In the 40-odd years that America and the Soviet Union faced off in the cold war, the people who presumed to run the world started with the knowledge that it was too dangerous, and possibly even suicidal, to attack one another. But the struggle was fierce, and what that meant in practice was that the competition played out in impoverished places like Cuba and Angola, where the great statesmen vied, eyed and subverted one another, and sometimes loosed their local proxies, all in the name of maintaining the slippery but all-important concept known as the balance of power.
The peace held, of course ? that is, the larger peace. The United States and the Soviet Union never came to blows, and the nuclear-tipped missiles never left their silos. For the third world, where the competition unfolded, it was another matter entirely. The wreckage spread far and wide, in toppled governments, loathsome dictators, squalid little wars and, here and there, massacres so immense that entire populations were nearly destroyed. Continue reading “Collateral Damage”
I am starting this project with the hope that people across the globe can help me identify and hopefully trace as many people as possible in these photographs. I shall be regularly uploading images and linking them up with my social media. Please comment, link, tag, share these images and help me locate the people in them. Please also feel free to share insights into the situation, particularly if you happen to have been present.
I would like to complete this by 2021, when I would like to curate a major show to commemorate 50 years of Independence. Please feel free to send me pictures to. Please try to provide as much information as you can about the photograph and the photographer. Ideally we would like all the photographs to be credited.
Thanks for your help.
Here is the first image. It was taken by one of our finest photojournalists, and a dear friend,?Rashid Talukder. The photograph was taken on the 10th January 1972, when Mujib returned to an independent Bangladesh upon his release from captivity in Pakistan. The person dangling from the jeep with the Rollei hanging is another famous Bangladeshi photographer Aftab Ahmed:
UNTIL 1971 Pakistan was made up of two parts: west and east. Both Muslim-dominated territories were born out of India?s bloody partition 24 years earlier, though they existed awkwardly 1,600km apart, divided by hostile Indian territory. Relations between the two halves were always poor. The west dominated: it had the capital, Islamabad, and greater political, economic and military clout. Its more warlike Pashtuns and prosperous Punjabis, among others, looked down on Bengali easterners as passive and backward. Continue reading “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide.”
The black night of March 25, 1971 when the Pakistani occupation forces kicked off one of the worst genocides in history that led to a nine-month war for the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.
On this black night in the nation?s history, the Pakistani military rulers launched ?Operation Searchlight?, killing some thousand people in that night?s crackdown alone.?As part of the operation, tanks rolled out of Dhaka cantonment and a sleeping city woke up to the rattles of gunfire as the Pakistan army attacked the halls at Dhaka University, the then East Pakistan Rifles (now Border Guard Bangladesh) headquarters and Rajarbagh Police Lines, killing the several thousand unarmed Bengalis on the single night. The planned and designated centres of offensive operations under that plan were Dhaka, Khulna, Chittagong, Comilla, Jessore, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Saidpur and Sylhet? areas, where West Pakistani army units were concentrated. Continue reading “BLACK NIGHT 1971 Bangladesh”
Jabbar Bhandari was a freedom fighter. He fought with Kader (Tiger) Siddiqui in Tangail. ?He now makes a living as a Baul Singer.
A Freedom Fighter Sings of 1971 from Shahidul Alam on Vimeo.
He had also conducted operations in Kaderpur and Haluaghat. Now much of his time is spent around Suhrwardy Uddyan where the deed of surrender was signed in 1971. ?I found him slowly walking along the photographic exhibition on 1971 we had orgasised. He would stop and peer intently at each photograph. I asked him what he was looking at. ?I am looking at myself he said. It is me you have photographed.? ?I asked him what he thought of Bangladesh now. Whether he still dreamt of the Bangladesh he had fought for. ?He replied wistfully, ?It?s good we are free.? Then he paused and said. ?Sometimes I dream. Sometimes I don?t.?
I have never seen him since.
Begum Khaleda Zia’s snub to Pranab Mukherjee sadly confirmed that Bangladeshis are still fighting yesterday’s battles. They still suffer from the dilemma Zulfikar Ali Bhutto tried to exploit by arguing mischievously during the liberation war that if “Muslim Bangla” was primarily Bengali, it should merge with West Bengal. If it was Islamic, it should remain in Pakistan. Continue reading “The anomaly of a secular Bangladesh”
Old ghosts stalk the streets of Dhaka. Over the past month, tens of thousands of people have gathered at Shahbag, near the National Museum in downtown Dhaka, demanding justice over the war crimes of 1971. There is a large portrait of Jahanara Imam, the ?mother of martyrs,? who lost her son during the war, and fought for justice for all those who perished. She died in 1994, but her spirit is vividly present at Shahbag. Continue reading “What Pakistan left behind”
Bangladeshi police detain a supporter of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party during a protest in Dhaka. Photo: AFP
I write this column with some regret. As a college student, among the bylines I grew up admiring was that of S.N.M. Abdi, who was a young reporter in the late 1970s, and exposed one of the most horrendous examples of police brutality in post-independence India?the blinding of undertrial prisoners in Bhagalpur in Bihar. Some politicians defended that barbarism, saying the practice had ?social sanction?. But Abdi rightly focused on the atrocity, stirring the nation?s conscience, which was at that time still reeling from the effects of the emergency. Continue reading “Playing ball with the Jamaat”
When President Pranab Mukherjee visited Bangladesh earlier this week, its opposition leader Khaleda Zia (above) of the BNP did not meet him, because of public strikes that her ally, Jamaat-i-Islami, has been calling to protest the verdicts of the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal. Photo: AFP
Earlier this week, when President?Pranab Mukherjee?visited Bangladesh, its opposition leader?Khaleda Zia?of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) did not meet him, because of public strikes that her ally, Jamaat-i-Islami, has been calling to protest the verdicts of the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal. The BNP called another strike this week in sympathy with the Jamaat, whose leaders are, one by one, being convicted of war crimes by the Tribunal. Continue reading “Fire in Sonar Bangla”