THE PLACE OF SHAHIDUL ALAM

First published in PIX

by Rahaab Allana

From A Struggle for Democracy, 1987–1990

No heaven, no hell, no everafter, do I care for when I’m gone
Peace here I seek, in this sand and soil, this place where I was born
As oceans deep, as deserts wide, as forests and fences loom
As children die, as lovers sigh, no cross, no epitaph, no tomb…

Place by Shahidul Alam, 2017* Continue reading “THE PLACE OF SHAHIDUL ALAM”

‘The Shahidul Alam I Know Is Gentle’

Urvashi Butalia writes about the times she met and worked with the Bangladeshi photojournalist, who was granted bail by the High Court in Dhaka after 102 days of detention.

I cannot now remember when I first met Shahidul Alam, but I think it was some twenty or more years ago when both of us served on the board of an organisation called Panos South Asia. My first impression of him was of a somewhat large, bearded man who spoke with an accent I could not place. It did not take long – perhaps a few hours – for this to change and for the warm, affectionate and caring human being to emerge.

Poppy McPherson

@poppymcp

Iconic shot of Bangladeshi photojournalist and rights activist Shahidul Alam, shared by the campaign. He finally got bail today after more than 100 days in prison, accused of spreading propaganda. He was arrested after posting on Facebook about protests in Dhaka.

To me, Shahidul came across that time as the best kind of nationalist. He loved – he still does – his country Bangladesh. His stint abroad – I never actually knew where he has studied or spent any time – had actually left this feeling much stronger in him. He told all of us about Drik, the photo agency that showcased photographers from the global South and that fiercely protected their rights and their work, refusing to accept that simply because they belonged to the South, their value was any the less. Drik charged for their photos as did international agencies, and why not, was Shahidul’s question. Continue reading “‘The Shahidul Alam I Know Is Gentle’”

Reply to Arundhati: Yes, We Will Rise

Dearest Arundhati,

It was a letter I read and reread long before it appeared before my eyes. It was through layers of metal bars that I strained to listen to Rahnuma’s words. At over 130 decibels, the noise made by us screaming prisoners, straining to hear and be heard, was akin to a crowded stadium or a fire siren. As she repeated her words over and over again, I faintly heard, Arundhati. Letter. It was just over a hundred days that I had been incarcerated. A hundred days since I’d slept on my own bed, fed my fish, cycled down the streets of Dhaka. A hundred days since I’d pressed my shutter as I searched for that elusive light.

Arundhati Roy with Maati Ke Laal in her flat in Delhi. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Those words, screamed out but barely heard was the nourishment I needed. Did you write it by hand? What was the paper like? In this digital age, you probably used a keyboard. What font had you used? What point size? And the words. Words that you so gracefully string together. I relished the imagined words. Your words. I missed words as I missed my bed, my fish and Rahnuma’s touch. When they asked me what I needed in jail, books were on top of my list. The first lot of books came in. Mujib’s prison diaries, Schendel’s History of Bangladesh, and the book you’d given me when we last met, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. I’d been meaning to read it ever since we said goodbye in Delhi, but our lives had been taken over by the immediacy of our struggles. Now I had the time. Continue reading “Reply to Arundhati: Yes, We Will Rise”

Arundhati Roy’s letter to Shahidul Alam

PEN International welcomes the news that Shahidul Alam was granted bail today. PEN continues to call for the case against Alam to be dropped.

“While it is a relief to see the court in Dhaka granting bail to Shahidul Alam, it is by no means certain that he is free. The government is still determined to appeal in its ill-conceived pursuit of Shahidul on ridiculous charges under Bangladesh’s draconian laws. Those charges must be dropped immediately and Shahidul should be released unconditionally and his freedoms restored – freedoms which should never have been taken away,” said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee.

