Kalpana's Warriors in Delhi

THE SEARCH FOR KALPANA CHAKMA

BY SMRITI DANIEL??/??28TH JANUARY 2016

Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening
Opening of ?Kalpana?s Warriors? at Drik Gallery 12 June 2015 on the 19th anniversary of her abduction. Photo: Habibul Haque/Drik

 

Shahidul Alam has long been gripped by the life of a woman he has never met.
It?s been two decades since Kalpana Chakma was abducted, but Shahidul refuses to forget her. Standing at the threshold of his latest exhibition,Kalpana?s Warriors, the Bangladeshi photographer pauses for a moment.
In the room beyond is the third in a series of photo exhibitions that began with Searching for Kalpana Chakma in 2013, and was followed by 18 in 2014. The woman around whom these pictures revolve is notably absent from them. She was abducted at gunpoint in the early hours of 12 June 1996 from her home in Rangamati in Bangladesh. Her captors were a group of plain-clothed men who were recognised as being from a nearby army camp. Kalpana never returned home and her fate remains unknown.
When the exhibition first opened at the Drik Gallery in Dhaka, many of those who had been photographed could not risk coming out of hiding, yet the room was full of people who knew Kalpana?s story intimately. Some simply stood for a while before the portraits, others wept. Continue reading “Kalpana's Warriors in Delhi”

Moving opening ceremony of "Kalpana's Warriors"

Remarkable: Noam Chomsky

Absolutely stunning: Jess Worth. New Internationalist Magazine (Oxford)

We had a fabulous opening with moving recitation of Kabita Chakma’s poem “I will defy” by Aungmakhai ChakMarium Rupa and Rahnuma Ahmed. Many of the warriors were present in person. We were sad to miss Saydia Gulrukh, but her presence was felt.

I will resist, I shall defy
Will you do as you please?
You turned my home into sand
It was a forest where I stand
You made daylight go dark
Left it barren never a spark
I will resist. I shall defy
You strip me of my land
On my women, your hand
No longer shall I see
No longer will I be
Abandon, neglect, rage
A throbbing womb, my stage
I curl, I tear asunder
Awake, I search, I wander
I am who I am
And I will resist
I shall defy
Poem by Kabita Chakma
Translation by Shahidul Alam
Thanks to Arshad Jamal and Chris Riley for their support and Mohammad Mohsin Miah for helping with the printing. ASM Rezaur Rahman curated the show and the entire teams from Drik’s Publication, Gallery, Photography and Audio Visual Department as well as the volunteers from Pathshala did a wonderful job. We shall resist and we will continue to defy.

#kalpana ‘s Warriors by #Shahidul Alam at #Drik Gallery #photography #art #bangladesh #CHT #rights #dhaka #dhanmondi

A photo posted by Shahidul Alam (@shahidul001) on


Opening of "Kalpana's Warriors" at Drik Gallery II. Photo by Habibul@Drik
Opening of “Kalpana’s Warriors” at Drik Gallery II. Photo by [email protected]

 

Opening of #kalpanaswarriors at #Drik gallery #dhaka #dhanmondi #photography #bangladesh #cht #rights A photo posted by Shahidul Alam (@shahidul001) on

Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors exhibition opening at Drik Gallery

Eighteen

?I think it is natural to expect the caged bird to be angry at those who imprisoned her. But if she understands that she has been imprisoned and that the cage is not her rightful place, then she has every right to claim the freedom of the skies!” Kalpana Chakma

Dress belonging to Kalpana Chakma. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Dress belonging to Kalpana Chakma. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Eighteen. The legal age to vote.?The age of sexual consent. The threshold of adulthood when one ceases to be a child. Eighteen. The sections of the?Mahabharata. Eighteen armies fighting over eighteen days. Eighteen, the number of years we have waited for justice. Eighteen years that you have been gone Kalpana, my sister.
Continue reading “Eighteen”

Deutsche Welle interviews Shahidul Alam on "Searching for Kalpana Chakma" show (Bangla)

Military’s sole role has been repression

?The borders of the Global Village? (?Die Grenzen des globalen Dorfs?) lautet das Thema eines Vortrags des bengalischen Professors Shahidul Alam am Donnerstag, 3. Mai, auf der re:publica in Berlin.  internationale Blogger-Konferenz re:publica in Berlin. Aufnahmedatum: 3. Mai 2012 Fotograf: DW/ Matthias M?ller

Live clips from opening of "Searching for Kalpana Chakma" at Drik Gallery

The opening was very moving and there was a great turnout. Here are some live clips. The show is up till the 21st June. Don’t miss it.

