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Archive for December, 2009


By Jahangir Alam Akash, Human rights in Bangladesh were anything but healthy in 2009 under the ruling Awami League led alliance. According to a report on Thursday by the oldest Bengali newspaper of Bangladesh, the Daily Sangbad, around 4,000 people were murdered, which averages to about 11 deaths each day. There were 10 politically motivated murders and 12,074 torture cases related to women. Tender grabbing was a common feature of the ruling party cadres.

There has been an alarming rise in human rights violations in the country since the new Awami League led coalition come to power in January. But the government denied any wrongdoings. It has also denied any role in the extrajudicial killings in the country and has continued to violate the country’s constitution and other laws.

The attitude of people in law enforcement agencies has not changed, at least on the issue of extra judicial killings despite the judiciary ordering them to stop killing people under the guise of “crossfire,” “encounter,” and “gunfight.” Although much of such action has stopped, it is not a sustainable solution. But the decision has been hailed an eye-opener by many including human rights organizations.

The High Court issued the suo moto order over extra judicial killings on November 17. It gave the government two weeks, initially, to explain why the killing of two brothers, Lutfor and Khairul Khalasi by law enforcement agencies in Madaripur on Nov.16 should not be declared extrajudicial. The government has yet to reply and the Attorney General has sought more time, presumably until the court resumes on January 3, 2010.

During the year although there were some positive activities by the government, most sectors in the country were devoid of any human rights, the rule of law and good governance. Religious minorities were oppressed and press freedoms were violated almost every other day.

When the Awami League was in opposition, they opposed extrajudicial killings but when in power, they turned a blind eye. Despite the High Court orders, law enforcers killed more than 11 people. According to media reports, from Jan.7 until to Dec.14, law enforcers killed some 142 people. Law enforcers have killed some 1,600 peoples since 2002 when Operation Clean Heart, led by the army began.

Repression of minorities and indigenous people has been an ongoing event with impunity to the perpetrators. The murdered include a converted Christian NGO worker Swapan Mondal, Hindu freedom fighter Nirapad Kobiraj – killed by the RAB under the excuse of crossfire, a senior citizen Jatindra Lal Dey, an indigenous girl Maching Khai Marma who was also raped, schoolteacher Akhil Saha, Ashish Sarker, and businessmen Sumon Goala and Goutam Sarker.

During the year, many cases of rape and physical torture of women and girls belonging to ethnic minorities were reported. Also, least 70 incidents of land grabbing occurred in minority communities across the country.

Other criminal acts observed were violence against women, sexual harassment of women and girls in educational institutions, offices, factories and other workplaces. So-called social leaders victimized at least 15 families by issuing extrajudicial penalties such as beatings and canings in the name of arbitration, mediation or conciliation.

Seventy-six people including 57 army officers were killed in a mutiny after the ruling coalition came to power. Reportedly, 66 members of the Bangladesh Rifles died in the custody of the alleged mutineers. It is believed they were tortured and then killed. Yet, the perpetrators have not been brought to justice.

During the year, terrorists killed three journalists including a young community journalist. The New Age reporter F.M. Masum was brutally tortured by so called elite forces for reporting corruption scandals of influential politicians. Many journalists were also threatened, tortured and harassed for similar reporting.

The one good act of the government was to sentence to death the 12 accused in the murder of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh. The highest court of Bangladesh pronounced the verdict. Although the death penalty is one of the greatest human rights violations, the whole nation looked at the case as a trial of war criminals whose acts led to mass rape, murder, riots, looting and other inhuman activities during Bangladesh’s liberation war of 1971.
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By Jahangir AlamAkash, Press freedom in Bangladesh is again under threat after some reports on corruption were recently published. A national daily supported by an opposition party is facing the heat from the ruling party for publishing a corruption report while another progressive national daily is facing a defamation suit filed by the main opposition party for publishing a crime report.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jammat-e-islami owned daily newspaper Amar Desh published a report on corruption by the son of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Sajeeb Wazed Joy and the energy adviser to Hasina, Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, which has become the most talked about issue in the country.

