Of weddings: royal, bombed & droned

rahnuma ahmed

I

Millions watched the wedding of Britain’s Prince Harry and former American actress Meghan Markle on television the world over. While many heralded it for demonstrating ‘how Britain has become more egalitarian and racially mixed‘ and lauded the ”Meghan effect‘ on black Britons,’ others rejoiced at the wedding ceremony for having been ‘a rousing celebration of blackness,’ and still others hoped that the ‘spirit of Harry and Meghan… [would] revitalise our divided nation,’ that prince Harry’s choice of spouse would ‘[initiate] real change in UK race relations.’

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip with newly-wed grandson Prince Harry and grand daughter-in-law Meghan Markle, and other family members including Ms. Markle’s mother Doria Ragland, and bridal party. ©AFP

Meghan Markle – now Duchess of Sussex, with her own Royal Coat of Arms – is the daughter of a white American father and an African-American mother, her parents divorced when Meghan was 6, and she was raised singly by her mother.
Continue reading “Of weddings: royal, bombed & droned”

Propaganda, and the suppression of dissent

rahnuma ahmed

I have not acquired any fortune but I have my paternal estate and the pension of a Subedar. This is enough for me. The people in my village seem to respect me, and are now fully satisfied with the ease and benefits they enjoy under British rule.

Thus wrote Sita Ram in From Sepoy to Subedar, first published in 1873, sixteen years after the first war of independence (the British still refer to it as the Indian Rebellion, or the Indian Mutiny).

Sita Ram wrote the manuscript at the bidding of his commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Norgate in 1861, his son passed it on to the Englishman; the manuscript is supposed to have been written in Awadhi, Norgate translated it into English. An Urdu translation is also heard to have surfaced the same year. Few copies are known to have been sold, until 1911 that is, when a Colonel Phillott created a new syllabus for Hindustani exams, taken by colonial officers to test their knowledge of the language. Phillott himself translated the book into Urdu, and from then onwards, the autobiography of Sita Ram, who worked in the Bengal Native Army of the East India Company for forty-eight years (1812 to 1860)—became a ‘key text’ for British officers. The book was still part of the curriculum in the 1940s, it was translated into Devanagari in the same decade; a new and illustrated edition of the book (Norgate’s English translation), was brought out by James Lunt, as late as 1970. Continue reading “Propaganda, and the suppression of dissent”

ROMEL CHAKMA. PART-I: Is custodial killing heroic?

by rahnuma ahmed

Romel Chakma, 20 year-old HSC examinee and student leader of Pahari Chatra Parishad,
was picked up by army personnel on April 5, 2017. Allegedly tortured, he died in hospital two weeks later.

Romel Chakma ? Photographer not known.

How does one restore dignity to the memory of a youth who was picked up and tortured, who died of torture, whose body was not handed over to family members for cremation, but burnt after pouring petrol and kerosene? Continue reading “ROMEL CHAKMA. PART-I: Is custodial killing heroic?”

Quelling anti-Rampal protests (with South Korean assistance)

rahnuma ahmed

It was a peaceful procession.
We had gathered under the aegis of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, outside the National Press Club in Dhaka, on October 19, 2016. After a brief rally, where speakers described the harm that the Rampal coal power plant would cause the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest straddling both sides of the Bangladesh-India border, we formed a procession, raised slogans and proceeded toward the Indian High Commission in Gulshan to deliver an open letter for the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.
Since India is the major partner in building the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project, i.e., the Rampal coal power plant, the National Committee’s open letter called on the Indian prime minister to scrap the project.
It’s not only us. Forty-one Indian people’s movements, green and civil rights organisations have called on Narendra Modi to scrap the the project. So has the Unesco and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). A Unesco statement recommended the ‘Rampal power plant project be cancelled and relocated to a more suitable location’ as it could damage the world heritage site, home to 450 Royal Bengal tigers, expose downriver forests to pollution and acid rain, threaten the breeding grounds of Ganges and Irrawaddy river dolphins, far worsen the already liminal ecosystem which is being threatened by rising sea levels (The Guardian, October 18, 2016). Three large French banks, including BNP Paribas, a sponsor of the Paris climate summit in 2015, have refused to invest, while two Norwegian pension funds have withdrawn their investment. Continue reading “Quelling anti-Rampal protests (with South Korean assistance)”

Irfanul Islam, and an 8-mile stretch of road

by rahnuma ahmed

Dhaka-Narayanganj Link road. ? Jannatul Mawa
Dhaka-Narayanganj Link road. ? Jannatul Mawa

Why was Irfan killed? Why did they have to kill him, if it was for the money, they had already snatched it away, why kill him? Was it accidental, did he die because a novice, or a brute, hit him on the head too hard? Or did he die because he had resisted, because one of his abductors had grabbed his throat and in the ensuing tussle, squeezed it for a fraction of a second too long?
These questions haunt us, as his killers remain untraced, unknown, even now, a year later. Continue reading “Irfanul Islam, and an 8-mile stretch of road”

