Looking back: Events that shaped 2016

Prothom Alo English | Update:

Pictures--Combined

With the advent of 2017, many people hope to start life anew with the brand new year. As they look back, they recall happenings that rocked 2016, one of the most eventful years in history.

Prothom Alo English ran quite a number of noteworthy stories round the year and some of them are bound to have a long-lasting effect on the readers' memories. Here is a selection of Prothom Alo’s more significant stories of 2016.

Dhaka and the unresolved $81m heist

BB-heist--combined 

After the world’s biggest cyber robbery of Bangladesh Bank’s US$81 million in early 2016, Dhaka has failed to recover the amount in full and the mystery of the heist remains a mystery even at the end of the year.

A high-level delegation, headed by law minister Anisul Huq, visited the Philippines but could not ensure that the RCBC, through which the money was transferred to a casino, agreed to pay compensation. Rather, the RCBC blamed BB’s internal weakness. Bangladesh’s intelligence blamed both internal complicity and foreign players for the scam.

The heist rocked the country’s financial sector, leading to the departure of central bank governor Atiur Rahman and two of his deputies. However, no one has been punished as yet for negligence to duty or for direct involvement. The probe report, prepared by a former governor Mohammad Farashuddin, is yet to be made public despite the finance minister's pledge to do so.

Voice against Rampal gets louder

Rampal Power Plant on Thursday. Photo--Collected

Protests against Rampal power plant, being constructed 65 kilometres away from mangrove forest Sundarbans, continued across the country throughout the year.

The civic forum, National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas and Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, led by professor Anu Muhammad, organised a number of demonstrations, including sit-in programmes, rallies and long marches, demanding immediate stoppage of the coal-fired power plant to save the world’s largest mangrove forest.

BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia joined the protest, terming the plant anti-people and also urged the government to stop its construction without further delay.

A group of left-wing parties also lent their voice against the plant.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) recommended that Bangladesh shelve the plant. It said the project would cause irreparable damage to the World Heritage Site Sundarbans and should be relocated.

The World Heritage Centre of the UNESCO also mulled over inscribing the Sundarbans in the list of World Heritage in Danger in the wake of construction of the coal-fired Bangladesh-India Friendship near the World Heritage site.

However, prime minister Sheikh Hasina reiterated her government’s firm stand in favour of the plant, saying it would not cause any harm to the world heritage site, rich in biodiversity and the home of the world famous Royal Bengal Tiger.

Reeling from terrorist attacks 

 A foreigner, followed by two hostage-takers, walks on the roof of Holey Artisan Bakery.

First of July, 2016.

People were dining out like any other day at Holey Artisan Restaurant in diplomatic zone of Dhaka's Gulshan area, when a group of gun-wielding youths stormed in and kept the diners, including foreigners hostage.  

Twenty hostages, including 17 foreign nationals, were killed by militants on 1 July, while five militants and one suspected associate of the attackers were killed during a commando operation inside the café on 2 July.

A Dhaka court on 5 December asked the police to submit the report on the Holey Artisan attack by 22 January.

Bangladesh is still reeling from that terror blow.

Alongside creating panic among commoner, the Gulshan massacre had a negative impact on business, particularly on restaurant business in Gulshan area.

Four days later, at least four people, including a woman and two policemen, were killed in a bomb attack near the country's largest Eid congregation at Sholakia in Kishoreganj.

Police raid in 'militant den' became prevalent after the militant attacks.

Nineteen suspected militants were killed in alleged gunfights in June and July, according to a report of Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK).

The police killed three militant suspects including the alleged Gulshan attack mastermind Tamim Chowdhury in Narayanganj on 27 August.  

A total of nine suspected militants were killed in the gunshots of law enforcers as the police raided an alleged hideout of the militants near Kalyanpur bus stand in Dhaka on 28 September.

An alleged militant was killed in a police shooting during a drive at capital’s Azimpur area on 10 September.

On 9 October, 11 people were killed in the shooting of members of law enforcement agencies in three separate operations conducted by police and Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) members in Gazipur and Tangail districts.

Two militants were killed and four more suspects surrendered during the police raid at an Ashkona terror den in Dhaka on 24 December.

Rise of extrajudicial killing

Faizullah FahimNot a single month of 2016 passed without blood staining the soil of the country.

According to a local human rights body, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), as much as 173 people were killed allegedly by the country’s law enforcement agencies between January and November in 2016.