After the report was published, some members from the ruling Bangladesh Awami League as well as some top leaders in the government threatened the newspaper with dire consequences. Reportedly, there was an attempt to also kidnap the journalist who wrote the report.

Amar Desh in its Dec. 17 issue published a report headlined “Allegations of US$5 million bribes against energy adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi and prime minister’s son Sajeeb Wazed Joy.” The report was on kickbacks received by both men from an unsolicited deal with the U.S. oil company Chevron.

The general secretary of the Awami League Syed Ashraful Islam in a press briefing on Dec. 20, said, “false report publishing is immoral and also a violation of the policy of newspaper and the fundamental rights,” and called for more responsible journalism.

We do agree with his speech. But, those who believe in the freedom of speech, freedom of the press and democracy do not threaten the media or journalists. The allegation against Joy and the energy advisor is not a simple issue. So the government should set up an independent and competent panel to investigate the issue.

Also, those threatening the newspaper can go to the court and fight a legal case for false reporting. But they cannot threaten the journalist, as that is a denial of press freedom and the right to free expression, which hampers democracy.

A multi-billion dollar defamation suit was filed on Dec. 20 against the acting editor of the daily, Mahmudur Rahman, publisher Md Hasmat Ali and its news editor. Hanif Ali Sheikh, the general secretary of Awami League, Natore district, filed the case with the chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court. After hearing the case, the Chief Judicial Magistrate Sharif Uddin issued summons and has asking the accused to appear before the court on Feb. 23, 2010.

Now, as the issue of corruption, as published, is under the court, the hope is that people from the ruling party do not intimidate the media again. Let the court decide whether the report is true or false.

On the other hand, a 20 crore takas (US$2.89 million) defamation suit was filed against the progressive national Bengali daily Janakantha and its editors for publishing an article about opposition leader Khaleda Zia’s elder son Tariuque Rahman and BNP leader Salauddin Quader Chowdhury.

Janakantha’s editor and publisher Atiqullah Khan Masud, advisory editor Toab Khan and executive editor and eminent writer Swadesh Roy have been accused of defaming the two BNP leaders as they were dubbed killers in the news write-up.

Moazzem Hossain Babul, general secretary of the district Jatiyatabadi Ainjibi Forum, filed the case with the chief Judicial Magistrate’s Court of the Ka region. After hearing the case, summons was issued against the editors asking them to appear before the court in March 2010.

In the case statement, the complainant mentioned that the daily in its Dec. 17 issue published an article titled “39th Bijoy Dibosh abong Khoshepora Khunir Chhadmabesh,” wherein Tarique was called as “killer of August-21” and Chowdhury “killer of 71.”

In Bangladesh, a criminal defamation case is a common problem for the press. As a professional media worker, I demand the government and the opposition to uphold press freedom and democracy. Do not attack to press, media or journalists. Please abolish the journalist oppression culture. At the same time the journalist’s community should reorganize their professional unity and leave their political fascination for press freedom and professionalism.
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By Jahangir Alam Akash, The human Rights Today dot Info was a website on press freedom, freedom of speech, minority and indigenous rights, human rights and for the peoples who have oppressed and who have no voice. But, from today that popular website has died; it was killed by the so-called website provider. Why our website has killed please follow and read the bellow’s article.
The present global age is a digital one. Bangladesh, as a Third World developing country, is not yet up to speed digitally. In Bangladesh, there are no policies for internet business or the internet sector. There are also no cyber laws, which has allowed a lot of crimes to be committed. Internet customers are being harassed by providers. Not only that, but customers are losing their money.

The web hosting sector is especially corrupt. Internet service providers (ISPs) often commit forgery with customers, and the government has no control over the ISP providers. For this reason, the average person is suffering, while providers have been getting money from customers in the name of offering web domain names, hosting, design and registration.

The present government of Bangladesh has declared that they will create a digital Bangladesh. But, the IT sector hasn’t been unified under a policy. Because of this, most IT customers are being cheated by the providers.

In Bangladesh, domain and web providers have sprouted up everywhere, but they have no moral or social obligations. They only want to make money within a short time, so they are cutting the throats of the customers and making huge amounts of money. Some providers don’t give the website controls to the customer, and so have cheated the average customer.