The show has also been featured in Time Magazine




Light in the hill


?Photographer:?Arifur Rahman

Title:?Light in the Hill

Location:?Bangladesh
There are stories in fragments, but more a gallery of portraits and human conditions. It is a photographic story that brings us very close to the smells, the colors and the efforts of a people living in extreme conditions.

CONCLUDING PART: Govt response to communal attack in Ramu

by?rahnuma ahmed

In today’s column, I basically deal with three issues, firstly, a brief review of the government’s administrative responses, these suggest that higher-ups have ‘settled’ on making the officer-in-charge of Ramu thana the “fall guy” for the devastating waves of attacks on Buddhist temples, monasteries and houses on September 29; secondly, my examination of the report of the probe committee formed by the home ministry to investigate the occurrences in Ramu inclines me to think that the committee has produced a report according to the home minister’s requirements and guidelines as outlined in his public speeches instead of? investigating impartially as the committee is duty-bound to; third, in order to create appearances of communal harmony post-Ramu, government officials, ruling party members and ideologues, mostly Muslims (plus a few Buddhist quislings), have participated in government-funded Probarona celebrations this year, which has led to the (forceful) de-linking of religious rituals from a set of embodied practices which are a part of the Buddhist tradition; it bespeaks of government interference (hijacking), which again, is unconstitutional (freedom of worship).

Fanooshes being released on the eve of Prabarana Purnima during a so-called solidarity event held at Shoparjito Swadhinota, Dhaka University on October 28, 2012. The programme was organised by Prabarana Udjapon Parishad ? New Age

Continue reading “CONCLUDING PART: Govt response to communal attack in Ramu”

Kalpana's Family: Living Under State Surveillance

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by Saydia Gulrukh

?Do the words of all witnesses count equally?? asks Kalpana Chakma?s brother Kalicharan Chakma. He brings out his diary as he talks to me and says, ?I have learned from the tragic mistake that I need to keep a record of every encounter that we have with the military, the BDR. Our words do not count.?

Kalpana Chalma at a rally in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Unknown photographer

I was talking to him after a public gathering at Baghaichari, Rangamati, organised by the Hill Women?s Federation, on the thirteenth anniversary of her abduction, June 12, 2009.
Kalicharan Chakma flipped through his notebook and told me of the countless number of times either he had to visit the zone commander, or the latter paid him a visit at his house. He read out, June 27, 2000, Marisya Zone commander came to our house. And then, these dates, July 26, 2000. August 2, 2005. July 3, 2006. July 26, 2006. Baghaichari Thana, Ughalchari Camp, and then Baghaichari Thana.
It was a routine that continued at uneven intervals. BDR members too would stop him in the bazaar (market). Harassment was at its worst in 2008, he said, after newspaper articles on Kalpana Chakma had been published. New Age, June 12, 2008. Star Magazine, June 20, 2008. After the public meeting in Dhaka. His family had to spend many sleepless nights.
Kalpana Chakma

