Skip to main content

Despite global protests, Nobel laureate Yunus 'again targeted' by Bangladesh govt

By Nava Thakuria* 
Bangladesh’s lone Nobel laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus, who is serving as the chairman of Grameen Telecom, appeared before the anti-corruption commission (ACC) in Dhaka on 5 October 2023, as he was summoned over the alleged misappropriation of funds meant for the workers’ benefit. A few others close to Prof Yunus were also summoned to appear before the commission. 
In a brief response to local reporters, Prof Yunus stated that he had done no wrong and hence nothing to be worried about. Globally recognised as the pioneer of microfinance and social business enterprises, Prof Yunus reposed full faith in the judiciary of Bangladesh.
Needless to mention that it was one of the latest attempts by highest level individuals in the Bangla government to malign the image of the soft spoken gentleman. Recently more than 175 global leaders including Nobel laureates, elected officials, business and civil society leaders urged Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to suspend all legal proceedings against Prof Yunus. 
It was preceded by another letter, endorsed by 40 global personalities, to Hasina regarding her government’s ill treatment of him. Even 34 eminent Bangladeshi nationals also came forward raising voices for Prof Yunus asserting that Hasina, who will seek the mandate of 130 million Bangladeshi voters in the forthcoming national elections for her fourth consecutive term in office, continued using hostilities against the most awarded Bangladeshi gentleman.
Recently, the United Nations human rights office also issued a statement supporting Prof Yunus saying that it was worried over smear campaigns against him. It was followed by a statement from Amnesty International, where they asserted that Hasina was ‘weaponizing labour laws’ to harass and intimidate Prof Yunus. 
The international body argued that Prof Yunus, being the chairman of Grameen Telecom management authority, has been falsely accused of employment-related violations. He along with three board members (Ashraful Hasan, Nur Jahan Begum and Mohammad Shahjahan) are facing a criminal case under the country's labour laws.
“The ongoing trial is just one of more than 150 cases filed against Prof Yunus after the ruling Awami League party came into power in 2008. Amnesty International believes that initiating criminal proceedings against Prof Yunus and his colleagues for issues that belong to the civil and administrative arena is a blatant abuse of labour laws and the justice system and a form of political retaliation for his work and dissent. His case is emblematic of the beleaguered state of human rights in Bangladesh, where the authorities have eroded freedoms and bulldozed critics into submission,” said a statement.
It is time for the Bangladesh government to put an end to this travesty of justice, said Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International, adding that the government’s relentless smear campaign against Prof Yunus shows the desperate lengths the current regime is willing to go to set an example through the hounding of an 83-year-old Nobel laureate. 
It is time Bangladesh govt puts an end to travesty of justice, said Agnes Callamard, secretary general of Amnesty International
Those violating labour rights must undoubtedly be held accountable, however rather than misusing labour laws and criminal justice to harass Prof Yunus, the authorities should focus on combatting extensive threats to labour rights such as unsafe factories which continue to claim the lives of thousands of Bangladeshi workers, she added.
The question that arises here is, why Hasina is so aggressive against the global campaigner for a poverty free world. First assumption was that Hasina herself wants recognition (preferably with a Nobel award) for her ‘excellent’ works since 2008. Lately, the civil society embraces speculation that the combined opposition parties (led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party) may project Prof Yunus as their leader in the forthcoming polls. 
Needless to mention that Prof Yunus tried to form a political party (Nagarik Shakti) in 2007, but abandoned the idea quickly. However, Hasina and her supporters still assume Prof Yunus as a powerful rival to her political career. So she continues maligning Prof Yunus on every possible occasion.
As the country goes to general elections in the next few months, the apprehension of erupting violence continues, as the opposition alliance is still demanding Hasina’s resignation for the sake of a free and fair election in Bangladesh. They are demanding for a neutral caretaker administration in Dhaka to conduct the forthcoming elections, so that the ruling Awami League can not rig the polls. 
Otherwise, they may boycott the national election, as they did in 2014 and 2018. Hasina has already made it clear that she will not resign, thus paving the way for a series of street protests (often turning violent) by the opposition parties across Bangladesh in the coming days.
*Senior journalist based in Guwahati



Bill Gates as funder, author, editor, adviser? Data imperialism: manipulating the metrics

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  When Mahatma Gandhi on invitation from Buckingham Palace was invited to have tea with King George V, he was asked, “Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the King?” Gandhi retorted, “Do not worry about my clothes. The King has enough clothes on for both of us.”

Stagnating wages since 2014-15: Economists explain Modi legacy for informal workers

By Our Representative  Real wages have barely risen in India since 2014-15, despite rapid GDP growth. The country’s social security system has also stagnated in this period. The lives of informal workers remain extremely precarious, especially in states like Jharkhand where casual employment is the main source of livelihood for millions. These are some of the findings presented by economists Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera at a press conference convened by the Loktantra Bachao 2024 campaign. 

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

Joblessness, saffronisation, corporatisation of education: BJP 'squarely responsible'

Counterview Desk  In an open appeal to youth and students across India, several student and youth organizations from across India have said that the ruling party is squarely accountable for the issues concerning the students and the youth, including expensive education and extensive joblessness.

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

India's "welcome" proposal to impose sin tax on aerated drinks is part of to fight growing sugar consumption

By Amit Srivastava* A proposal to tax sugar sweetened beverages like tobacco in India has been welcomed by public health advocates. The proposal to increase sin taxes on aerated drinks is part of the recommendations made by India’s Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian on the upcoming Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill in the parliament of India.

Why it's only Modi ki guarantee, not BJP's, and how Varanasi has seen it up-close

"Development" along Ganga By Rosamma Thomas*  I was in Varanasi in this April, days before polling began for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. There are huge billboards advertising the Member of Parliament from Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The only image on all these large hoardings is of the PM, against a saffron background. It is as if the very person of Modi is what his party wishes to showcase.