RESISTING RAMPAL

‘Go back NTPC, get out India’
rahnuma ahmed

Dhaka, Bangladesh, August 20, 2016. ? Taslima Akhter
Dhaka, Bangladesh, August 20, 2016. ? Taslima Akhter

Of all the slogans raised in protest against the coal power plant being built at Rampal in Bagerhat, this one’s the best. Continue reading “RESISTING RAMPAL”

HISTORY AS ETHICAL REMEMBRANCE

Dhaka University, Shaheed Minar and CP Gang?s ?bessha? banner
by Rahnuma Ahmed

Prologue
The online group CP Gang?s banner reads (translated) ?Resist these so-called civil [society] liars and anti-Independence intellectual prostitutes in order to uphold the true history of the liberation war to the younger generation.? Those whose faces are crossed out are, from left to right, journalist Mahfuzullah, Dhaka University professors Asif Nazrul and Amena Mohsin, North South university professor Dilara Chowdhury, lawyer Tuhin Malik, writer and columnist Farhad Mazhar, Saptahik editor Golam Mortuza, New Age editor Nurul Kabir, and daily Manabzamin editor Motiur Rahman Chowdhury. A human chain at the Central Shaheed Minar organised by the Muktijoddha Sangsad Santan Command, Dhaka on October 17, 2014.
THIS story begins with the sudden and unexpected death of professor Piash Karim on October 13, 2014, of cardiac arrest. Piash, who had returned to Dhaka in 2007 after teaching for nearly two decades at an American university, had joined BRAC University and was teaching in the department of economics and social sciences. Dr Amena Mohsin, professor of international relations at Dhaka University, and Piash Karim got married in March 2013; high-school student Drabir Karim, Piash?s son from his first marriage, was part of their family. Earlier known in his circle of friends for his left-leaning views, Piash gradually gravitated towards the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, a centrist party and the ruling Awami League?s arch-enemy. He began frequenting television talk shows, popular, as no real debate takes place in the parliament. (The popularity of TV talk shows has drastically declined, however, with the silent black-listing of dissident voices; a couple of analysts have reportedly left the country). His comment that the Ganajagaran Mancha ? initially composed of a small group of bloggers and activists calling for the hanging of war criminals of 1971, later mushrooming into a sea of people at Shahbagh square in Dhaka city and spreading nationwide ? was developing ?fascist? undertones, earned him widespread denunciation. The movement was then riding high. Continue reading “HISTORY AS ETHICAL REMEMBRANCE”

Between absence and presence

Between absence and presence

Car wreckage, left, and Seats, car wreckage and the bird, right. Artist Dhali Al Mamoon?s public art in memory of film-maker Tareque Masud and journalist Mishuk Munier who died with three others in a car crash on August 13, 2011. Shorok Durghotona Sritisthapona, Dhaka University campus. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
AWARD-WINNING film-maker Tareque Masud, broadcast journalist Mishuk Munier and three others died in a car crash on August 13, 2011 when a Chuadanga-bound bus rammed into the film crew?s microbus on the Dhaka-Aricha highway in Manikganj. It was raining; the bus was travelling at a high speed. Their deaths were instantaneous.
Dhali Al Mamoon, his artist wife Dilara Begum Jolly, Tareque?s wife American-born film editor Catherine Masud, production assistant Saidul Islam, and writer Monis Rafik survived the accident. Mamoon?s injuries were the most severe. Continue reading “Between absence and presence”

YOUTH UPRISING AT SHAHBAGH

Reclaiming Ekattur: fashi, Bangali

By Rahnuma Ahmed

Prologue
EVEN THOUGH I was dying to, pressing work — to do with other activist engagements, the Tazreen factory fire, communal attacks in Ramu — forced me to stay away the first few days from the youth uprising which began at Shahbagh on February 5. The spontaneous sit-in, rapidly gathered into its fold hundreds of thousands of people who, driven by a deep sense of injustice, have felt compelled to go to Shahbagh to ‘right’ the wrongs of history committed in post-independence Bangladesh: war collaborators of 1971 have not only been unpunished in the ensuing four decades but have been reinstated politically, financially and socially at the national level. Continue reading “YOUTH UPRISING AT SHAHBAGH”

Eating up children

by rahnuma ahmed

Local residents help firefighters battle the deadly factory blaze at Smart Exports, Mohammadpur, Dhaka, January 26, 2013 ?AP
Local residents help firefighters battle the deadly factory blaze at Smart Exports, Mohammadpur, Dhaka, January 26, 2013 ?AP

Josna, isn’t Josna feeling cold?
I didn’t know what to say as I sat beside Josna’s mother on the curb, outside the Emergency department of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH). It was slightly chilly, the last cold wave of January was making its appearance felt.
The breeze seemed to blow away her words, but only as far as outside appearances went. They clung to the inner recesses of my mind.
I shivered, but not because of the cold. Josna, 16 years old, a garment factory worker at Smart Exports in Mohammadpur Beribadh area, was lying cold, on a metal trolley inside the morgue. Continue reading “Eating up children”