they not on the same side—same government, same party?

These questions may seem quite straightforward and resulting from pure common sense. But this is Narayanganj we are talking about—Bangladesh's Gotham City where the Joker reigns with full impunity and Batman is a simply attired woman who has taken on the task of trying to fix a city that seems almost unfixable, being in the grip of one of the most powerful political families in Bangladesh's history. This is the place of the famous “seven-murder case” that involved members of the RAB as well as influential people connected to the political elite. is is where Tanwir Muhammad Taqi, the son of cultural activist Rafiur Rabbi of Narayanganj, was abducted and killed on March 6, 2013. Even after more than three years, the law enforcers have yet to find his killer(s) although Taqi's father has filed cases against certain individuals including the nephew of the lawmaker involved in Tuesday's incident.

But to be fair, having Selina Hayat Ivy as a mayor has been a sliver of hope for this Gotham of a city. Ivy, despite her formidable opponents, has endured, perhaps because of being from a political family—her father, Ali Ahmed Chunka, was a former Narayanganj municipal chairman and an AL leader—and definitely because of sheer grit and determination. 2011, she won the mayoral elections after beating Shamim Osman by one lakh votes. In 2016, despite efforts by MP Shamim Osman to exclude her from nomination from the panel, the prime minister picked her to be mayor.

Tuesday's unsavoury incident in which a mayor and her supporters were attacked by goons of a lawmaker, gives an indication of the obstacles she faces. According to Mayor Ivy, she had come to Chashara to tell people that the footpaths would be free for pedestrians to walk on, that the displaced hawkers would be rehabilitated in a proper building, honouring the prime minister's directive. According to news reports, when some of Ivy's supporters tried to evict some hawkers, an altercation erupted. She was then attacked by supporters of the lawmaker.

After the incident a probe committee has been engaged and both the mayor and the lawmaker have been summoned by the PM—no doubt to express her disappointment in two important leaders and favourites from her own party.

But even for the ordinary citizens who have witnessed all kinds of violence in the name of politics over the last few decades, the idea that a mayor—a woman politician who has braved the patriarchal system to attain the trust of the public and the support of the prime minister who happens to be a woman—can be physically attacked and blatantly intimidated by a lawmaker, is shocking. this is a preview of what is to come as we get closer to our national elections, there is little to feel optimistic about.


Aasha Mehreen Amin is Deputy Editor, Editorial and Opinion, The Daily Star.


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Students' demo shuts Nilkhet

Students' demo shuts Nilkhet

Students of seven colleges took to the streets at 11:30 am yesterday, blocking the capital's Nilkhet intersection for more than two hours. This resulted in lot of suffering for commuters who were stuck in long tailbacks because of the demonstration.

The agitated students roped off the intersection, halting traffic movement for more than two hours, causing severe traffic congestion in the area.

They barred every vehicle and even pedestrians from crossing the intersection till noon. Some of the students sat in the middle of the road and chanted slogans.

Demonstrating students of the seven DU-affiliated colleges yesterday gave ultimatum to the university authorities for publishing their 2nd year final result by this month.

On information, DU VC Prof Akhtaruzzaman reached the spot at around 1:45pm and assured them of publishing the results by February 25.

Rejecting the vice-chancellor's assurances, the students of 2014-2015 sessions threatened to go for tougher movement from February if the authorities fail to publish the results by January.

The VC later said that they would take necessary measures to publish the result within the shortest possible time and if possible, they would do it by this month.

The students placed a five-points demand which included publication of the results of 2nd year final exam by this month, beginning the honours third year final examination by March, immediate publication of their academic calendar, immediately finishing final exams of all sessions, including the 2012-2013, one holding examinations of all sessions of degree courses and publication of their results within the shortest possible time.

Following further assurances by the DU VC, the students ended their demonstration with a threat to wage tougher movement from February if the authorities fail fulfil their promises.

We are calling off our protest upon assurance of the VC but we would go for tough movement if our demands are not met within the given timeframe,” Toufiq Mahmud, a third year student of Dhaka College 2014-15 session, told The Daily Star.