July 3, 2008. July 8, 2008. July 11, 2008. August 11, 2008. August 15, 2008, he read out more dates. Major Iqbal and Subedar Shahjahan along with some BDR jawans came to our house. They were looking for Kalicharan Chakma, they said. We have information, Kalpana is in India. We?ll give you money to bring her home. Kalpana?s brother Ajeet Chakma was reluctant to accept the Tk 3,000 but he was afraid to refuse. With pain and anger in his eyes, he asks, ?What kind of harassment is this? It has been more than a decade, we don?t know what happened to our sister. We are the victims of a crime, we were standing in the water with her when they fired on us. I saw Lt Ferdous with my own eyes, I saw VDP members Saleh Ahmed and Nurul Huq. I see them walking around everyday in Bangali Para. Nobody ever interrogates them.? Voice choked in anger, he paused, then went on, ?At Baghaichari thana on August 15, 2008, the police officer accused me of defaming the Bangladesh military. They accused me of hiding Kalpana in India. I asked him, if you know so well that she is in India, why don?t you arrange for her return? But they got angry when I asked these questions, we are not supposed to raise our voices, we are merely Chakma, we are merely tribal people.?
Kalpana Chakma?s sister-in-law told me it?s not only BDR and police surveillance (nojordari). There are other things, too. After the BDR mutiny (February 25-26, 2009), rumours flew that Lt. Ferdous, the government had spun tales that she had eloped with him, now, rumour had it, that he was killed in the mutiny, Kalpana is now widowed with two children. Her sister-in-law asks me, who on earth spreads such rumours? What do they gain? I also listened to the tremendous social pressure that her family has been facing for the last two years, to perform the last rituals for Kalpana. Her brother says, they think that if they can get me to perform dharma for Kalpana, the government can use that as a reason to close the case.
Others, Kalpana?s neighbours, who had accompanied Kalicharan Chakma to the army camp, and to Baghaichari Thana, requested me to leave out their names, they had witnessed the argument that had taken place between Lt Ferdous and Kalpana in 1996, but they were afraid. After all, they have seen at close quarters what life has been like for Kalpana?s family for the last 14 years. Constant state surveillance.
In Road To Democracy, a private TV channel?s popular talk show (August 18, 2009), Dr Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, an Awami League presidium member, who also had played a central role in negotiating and signing the Peace Treaty, let the cat out of the bag. While discussing the ethnic conflict in the CHT, he publicly acknowledged that Kalpana Chakma had been abducted by a lieutenant of the Bangladesh Army.
The government can no longer look the other way. We demand that the whole truth be made public. And that the harassment and surveillance of Kalpana?s family members should cease.
Saydia Gulrukh is a PhD student in anthropology at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), USA.
Published in New Age

