Image by Rezwan

Overcrowded passenger ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, Bangladesh

The World Cup Goal-E Project

This street in Bangladesh has a colorful world cup celebration

New Chum Hill Ruins

Remnants of Kiandra gold mine at New Chum Hill, #nsw #australia

January 28, 2010

What’s on your Blog today?

Finally, Bangladeshi bloggers have grasped the power of blogs on the internet and are truly exercising their freedom of expression to make changes in their lives and society…writes Saad Hammadi 

Jyoti was pleased by the news of the successful separation of Bangladeshi conjoined twins, Trishna and Krishna at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital and so, she posted her pleasure on the Unheard Voice blog.

   ‘I wake up every morning with TV news, and it’s rare that I hear the word “Bangladesh” uttered,’ she mentioned in her post. That she is not in the country is apparent from her post.

   j@shadakalo is witty when it comes to making sarcasm about some of the inconvenient news or state of affairs. The pseudonymous blogger’s latest post, ‘Momma’s boy’ at E-Bangladesh blog mocks the presidential pardon awarded to Awami League presidium member Sajeda Chowdhury’s son, while he was absconding.

   The shutdown of the Tibet exhibition at the Drik Gallery in November last year, drew in massive criticism on the blogs of E-Bangladesh, ShahidulNews, Shada Kalo blog, Unheard Voices blog, Docstrangelove and many more.

   While these are merely three anecdotes of how blogs have transformed into a mouthpiece for every global citizen, they are evolving everyday and growing from strength to strength.

   In the late 1990s when internet users started to increase in Bangladesh, the craze among the teen revolved around the internet relay chat (IRC). The communication soon picked up in the threads of online forums and discussion groups.

   In 2003, there were only a handful of bloggers in the country. But today, the spread of bloggers is almost incalculable. They are celebrating their freedom of speech and expression to the full and using the power of words, visuals, voice and videos, they are drawing global attention on issues that would otherwise have gone largely unnoticed.

   These are the new generation of pressure groups for the state and other stakeholders. They are succeeding in doing what even the mainstream media sometimes falls short of.

   Take for instance the tenure of the military backed interim government when the print and electronic media were under close supervision of the state agencies. Restrictions were imposed on news items and critical statements about the government.

   This is when the bloggers proved the power of citizenry journalism. Facts, news, opinions and criticism that could not have been reported on the mainstream media stormed in on blogs.

   The release of jailed cartoonist Arifur Rahman in 2007 also partially owes to the pressure exerted by the bloggers. Nowadays, blogs are a medium for raising support for orphaned children and fatally ill people, demanding trial of war criminals, protesting hazardous ship breaking and the Tipaimukh dam project, among other issues.

   Over the years, blogs have shifted to newer dimensions such as community blogs like ‘somewhereinblog’ and ‘narijibon’ as well as Diaspora blogs like E-Bangladesh and Unheard Voice.

   Today, there is a cross section of bloggers, starting from the leader of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, to the son of current prime minister, leading economist, eminent journalists, non-resident Bangladeshis to many other individuals.

   ‘All in all, we can say that the blog communities are host to many of the nation’s opinion makers,’ says Arild Klokkerhaug, head of opportunities at Somewherein.

   Arild’s Somewhereinblog is the first Bangla community blog in the country that popularised blogging immensely since the end of 2005 and currently hosts over 37,000 blogs with around 10,000 visitors everyday.

   The power of blogs

   When the landslide in 2007 killed hundreds in Chittagong, Arild initiated a campaign mobilising the bloggers’ community to help the situation. They went to Chittagong, updated the latest situation on blogs, raised funds for victims and protested against hill-cutting.

   His effort was endorsed by many other bloggers like Trivuz, who pointed out how, by compromising a cigarette, a cup of tea or coffee, or a phone conversation each day, for three months, one could accumulate the amount required to save a mudslide victim.

   ‘This is the potential power of our blogging community, and this is a cause to unite for! Come on bloggers, let us unite for a campaign and participate with coverage and help,’ posted Arild in his blog in June 2007.

   ‘The power of blogging is that it harnesses the strength of the Internet and it can reach people across the world instantaneously,’ said Rezwanul Islam, who is often referred to as the dean of Bangladeshi bloggers.

   With the mainstream media largely being owned or influenced by corporate companies or political parties, blogging offers an alternative platform where free thought is expected and encouraged, believes Dr Shahidul Alam, an internationally renowned photographer, journalist and blogger.

   ‘The interactive possibilities of blog also allow greater ownership of the reader and a multiplicity of voices that conventional media cannot offer. Depending upon the level of moderation or the public perception of the blog, it can accommodate far more diverse points of view than what the conventional media with its more straight-laced editorial limitations tends to offer.’

