Of the Hefazat men killed yesterday, one was from the a factory in Dhaka. While not speaking with numbers, I think this highlights an important issue that many have been saying for some time. While we, with our elitist or middle class sensitivities, continue to look upon the Hefazatis as outlawed, faceless “fanatics” on the fringes (read: in the madrasas) in our society, they also live and work amongst us– our factory workers, our drivers and nightguards. Continue reading “Samia Huq: Who have we “defeated” and with what?”
I spent the last 2 days in Savar. A concerted effort of architects, civil engineers, disaster trained workers from Red Cross & other agencies, trained community groups, fire fighters, armed forces, all have collectively formed a task force, and are slowly using heavy equipment to surely though slowly cut the top (maps have been made of the structure etc.) and lift people, dead and alive, as well as other equipment to remove debris. The process is slow, but the time for the public action, which was amazing,THEY ARE OUR S/HEROES, the only ones who went inside, is now no more feasible.Continue reading “Khushi Kabir: They Are Our S/Heroes”
“Journalist brother. You are a Hindu, I am a Hindu. Please don’t do any more harm to me. You know, how Hindus have to live in this country. Rana Plaza collapsed on top of my house and office. Four of my staff and three of my house help died. After the accident, goods were looted from my house. I can’t even go into my own house.” Continue reading “Rana Plaza built on land grabbed from Rabindranath Sarkar”
Who Will Bell the Cat? Guest Post by Fariha Sarawat
Much has been said about who’s to blame for the story state of garments workers’ rights, safety and working conditions in Bangladesh.
Some people, including some local manufacturers, would like us to buy in to the narrative of exploitative buyers whose predatory negotiations force our manufacturers to cut costs (because they are afraid they would lose the order otherwise to China or others) in order to stay competitive and that leaves the latter with little (once costs of inputs, overheads etc have been deducted) to pay to the workers. Continue reading “Fariha Sarawat: Buyers are also culpable”
Ready made garments industry is one of the most important sector for Bangladesh (after agriculture and foreign remittance). True this sector has many problems, but none should get more priority than the issue of workers safety and ensuring their basic rights. Continue reading “Are garment owners really to blame?”
Made in Bangladesh: The Terror of Capitalism
by VIJAY PRASHAD
“In the Atlantic world, meanwhile, self-absorption over the wars on terror and on the downturn in the economy prevent any genuine introspection over the mode of life that relies upon debt-fueled consumerism at the expense of workers in Dhaka. Those who died in the Rana building are victims not only of the malfeasance of the sub-contractors, but also of twenty-first century globalisation.”
Picture one of those nice sleek ads that we saw last month for Independence day. Or two weeks ago for Pahela Boishakh. Then keep the audio the same, but replace the visuals with the images from Savar. Why change the visuals but keep the audio, you may ask? Easy answer, I am a big coward. I can look at a dead body and maybe imagine it is still alive, if not for the veneer of white dust accumulated on the face and limbs. But the cries for help? Those whom we have doomed to die? I can’t handle that. So, just the video please.
Now will you have time? Now will you finally listen?
by Faruk Wasif, Translated from Bengali for AlalODulal.org by Tibra Ali
We are not slave-owners, we are a manager country of slavery. Our labour force is slave labour, our farmers are debt slaves and serfs. The big capitals exploit the labour in their own countries while they plunder the labour from countries like ours. Our wealth, natural resources and manpower; Our bodies, language and history, all of it is subservient to small capitals working for big capitals. This international family of big and little brothers is called imperialism.
Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai: A solution to worker’s problem Guest Post by Dhrubo Bornon (firstname.lastname@example.org)
It happened again. Due to the negligence of factory owners, more than 100 people died. And we are asking, how many times more! Didn’t we say last time that it will happen again and again until government protects the workers? Yes, that is how we think, probably everyone, who are neither the ruthless owners nor their government patrons. We think that the solution is simple. Continue reading “Dhrubo Bornon: Garments & Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai”
One girl asked him [the factory manager], “Mr. Bonstein, why is there no water in the buckets? In case of a fire, there would be nothing with which to fight it,” He became enraged at our group of price committee members, and with inhuman anger replied: “If you’ll burn, there’ll be something to put out the fire.” (Stein, 1977) Continue reading “Will we continue to be silent?”
The picture above is from the Ganashakti – the official organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)[CPI(M)]. Before losing power, such news items presented the face of ‘democratic student movement’ in West Bengal. Being in Bengal, one knew what these ‘uncontested wins’ meant and the the sheer violence that was often behind these lack of contestations. Continue reading “A response to Vijay Prashad’s Bengal’s Slide into Fascism”
Daily Star has announced that FORUM, it’s long-running monthly magazine, will close down as a “cost-saving” measure. FORUM was originally published in the 1960s/70s, with an editorial board that included Hameeda Hossain, Rehman Sobhan, and others. It was revived in the 00’s with Zafar Sobhan as editor. For last few years, Kajalie Shahreen Islam is the editor. It is the country’s only monthly magazine of serious, long-form, non-fiction essays in English. Continue reading “Killing Print Culture: Must FORUM Die?”
While Our Eyes Are Elsewhere
by Anu Muhammad, Translated by Tibra Ali for AlalODulal.org
Despite putting people from all walks of life at risk, the recent violence and uncertainty in our country seem to have inconvenienced the local and foreign plunderers and invaders very little. On the contrary, in many instances because of the shifted attention it has even helped them. For many this time of uncertainty has been a blessing!