Anti-semitism, and the 9/11, Israel-Mossad Connection Part I

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By Rahnuma Ahmed

We Jews should never, ever become like our tormentors — not even to save our lives. Even at Auschwitz, I sensed that such a moral downfall would render my survival meaningless.
— Hajo Meyer, An Ethical Tradition Betrayed. Huffington Post, January 27, 2010.
If it had been Daniel Pipes, an Islamophobic American columnist, I wouldn’t have bothered. According to him, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels too, are anti-Semitic.
But these were close friends of Shahidul, both are Jewish, both are gentle, thoughtful and intelligent people who had read my columns posted on his blog, had written to say that they were deeply upset at my “anti-Semitism.” One of them, as she explained in her letter to me, had demonstrated with Palestinians against recent Israeli attacks on Gaza. Against earlier attacks too, the ones in Lebanon. She was no lover of Zionism, definitely not of Mossad, she wrote. The other, a much older friend of Shahidul’s, said that he wholeheartedly supported the existence of a Jewish state, and a Palestinian state in it’s own right. But what I write on Israel and Palestine is `nonsense,’ the sort of stuff that a fine scholar like myself shouldn’t be writing.
What does one do in such a situation? Besides feeling deeply upset, of course.
Read what one has written through their eyes. Turn one’s ideas this way and that. Look underneath. Reflect.
For today’s column I had thought of writing about what has led careful observers to not only think that 9/11 was an inside job but, that Israel and Mossad are connected to 9/11. Regular readers may remember that I have directly, or indirectly, written about 9/11, in many of my previous pieces. `Conspiracy theories.’ Learning from 9/11 (April 13, 2009). Al-Qaeda and Western intelligence operations (April 27, 2009). The Unfolding Crisis in Pakistan, parts 1 – 4 (May 11, 17, 18, 19 2009). The West’s immortal terrorist (December 21, 2009). 9/11 suicide hijackers. Risen from the dead (December 28, 2009). Pentagon’s prayers (January 4, 2010). Padded underwear (January 11, 2010). Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who provides the best security of them all? (January 25, 2010).
Regular readers also know that I analyse and critique not only western powers, but also, dominant institutions and ideologies, at home. That some of my recent pieces had discussed how Bengalis are prone to portray themselves as `victims’ rather than perpetrators of violence and injustice in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (April 5, 2010). How nationalist narratives of Bangladesh, whether celebrating the language movement of 1952 or the liberation struggle of 1971, have always been ethnically `singular’ (March 8, 2010). How Bengalis have begun mimicking their erstwhile Pakistani rulers when it comes to explaining what has gone wrong in the CHT: they have blamed it on others. How Bengali/national imagination needs to be de-colonised (March 26, 2010). Those who’ve read what I’ve written in Bangla know of my edited and translated collection of interviews and writings by contemporary Muslim intellectuals who engage with questions that are considered to be socially taboo in Bangladesh: do Muslims need to re-imagine Allah in a manner appropriate to the 21st century? Should the state intervene (and govern) the relationship between Allah, and His believer, since in Islam, Allah is sovereign? Are hadis and shariah patriarchal? Since homosexuality is real, and homosexuals are discriminated against by the Belgian government, shouldn’t Belgian Muslims who’ve also been victims of government discrimination, extend their support to homosexuals? (Islami Chintar Punorpothon: Shomokaleen Musolman Buddhijibder Shongram, 2006).
Nothing short of wild horses would have driven me to make this list but I do so to pre-empt attempts to deflect criticism of Israel and Zionism, usually conducted by raising counter-questions: But what about the oppressions and injustices in your own society? Why don’t you write about those?
I do.
And when I do, I don’t try to `balance’ my account of atrocities committed in the name of Bengalis in the CHT (can atrocities ever be balanced?). On the contrary, as a Bengali, I think it is obligatory that I write in the strongest possible terms, and what better day than our independence day to pen lines such as these:
Thirty-eight years on and I look at myself. I look at us women. I look at our normal, peacetime lives. And I wonder, if justice had been done, if the war criminals had been tried, if women had returned to their families, to their parents, husbands, lovers, brothers, if they did not have to go Pakistan, or to brothels, or to Mother Teresa’s in Kolkata, if those pregnant could have had their babies if they had wished, would my life, would our lives have been differently normal? If justice had been done, would the rape of hill women have been a necessary part of the military occupation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts? Would the offenders have enjoyed impunity? Would there not have been independent judicial investigations? Would those guilty have gone unpunished? Would the Chittagong Hill Tracts have been militarily occupied at all?” (Distances, Independence day supplement, New Age, March 26, 2008).
As the writers of When Victims Rule: A Critique of Jewish Pre-eminence in America argue, `Injustices perpetrated by the powerful, whoever they are, must always be challenged.’
Exactly. No balancing acts please. Like Yael Kahn, a courageous Jewish activist, who termed the recent JCall petition of 3,000 European Jews to the European Parliament as being “wholly inappropriate” to what the present demands. The petition had said that the systematic support of Israeli government policy is dangerous. That the Israeli occupation and settlements are morally and politically wrong. That Israel is going down the wrong path. That the current Israeli policies are a source of injustice for the Palestinians. Kahn welcomed the petititon but blasted JCall for failing to mention Israel’s barbaric seige of 1.5 million Palestinians living in Gaza. Neither do the petitioners speak out against Israeli restrictions on the amount of food Gaza’s Palestinians are allowed to have. Every person of conscience, she said, must take action to lift Israel’s seige of Gaza (al-Jazeera, May 4 2010).
And to this I’d like to add, why is it that these actions of the Israeli government are not considered to be anti-Semitic? As Curt Day points out, there are three dictionary definitions of Semite and one of these includes those living in Southwest Asia . In other words, Arabs. If Semites include Arabs, then is not this restricted use of the term anti-Semitism “racist”?
And maybe that is part of the problem. The assumption of an essential anti-Semitism. Fixed. Unchanging. Outside history. Regardless of what Jews do. Even if they become oppressors. Even when they become oppressors, so intent on oppressing that they become forgetful of which lessons to learn from history. For instance, this Israeli officer:
“In order to prepare properly for the next campaign, one of the Israeli officers in the (occupied) territories said not long ago, it’s justified and in fact essential to learn from every possible source. If the mission will be to seize a densely populated refugee camp, or take over the casbah in Nablus, and if the commander’s obligation is to try to execute the mission without casualties on either side, then we must first analyze and internalize the lessons of earlier battles?even, however shocking it may sound, even how the German army fought in the Warsaw ghetto.”
Amir Oren, military correspondent, Haaretz, had added: If this officer believes that the casbah of Nablus resembles the Warsaw ghetto, who, in his mind, resemble the officers of the Israeli army?
But then, as Auschwitz survivor Hajo Meyer tells us, Auschwitz and the Holocaust have been elevated into a new religion in Israel. “In the beginning is Auschwitz,” as Elie Wiesel had said. “Nothing should be compared to the Holocaust but everything must be related to it.” It is this that has allowed one of the worst genocides in history to be “exploited for political ends.” When Holocaust was turned into a religion it came to mean that Israel can do no wrong.
And I would like to add, Israel’s wrongs are not only confined to the occupied territories/ Palestine, but extends to Afghanistan and Iraq. To Pakistan. It reaches out to Iran, too.
Had the situation been the opposite, I would have been as vocal in defence of what would then have been the Israeli cause.
An earlier version published in New Age

Concluding instalment, next week

Earlier version published in New Age Monday May 10, 2010

Ethnically Singular Nationalist Narratives

`Warring factions’ in the CHT

By Rahnuma Ahmed

In homage to Kalpana Chakma, who is marginal to the Bengali-dominated women’s movement in Bangladesh, which, regardless of its internal differences, is seamlessly united in its collective refusal to critically engage with the issues of ethnic domination and Bengali nationalism.

