1. Talked-about achievement: LDC no more
This bit of good news popped up twice in year. Bangladesh entered the list of Least Developed Countries (LDC) in 1975. In 2018 it first received recommendation to be upgraded from the LDC status to one of a developing country. Then on 26 February, the UN's Committee for Development Policy (CDP) gave its final recommendation for Bangladesh to graduate from the LDC status. On 24 November the UN General Assembly accepted the CDP recommendation and so in 2026 Bangladesh will fully graduate from the LDC status.
2. Talked-about brother: Abdul Quader Mirza
When the year began, the pourashava (municipal) elections were being held. Much was being written about the violence and irregularities of the election. And it was this election that bought into limelight the mayor candidate of Basurhat pourashava of Companiganj, Noakhali, Abdul Quader Mirza. He started off agitating for free and fair elections. Then he gradually grew more vocal about the party, the party leaders, irregularities in the election, corruption and more. And as the end proceeded, the diatribe was not just restricted to words, fists flew too.
There's a saying that you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your brothers. You are born with them. Awami League's general secretary Obaidul Quader couldn't have felt this more poignantly. After all, his younger brother who proved to be a thorn in this flesh the year round was none other than this Abdul Quader Mirza.
While the boys put on a dismal show in both cricket and football in 2021, the girls showed outstanding success in both the sports
3. Talked-about fall: Evaly
It is hard to compare the fall of Evaly with any other downfall. Evaly not only crashed, but it took the entire e-commerce sector down with it. And thousands of clients faced massive losses. Even celebrities were not spared from the Evaly fallout.
Clients filed cases against Tahsan Khan, Mithila and Shabnam Faria in connection with Evaly. Meanwhile, the Evaly model of money misappropriation went viral in the e-commerce sector. So Evaly was the most talked-about crash of the year.
4. Talked-about success: Women's football and cricket
While the boys put on a dismal show in both cricket and football in 2021, the girls showed outstanding success in both the sports. The guys met with abject failure in the T20 World Cup, placing the country's popular sport cricket into a pitiful predicament. As for football, when it comes to the men, the less said the better.
Meanwhile, the women's cricket team excelled, qualifying to play in the World Cup. And even more exciting was the Under-19 girls' football team. They defeated India to become the unbeaten Under-19 SAFF champs.
5. Talked-about expulsion: Gazipur mayor Jahangir
On 19 November the mayor of Gazipur city corporation and general secretary of Gazipur city Awami League, Jahangir Alam, was expelled from the party. A secretly recorded audio clip of a conversation he had had went viral on social media. Awami League leaders and activists alleged that he had made controversial remarks about Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and some leaders of the district in the conversation. After the matter was discussed for quite a few days, the party finally took the hard decision. He also was expelled from the post of mayor.
Earlier, in June, the Tangail panel mayor Hafizur Rahman had been expelled from the party on allegations of many controversial remarks about the prime minister.
This December, the Katakhali municipal mayor of Rajshahi was suspended for many controversial remarks about putting up a mural of Bangabandhu. In the same month, the Dewanganj municipal mayor of Jamalpur, Shahnewaz Shahenshah was stripped of his membership to the upazila Awami League.
6. Talked-about trip: Murad Hasan's airport excursions
Former state minister for information Murad Hasan can be included in the list of most-talked-about characters of the year on a number of counts. Despite being a state minister, he used most foul language in shocking statements made publicly. Equally shocking was a leaked phone conversation of his that went viral. He was forced to resign from the cabinet, but that is not the end of the story. After resigning, he set off for Canada and that trip itself was startling.
The Canadian government barred him from entry and he had to remain in the airport there. Next he decided to fly to Dubai from Canada. There too he had to spend the night in the airport. He had no alternative but to return to Bangladesh. Once he arrived in Dhaka, he left the airport concealing his face.
7. Talked-about teams: Messi supporters
After 21 years with Barcelona, Lionel Messi finally changed clubs. Winning the Ballon d'Or for a record seventh time, Messi's switching clubs created a buzz. Messi has innumerable fans in Bangladesh too. And so, by virtue of Messi, they were Barcelona fans too. A great number of them have changed their clubs along with Messi too and now many are seen on the streets wearing the PSG jersey with number 30 on the back. Hardly anyone wears the Barcelona jersey anymore. So Messi fans have made waves this year too.