The second year final exam of 2014-2015 session was held on January 7, 2017 under the National University (NU). As the colleges gained affiliation with DU on February 17 last year, the university took their viva-voce and the responsibility of preparing and publishing their result now falls on them.

Earlier on November 25 of last year, the DU authorities published the honours final year result of 2011-2012 session after the students demonstrated for several times in the capital demanding its publication.

Yesteryday's protest follows other demonstrations by a section of Dhaka University (DU) students demanding scrapping of the affiliation with the seven colleges.

Leaders and activists of Bangladesh Chhatra League yet again barred some students from joining yesterday's movement, by threatening to evict them from the halls and harassing them verbally and physically.

As the two colleges-- Eden Mohila College and Dhaka College-- are nearest to where the demonstrations took place, their students played a key role in yesterday's demonstration and, thus, faced the brunt of the harassment.

BCL leaders of Eden Mohila College on Wednesday night directed the students not to join the protest citing instructions from the student body's top brass, said one of the victims, on condition of anonymity.

Some BCL leaders, including Joint Convener Tasleema, along with others, started hurling abusive words towards the protestors when they joined the protest defying the command, one of the assaulted female students alleged.

They also punched two female students, leaving one injured.

Contacted, Tasleema rejected the allegations saying that she only instructed the students to form the human chain peacefully without blocking the roads.

The BCL leaders of Dhaka College also tried to bar their fellow classmates from continuing the protest but later allowed it after failing to stop them, alleged one of the protestors from the college.

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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern pregnant

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern pregnant

Ardern said she planned to work until the end of her pregnancy in June and then take six-weeks leave, during which time Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters would run the country.

Speaking to reporters outside her Auckland home, Ardern said her partner Clarke Gayford would care for the "surprise" addition full-time and that the whole family would travel together when necessary.

I am not the first woman to work and have a baby. I know these are special circumstances but there are many women who have done it well before I have," she said.

The popular 37-year-old politician's pregnancy is one of the very few examples of an elected leader holding office while pregnant and the first in New Zealand's history. Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto gave birth while she was prime minister in 1990.

Ardern, who came to power through a coalition deal after a closely fought election last year, has experienced a meteoric rise to power as New Zealand's youngest prime minister in more than a century, and its third female leader.

Ardern's rise to power has generated intense interest in her personal life and drew comparisons with other youthful leaders such as France's Emmanuel Macron and Canada's Justin Trudeau.

Ardern was quick to assure the public that she would only take six weeks off, during which time she would still be contactable, so that the country would run as usual.

The short period contrasts with her party's parental leave policies, with the Labour-led coalition expanding paid parental leave from 18 to 22 weeks in one of its first legislative changes. That is set to rise again to 26 weeks in 2020.

Ardern acknowledged that she was "lucky" that her partner, a well-known television fishing show presenter, could take time off to travel with her while he cared for the baby full-time.

She had no plans to stop work until June and would fly to London in April to attend a Commonwealth leader's meeting.

Advocacy groups and politicians from across the political spectrum were quick to offer support.

It's really inspiring. having our prime minister lead by example is a great sign of how far we've come in women's industrial rights in New Zealand," said Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff in an emailed statement to Reuters.

New Zealand has long held a progressive reputation, having been the first country to give women the right to vote in 1893.

It's amazing timing. 125 years later we have a prime minister who's going to give birth in office," said Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter.

Ardern revealed on Friday that she had unexpectedly found out she was pregnant on Oct. 13, just six days before she was propelled into the country's top job when New Zealand First Party leader Peters announced he was siding with Labour in post-election negotiations.

When asked by a reporter how she had managed putting together a government while suffering from morning sickness, she replied, "it's just what ladies do".

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‘Make-II’ Promise For Arms Firms

‘Make-II’ Promise For Arms Firms

Flying High: Industry now have more opportunities to participate in defence production. Indian industry can suggest projects related to sub-systems for innovation

Indian industry can suggest projects related to sub-systems for innovation and import substitution under the revised Make-II procedure in the Defence Procurement Procedure, the Defence

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