A website owner told to Human Rights Today that he started a website on media and human rights in Bangladesh in 2008, but the provider still hasn’t given him the controls, even though he wanted to have control from the beginning. He mentioned that the provider has hacked into his site in the name of a hacker at least two times.

In light of this situation, he communicated again with the provider to get control of his website. And now is the time for the annual registration renewal. The provider charged around 20,000 Taka for the domain name and hosting registration for the next year. But the provider still didn’t provide control to the website owner.
Mr. William Gomes, a renowned human rights activist and the executive director of the Christian Development Alternative (CDA), told Human Rights Today, “We need a good policy for ISP providers. Otherwise, the problem won’t end.”

We think that the Bangladesh government should immediately form a policy for ISP providers, so that they are accountable to the customer. The government should take action to remove all kinds of irregularities concerning ISP providers, for the digital Bangladesh.

Victimized by cyber crime!!!

On Nov. 25, 2009, the secular and free website Humanrightstoday.info was hacked. It was a web news portal about human rights, press freedom, minority oppression, peace, democracy and advocacy for those people who have no voice, specifically in Bangladesh.

The website was operated from Bangladesh by me. I was brutally tortured by the elite force RAB, because I disclosed the inhuman atrocities committed by the RAB in Bangladesh. Because of my profession, I have made an enemy of Islamic militant groups, a few corrupt politicians and a few influential members of the administration.

After my torture, I started the Humanrightstoday.info website. Then I went to Germany, and I continued to operate my site from Germany. The site had been gaining in popularity. It was the only site that published the actual facts and figures regarding human rights, press freedom and minority oppression in Bangladesh. However, I do not have the economic means to continue operating the site, so now I have started my own blog (https://jaakash.wordpress.com).

I am a professional journalist, writer and human rights defender based in Bangladesh. I was the editor of Humanrightstoday.info. I have worked with Radio German-DW; Ekushey TV; CSB News; the oldest Bengali newspaper in Bangladesh, the Daily Sangbad; Dainik Bangla; Ajker Kagoj; the New Nation; the Morning Sun; APB; etc.

I have also worked as a regional coordinator for the Bangladesh Rehabilitation Center for Trauma Victims (BRCT). I was the general secretary of the Rajshahi Union of Journalists, Rajshahi University Press Club, and an executive member of the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists (BFUJ). I have also been involved with cultural organizations. I was the publicity secretary of the historical cultural organization of Bangladesh Udichi Shilpi Goshthi, Rajshahi district unit.

Every day around the world, cyber crime is happening, yet the perpetrators of cyber crime are escaping punishment, even though the big and rich countries have good laws against cyber crime.
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jahangiralamakash@gmail.com

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By Jahangir Alam Akash, For the first time, I was not in Bangladesh on International Human Rights Day. On December 10th, the whole world observes this day for human rights, even though most countries in the world do not have a good human rights situation. Last year on this day, I was in Gopalgonj and Barishal, in Bangladesh, with Hindu minorities. At that time, I was in hiding to safeguard my life from the RAB and Islamic militants, who wanted to kill me. This past year, I have missed my dear country of Bangladesh and my people, especially those who are being oppressed. My heart feels pain for them.

On December 10, 2009, I was in The Hague in the Netherlands. The Hague is a city of peace and justice. The Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) invited me to attend their International Human Rights Day programme on December 10th. They organized a very nice and effective two-day programme for human rights. I enjoyed two days with participants from different cultures from all over the world. The event was jointly organized by Global Human Rights Defence (GHRD) in partnership with Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, Freedom Legality and Rights in Europe, and De BRUG. The organizers facilitated an opportunity for migrant civil society representatives to discuss human rights issues affecting their communities, both in the Netherlands and in their home countries.

On the first day, December 9th, a series of workshops were organised under five different thematic areas and were attended by more than 70 participants. The workshop was opened by the representative of the City Council in The Hague, Mr. Anne Mulder. Mr. Mulder acknowledged that, “Democracy needs permanent maintenance.” Mr. Sital, Chairman of the GHRD, extended his welcome to the audience, expressing his concerns on the ongoing human rights violations among specific groups in society. Ms. Maggie Murphy from UNPO asked the delegates to consider whether they were talked about or talked to.

