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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It's all for money

It's all for money

Tuesday's mayhem in Narayanganj was all about money.

A section of ruling party leaders loyal to local MP Shamim Osman and some unscrupulous police officials control the footpaths and collect tolls from the hawkers, generating around Tk 1. 35 crore a month, claimed about 20 hawkers of Narayanganj city who talked to The Daily Star.

The feud between NCC Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy and AL MP Shamim Osman over the eviction of hawkers had nothing to do with politics; it is totally about the money paid by around 4,500 hawkers, they said.

The money collected is shared among the leaders of AL, AL-affiliate organisations and Chhatra League of Narayanganj and police officials of Chasara Police Camp and Narayanganj Sadar Police Station, the hawkers claimed.

The money is collected by 25 linemen on Bangabandhu Road alone, they said.

Talking to The Daily Star, a number of hawkers said they have to pay from Tk 20 to Tk 300 every day to “police and a section of local influential AL leaders who get a portion of the money”.

The amount depends on the size and location of their makeshift stalls.

Hawker Narayan Chandra said the hawkers who sit around Zia Hall intersection, Shaheed Minar, in front of Khaja Market and on Bangabandhu Road have to pay from Tk 100 to Tk 300 per day.

Just paying the toll is not enough. He said the hawkers are forced to join rallies and processions of Shamim Osman in Narayanganj and Dhaka.

You will see no hawkers or only a few hawkers on Narayanganj footpaths the day Shamim Osman holds a rally,” Oli Ahmed, a hawker who sits on Bangabandhu Road, told The Daily Star.

A tea vendor on Bangabandhu Road said either a policeman or a lineman takes Tk 20 from him every day.

The plainclothes policemen kicked me on several occasions when I failed to pay or haggled with them,” he said, adding, “Even the homeless and beggars cannot escape the police and the linemen. saw police take Tk 10 from them many times.

If they fail to pay, they are slapped,” he said, requesting not to be named and declining to name the police personnel and linemen fearing repercussions.

Asad Mia, convener of Hawkers Sangram Parishad, said there were around 4,500 small cots or tables on city footpaths and three quarters of them were on Bangabandhu Road.

Several hawkers claimed that for placing a two by three feet cot or table on the pavement, they have to pay Tk 5,000 to Tk 7,000 to local leaders close to Shamim Osman.

Narayanganj City Jubo League President Shahadat Hossain Bhuiyan Shajnu and Convener of Narayanganj City Chhatra League Habibur Rahman Riad, who are close to Shamim Osman, dealt with the hawkers, they claimed.

They mentioned a few other names of similar post holders in AL and Chhatra League but this paper could not get in touch with those leaders.

Refuting the allegations, Shahadat Hossain told The Daily Star that he had heard that some AL leaders took money from hawkers. Several times I have pressed hawkers to know the names but they told me that no Awami League leaders took money from them.

Habibur Rahman Riad said they had asked the administration and the city corporation to take actions if anyone took money from the hawkers in the name of Chhatra League.

Several witnesses of Tuesday's mayhem claimed that these AL, AL-affiliate and Chhatra League men were in the front line during the attack on NCC Mayor Ivy. The Daily Star could not verify their claims.

Chashara Police Camp In-charge Gazi Mizanur Rahman said, “Hawkers' trade on footpaths had been stopped several weeks ago. So, the allegations of taking money against police personnel are not right.

Asked whether the policemen collected toll before, he said he had no idea about the matter.

Acting officer-in-charge Abdur Razzaq of Narayanganj Sadar Police Station told The Daily Star that the allegation against police was nothing but exaggeration.

Asked to elaborate what he meant by exaggeration, Razzaq said after he took charge as the OC, he did not get any complaint that policemen collected tolls from hawkers.

He, however, said his predecessor was closed to the police lines as he had not taken proper steps to evict hawkers.

We have taken a hard line against hawkers after sir [his predecessor] was closed,” Razzaq added.

On January 15, Shamim Osman at a rally of hawkers at Chashara said he had ordered, not requested, that hawkers would sit on footpaths from 5:00pm from January 16, if the city corporation did not take any measures for their rehabilitation.

Mayor Ivy had said that she would not allow hawkers to occupy footpaths causing city dwellers to suffer. She also said she would make alternative arrangements for the hawkers at the hawkers' markets.

Many city dwellers hailed the city corporation's move to free the footpaths from illegal occupation. They told The Daily Star yesterday that despite repeated attempts over the last one year, the authorities failed to evict the hawkers due to local influential Awami League leaders and a section of police officials who take money from them.

On Tuesday, NCC Mayor Ivy and around 50 others were injured as supporters of local AL lawmaker Shamim Osman attacked Ivy and her followers, leading to a clash on Bangabandhu Road.

No case was filed over the clash as of last night and police could not arrest Jubo League leader Niazul Islam, who was seen brandishing a firearm during the clash, even though he himself filed a general diary with Narayanganj Sadar Model Police Station in connection with attempt on his life and attempted snatching of his arms.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal yesterday said action would be taken against those who had brandished firearms during Tuesday's clash.