The number of such killing was much higher than the previous years as the Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) said 128 were killed in reported gunfights in 2014 and 146 in 2015.

A total of 13 died while they were in police custody from January to 30 June, it said adding, nineteen suspected militants were killed in alleged gunfights in June and July.

According to another rights group Odhikar, at least 95 people fell victim to extrajudicial executions in the first five months of the year. 

In a single district in Jhenaidah, seven people were killed in what the police called gunfight and five other bodies with bullet wounds were recovered from January to 26 October.

In a single day on 6 December 2016, law enforcers killed four people in separate alleged gunfights in Faripdur and Dhaka districts.

According to the Prothom Alo reports, each of 7 April, 29 October, 18 November and 6 December 2016 witnessed the killing of three people in so-called gunfights.

Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir in October alleged that more than 50 opposition activists were killed extra-judicially in each months from August to October in 2016.

Rohingya crisis looms large

Rohingya refugees sit as they wait to enter the Kutupalang Refugee Camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 21, 2016. Reuters

 The latter part of the year heated up in Bangladesh with the Rohingya crisis.

Hundreds of Rohingyas continued to cross the Myanmar border into Bangladesh, fleeing violence amid military operations in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

According to the United Nations, at least 10,000 Rohingyas have arrived in Bangladesh in recent months.

More than 1,000 homes were razed to the ground in Rohingya villages of northwest Myanmar during a military lockdown there, as reported by Human Rights Watch on 21 November.

Meanwhile, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) sent back several hundred Rohingyas when they tried to enter Bangladesh territory, mostly in the months of November and December.

The BGB stopped 34 boats full of Rohingya refugees, who tried to enter Bangladesh through Teknaf, on 25 December.

Protests against Myanmar’s crackdown on the Rohingyas have gotten louder in the past two months.

On 18 December, hundreds of Bangladeshi Muslims marched to the Myanmar border to protest the Myanmar government crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Fifteen Nobel laureates, including Muhammad Yunus and eight other global leaders, on 29 December wrote an open letter to the United Nations Security Council to immediately intervene and stop the “persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar.”

BSF’s killing of Bangladeshis unabated

BSF kills 15 Pakistani rangers in border clashKilling of Bangladeshis along Bangladesh-India border by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) continued throughout the past year.

According to the human rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), at least 29 Bangladeshis were killed, 39 injured and 19 abducted from January to November in 2016.

Horrifyingly on 14 November, members of the BSF trespassed on the Bangladesh territories and attacked on a house at Gorakmandol of Naodanga union under Phulbari upazila in Kurigram.

The house owner, Akbar Ali said three BSF members came to the homestead and hit the door, windows and tin wall of the house with sticks in the midnight.

Gorakmondal camp commander Kamol Kanti Roy of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) said that they sent a protest letter to the BSF in this regard.

More than 3000 killed in road crashes

 This car hits and kills an elderly couple in Shewrapara. Photo--Prothom Alo

At least 3,080 people were killed and 7,918 others injured in 2,717 accidents across the country in the last 11 months till 30 November.

The fatal accidents took place on the roads, highways, national roads and regional roads across the country, according to a survey and observation report of a non-government organisation, the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR) on 1 December.

However, former caretaker government adviser Hossain Zillur Rahman said that road accidents claimed some 4,000 people every year in the country.

He said Bangladesh also suffers an economic loss of nearly Tk 5 billion annually for the road crashes. 

A year of lightning strikes 

Lightning kills 7 more people during storm in 6 districts on Friday. Representative image taken by Nahid Mehedi Biswas.Lighting strikes killed hundreds of people in Bangladesh during the stormy season of 2016.

Thunderbolts are nothing new to the country, but this year’s lightning strikes were quite unusual.

Most of the deaths occurred in the rural parts of north and central Bangladesh, with the victims predominantly farmers and construction workers.

The deadliest day was 13 May, when at least 32 people were killed and several injured in lightning strikes in 11 districts.

According to experts, the incidents of lightning strikes in the country are gradually increasing due to rising temperatures and climate changes caused by global warming, taking heavy toll on human lives. 