The workshop culminated in the compilation of a Human Rights Manifesto, outlining constructive recommendations for the Dutch government on human rights issues affecting the migrant community. The workshop was organised under different thematic areas, covering the topics of embracing diversity and non-discrimination; socioeconomic development; human rights from a gender perspective; protection of human rights defenders; and human trafficking. The outcomes of the workshop were translated into the five point Manifesto on Human Rights, signed by the representatives as an appeal to the Dutch Parliament for concrete actions.

On the second day, December 10th, the programme commenced with a colourful march from the Dutch Peace Palace to the Dutch Parliament to present the Manifesto to policymakers. In the parliament, De BRUG members were received by Mr. Ewout Irrgang, MP for the Socialist Party and an expert on development cooperation, and they had the opportunity to discuss their concerns as stipulated in the Manifesto.

Personally, I was also present when the Manifesto was handed over to the Dutch MP. The day concluded with a social evening at the IN Holland University, which included a debate with, among others, Mr. Robert Zeldenrust from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a performance by Ms. Pravieni Baboeram.

In the afternoon of December 10th, in front of the Dutch Parliament, there was a huge gathering from different human rights organizations. The road from the Peace Palace to the Dutch Parliament was full of noise, with shouts of slogans, like human rights, justice, equality, dignity, no more war, no more violence, no more women repression, no more genocide, no more discrimination, etc.

As a human rights defender, I was very much pleased after seeing the performances of the young interns and volunteers for GHRD, Petra Sjunnesson from Sweden, Ms. Aruna Soedhwa from the Netherlands, Kajal Sununan from South Africa, Mavis Maison from Ghana, Maureen Waweru from Kenya, and Qaiss Ajiz from the Netherlands. I really think that all of them understood human rights and were doing as well as any trained human rights defender. And I want to thank Jenny Lundstrom, because without her good work, the Manifesto wouldn’t be finalized. It is my hope that the Manifesto of the GHRD will be effective for global human rights. https://jaakash.wordpress.com/ jahangiralamakash@gmail.com

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By Jahangir Alam Akash, Bethlehem is a historical place. It’s the birthplace of Jesus and also an ancient city of the Church. This makes it a holy site for Christians around the world. Bethlehem is a popular city during Christmas. At one time, there was peace in Bethlehem, and Arabs and Jews had a good friendship. But, now there is an ongoing battle between both Jews and Arabs, and the wonderful time of peace that existed 2,000 years ago is gone. Why is there fighting there among men? When will peace come again?

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Bethlehem was first settled by the Canaanite tribes, naming the city Beit Lahama. They built a temple to the God Lahama on the present Mount of the Nativity. Around 1200 BCE, the Philistines had a garrison stationed in Bethlehem because of its strategic location. The city also is significant to Jews, because it is the burial place of the matriarch Rachel and the birthplace of King David. Samuel anointed King David in Bethlehem, and David was a descendant of Ruth and Boaz, who were married in Bethlehem. Following the Israelites’ rule, the Greeks occupied the region until the arrival of the Romans in 160 BCE.

Today, Bethlehem has a population of approximately 50,000 people, with the Muslims holding a slight majority. Manger Square is the focus of activities for Christmas celebrations not once, but three times a year. In addition to the traditional Western celebration which begins on December 24, the Greek Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 6 and the Armenian observance takes place on January 19.

The Church of the Nativity was built in the 4th century by the mother of the Byzantine emperor, Constantine. Helena was also responsible for the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The present building, the oldest church in Israel/Palestine, was reconstructed in the 6th century by the Emperor Justinian and further repaired by the Crusaders. During the Turkish occupation in 1517, the Franciscans and the Greeks fought over control of the Sanctuaries. Following the War of Independence in 1948, Bethlehem fell under the control of the Jordanians. Then, after the 1967 Six Day War, the Israelis took control of Bethlehem.