Where Do We Go From Here?
Part 1- The Belgian Incident by Shafiqur Rahman
A few days ago Afsan Chowdhury, one of our best commentators on Bangladesh history and politics, posted a question on his Facebook wall, “So who thinks national governance will improve through the next election?” (April 9). This is a very important question to ask even in the middle of the apocalyptic battle that is now raging in the national arena. Continue reading “Where Do We Go From Here? (Part 1- The Belgian Incident)”
The Writer in Front of Shahbag By Faruk Wasif. Translated by Tibra Ali for AlalODulal.org.
Hasnat Abdul Hye has proved that deep down he too is a lecherous and misogynist writer Rosu Khan. Through the murder of Rabbi bhai’s teenager son Towki we witnessed the brutal suppression of the innocence of our time. Hasnat Abdul Hye’s short story is then the rape of the innocence of the Shahbag movement. Continue reading “Faruk Wasif: The Writer in Front of Shahbag”
Pundits are seeing revolution everywhere in Bangladesh these days. First there was the Shahbag revolution, which was supposed to start the second liberation war. Now there is the Hefazot revolution, which is turning Bangladesh into Afghanistan via Syria. And then there has been all the speculation about disturbances in the force. In between, pundits (and fellow bloggers) have seen black-and-white birds, various flags, and politics that keep on getting deeper. For all that talk, I think the most likely path of political change in Bangladesh is still through an election participated by both main parties. I am going to eschew various deep analysis of these revolutions, and focus on some simple political calculations.
If you live within the territorial limits of the Union of India, it is very likely that you were unaware of two important red-letter days in late March. You are not alone. Bhagat Singh was executed on 23 March, 1931 and Shurjo Sen was born on 22 March, 1894. Continue reading “Politics of remembering and forgetting heroes”
If you come to kill, I will say, I too am Hindu, I too am Minority, the land that is burning is my country
by Faruk Wasif, translated from Bengali by AlalODulal.org
When the Tamil massacres were happening, we came to shahbag with slogans “we are all Tamil.” When the Rohingya massacres happened, we protested that too. We protested killings in Iraq, we said we were Kashmiri when youth were being killed in Kashmir. Bu what about today? Continue reading “If you come to kill, I will say, I too am Hindu”
In November 2012, The New York Times ran two paired pieces written from both sides of the Bengal border.
Jyoti Rahman analyzes both articles: “Naeem is a few years older than me, and Mr Ray is likely to be slightly younger. That means, all of us were born decades after partition. Ours is the generation that has not known Pakistan in Bengal. Ours is the generation that has no lived experience of 1971. Both writers describe what the ‘other’ Bengal has meant to them over the years. Obviously I can relate to Naeem’s story, but I don’t share his conclusion. And while I find Ray’s story interesting for its misconception, I do relate to the way his story ends.” Continue reading “On the borders of two Bengals”
Prior to the outbreak of the recent violence in Bangladesh that pitted the police against the Jamaat-e-Islami, the conservative Islamic party, there was a stark silence among Western news outlets on the massive protests at Shahbagh junction in Dhaka. For 38 days and counting, up to a quarter of a million people have gathered peacefully everyday at Shahbagh, and elsewhere across the country, to demonstrate in favour of death sentences for those convicted of war crimes dating back to the country’s 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan. Shahbagh, and the subsequent violent backlash, was sparked by sentences handed down to leaders of the Jamaat, which collaborated with Pakistani forces in 1971 and has been tightly enmeshed in Bangladeshi politics ever since. Continue reading “Silence speaks volumes”
Ask for a piece on Pakistan and Bangladesh during December and you’re likely to get something about the 1971 wars — note the plural, because the eastern part of the subcontinent simultaneously experienced an inter-ethnic civil war and ethno-communal cleansing, genocide, inter-state conventional war and a war of national liberation, all climaxing in the crisp Bengali winter of 1971. Naeem Mohaiemen’s seven part series is an example, covering many aspects of that fateful year. Let me skip 1971 in this post. Instead, I’ll begin by marking the other December anniversary, one that will have a particular relevance for Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2013. And I’ll note the parallels between the post-1971 developments in the two wings of former United Pakistan.
I was lucky to have had a preview of Naeem’s essay on history before it came out. This past week, I read the comments from AoD readers and they provided much food for thought. Great writing in response to the same.
With all its flaws, Taslima Nasreen’s Lajja (1993) diagnosed the crisis at the heart of Bangladeshi identity. On the last page, after a week of violent communal riots, the Bengali Hindu family is finally defeated…“Shudhamoy was walking while leaning on Kiranmayee’s shoulder. Gradually the strength was coming back to his body. Kiranmayee held on to Shudhamoy with both hands.
When a demand is de-contextualised from the power forces at play, it risks this occupation by those forces. Now the ultimate effect of Shahbagh has been dividing the nation even more dangerously, rather than uniting us or showing us a path forward — for at the end of the day they did not risk enough to go against the state as well as Shibir, and thus, fell into an old identity dichotomy rather than creating a new synthesis for a new identity. Continue reading “Seema Amin: Shahbagh slides into old identity dichotomy”
MY GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE in Teteliguri—a village about 50 kilometres east of Guwahati, northeast India’s largest city—was a chaotic place, home, when I was growing up, to more than 20 relatives. It was there that I spent most of my school vacations, there, in that L-shaped house—where at least three women were required to lift the huge cauldron of rice off the hearth—that I began to read. Continue reading “Know Thy Neighbour: Aruni Kashyap on Humayun Ahmed”
The crocodile-tear sentiment of the middle-class and liquid, emotion-filled nationalism smothered the radical face of the 1952 language movement in one way or another. That is why we need to return to history and raise this noise very loudly: just as the language movement at one time was a movement to establish our language rights, it was also ultimately a movement to fight for the rights of the country’s farmers, workers and the toiling masses.