   Some of the bloggers have gone on to perform extensive and investigative journalism. While Munshiyana, a Somewherein blogger posts an extensive piece on the history of tensions revolving around the Chittagong Hill Tracts upon completing 12 years of signing the CHT peace accord, Rezwan points out how bloggers have earlier exposed irregularities on micro-credit operations and similar stories.

   The world knew about what goes on inside a Quomi Mahila Madrassah when a female Madrassah student wrote about it herself. (http: //www.somewhereinblog.net/ blog/kajori/28873366).

   ‘A journalist from the mainstream media cannot provide these perspectives because the girl probably would have never given an interview to a journalist on such a sensitive issue. But writing anonymously gave her the power to tell the truth,’ said Rezwan.

   ‘Bangladesh is a country which is marginalised in the world media, and it is the work of Bangladeshi bloggers both within and outside the country which can re-represent the country,’ believes Juditha Ohlmacher, an assistant professor of media studies and journalism at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.

   The western media has more often been inclined to portraying the negative stereotypes of the country. However, says Rezwan, ‘they fail to see the miracle that with a high population density, these people are resilient to the wrath of nature and are fighting back.’ The images of Bangladesh on flickr.com, captured by the amateur photographers can stun anyone and change those impressions they have perceived from the global mainstream media.

   ‘It is important for the students to embrace new media as a method of communication, especially to reach outside the country,’ said Juditha, who makes sure her students have a blog for themselves.

   According to Arild, blogging ‘is an incredible engaging platform for storytelling’ and thus he believed marketing firms are likely to have a stronger advantage using the new media. All marketing requires is creating a buzz and thus, encouraging bloggers to share their stories, completes the job well.

   ‘Whether it is a mobile operator having stories to share about a mobile lifestyle, a tea brand sharing stories about the lifecycle of its product and a car dealer wanting to highlight the comfort or power of his brand, it is about creating participation,’ said Arild.

   Inspiring tales

   Many bloggers have transformed into writers within the span of the last four years, especially after the advent of Bangla blogs like somewhereinblog.net, sachalayatan.com, amarblog.com, prothom-aloblog.com and techtunes.com.bd.

   Many first-timers have converted to regular writing while amateur writers have sharpened their skills really well, writes Farid, a somewherein blogger.

   Thus, the number of books written by bloggers has been on the rise over the years.

   At the Ekushey Book Fair, the bloggers have drawn a readership for their works, involving poems, stories, novels and much more. In 2008, there were some seven or eight books written by bloggers. Following the enthusiasm, last year, at least 47 books were written by bloggers targeting the 2009 Ekushey Book Fair in February.

   While somewhereinblog published its third collection titled ‘Opor Bastob-3’ with selected stories from its bloggers, there were also political novels, poems, research, short stories and other collections published by different publications.

   With search engines like Google enlisting blog posts, if you are writing on a burning issue like Tipaimukh, you can have your 15 minutes of fame in no time, believes Rezwan.

   Across the globe, there are many critical and dissident bloggers who argue on diverse issues revolving international relations, politics and governance. Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez shot to fame after the president of the United States, Barack Obama responded to her questions about the relationship between Cuba and US in November last year.

   ‘But it is not just about fame or publicity,’ said Rezwan. In the political culture currently prevalent in Bangladesh, where the parties do not have a system to value individual opinions, where a party follower cannot put forward an opinion to the leaders, ‘the blog is a useful platform to strengthen democracy, because here, people can lay out their opinions and there is a scope for a discussion in the comments section, so that the issue can be carried on further.’


   What makes blogs different from the conventional media is the diversity of the issues discussed. Blogs have the capacity to make every blogger a diarist and a journalist at the same time. Thus, many bloggers prefer to write about acquaintances and experiences in the first person form as well as various issues that interest them the most.

   Whether it is Rezwan’s last days in Berlin where he talks about driving for 14 hours from Berlin to Paris (1100km) and crossing four countries in a day, Alam’s encounter with the police during the Tibet exhibition or Sajeeb Wazed, the son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina writing about the developments of his mother’s trial during the interim government’s tenure in 2008, every post has an interest group.

   ‘Blogging offers the spontaneity and intimacy of a diary, and at the same time, has the enormous reach of the Internet,’ said Alam. From a literary perspective, it creates a platform where serious issues can be dealt with, in collaboration with an international audience but in a manner that does not have the weighty feel of scholarly tomes, or the machinegun approach of the live media.

   ‘Of course flippant and irrelevant blogs do exist,’ he said, ‘but since a blog is only as valuable as the minds it is able to gather, there is a natural filtering effect that separates a good blog from a bad one.’

   Thus, one of the most interesting factors about blogging is the divulgence of musings and personal experiences. Celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhaa De or former Vice President of USA Al Gore enjoy global readership for their personal experiences.