In Bethlehem, the Greek Orthodox Church has 15 churches and institutions; Roman Catholics have 25; Protestants have 8 churches; the Syriac Orthodox Church has one church; and the Ethiopians and the Coptic Christians have one each. There are also several mosques, including the Mosque of ‘Umar, across the street from the Church of the Nativity. This mosque was erected in 1849. According to Christian tradition, this is where Mary spilled some milk while nursing Jesus when she was hiding from Herod’s soldiers. The milk turned the rocks of the cave a chalk white colour. The rock is believed by some to have healing power and to make nursing easier for women.

As human beings, we want to see reflections of the nonviolent life of Jesus Christ and his words of forgiveness and love. For those disputing people among both Jews and Muslims, please walk with your family and friends, and make new friends with others who seek a more peaceful world. No one religion or person can reach that, especially anyone who allows the killing or torture of another human being.

All men and women are equal. Our first identity is as human beings. Why can’t we forget our religious difference? Of course, we can believe in a creator, in the name of God/Creator/Allah/Superpower/Nature, etc. Every person can create love, friendship, amity, pleasure, fellow-feeling, cordiality, and good relations with others, in every group or community.

According to the International Middle East Media Center, 40 percent of the 32,000 residents of Bethlehem are Christians, and 60 percent are Muslims. The wall around Bethlehem increased the level of unemployment in the city to 29 percent, as the city’s main income depends on Christian pilgrims and tourism. The Christmas peace candle is being lit everywhere from house to house, starting from December 1st, especially in the houses of Christians.

I wanted to know the opinion of prominent human rights leader and journalist Bernhard Hertlein about this Christmas and global peace. When I asked him about this, he shared his feelings. He said, “As a Christian, for me, peace in Palestine is a great wish. It seems so hopeless. But, once there was a wonder in Bethlehem, 2,000 years ago, so it might happen once more. If Jews and Arabs can learn to live together without walls, human rights violations and bomb attacks, it will be very good for world peace.”

My hope is that Bethlehem would once again be a role model for coexistence with a great peace and love between Muslims and Christians. My great hope for this Christmas in Bethlehem would be no walls and no human rights violations. World peace and happiness will come in the near future. https://jaakash.wordpress.com/ jahangiralamakash@gmail.com

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By Jahangir Alam Akash, Many women in Bangladesh suffer from rape, gang rape, murder, torture and acid throwing. The position of women in Bangladesh is vulnerable. Even though Bangladesh has an elected government, the difficulties facing women haven’t ended. Violence against women is a common feature in Bangladesh, and women face various problems under the system of repression.

The main types of the oppression of women include dowry, trafficking, kidnapping, rape, physical torture and acid throwing. Almost every day, women are victimized by these acts of violence and repression. And domestic violence at the hands of husbands is a very routine practice in Bangladesh.

According to a survey conducted by the Bangladesh Mahila Parishad, at least 937 women were killed during the period from January to October this year. Prominent human rights leader and BMP president, Ayesha Khanam, said that although an elected government is now in power and there are conscious people in the ministry and in parliament, women continue to face violence. (Source: The Daily Star, 12/7/2009)
There is one example of a sensationalistic gang rape case. On Sept. 25, an adolescent was gang raped following her abduction by ten Bangladesh Chhatra League activists while she was returning from a Puja Mandap in the Kolapar subdistrict of the Patuakhali district. Also, on Nov. 8, one Bir Bengal attempted to rape a woman, Jamnua Chakma, age 21, in the Ghilachari army camp in the Naniachar subdistrict of Rangamati. She is wife of Shyamal Kanti Chakma.

In Bangladesh, there are many laws for the protection of women, yet the oppression of women hasn’t lessened. It is hard to imagine that it will be stopped in the near future. What is causing this situation? It is because there is no rule of law and no good governance. Impunity and corruption are very common in Bangladesh, and illegal political interference on behalf of criminals is another reason that women’s persecution continues.

Bangladesh has many laws for the protection of women. For example, the Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act 1933, the Family Court Ordinance, the Cruelty to Women (Deterrent Punishment) Ordinance, the Trafficking in Women and Children Act 1993, the Dowry Prohibition Act, the Prevention of Women and Child Repression Act (2000), etc.