I give you assurance that no one will be spared. Those who have broken laws, will face the music,” the home minister told journalists in Tejgaon.

We are doing what is required. We have footages. We are looking into those who brandished firearms and took the law into their own hands,” Asaduzzaman said, adding that they were enquiring into the “unfortunate incident”.

The home minister said he personally talked to Shamim Osman and Selina Hayat Ivy after the incident on Tuesday and told them that the prime minister did not like what had happened.

I told them if you don't stop, we have to take action,” he added.

Ivy was admitted to LabAid Hospital in Dhaka after her blood pressure dropped yesterday afternoon. She is in the Coronary Care Unit of the hospital.

Ivy became sick when she was at the city corporation office around 4:00pm, reports our Narayanganj correspondent.

She had trouble breathing and had cardiac complications, said Narayanganj General Hospital Medical Officer Asaduzzaman.

Abul Hossain, Ivy's personal secretary, said Ivy visited the injured of Tuesday's clash at Narayanganj General Hospital after lunch yesterday.

She became sick around 20 minutes after she had returned to her office.

A doctor of LabAid said, “She will be kept under observation for the next 24 hours. Her condition is stable now.

Lawmaker Shamim Osman neither received phone calls nor texts of this paper.

Some hawkers yesterday opened up shops at Chashara on Bangabandhu Road defying the local administration. Police evicted the hawkers a few hours after they had sat there.

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New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern pregnant

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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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With these advancements, the reach with air-to-air refueling and standoff performance, Su-30 MKI is a truly potent platform and is bolstering IAF’s strategic capabilities, said India’s Defense Minister Nirmala Sit

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Shilpa Shinde insults Hina Khan

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Bigg Boss 11 has definitely forged an enmity that is going to live on in the real world. Ever since Bigg Boss 11 winner started speaking to media, she can’t stop targeting the show’s first runner-up Hina Khan. aking to SpotBoye in an interview, the Bhabhiji Ghar Par Hain actor said Hina is “more aggressive than a chawl girl” and “mohalle ki aunty”.

Hina had called Shilpa a ‘chawl girl’ on the show and when asked about it, Shilpa told the website, “I don’t know much about that, but she is more aggressive than a chawl girl. e was also the Mohalle ki aunty.

During the three-month long show, a video surfaced online where Hina was seen saying, “Maine bola naa who baat hi aise karti hai jaise…(I told you that she talks like a . she is seen mouthing the words ‘call girl’ and ‘chawl girl’ and that portion was muted. deo was later removed from the internet.

Entertainment website Bollywoodlife also asked Hina about the same comment and she said, “That word ‘call girl’ is a very heavy word. spect everyone’s work and I would never pass any derogatory remark like that. The report further stated that Hina claimed she used the word ‘naukar’ (servant) and not ‘chawl girl’ or ‘call girl’.

Shilpa had earlier said that said she would not want to meet Hina ever again in her life. While Hina Khan knew everything in the kitchen, I had no clue. However, I did all the work but she never bothered. I had never cooked for 18-19 people earlier.

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Anushka Shetty on Bhaagamathie

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It was a mini-Baahubali reunion at the Bhaagamathie's audio launch as Anushka Shetty was joined by her co-stars Ramya Krishnan and Nasser at the event in Chennai along with the rest of the cast and crew. Suriya, who has also acted with Anushka in the Singham franchise, was also present as a special guest during the audio launch. The film's album has been scored by Thaman. Bhaagamathie would be Thaman's second album in Tamil after Vikram's Sketch.

Talking at the audio launch, the actress thanked her producers for trusting her with the role. I listened to the script of Bhaagamathie in 2012, almost five years back. Since I was busy shooting Baahubali and Rudhramadevi, I couldn't allocate dates for this film immediately. Later, I had to begin shooting for Rajinikanth's Lingaa and Size Zero. But the production house UV Creations waited till 2016 to start shooting since they trusted me with the character," said the actor. Anushka Shetty also described her role as a very challenging one as she is the central character in the film with several solo sequences. Jayaram, Asha Sharath and Unni Mukundan play essential characters in the movie and everyone has a fantastic part. Since the movie revolves around my character, a lot of screen time is dedicated to my part," she said.

Talking about Anushka Shetty, director Ashok described the Baahubali actor as a very dedicated artiste who goes the extra mile for her role. Anushka shed 20 kilos for her role by following a rigorous diet plan. She would also occasionally give her inputs to fine-tune the story in a better manner, and it has helped us a lot," he said. He further appreciated Thaman's music saying it would one of the talking points after the film hits the screens.

One song from the album, "Mandhaara" is now available on YouTube. Sung by Jyotsna Radhakrishnan the melody has lyrics penned by Viveka in Tamil. The Telugu version has words by Sreejo, sung by Shreya Ghoshal. A lilting melody, "Mandhaara" is an easy listen. The song is sweet but doesn't make a mind-blowing impact on the listener.

Bhaagmathie will release on January 26 in three languages -- Telugu, Malayalam, and Tamil. The film will be clashing with Jayam Ravi's Tik Tik Tik and Udhaynidhi's Nimir.


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