   In case you are wondering who will find interest in your personal posts, as long as you are able to write them in an interesting manner, you may draw the attention of your friends, colleagues, family, relatives and many passionate bloggers who may willingly follow your blog.

January 23, 2010

Should Bangladesh Join The Rome Statute Of The ICC?

Unheard Voice posted a press release of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court urging Bangladesh to be the first South Asian signatory to International Criminal Court (ICC). The ratification only requires approval of the Cabinet, not the Parliament.

The Coalition for the International Criminal Court has recently published another press release which says:

In May 2010, the ICC will hold its first Review Conference which will consider, among other things, amendments to the Statute including the adoption of a definition for the crime of aggression. Given the impact and repercussions that this meeting will have for the future of international justice, we urge your government to ratify the Rome Statute by 1 March, 2010, so as to ensure full participation as a State Party during the Conference.

Now the question is "how joining the ICC will benefit Bangladesh?" State Minister for Liberation War Affairs, AB Tajul Islam had indicated in April 2009 that Bangladesh may request the International Criminal Court to put on trial Pakistani forces for alleged war crimes.

We will take the matter to the International Criminal Court and seek the trial of the members of the Pakistani occupation forces who committed crimes against humanity during our liberation war. And we will request the world body to bring them to justice as many of them are guilty of war crimes.

Barrister Harun ur Rashid, former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva wrote in The Daily Star:

To demonstrate the commitment to trial of war crimes, it is appropriate that Bangladesh ratifies the Statute of International Criminal Court of 1998 (Bangladesh signed it) and the ratification will show to the international community Bangladesh's firm resolve that war crimes must not and cannot escape unpunished.

The Bangladesh government has decided to try the home based war criminal under the existing laws of the country. However, their jurisdiction will not cover to prosecute the Pakistani war criminals. So its important to take measures so that they can be brought to justice too. As Barrister Rashid said:

Crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide are the gravest crimes in international law and are condemned by all UN members. The effective punishment is an important element in the prevention and recurrence of such odious crimes and for protection of the inherent dignity of human person.

January 17, 2010

Thoughts On Ordinary Sides

"Bangladesh are an ordinary side. They can't beat India because they can't take 20 wickets."

This was the remark of Indian cricket captain Virender Sehwag on the eve of the first Test in Chittagong.

Bangladesh coach Jamie Siddons reacted on Sehwag's comment:
"He should stay away from mikes. Every team has good and bad phases. His comments might bite him on his bum in a few years time. It might even hit him in the bum in a week's time. We are definitely not an ordinary side. That's what we are hoping to show in this Test series. We could hopefully prove Sehwag wrong."

It did not take even a day. The Cricinfo headline read: "Bangladesh all over ordinary India." Shakib and Shahadat left India reeling at 213/8 at the end of the days play. Sehwag was obviously absent in the post match press conference.

Recommended read: A bite out of the bum.

The alter of Tiger Temple

Tiger Temple, Thailand

Taking a photo with Tigers.

Now visiting

The bridge on the river Kwai, Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

January 10, 2010

Running out of IPv4 addresses

An Internet protocol (IP) addresses is the unique numerical label that is assigned to devices participating in a computer network utilizing the Internet Protocol for communication. The original designers of TCP/IP defined an IP address as a 32-bit number and this system, known as Internet Protocol Version 4 or IPv4, is still in use today (wikipedia

However it may not be used after 2011. Harry Lewis reports:

If you go to WhatIsMyIp or any of a number of other sites, you can see your own, shown as four numbers, each less than 256, separated by dots. That's about 4 billion possibilities in all, a number that seemed unimaginably extravagant at a time that computers were huge. Today, with computers in everything, even your wristwatch could use its own IP address, and plenty of devices smaller than that. The pool of IP addresses, which were divided into blocks and given out to nations, and within nations to companies and universities and governments, is being rapidly depleted.

According to this report at Enterprise Networking Planet:

The timeline for IPv4 address space exhaustion may not be 2010, but it is likely to be exhausted within the next two or three years at the present rate of IP address allocation. At our current trend rate we've got about 625 days before we will not have new IPv4 addresses available.

The way out is ofcourse IPv6. The next-generation IPv6 system has a 128-bit address space which can support 34 x 10 to the 38th power, or 340 trillion trillion trillion IP addresses.

But the switch may not be smooth, Harry says:
The solution is already known — IPv6, which uses 128-bit addresses. The code is already in the operating systems of computers being shipped today. But the switchover is likely to be hell — think of the switch of broadcast television to digital, with granny suddenly unable to get her soaps. Except that this switch will have a deadline attached to it. 

January 09, 2010

The Day After Tomorrow

Many regions in the world seems to be tackling a cold wave in the recent history. You can see the amazing pictures here, even in unusual places liek UAE and Saudi Arabia. For countries like Bangladesh Temperature dropping to close to 10 degrees is a disaster for many rural people as their homes or their clothes are not equipped to withstand this cold.