The problem is that every case of oppression of women involves the police, witnesses, lawyers, magistrates or judges, and often doctors. If all the parties involved perform their professional and moral obligation, then the perpetrator will be punished. But, with some exceptions, most of the parties are involved in corruption or are irresponsible. Political pressuring can also hamper the investigation of cases involve women’s repression. Sometimes, to protect themselves, witnesses in the cases will not give truthful statements to the court.

The Bangladesh Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) is a Bangladesh Awami League government-supported human rights organization. According to this organization, during the first six months of this year, 1,479 women were raped. The Minister for Home Affairs Sahara Khatun shared this figure with the national assembly.

According to a monitoring cell at the police headquarters, from January to October 2009, at least 3,413 women were tortured over dowry, 83 women fell victim to torture, 2,336 were abducted, 2,476 were raped, 36 were killed after rape, 33 were injured after rape, and 117 women were killed.

In order to prevent violence against women, it is necessary to practice the rule of law, carry out proper and competent investigations, and implement existing laws protecting women. At the same time, it is necessary to ensure the security of witnesses and victims, and corruption must be fought against during the time from when the case is filed until the trial is finished. And political pressuring must be stopped. To prevent women’s oppression, men must first come forward. The question remains: is the Bangladesh government ready to tackle any and all kinds of violence against women? https://jaakash.wordpress.com/ jahangiralamakash@gmail.com

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By Jahangir Akash, Jesus Christ was born this month. The whole world has been making preparations to celebrate the holy day of Christmas. The main philosophy of Jesus Christ is peace, love, joy, fellowship, justice, goodwill and harmony. But today’s world is lacking peace, love, harmony, joy and fellowship. Most of the peoples of the world are struggling with poverty, discrimination, injustice and inequality. It is a very unfortunate situation for human beings.

In this holy month of December, people feel worried after hearing the sound of war coming from a Nobel award winner. Mr. Barak Hussein Obama is the most discussed personality in the world. He already is identified by people as a controversial and wartime president. He has received criticism from different sectors, including from his own country’s citizens.

Recently, the Obama administration gave the orders to send another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. Mr. Obama said that within one and half years, the Afghan war would be finished. But experts say that war is always uncertain, so no one can say that the war will finish within the time frame. The United States and its allies have been fighting the Taliban and Islamic militants for the last eight years. Already, around 1,000 American soldiers have been killed during this period. But Bin Laden has yet to be found.

The Afghans had the experience of fighting the Soviet army for ten long years, before the Soviets withdrew their forces from Afghanistan. At that time, the United States had been supporting Islamic forces in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. At one time, the United States and Pakistan worked together to help the Taliban gain the seat of power in Kabul. Most of the Afghan people do not support the presence of NATO forces in Afghanistan. The Taliban have been taking advantage of this opportunity. It’s only right for Afghan people to settle the problems of Afghanistan.

Obama hasn’t learned from the Vietnam War. The situation of Afghanistan won’t be improved by the controversial president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai. It is not possible for an outside force to solve Afghanistan’s problems. The people of the world were hoping that Mr. Obama would work for peace. If he would work for world peace, then his name would be written on the pages of history. Why has NATO continued operating when other similar organizations like CENTO have been abolished for a long time? For the sake of world peace, NATO should be abolished. Applied force and war will not solve any problems.

Obama has tried to prove the legitimacy of the Afghan war, even while he was receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. It is true that Islamic militancy is a great threat to peace; there is no doubt that the Taliban and other Islamic militants are enemies of progress, democracy and humanity. Indeed, no one should want war. Because war means death, torture and the violation of human rights. Women and children would always be victimized by war. War can never bring peace and happiness.

Most Asian countries have been suffering from gross poverty, illiteracy, discrimination, injustice, politics mixing with religion, Islamic militancy, inequality, genocide, violence against women, trafficking, indignity, and a lack of good governance, democratic practices and the rule of law. The question is, in this situation, how can we build a secular and peaceful society and world?

The people of the world don’t want more war, violence, poverty, human rights violations, genocide or discrimination. We need love, peace, justice, dignity and equality. Merry Christmas! Hope, peace and love will win. https://jaakash.wordpress.com/ jahangiralamakash@gmail.com

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