I was on my way to Shahbag on a rickshaw today, when the rickshaw-drivers asked me,”Bhaia, if you don’t mind me asking … what is a ‘blogger’?”
I answered that bloggers are people who write stuff on computers.
“If today, forty years after the atrocities of Pakistani soldiers and their Razakar collaborators in the Independence war 1971, there can be our rallying cry for justice amongst the people of Bangladesh, a cry heard across the world, then why cannot the Pahari people demand the same justice and equality for themselves today?Why, in this Independent Bangladesh, do some citizens have to withstand military rule imposed indefinitely?” Continue reading “Tears of a Pahari Woman”
“The stain of genocide that still haunts Bangladesh can’t be erased with stains of revenge and show trials. Or by our refusal to acknowledge the ‘others’ amongst us, be it the adibashis or voices of dissent. We cannot challenge intolerance with intolerance, parochialism with more parochialism. We can and should do better.” Continue reading “Questions about Shahbagh”
Masked and Unanimous: Lacerated Skins and Likely Stories by Kweenbodonti This happened. This is probably happening as we speak. I It was in the poorly ventilated, sunshine-deprived, noise-free annex of a British era bungalow. Right across from a small “casual … Continue reading Kweenbodonti: Lacerated Skins and Likely Stories
We easily forget the names of Kalpana Datta, Shanti Ghose, Shuniti Chowdhury, Beena Das, Leela Rai, Nanibala Devi, Du’Koribala Devi, Matangini Hajra and names of many other revolutionary women who played active roles in the fight for independence against the British. Even if the name of Ila Mitra, the legendary female leader of the Santal revolt at Nachol, comes up occasionally, we never recall the women of the then Muslim League who played active and important roles in the language movement of 1952. Continue reading “Shahbagh: For fiery sisters”
The first time I visited Shahbag, I was disturbed by a few slogans, such as, “Tumi key, ami key – Bangali, Bangali” (“Who are you, who am I – Bangali, Bangali”). I love the first part of the slogan “Tomar amar thikana, Padma Meghna Jamuna” (Your address and my address, Padma, Meghna, Jamuna – referring to the largest rivers of Bangladesh), but not being a Bengali, I am unable to chant the second half of the slogan. As an advocate of the rights of the indigenous (Adivasi) peoples of Bangladesh it is impossible not to be bothered by this slogan. Continue reading “An Adivasi speaks: What brings me to Shahbag, what pulls me back from it”
While describing Shahbag Square movement, frequent references are being made to Tahrir Square, the site of recent anti -autocratic movement in Egypt. However, although there are more similarities, Shahbag has not yet been discussed in reference to the famous Tiananmen Square movement of 1989 in China. The reason of missing Tiananmen reference may be two pronged. One, in ultra-short memory span of the minds of the analysts of Shahbag Square movement, an event of 1989 is not much distinct now. Continue reading “From Tiananmen to Shahbag, via Tahrir”
There is a particular way of lensing mass movements, when we are observing from within immediate tactics. In a fast moving situation, with opponents and allies squared off, the first thing to shrink is the space for internal critique. Professor Azfar Hussain uses the term “critical solidarity” for his approach to Shahbagh. A critique that seeks to help the movement, but also a critique some are not ready to hear yet. Continue reading “Shahbagh: The forest of symbols”
We must keep the Shahbag movement outside of the fyasad of belief-vs.-atheism. We have to keep it free of political parties. We have to convert the war cry of revenge into the awakening cry of resistance. We have to keep the door open for all people to join us. In front is a long and difficult path. Shaking the country for ten days is possible, but to change the country takes years. Our voices are now liberated with the promise of trying war criminals and a relief from a religiously fascist society. This cannot be ignored. The resounding “no” to traditional political parties and their practitioners cannot become “yes” ever again. It’s time to change the rules of the game.
A line in the esteemed Jyoti Rahman’s otherwise excellent article made me sit up. “…But to me, it is yet another case of the rest of the world caring little about Bangladesh. We really are not a country others particularly care about.”Continue reading “Shahbagh: the blind spot”
Shahbag & Bengali Nationalism
by Paul James Gomes
I understand the movement has its own energy. Hundeds of thousands of people together has it’s own heartbeat. If we stand there we must feel we can do so much, we can change the world. Our eyes will water, if 50,000 people shout together “no”, a wave will run through our bodies. But why? What do we want, why are we here. Continue reading “Shahbag & Bengali Nationalism”
I had not been following the war crimes trial in much detail. Like many, I was surprised by the sentencing of the Abdul Quader Mollah. He was convicted, but not given the maximum penalty (death sentence) — what gives, I wondered.
It might be hard to remember now, but Shahbagh awakening began as a protest against Awami League. Think back to the distant days at the beginning of February. After four years of de facto ban, Jamaat was all of a sudden allowed to hold ‘peaceful protests’. Oh, they were peaceful alright. Continue reading “Shahbagh — the End”
Who are you, who am I?/ Chakma, Marma, Bangali.