Also, to critically engage with the issue of imperial politics.

Kalpana was a leader of the Hill Women’s Federation. She was abducted, allegedly by a military officer, who was accompanied by other Bengalis, on the night of 11 June 1996. She was then a college student, aged 20-21.
Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League-led government (1996-2001) was forced to set up a committee to investigate her disappearance. It submitted a report which has never been made public. Sources close to the military, and this includes a Bangladeshi human rights organisation, insisted that she had eloped, with the very officer whom she had publicly accused of watching over and harassing her, a few days earlier. This story blended into another which was made to do the rounds: Kalpana had been seen in Tripura (India).
Thirteen years later, Kalpana still remains missing. She still remains marginal?as do all jumma women as jummas?to the women’s movement in Bangladesh which remains closely wedded to the dominant Bengali paradigm that unites the ruling and opposition parties, that is enshrined not only in the Constitution, but also in the hearts and minds of the state’s functionaries be they bureaucrats, petty officials, members of the law-enforcing agencies, or the military. `We won the nation, it is ours’ just about sums up the Bengali perspective on liberation, one that is historically inaccurate given the sacrifices of hill peoples and other ethnic peoples during 1971. An inaccuracy that does not detract the nation’s intellectuals, its poets and novelists, teachers and writers, playwrights and journalists from excluding `those’ ethnic others from the stories of courage which they weave and re-weave every December, every February and March, to connect us, to our collective past.
Some Bengali women however, working in small groups and clusters, or, as individuals, also belonging to the women’s movement, have attempted, over the years, to re-imagine a nation-state that is inclusionary. In other words, to conceptually dismantle the dominant Bengali/ nationalist paradigm. To include Bangladesh’s ethnic `others,’ especially, the jummas of CHT, whose lives and cultures have been disrupted most violently, a disruption that feeds off the dominant Bengali/nationalist paradigm, that employs a clever line of reasoning (`If someone from Noakhali can settle in Rangpur, why can’t he go and live and work in the CHT? It’s one country, after all’) to cover-up for a concerted military campaign of occupation (killing paharis, settling Bengali civilians, land-grabbing etc) for over two and a half decades. These women attempted to connect the lives of Bengali women to pahari women by drawing on the shared experiences of both groups of women: living under military occupation (1971 for Bengali women, post-1975 for jumma women), being subjected to sexual harassment, and to rape. It was a time when Bengali feminist history-writing of ekattur was just beginning. When Bengali women were seeking to explore the meanings of shadhinota for the women of this land, when they sought to go beyond the Bengali masculinist inability to engage with women’s experiences of rape, and its trauma (beyond uttering platitudes. Which, they still do). Besides feminism, these women also drew on the ideas which symbolised the political spirit of that time?the movement for democracy against Ershad, the military dictator. These ideas, and the spirit in which it was embodied, had a long history. They had been nurtured when the people of East Pakistan had taken to the streets to protest against Ayub’s rule. Against Yahya’s government. Against all military regimes, everywhere.
But the world has changed since.