15th November 2018

PEN International’s Day of the Imprisoned Writer


Arundhati Roy by Shahidul Alam

Dear Shahidul,

It’s been more than a hundred days now since they took you away. Times aren’t easy in your country or in mine, so when we first heard that unknown men had abducted you from your home, of course we feared the worst. Were you going to be “encountered” (our word in India for extra-judicial murder by security forces) or killed by “non-state actors”? Would your body be found in an alley, or floating in some shallow pond on the outskirts of Dhaka? When your arrest was announced and you surfaced alive in a police station, our first reaction was one of sheer joy.

Am I really writing to you? Perhaps not. If I were, I wouldn’t need to say very much beyond, “Dearest Shahidul, no matter how lonely your prison cell, know that we have our eyes on you. We are looking out for you.” Continue reading “Arundhati Roy’s letter to Shahidul Alam”

Didi. The Street Fighter

MAHASWETA DEVI (JANUARY 14, 1926 -?JULY 28, 2016), WRITER AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

Mahasweta Devi looking at photo exhibition catalogue "Nature's Fury" by Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Mahasweta Devi looking at photo exhibition catalogue “Nature’s Fury” by Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Protocol wasn?t Didi?s thing.?Shoitan! (Satan) she would say lovingly. And then grab you and plonk you on her lap. The fact that both Rahnuma and I were far too old, and I was certainly much too heavy, to be sitting on anyone?s lap wasn?t something she worried much about. She didn?t care much for people?s age, and what other people thought, was something that had never bothered her. If you love someone, they sit on your lap. ?You have a problem with that??
Mahasweta Devi (Didi ? elder sister ? to all of us) had been a giant of a figure in South Asian literature for as far back as I can remember.?Jhansir Rani?(The Queen of Jhansi, 1956), Hajar Churashir Maa (Mother of 1084, 1975) and?Aranyer Adhikar?(The Occupation of the Forest, 1977) her powerful novel about the Santal uprising were what we knew this celebrated writer and activist by. That she was a tease and loved to sing, and didn?t mind the odd practical joke, was a side to her that had remained private. What should have been apparent was the rebel in her; her uncompromising stand for the oppressed, and her clear position as to which side of the fence she belonged. Continue reading “Didi. The Street Fighter”

Runs in the Family

New findings about schizophrenia rekindle old questions about genes and identity.

In the winter of 2012, I travelled from New Delhi, where I grew up, to Calcutta to visit my cousin Moni. My father accompanied me as a guide and companion, but he was a sullen and brooding presence, lost in a private anguish. He is the youngest of five brothers, and Moni is his firstborn nephew?the eldest brother?s son. Since 2004, Moni, now fifty-two, has been confined to an institution for the mentally ill (a ?lunatic home,? as my father calls it), with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. He is kept awash in antipsychotics and sedatives, and an attendant watches, bathes, and feeds him through the day.

My father has never accepted Moni?s diagnosis. Over the years, he has waged a lonely campaign against the psychiatrists charged with his nephew?s care, hoping to convince them that their diagnosis was a colossal error, or that Moni?s broken psyche would somehow mend itself. He has visited the institution in Calcutta twice?once without warning, hoping to see a transformed Moni, living a secretly normal life behind the barred gates. But there was more than just avuncular love at stake for him in these visits. Moni is not the only member of the family with mental illness. Two of my father?s four brothers suffered from various unravellings of the mind. Madness has been among the Mukherjees for generations, and at least part of my father?s reluctance to accept Moni?s diagnosis lies in a grim suspicion that something of the illness may be buried, like toxic waste, in himself. Continue reading “Runs in the Family”

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”

Modi visits Bangladesh, but Teesta is not even in the agenda

by Taj Hashmi

Last time I met my old friend Gowher Rizvi at his office in December 2011, he was very upbeat and optimistic about the ?impending? Teesta water sharing agreement with India. He seemed to have reposed absolute trust in what Manmohan Singh ? a fellow Oxford alumnus ? had promised him in this regard. Although I was still a bit skeptic about the deal, I brushed aside my skepticism momentarily, thinking the Oxford Old Boy camaraderie might have worked to the advantage of Bangladesh.