8. Talked-about arrest: Pori Moni
Actress Pori Moni can certainly not be left out of the 2021 list of talked-about topics. She had brought about allegations of attempted rape at the Boat Club in June. Before that matter was settled, she herself was arrested in August, in another sensational drive which innumerable people watched on Facebook live. Later a video of her with a police officer made rounds on social media. The police officer, involved in the investigations, suddenly faced forced retirement, setting tongues wagging again.
The matter didn't end there. The lower court approved appeals to take her on remand repeatedly and the High Court had to finally intervene. The High Court said that it was not feasible in a civilised society to simply grant remand every time asked for. When granted bail, Pori Moni emerged from jail with a henna tattoo on her hand, carrying an extremely provocative message, creating a stir that lasted for days.
9. Talked-about vagabond: Iqbal Hossain
When a copy of the Holy Quran was found in a Hindu puja mandap in Nanua Dighi, Cumilla, during Durga Puja this year, a group of irate people attacked the place of worship. This triggered for a series of attacks on Hindu temples in various places. The person who had actually placed the copy of the Holy Quran there was identified by CCTV coverage and he was caught in Cox's Bazar. He was apparently a vagabond named Iqbal Hossain. Two months have passed and he still has the vague 'vagabond' tag. And no one knows why he had carried out the deed or with whose instigation.
10. Talked-about MP: Kazi Shahid Islam
It was not international fame, but infamy that the Lakshmipur-2 member of parliament Kazi Shahid Islam brought for Bangladesh. A Kuwaiti court has awarded him a prison sentence and fine in a financial scam and human trafficking case. Earlier, an example had been created of how he and his wife Selina Islam used their money to become parliamentarians. Kazi Shahid Ahmed is also an example of how a person can tarnish the image of the country.
11. Talked-about gifts: Homes for the homeless
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina, on the occasion of Mujib Borsho, gave houses to over 100,000 homeless persons. But this laudable initiative of the government came under question due to the project being riddled with corruption, neglect and other discrepancies. Many of the houses simply crumbled away. Many of the houses were of extremely poor quality. Bribes had to be paid to avail the housing in many instances. The government had to take certain measures for damage control. But it served as an eye opener to the people about the corruption carried out even in special projects like the one initiated by the prime minister.
The documentary, 'All the Prime Minister's Men', basically dealt with allegations of corruption and misdeeds of family members of the army chief at the time General Aziz Ahmed. The Bangladesh government strongly protested against the sensational documentary
12. Talked about letter: 'Ba'
When the prime minister was delivering her public speech on the occasion of Mujib Borsho and the Golden Jubilee of independence, a glaring spelling mistake on the dais caught everyone's eye. In Bangla, the letter 'ba' was missing from 'Mujib Borsho', so it ended up something like 'Mujborsho'. The organising committee made a shoddy excuse, too lame to comprehend.
13. Talked-about words: 'Humanitarian wedding'
So what could be the most talked about words or term be in 2021? There was a new term that caught the people's attention -- 'humanitarian wedding'. These words were uttered by Hefazat-e-Islam's central joint secretary general Mamunul Huq. When he was detained in the room of a resort at Sonargaon, Narayanganj with a woman, he claimed that the woman was his second wife whom he had married in secret. His actual wife was unaware of this. Later, on Facebook, he explained his secret marriage in a status called 'A humanitarian wedding.'
The Facebook followers felt that his words to his actual wife over telephone should be awarded as 'words of the year'. He said, "You shouldn't take this in a wrong sense."
14. Talked-about pressure: Hefazat-e-Islam
The heading of a Prothom Alo report on 22 April read 'Hefazat baffled under pressure and controversy.' Hefazat-e-Islam first came into the limelight in 2013 when they staged a Dhaka blockade and rally. That was brought under control, but what was highlighted was the later understanding forged with Hefazat. The people were suspicious about many of their demands being met by the authorities.