Violence against women continues

Violence against women--combined
Khadija Akhter Nargis’s story resonates with the mythical phoenix.
On 3 October, 2017, Khadija was assaulted brutally by Badrul Alam, the assistant secretary of Bangladesh Chhatra League’s Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) unit. She rejected his offer to have an affair with him and he attacked her with a cleaver.
The doctors said she had only five per cent chance of survival. But miraculously Khadija is alive and fighting to get back her normal life.
However, several other girls were not quite so lucky. They hacked and tortured in similar manner, finally succumbing to their injuries.

Some were hacked to death, some were brutally raped and murdered, and some were victims of domestic violence.

Violence against women was prevalent throughout the past year. 

Suraiya Akhter Risha, an eighth-grader of Willes Little Flower School and College, was stabbed by a stalker in front of the school on 24 August.

She died a few days later.

A photo of a young woman along with a hash tag 'justicefortonu' went viral in social networking sites during late March this year.

This was the face of Sohagi Jahan Tonu, a student of Comilla Victoria College and theatre artiste. She was reportedly raped and murdered in Comilla’s Mainamati Cantonment area.
The Tonu murder sparked off widespread protests across the country.

On 5 June, miscreants gunned down and stabbed Police Super Babul Akhter’s wife Mahmuda Khanam Mitu at the city's GEC intersection when she went there to drop her son off at the school bus stop.

Babul Akhter was picked up by police for quizzing in connection with the murder on 25 June.

There is no safe home for women.

Intimate partner violence was prevalent too in 2016.

A total of 149 women were killed by their husbands in the first nine months of this year.

Another 34 were killed by members of their husband’s family, while 39 committed suicide due to family torture. Added to this is physical, mental and sexual abuse.

These statistics were revealed in the human rights quantitative report published by the human rights organisation Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK) based on reports of 12 dailies covering the period from January to September.

Children tortured to death

Urmi and AlviNot all children lived the life of rainbows, unicorns and butterflies.

Urmi and Alvi, two schoolchildren were found dead in their Banasree home on 29 February. Later, their mother confessed she had strangled them to death.

She said she murdered her children out of anxiety.

Children were murdered, raped, gang raped, and fell victim of several kind of abuse in 2016.

The non-government organisation Shishu Adhikar Forum (Children Rights Forum) reported that a total of 202 children were murdered from January to September in 2016.

The organisation also revealed 294 children died by drowning, 210 tortured physically or mentally in educational institutions,  107 committed suicide,  325 raped, 48 gang raped and 146 kidnapped from January to September in 2016.

A minor girl in Dinajpur's Parbatipur upazila was raped and tortured on 18 October, 2016. The rapist badly scarred her genitals by sharp object, bit her and burnt her thighs with cigarette.

Four schoolboys who had gone missing from Sundrateki village in Bahubal upazila in Habiganj on 12 February were found buried at the village on 17 February morning.

A mother was accused of setting her baby boy on fire throwing him into a wood-burner oven resulting in the death of the boy in Bhairab upazila in Kishoreganj district on 10 September.

Minority communities suffer

Members of Santal community gather before a Church after their homesteads were set on fire. File Photo

 People from the minority community, university teachers and LGBT activists fell victim to religious intolerance and militant attacks in 2016.

In June, a 62-year-old Hindu monastery worker was hacked to death while on his morning walk, a 70-year-old Hindu priest is found murdered in Jhenidah, Christian Sunil Gomes, 65, was hacked to death in Bonpara.

In May, Sanaur Rahman, a homeopathic doctor, was murdered while riding a motorcycle in the western town of Kushtia, a 75-year-old Buddhist monk was found hacked to death in Baishari, a local Sufi Muslim leader was found chopped to death in a mango grove in Rajshahi.

In April, a Hindu tailor was hacked to death in Tangail, two LGBT rights activists, Xulhaz Mannan and Mahub Tanoy were chopped to death in an apartment building in Dhaka, Rajshahi University English professor Rezaul Karim Siddique was hacked to death in Rajshahi, Nazimuddin Samad, a 26-year-old law student who had taken part in protests against Islamist leaders, was murdered near his university in Dhaka.

On 30 October, a group of religious zealots carried out a synchronised attack on the Hindus, vandalising around 100 homes and temples and looting their valuables, including cash, gold ornaments and idols, television and mobile phones. The two-hour mayhem reportedly followed a Facebook post from the account of a local fisherman, “hurting the religious sentiment” of the Muslims.

Amid huge outcry following the attacks on the Hindu community, a group of miscreants set fire on a house of a Hindu resident at Changapur village in the upazila on 9 July.

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