PMs Hasina, Modi and CM Mamata Banerjee flagging off a bus service between Bangladesh and India, in Dhaka Saturday. (Source: PTI) - See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/india-bangladesh-seal-historic-land-boundary-agreement/2/#sthash.sxgId5nZ.dpuf
PMs Hasina, Modi and CM Mamata Banerjee flagging off a bus service between Bangladesh and India, in Dhaka Saturday. (Source: PTI) – See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/india-bangladesh-seal-historic-land-boundary-agreement/2/#sthash.sxgId5nZ.dpuf
Continue reading “Modi visits Bangladesh, but Teesta is not even in the agenda”

Majority World exhibition in Rome: Justice in Focus

IDLO Photo Exhibition in Rome
Farnesina Porte Aperte 2015
22 – 29 May 2015

justice in focus in rome

IDLO’s photo exhibition “In Focus: Justice and the Post-2015 Agenda” will form part of this year’s initiative by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to open its doors to the general public. From 22 until 29 May 2015, visitors will be able to participate in “Farnesina Porte Aperte” and view the exhibition during guided tours of the building. The Farnesina’s art collection is internationally recognized, and IDLO is proud to have been chosen to exhibit alongside this.

The photographs were also featured by The Guardian.
guardian piece on justice in focus

Curated by IDLO and the photo agency Majority World, the exhibition focuses on the challenges of development and the rule of law. From gender equality and indigenous rights to energy poverty and land tenure, it presents the rule of law as lived experience. The pictures vividly explore the human side of the rule of law and its importance in everyday life.
 
?In Focus: Justice and the Post-2015 Agenda? illustrates these themes through 32 images – taken by photographers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, India and Kenya – ranging from the Amazonian settlement of Colniza, Brazil, where rule of law measures have reversed illegal logging and deforestation, to the energy-starved metropolis of Kibera, Africa?s largest slum.
 
To sign up for a guided tour, please visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation?s Farnesina Porte Aperte website and choose the ?art route?, currently available from Monday 25 until Wednesday 27 May.
Before traveling to Rome, the exhibition was shown at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, to coincide with the 28th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Over the coming months, it will be shown in Milan, New York, Washington and The Hague, and will return to Rome for an exclusive viewing in November.
 
For more information, please read this article in Italy’s Corriere della Sera,?visit theIDLO mini-site and watch video interviews?with the photographers.

Situation Report: Dhaka, April 26, 2015: Hazard Type: Earthquake

Location: Nepal, India and Bangladesh

Reporting Period: 26 April?15

Location: Nepal, India and Bangladesh
Detail Information:
An earthquake rattled the Dhaka, Chittagong, Barisal, Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Rongpur, Kushtia and different parts of the country on April, 25. The 7.8 magnitude earthquake’s epicenter was 81 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Kathmandu, Nepal at a depth of 9.3 moles. The Meteorological Department stated that the epicenter of the earthquake was 745 km north-west of Bangladesh. Tremors were felt also across the region, in India, Tibet, China, Tibet and Pakistan (Prothom Alo; bdnews24.com; the Daily Star, April, 25; and CNN, April, 26).
Another Earthquake followed the earlier one as an aftershock at 13.08 on 26th April to hit Nepal with a magnitude of 6.7 along with Bangladesh and India (Prothom Alo; bdnews24.com; the Daily Star, April, 26; and CNN, April, 26).
Damage Information:
Bangladesh: In Bangladesh, total 5 people were killed and up to 100 people were injured while evacuating. One female was killed by collapse of wall made of mud along with other two women were killed in Pabna and Dhaka. One worker was killed along with 50 injuries in Savar. Another death toll occurred in Sunamganj. 50 readymade garment workers were injured at Ishwardi (Situation Report, DDM, April 25; Prothom, April, 26). 23 buildings were damaged in all over Bangladesh (Situation Report, DDM, and April, 25).