The Failure of Bengali Intellectuals

`Like the Shahid Minar, the Bangla Academy too, is one of the symbols of the language movement.’ I agree. Absolutely, I said.
I was one of the discussants on Manzur-e-Mowla’s paper, `Bangla Academy: Bhobisshote Jemon Dekhte Chai’ (Bangla Academy: As one wishes to see it in future), at a programme which was part of Bangla Academy’s month long? celebrations commemorating the language movement. It was the 26th of February this year.
What I had forgotten to add was that, at the other symbol of the language movement this year, i.e., at the Shahid Minar, at exactly the same time, no language movement celebrations were taking place. Instead, protestors?both Bengalis and Jummas, but also, other Bangladeshis too?had gathered to condemn the recurring incidents of ethnic violence in Baghaicchari, (Rangamati), and in Mohajonpara, Milanpur, Madhupur, Shatbaiyapara (Khagracchari) in February this year. I did not forget to add however, this year’s Ekushey February was reddened with pahari blood. It shames me.
The founders of Bangla Academy, Manzur-e-Mowla pointed out in his paper, had envisioned it as a research institute. This was one of the other sentences that I picked out, saying that I wanted to tease out its implications for me. By research I understand the production of new knowledge, but also, new ways of seeing that which one assumes to be already known. Both kinds of knowledge is generated by the efforts of researchers and writers, by the activities of intellectuals. The chiefly two-party political system which Bangladesh has come to enjoy since the overthrow of president Ershad, extends to the production of knowledge too. This is most unfortunate. The country may be independent but its intellectuals aren’t, the intellectuals either belong to the BNP, or to the AL, they frame what they think, what they say according to the dictates of the party that they belong to. In his presentation Manzur-e-Mowla had mentioned that the Fellows of Bangla Academy should not be those who had been opposed to the independence of Bangladesh. I fully agree, I would only like to push his observation a bit further. The Fellows of Bangla Academy should be truly independent, they should not be durbar intellectuals who bow and scrape before politicians, whose thinking follows the party political line.
I had said, I think that when we speak of these matters we should also take the help of theoretical discussions, such as, let’s say? the ideas of Edward Said who had said, there is an urgent need to keep two things separate, on the one hand, the practice and function of the intellectual, and on the other, politics. Combining intellectual practice and functions with political ambitions is dangerous. It is deadly. I added, and I think we can also benefit from Noam Chomsky’s theoretical ideas, to do with manufacturing consent. I think we should keep these in our head when we speak of the kind of Bangla Academy that we would like to see in future, so that we can examine and analyse the role of intellectuals here, also, to be able to ask intellectuals how they see their own roles, whether they see their own function as manufacturing consent for the rulers. What if this leads to betraying the dreams and aspirations of the common people? Surely, it is up to the intellectuals to caution people, and vested quarters against pocketing the independence struggle for corporate gains? Against turning the language movement into a purely Bengali event? Yes, we had fought for our mother tongue, and yes, it has achieved international recognition, but that is because people the world over are attached to their own mother tongue, and it is these attachment, these feelings that have led them to sympathise with us. That is why 21 February has won international recognition. But we must ask ourselves whether we have learnt to respect the spirit of the language movement, or whether the language movement, Bangla bhasha, and Bangali nationhood, which were once rallying cries against oppression, have become tools of oppression themselves. When the Shaotals of Bangladesh sing ora amar mukher bhasha kaira nite chaey (they want to snatch away our mother tongue), they mean `us’ Bengalis. Surely that is a matter of shame?
When Manzur-e-Mowla says, `Bangla Academy Bangladesher shob manusher protishthan,’ I wish I could agree with him. But it’s not true. It belongs only to the Bengalis, not to all. Not to Bangladeshis.
Later I caught myself thinking, but the Shahid Minar is. After all, that is where people had gathered to protest at the injustices against those who were left out of the national dream.
The challenges that lie ahead of Bangla Academy are greater. It remains to be seen whether Bengali intellectuals will rise up to meet the challenge.

`Warring factions,’ and imperial politics

I had written above, But the world has changed since.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts is often spoken of as a zone of ethnic conflict, with different warring factions:
– the Bangladesh government (led by whichever party happens to be in power)
– the Bangladesh military
– PCJSS (Parbotto Chottogram Jana Shanghati Samiti)
– UPDF (United Peoples Democratic Front)
– the Bengali settlers
conflicts which prevent the furthering of development agendas which will benefit all, especially its older inhabitants, the jummas. Which will assist in securing human rights for all. Will promote harmony, peace and justice. On the face of it, there is nothing with which any one in their right minds would disagree.
But what I find disconcerting is the inability to raise equally searching questions about those who represent CHT and its politics in such a manner. I was reading the European Union’s press statement regarding the recent incidents in the CHT and trying to remember whether I had seen them issue any statement about Guantanamo. Or Abu Ghuraib. Did they? Had they? Instead, if I remember correctly, most of these European nations had joined the US in the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, had opposed the will of their own people through doing so, hadn’t they?
But then, all the more reason, I cannot help but think, to put our own house in order. A Bangla Academy for all, a nation for all. And, this being the month of March, Bengali intellectuals could begin by re-writing their nationalist narratives. Making them inclusionary.
Published in New Age 8 March 2010