Who are you, who am I?/ Garo, Saontal, Bangali.
In Surya Sen’s Bengal/ no space for racism
In Pritilata’s Bengal/ no space for ethnic hate
In Titumir’s Bengal/ no space for fascism
In Rokeya’s Bengal/ no space for patriarchy
In Lalan Fakir’s Bengal/ no space for fascism
In Freedom Fighter’s Bengal/ no space for Rajakars
In Freedom Fighter’s Bengal/ no space for Looters Continue reading “Shahbagh: Who are you? Who Am I?”
Those still sitting on the fence are not really relevant at this moment unless the rightfully committed have plenty of time to waste, which they ought not in light of Rajib’s tragic martyrdom and the real threat of Jamaati terror on the ground. Those who again find themselves on the wrong side of history are facing popular resistance and inevitable defeat at the hands of increasingly proactive “ordinary” Bangladeshis. Continue reading “Shahbagh After Week Two”
Another blogger, who has spent the greater part of the week at Shahbagh, who is gratified at the ‘abject rejection of the BNP-Jamaat and JP [Jatiya Party] narrative of 1971’ stirringly writes, and I quote:
‘I will never agree on the death penalty for anyone…If it is handed down for a convicted war criminal, I’ll continue to work so that it is commuted to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or Presidential clemency. Confiscate their property and compensate their victims, and let their children find their way out of the public humiliation and shame brought upon by the exposure of truth. Let us be better than them. I will continue to be there in Shahbagh even if I’m the last man standing, and I share this belief with millions of my brothers and sisters across our land’. (greaterboka, ‘A Week in Shahbagh’, Alal o Dulal, February 14, 2013).Continue reading “Reclaiming Ekattur: fashi, Bangali”
Photo : The bloggers who called for the Shahbag protest . source: facebook
Shahbag slogans: inclusion of diversity – Muktasree Sathi Chakma
The Shahbag protest, demanding the death sentence for the war criminals of 1971’s independence war, began on February 5, 2013. The protest welcomed diverse groups, despite their distinct identities and, through its inclusive nature, demonstrated that the sun is finally rising on Bangladesh. Continue reading “Shahbag slogans: inclusion of diversity”
Lubna Marium participated in the 1971 liberation war by working in the Refugee Camps and later an Advance Dressing Center of Sector 7, with her mother Sultana Zaman and sister Naila Khan. Her father, Quazi Nooruzzaman, was Sector Commander of Sector 7, where her younger brother Nadeem was a muktijoddha. Continue reading “Lubna Marium on Shahbag”
How does the movement connect to the garment worker imprisoned in some factory not so far way? What’s its relation to the “informal sector worker” eking a living by shifting through garbage? What hope does the movement give to the farmer on the brink of losing his land and livelihood in some village? What message does the movement send to the Adibashi fighting for autonomy and dignity in Hill Tracts of Chittagong? Continue reading “This is Shahbagh!”
I have a different take from Naeem as to what’s going on in Shahbagh. It is a more pessimistic take. If you are one of those people who think that a 18 year old speaking against Zafar Iqbal (Sir) should be treated like a Rajakar, please stop reading now and go elsewhere.Continue reading “The Meaning of Shahbagh-er More”
Had he lived, my friend and ally Jalal Alamgir would have been 43 today. Instead of mourning in his tragic and untimely death, let us celebrate his life, and vow to continue his work for a progressive, democratic Bangladesh.
Young poet Mahmud Hasan died yesterday. He was a Philosophy student at Dhaka University. At his funeral, his parents made one request of his friends: please collect all his writings and publish them, so his memory can be honored. We are publishing Mahmud’s last poem, written two days before his tragic death. Translated by Naseef Amin.
I dedicate this writing to my sister Sujata Sen, whose anguished memories of not having seen our father during the five years before his death, haunts her to this day, I know that this is a trivial offering compared to her suffering.
Sincere discussions on the communal oppression and violence that exist in Bangladesh, are very rare; much of the discussion is conducted from within established conventions, if I may add, overwhelmingly so. Hardly any serious social scientific analysis of communalism exists. Short stories, novels or poetry depicting communal violence and oppression in post-independent Bangladesh are few and far between, they are rare enough to be counted off on one’s fingers. There are not many essays either. The silence about communalism in plays and cinemas is almost deafening.
A trifecta of misogynists, always blaming the victim:
1. Extraordinarily misogynist and dangerous TV media coverage.
2. OC of a Police Station who says if the woman is having a physical relationship with boyfriend, they can’t prove rape by anyone else.
3. Video reposted on YouTube by an “activist” who calls women “bitches” (“Mushfiq Rahman Tomal who control yaba and bitches in town”)
London Review of Books had an extremely interesting article about the original sins of Indian democracy by UC Berkeley Professor Perry Anderson. It especially discussed the treatment of Muslims and other minorities at the hand of the secular Indian state. This got me wondering about how Bangladesh stacks up against India in this regard.
Recently two gang-rapes took place; one is in Delhi and another in Rangamati… In Rangamati case, a Marma school-girl of class-eight was gang-raped in Rangamati on December 21. Three Bengali settlers raped the fourteen-year Marma girl and killed her afterward. As rape cases, both events were similar in its forms and consequences and thereby both cases were expected to trigger serious reaction and massive protests in the society… it happened otherwise in Rangamati case which unveils the class relations of demonstration and ugly face of minority-majority politics prevalent in Bangladesh.