Earthquake, 25 April: Damage and loss in Bangladesh
Death Injury Structural Damage
4 persons died (1 inSavar, Dhaka; 1 in Bogra; 1 in Sunamganj; &1 in Pabna) ? 10-12 workers injured atMission Group Garment
Factory in Savar
? 2-3 workers injured at Kardena garment in Comilla
? Five story building develops?cracks in Bangla Bazar, Dhaka? Six story building tilted in Nawabpur, Dhaka
? Five story building tilted in Mirpur, Dhaka
? Seven story building tilted in Keraniganj, Dhaka.
? A hotel tilted in Baridhara , Dhaka
? 2 commercial buildings tilted in Narayanganj
? 1 garment factory tilted in Gazipur
? 1 school damaged in Gopalganj
? 10 story commercial building with cracks in Feni
? A building with?cracks in Nabiganj, Sylhet
? A school tilted in Gangachara upazila, Rangpur
? 2 schools damaged in Gaibandha
? 2 buildings damaged in Rajshahi
? 4 buildings tilted in Naogaon
? Crack found at school in Sonatola, Bogra
Source: Disaster situation report, DDM, April, 25, 2015

Nepal: The 7.8 magnitude quake along with a strong aftershock of magnitude 6.6 followed by nearly three dozen other aftershocks struck an area of central Nepal between the capital, Kathmandu, and the city of Pokhara on Saturday morning (April 25, 2015). The Home Ministry identifies that more than 2263 people were killed and 4,718 people were injured (till 17.00, CNN, April 26) which mainly include only information of cities. The earthquake flattened homes, buildings and temples, causing widespread damage along with wrecking many historic buildings include the Dharahara tower, the landmark nine- story structure. Kathmandu airport was shut till 4 pm, Indigo, SpiceJet flights forced back after fresh tremors jolt Nepal (India today April, 26) Mobile phones, Electricity and other communications were disrupted. Around 6.6 million people are affected in Nepal according to the UN Office in Kathmundu (India today April, 26). The Government of Nepal declared the National Emergency. (ekantipur.com, April, 26)
Earthquake 1
Building tilted due to earthquake in Nepal
Earthquake 2? A man trapped under a building in Nepal
Government of Bangladesh provided 10 tons of reliefs including food (biscuit, water, and dry foods), medical (medicine) and humanitarian help (tent, blanket) along with a team of 34 members consisted of
6 groups of physicians and Bangladesh Air force crew (bdnews24.com, April, 26; Prothom Alo, April, 26).
The U.S. government is providing $1 million in immediate assistance to Nepal. Aid agencies expressed concern for the welfare of survivors in the coming days, as overnight temperatures were expected to drop and people were forced to make do without electricity, running water and shelter. (US Geological Survey, CNN, April, 26; BBC News, April 26 and Prothom Alo, April 25).

The UK has deployed a team of humanitarian experts to Nepal to provide urgent support. A number of

British charities are assembling disaster teams to join the rescue effort.
Oxfam, Christian Aid, Save the Children, the British Red Cross and Plan International UK are assessing the humanitarian need in the disaster struck area.
India: Officials in India confirmed at least 52 deaths in three states from the Earthquake. (bdnews24.com, April, 26)
Tibet: At least 17 people were killed and 53 injured along with roads buckled and buildings collapse in
Tibet. (bdnews24.com, April, 26
Avalanches in Himalayan: Twenty two (22) people have killed along with 237 missing on Mount Everest by avalanches caused by the Earthquake, the mountain’s worst-ever disaster (BdNews.24.com, April, 26)
Reporting from: NIRAPAD Secretariat
4/16 (1st Floor), Humayun Road, Block-B
Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207
Bangladesh
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