This reminds me of a Hollywood science fiction movie I watched recently "The Day After Tomorrow". The movie showed that due to global warming, melting of the polar ice had begun disrupting the North Atlantic current. It triggered violent weather across the world causing mass destruction. A hurricane like superstorm developed which had an eye where temperature dropped below -150 degree freezing everything in its path and leading to taking half of the world towards ice age. The developments may look like fantasy, but the theory has some merit as we can see from the affects of the recent weather.

I hope we will get some realistic explanation from the scientists.

A water lodge

Mekarsari Amazing Tourism Park in Bogor

A family outing on a lazy saturday.

January 06, 2010

The Forgotten Pledges Of BNP

Shakhawat Liton lists the forgotten pledges of Bangladesh's major opposition BNP, which started boycotting parliament on the issue of front row seating arrangement in the House:
  • After taking oath as an MP, Khaleda on January 15 announced her party deputies will attend parliament from its inaugural sitting and play a constructive role.
  • As the leader of the opposition, Khaleda's poor participation in the House proceedings shows her lack of interests to parliament. The opposition lawmakers joined 23 out of total 87 sittings of the ninth parliament, while Khaleda joined only three.
  • The party has yet to elect the deputy leader of the opposition who could have led the opposition bench in parliament in absence of Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia.
  • The BNP Parliamentary Party (BNPPP) did not hold any meeting for over 10 months. As a result, the party deputies could not discuss their parliamentary strategies.
  • The manifesto BNP says none of the lawmakers can remain absent for more than 30 consecutive sittings without leave of the House.
  • BNP lawmakers, who were made chiefs of two parliamentary standing committees, did not hold meeting of the committees for a few months since their formation.
This says how BNP is serious about democracy. However they have placed a ten point demand which has to be met as a precondition for their return:

The 10-point demands include strengthening security of BNP Chairperson Khaldea Zia, withdrawal of 'politically motivated' cases filed during the caretaker regime against the BNP chief, party Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman and other leaders, dropping the decision to cancel the lease of Khaleda's cantonment residence, arresting prices of essentials, improving law and order situation, stopping tender manipulation and giving two more chairs of the parliamentary bodies.

Some of the solutions to the demands lay in the hand of the judiciary and some are vague like improving law and order situation. So it seems the party has no intention to get back to the parliament. I suggest the MPs should stop taking perks and facilities from the government for the service they have not rendered for the citizens.

Back To The Right Path

The following fundamental principles of Bangladesh constitution of 1972 evolved through experiences of the liberation struggle of Bangladesh.
- Democracy
- Nationalism
- Secularism and
- Socialism (meaning economic and social justice for all)

Here you can read the original constitution hand written in Bangla: (courtesy Arup Kamal)

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

The later amendments replaced Secularity with "Absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah shall be the basis of all actions". Here is a list of the amendments made (In Bangla, In English).

However, the government has decided to pull back Bangladesh in the path of its original constitution by annulling the fifth amendment. A day after the Supreme Court vacated an earlier stay on the High Court verdict that declared illegal the fifth amendment of the constitution, Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said that:

Religion-based political parties of the country will be banned.

This is possible after the reinstatement of a para in the section 38 which says:

"কোনো সাম্প্রদায়িক রাজনৈতিক সংগঠন, ধর্মীয় নামযুক্ত বা ধর্মভিত্তিক কোনো সংগঠন করা যাবে না।"
"No religious political organization, organization with religious names or based on religion are allowed."

However, the prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said:

The words “Bismillah-Ar-Rahman-Ar-Rahim” in the preamble to the constitution and declaration of Islam as state religion will remain as they are, since they reflect the beliefs of the people.

This certainly will diffuse the religious parties who are trying to establish political Islam and shariah in Bangladesh.

January 04, 2010

Live Cricket Bangladesh vs. Sri Lanka

January 03, 2010

Yes we can

The Education minister of Bangladesh Nurul Islam Nahid has kept his promise to provide millions of Bangladeshi school students with new textbooks from the first day of the new academic year. A staggering number of 186,826,950 textbooks were printed for 27,662,529 students of this academic year.

The minister said:
“A huge number of students from the poor families discontinue their studies due to lack of books. So we decided to provide all with new books to prevent drop out."
There were quarters who wanted him not to succeed. A mysterious fire at the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) warehouse in Tejgaon industrial blazed hundreds of tones of textbooks and printing materials on October 1. Fire service officials hinted that it was an act of sabotage. This daily star report hints that a supplier of papers, who was accused with supply of poor quality papers may be behind (as most of the papers burnt were  supplied by them).

However,  the minister should be lauded for his efforts to publish and distribute those books in time. I wish other ministers could show effectiveness like Nahid.