Ultrasonic images of pregnant Mimi (pseudonym) taken less than a fortnight before fire broke out at Tazreen Fashions on November 24, 2012 burning to death 112 workers, according to the government and the BGMEA; the actual death toll, according to family members of missing workers, labour organisations and activists, is much higher.
Honourable prime minister,
I AM an unborn citizen of Bangladesh. I was killed before I was born. My mother was twenty-two weeks and three days pregnant with me when fire broke out at Tazreen Fashions in Nischintapur.
BRITISH BANGLADESHI POWER 100 list has been released. Problematic concept (“Power”), fuzzy categories, and bizarro inclusions (Gaffar Chowdhury!), but here it is– for blog dissection.
1. Irene Zubaida Khan
Human Rights Activist
Irene is Chancellor of University of Salford and in 2001 she was the first woman, the first Asian, and the first Muslim to guide the world’s largest human rights organization, Amnesty International as its seventh Secretary General. Continue reading “British Bangladeshi “Power 100””
NOWADAYS the global media seems to be euphoric about us. Every now and then, The Economist heaps lavish praise for our apparently astonishing economic happenings. Lately, JP Morgan added Bangladesh in its catalogue of ‘Frontier Five’. The McKinsey Report spotted Bangladesh as the next hotspot for global apparel bazaar. After finished havocking the Greek economy, Goldman Sachs kindly positioned us in its next-eleven brochure. And the World Bank confirmed our eligibility for a sharp 8 per cent growth. Continue reading “Maha Mirza: Liar Liar, Factories on Fire”
Why is father a servant? Why is Ananta a rickshawallah? An epic kechal about class status
বাবা কেন চাকর, অনন্ত কেন রিকশাওয়ালা ? আমাদের ক্লাস স্ট্যাটাস নিয়ে একটি বিষদ ক্যাচাল
by Zia Hassan
For almost two years I was thinking of writing about our class distribution. But I could not find time to write it. But recently when even a proper “bourgeois” like Ananta Jalil got slanged as “rickshawalla class” I thought the time had come to write the piece.
The Epic Kechal: The Hegemony of Prothom-alo and the Anti Establishment Group by Zia Hassan
In Bangladesh politics, there is an interesting saying. If both the government and the opposition are criticizing you and then you must be doing something right. Prothom-alo continuously holds that enviable positioning in our society. But, it is not only the government and the opposition, Prothom-alo draws flack from all corners. The communist hate them, the people in military hate them, the mullah’s hate them, the liberals hate them. Continue reading “Epic Kechal 2: Alo vs Anti-Establishment”
This is the month of my birthday. Parades, marches, speeches, celebrations, congratulations are in order. A particularly nice time of the year in my household, too, when temperature drops to a level that allows balmy joviality to set in. All get a well-deserved reprieve, albeit temporary, from incessant load-shedding. Along with the winter harvest, festoons, banners, flags and photographs of my golden children decorate cities and villages alike. Patriotic songs echo aloud out of loudspeakers and people lift their chests just a bit more. Indeed, it is a great pleasure to see my children happy, enthusiastic and proud. Only a mother knows how good it feels to see her children well and having fun.
Many garment workers died on the evening of November 24th when fire broke out in Tazreen Fashions in Ashulia’s Nischintapur. The exact death toll is still unknown. According to the government, 112 workers had died but many family members were unable to identify their beloved ones as the flesh had burnt away leaving behind only charred bones and skeletons. Fifty three unidentified bodies have been buried in Jurain graveyard. But several investigative reports have concluded that the death toll is higher. Some of us have conducted preliminary research in Nischintapur’s Buripara at our own initiative, and, we too, have been forced to reach the same conclusion. The government and the BGMEA should immediately have launched a serious drive to ascertain the exact number of those who have died, but instead they displayed a callous indifference which amounts to nothing short of criminal negligence. Continue reading “Tazreen: Rokeya Bahini says BGMEA protects killers”
New York Times/December 11, 2012 American Tariffs, Bangladeshi Deaths
By SANCHITA B. SAXENA/ Berkeley, Calif.
THE fire that killed 112 workers at a garment factory in the suburbs of Bangladesh’s capital last month was a stark reminder of the human costs of producing and consuming cheap clothes. While American officials have condemned poor safety conditions at the factory and have urged the Bangladeshi government to raise wages and improve working conditions, the United States can do much more: It should bring down high tariffs on imports from Bangladesh and other Asian countries, which put pressure on contractors there to scrimp on labor standards in order to stay competitive. Continue reading “Tazreen: American Tariffs, Bangladeshi Deaths”
Excuse me a minute while I brace myself for the pro/anti-India epithets that might make their way to the comments. Because I am about to set aside the premature jubilations that afflicted the Tigers tonight and the hope that comes with fresh talents like Sohag Gazi and Anamul Haque.
Instead, I will write about England’s tour of India. But only to point out an increasingly disturbing trend in the way Indians are coming across to the rest of the world. Captain India MS Dhoni shall serve as our representative Indian. And with England one wicket away from victory this evening , now is the time. Continue reading “Cricket and the Ugly Indian”
Bangladesh is on the front page of the New York Times for the third time this year. All three stories have been on the garments industry. The previous two talked of opportunities and warned of dangers and exploitation in the industry. The latest one is, of course, after the fire. Reporting by Jim Yardley and Julfikar Ali Manik, photographs by Andrew Biraj and Khaled Hasan.
Every year, 16th December, known in India as Vijay Divas, is commemorated through low key events in a few select major cities across the country. There is rarely any fanfare; in Delhi, there is a brief and solemn ceremony with sparse attendance; protocol dictates the titles of those who must attend or send a replacement in lieu; a minute’s silence is held by the Eternal Flame by India Gate, and the event is generally very lacklustre. Continue reading “1971: Missed Euphoria”
Translator’s note: Young Bangladeshi Buddhist monk Pragyananda Bhikkhu, of Ramu Shima Bihar, wrote “Ramu Shohingshota: Fanoosh kono balloon noy”, which was published in Dainik Cox’s Bazar, November 4, 2012 in light of the controversy created over setting afloatfanooshes as part of the celebration of Prabarana Purnima, the second largest Buddhist religious festival; to be noted, this year’s date coincided with the monthly anniversary of the communal attacks of September 29, 2012, which destroyed innumerable Buddhist monasteries, temples and homes, allegedly caused by an offensive photograph discovered in the facebook account of Uttam Kumar Barua, a Bengali Buddhist youth, several hours before the attacks occurred. According to press reports, the attacks were visibly incited by local leaders and members of the ruling Awami League (AL), the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami; the attackers included those belonging to these political parties, and also, other Muslims, both local inhabitants and outsiders. News reports have highlighted the “inaction” of police officials and the local-level administration. Both ruling AL and the opposition BNP agree that these attacks were “planned” and pre-meditated.
The fanoosh controversy, as Pragyananda clearly explains, was the result of administrative interference in religious ceremonies and rituals; the Buddhists of Ramu had decided not to observe their rites of virtue this year as they were “heartbroken” and grieving over their losses. Continue reading “Ramu violence: A fanoosh is not a balloon”
The Hay Festival controversy picks up speed as protesters demand “Prime Minister’s intervention to refrain Bangla Academy from being the host of the Hay Festival on the academy premises, resignation of Bangla Academy director general Shamuzzaman Khan and bringing charges of anti-state activities.”
The following chronology is compiled from various blog and facebook posts.
1. Somewherein blog by Tokon Thakur on who are the corporate sponsors of Hay, why this English matbori, anointment of elites. He singles out “Kaziputro” (son of Kazi, a reference to author K. Anis Ahmed) and “Anamkonya” (daughter of Anam, a reference to Tahmima Anam). Kazi & Kazi Tea and Daily Star are two of the sponsors of Hay. K. Anis released Goodnight Mr Kissinger, right before Hay, and Tahmima Anam released The Good Muslim earlier this year.
Barbershop in Queens, New York (Photo: Nina Porzucki)
Once a month Zain Ahmed treks from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to a windowless basement shop in Jackson Heights, Queens, just to get his haircut. “I take 3 or 4 trains just to get here,” says Ahmed. “That’s dedication, right?”
That the passing of Sunil Gangopadhyay came as a shock to many – despite his age and health – is a reflection of his being, till his last Puja season during which he died – the most prolific and recognizable mainstream writer in post-1947 Indian Bengal.
I will not dwell on literary critiques; I am not qualified. While, like most NRI-kids, I was very much aware of who he was growing up (our parents would always pass around his latest book after a trip to Calcutta) I was hardly able to delve into his tomes. In that I shared a disconnect with an increasing number of middle class Calcutta kids more proficient (at least reading) in English and even Hindi than in their parents’ tongue. I saw the films and serials people like Satyajit made from his works, and as English-translations started becoming available, I trawled through his seminal works such as Purba Paschim, Shei Shomoy and Prothom Alo. But that doesn’t form the basis of my bond. Continue reading “Kakababu choley gelen: Sunil Gangopadhyay (1934-2012)”
From K-Prime bio: These days in hip-hop when you hear the word Bangladesh you expect to hear the ever-present “a milli” beat following. However, to hip-hop’s newest recruit, K-Prime, Bangladesh is more than a producer’s signature drop, it’s his birth country. Moving from Dhaka to the Borough of Queens, New York at age three, Prime, who was born Anik Khan, was immediately introduced to music and politics by his father who was a poet and a political representative in his home country. Continue reading “K-Prime: Dark Nights | Bright Dreams”
This is a short essay written by Monaemuddin Ahmed (1914-2003) for Salimullah Hall’s reunion magazine. At 89, he was at the time, the oldest alum alive. He passed away before he could see this in print.
– Monaemuddin Ahmed
Salimullah Hall in our days was known as Salimullah Muslim Hall. The word “Muslim” was dropped in 1972.
I was a resident of the Salimullah Hall from July,1935 to September, 1939 by virtue of my becoming a student of the Dhaka University ( then written as “Dacca University”) in 1st year B.A. (Hons.) class in the department of Mathematics with English and Persian as subsidiary subjects. Those years were the best years of my life, the creative years and the jolliest years. In 1935-36, I occupied a seat room # 151, in 1936-38, of room # 163 and in the final year, i.e. 1938-39, of room # 94, all in the West House.
Ever since I had taken admission to the university, I could feel dozens of eyes were following me. Be it while I walk down the corridors of the university library, or loitering around the faculty buildings. The eyes were gazing at me with an expression that they found something peculiar.
Many of the girls, of course Bengali, said they have nearly same experience for being a girl. But, my experience was totally different from them. ‘Hey, it’s a girl! and it’s a hilly chick!!,’ whispered the eyes among themselves. Moments after, the eyes get voices in commanding physiques. And the sentence remain almost the same to each of the voices, ‘I want to be a friend of yours. Cause I am very much interested about “upajatis”.’
Let me start by asking you all a question. You may have a very strong religious affiliation; your faith may be impeccable. Or you may be deeply indoctrinated with a political ideology. Passion runs deep in your vain in favor of your faith or ideology. But does this passion permit you to break the basic law of humanity, i.e. kill innocent people? And if you do any such act out of this strong political of religious conviction, can you get away saying that it’s not my fault, some religious or political leader used my passion to make me commit such crime?
Or, something else altogether?…It is a gratuitous and simplistic binary, but we could not help notice that the same week that amateur terrorist Nafis’ photo was plastered on a shrill and scaremongering media (with the words “Bangladeshi” attached to an escalating fear narrative), the other face of Bangladeshi youth in New York is The Cosmics’ brand new video.
Cowards come in two forms, those who move under the cover of the night, and those who take refuge in the brute might of the mob. And when the two combine, cowards can become hyenas. Since that dreadful night, when for six shameful hours, the state remained invisible, protectors stood by quietly, neighbors became fiends, and only few were brave to face the hyenas, I can no longer be myself. Continue reading “I am a Buddhist today”
Blogger Rumi (a successful medical doctor in US who came here on a student visa in the 1980s): “The outrageous, inexcusable act of The Bangladeshi Student, facilitated and influenced by an FBI undercover agent, has claimed it’s first victim – the student visa system.” Student visas concern after terror plot Grand Jury to be convened
Nafis was allegedly planning something for which he will go to jail for life. But, how far would he have actually got without help from the FBI? Below are some discussions in US blogosphere about this topic.
From comments section on ATLANTIC:
Chuñdy: No one is arguing that he shouldn’t face serious jail time. We are questioning whether the FBl and the media should be portraying this 21-year-old doofus as a terrorist mastermind. They caught a gullible wannabe jihadist who couldn’t tell the difference between an inert bomb and a real bomb. Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.
Mark Holland A man who can be so easily compelled to mass murder is a real threat. On the other hand, people in the FBI are ordinary and thus more concerned with personal goals than abstractions. This case will make a lot of people at FBI very famous and later, very wealthy. I have zero pity for the kid and few illusions about the “public” sector.Continue reading “Nafis: Terrorist Mastermind or Witless Patsy?”
This a 14 year old girl from one of the most socially backward, deprived and uncivilized areas of the World — Swat Valley pakistan.
Her name is Malala Yousufzai. Although she is only a 14 year old 8th grader, she definitely is not like any other 14 year old in the world.
She is an embodiment of passion, bravado, activism. She is the example what ‘standing up for right’ means in real life.
She probably is the youngest and most inspirational politicians in Asia, if not in the World. Just search her name in Youtube. You will see hundreds of TV interviews of Malala — some 30 minute, some hour long. You will see her fiery stump speeches. Continue reading “The formidable 14 year old”
Udayan C: A couple of weeks ago, Altamas Kabir was sworn in by President Pranab Mukhopadhyay as the 39th Chief Justice of India. As far as I am aware, this is the highest rank held by a Bengali Muslim in India since 1947.
In the decade since 2002, the value of leather exports in Bangladesh has grown by an average of $41 million per year. From June 2011 to July 2012 Bangladesh exported around $663 million of leather and leather goods, including footwear. This leather is exported to some 70 countries throughout the world, but principally China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany, Spain, and the United States.
AlaloDulal first reported the coming crisis with UAE visas on August 27th. We wished we had been wrong, but today’s report confirms the ban has officially started. Congratulations to AL government for successfully botching this issue, as they destroy everything they touch.
Questions that need to be answered by Muktasree Sathi Chakma (Sep 24, 2012)
While my 68 years old father and my 65 years old mother remained awake for the last two days in fear that some of the Bengali settlers (who can kill people only for the reason that you are indigenous) would attack our house, I am attending a Human Rights training and learning how to be a human rights activist. What an irony, isn’t it? Continue reading “Sathi Chakma: After Rangamati, Questions that need to be answered”
“While there is a lot of talk in Indian society and polity about illegal immigration, Bangladesh flatly rejects the notion that there are any illegal Bangladeshi citizens living in India. Be that as it may, the two countries will have to find a way to talk about cross-border population movement rationally. If that were to happen, at least for a start an Indo-Bangladesh protocol on labour movement could take some of the pressure off from the circular migrant who now has to find proxy citizenship papers and participate in elections in order to find security.”
Right wing politics from male-chauvinist, patriarchal “guardians” of Bangladesh’s Hindu community.
‘Don’t make Hindu marriage registration a must’ Fri, Aug 24th, 2012/Bdnews24.com
Dhaka, Aug 24 (bdnews24.com)—A platform of Hindu minority on Friday threatened to foil the government move to make Hindu marriage registration mandatory. Advocate Ashok Kumar Ghosh, General Secretary of Bangladesh Minority Sangram Parishad that opposes the reformation in the Hindu Family Law, issued the threat from a human-chain protest in front of the National Press Club. The Supreme Court lawyer termed the initiative ‘an insult to Hindu rules and family tradition’ and asked the government not to make the new law. “We strongly oppose the reformation in the name of women empowerment by violating the sacred religious precept and manner. We’ll wage a mass movement if the government does not refrain from formulating such law,” he added.
Parishad President Ashok Taru, Organising Secretary S K Badal and Dhaka metropolitan unit President Pintu Mitra also spoke at the programme, among others.
Remembering Mowla Boksh Text, Image, & Video by Zaid Islam
Mowla Boksh, a legend of the Lalon Phokir gharana, breathed his last on 16 August 2012. May the Lord rest him in peace.
We don’t realise what we got until it’s gone. Mowla’s departure reminded me of this once again. I started remembering his unique craziness, his humour, his incomparable style of musical mastery, and how passionately he was constantly celebrating every moment.
I started to miss him.
“More than half of the respondents make less than the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, 83% in the case of retail employees. The huge majority (95%) doesn’t have any type of health insurance, and only one fifth of them gets paid for sick days (when almost half of New Yorkers do, in comparison).” Continue reading “The basement people”
These days our national discourse — the facebook broadcasts, the print media junks — have made villain out of Shaon, the just widowed wife of deceased writer Humayun Ahmed.
Wife Shaon and publisher Mazhar are the villains in all Bangladeshi tabloids now a days. But these are the two people who were with Humayun during his last lap. Shaon’s struggle to save Humayun was en epic battle. Can anyone imagine how difficult it was for her to move to NY with two very young kids and a sick man who, all his life, is used to have everything done for him, including bringing a glass of water? Shaon had to start a family from scratch. Singlehandedly. Mazhar and some occasional local Bangladeshi vagabonds helped her out once a while.
Contrarian Thoughts on Humayun Ahmed
– by Bookworm Blogger
So Humayun Ahmed finally died a few days ago. Not unexpected really, considering his advanced age and his prolonged battle with cancer. You don’t really win fights like those in the end. He didn’t either.
I got the news as I was sitting in the bus, going to the mall. Facebook feeds on the mobile, of course, what else. All in all – and it’s now been several days, so my reactions have had time to settle – I find myself almost entirely unmoved by this event. Except perhaps for a brief moment of heaviness just after I heard the news. After all, this IS Humayun Ahmed. THE name to contend with in modern Bangladeshi fiction.
Sure, he was a very talented writer. Yet my enduring memories of reading Humayun are few and far between. In total, I can’t say that I read more than 12-15 of his books – and the last one was a good 20 years ago. Perhaps because towards the end – and for me, that would be 1992-93 – the crap content was so high that I felt there were far better uses of my time than reading the ramblings of some loser kid in a yellow punjabi or whatever the latest fad was that the Humayun word-machine was churning out to keep greedy publishers and childish readers happy. Continue reading “Contrarian Thoughts on Humayun Ahmed”
Received by email from Mahmudul Sumon, Dept of Anthropology, Jahangirnagar University. Conversation between a traffic police and a public in Dhaka (2012)
Police says: this car is parked illegally …you are fined
Public says: (the care owner) But where is it written that this is a no parking zone (also indicates that a ministry car was just parked here; you didn’t say anything to that car) Continue reading “I am my own guardian”
[Image: Greg Constantine, Pulitzer Center]
It was 1978 or 1979, Weekly Bichitra made a cover story titled, “ Manush Aite achhe – naaf nodeer baner lahan” (People are coming in like flood on Naaf River). All on a sudden, a group of people living in northwest Burmese Arakan region and who happen to be of Bengali ethnic lineage and Muslim in faith, started leaving their homeland of several dozen to several hundred years and cross the border to enter Bangladesh in utter desperation. They came by boats, sampans, makeshift banana trunk vessels (vela) – some came on foot through impenetrable mountain forest. They all were escaping the atrocities of operation Nagamin of Burmese army.
Burmese government was suspicious of what they believed as collusion between Arakan communist party and secessionist thought of Arakanese Muslims. Starting on April 1978, refugees started pouring into Cox’s Bazaar, Teknaf and Chittagong Hill tract areas and by June, over 200,000 Bengali Muslim descendent inhabitants of Burmese region of Arakan, who call themselves Rohingyas, started living in 13 camps set up along Bangladesh Myanmar border. Of the 210,000 souls, more than half (over 110,000) were children between 1 to 15 years of age and there was absolutely no obstruction from Bangladesh side in letting them in. Large enclosed living quarters were built overnight. Refugees were kept in those fenced out camps, a high level government official ran the program from the ground and a national coordination council led by Cabinet Secretary led the national and global efforts.
The head of the state was personally involved in every minor detail of the planning and execution of the program. And thanks to personal influence of President Ziaur Rahman on Burmese leader Ne Win, very robust stand by Bangladesh foreign office and smart diplomacy by the foreign Minister Professor Shamsul Huq, Burmese government took all the refugees back within less than a year. In July 1978, two months into the refugee problem, an agreement was signed between Bangladesh and Burma. The first batch of 58 refugees was repatriated in August 1978 and the repatriation of last stranded batch (who did not have any document supporting their residence in Burma) was completed by December 1979. Senior Burmese Ministers visited the camps to supervise the repatriation process, which they called ‘the Hintha project’. Continue reading “REFUGEE: Alaol’s unfortunate Children”