Hefazat then came under huge pressure in 2021. They unleashed a spate of violence all over the country in March, opposing the Bangladesh visit by Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. This was followed by an all-out drive to arrest Hefazat men, with new cases against them being filed and old ones being revived. Then there was the Mamunul Huq controversy too, In all, Hefazat came under tremendous pressure.
15. Talked-about documentary: All the Prime Minister's men
On 1 February, the Qatar-based international news channel Al-Jazeera aired an investigative documentary or report on Bangladesh. The documentary, 'All the Prime Minister's Men', basically dealt with allegations of corruption and misdeeds of family members of the army chief at the time General Aziz Ahmed. The Bangladesh government strongly protested against the sensational documentary. But such a documentary about the army chief was quite a novel experience for Bangladesh in its 50 years.
16. Talked-about observation: No rape case after 72 hours
Four years ago, the Raintree Hotel rape case in Banani, Dhaka, had created a sensation. Two young girls had been raped in the hotel and the verdict of the case was passed on 11 November 2021. Five of the accused including Shahfat Ahmed, son of the owner of Apon Jewellers, were acquitted of charges by judge of Dhaka's Women and Child Repression Prevention Tribunal 7, Begum Mosammet Kamrunnahar.
But the controversy was over a statement made by the judge. In her verbally delivered verdict, she advised the police not to accept any rape case if filed 72 hours after the incident. This statement was met with a volley of protest. Even the law minister termed it as unconstitutional and illegal. The judge was stripped of her judicial powers.
17. Talked-about gagging: Rozina Islam detained
Obstructing freedom of expression is nothing new in Bangladesh. A law has even been drawn up for the purpose. But in 2021, the detention, case and imprisonment of investigative journalist Rozina Islam surpassed all such incidents in the recent past.
On 17 May she was forcefully detained in the health ministry for five hours and harassed. Why the health ministry? Because she had churned out several reports on the corruption and misdeeds of the ministry. The ministry needed to gag Rozina Islam and hence the harassment and subsequent arrest.
Also in the same year, writer Mushtaque Ahmed paid the price for speaking out, with his life. He died in jail. Arrested at the same time as him, cartoonist Kishore is presently out on bail.
18. Talked-about picnic: Investment roadshow
The Rise of the Bengal Tiger, a mouthful of a name of the investment roadshow. The objective was to attract foreign investment in Bangladesh. It kicked off in Dubai, went on to New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Geneva, Zurich, Manchester and London. Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission had arranged this roadshow, with the huge convoy hopping from one stop to the other.
With the coronavirus pandemic coming under control to an extent, air travel eased up and people perked up to travel. So this 'roadshow' at the time, with its international conference in the big cities of the world, was dubbed as an 'international picnic'. Huge sums of money were spend on the 'picnic', but how much investment was achieved in return remains a big question.
19. Talked-about prices: Essentials in the market
The year round, rice prices remained high. Limited income groups struggled with the price of rice. Then towards the end of the year, fuel prices shot up by 23 per cent. This pushed up transport fare. Subsequently, the prices of essentials and just about everything spiralled. Inflation was the talk of the year, not just in Bangladesh but the world over. Fears of inflation loom large in 2022.
Bangladesh was not invited to Biden's much touted Democracy Summit. Ministers and leaders here have criticised the US in no uncertain terms for so bluntly exposing Bangladesh's deficit in democracy
20. Talked-about sanctions: Clamping down on RAB
It was International Human Rights Day on 10 December. And on this day the United States imposed sanctions of seven incumbent and former officials of the Rapid Action Battalion on charges of violating human rights. The officers under sanction included former RAB director general and present inspector general of police (IGP) Benazir Ahmed. This too was another completely new experience for Bangladesh in its 50 years of independence.
21. Talked-about snub: Not invited to the Democracy Summit
Former president of the US Donald Trump did not have many supporters in Bangladesh. Many breathed a sigh of relief when his term ended. At the start of 2021, Joe Biden took over as the US president. And now this very same Biden has snubbed Bangladesh! Bangladesh was not invited to Biden's much touted Democracy Summit. Ministers and leaders here have criticised the US in no uncertain terms for so bluntly exposing Bangladesh's deficit in democracy.
* This report appeared in the online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir