The children are reduced to bones
And skin. Their tiny bodies
Have heads appearing far too large
And eyes that cry for help.
But there’s no shortage yet of guns
And bullets — or of bombs.
And soon enough, you hear them come —
The jets that scream through skies
And drop the rain that’s so obscene
That voices then fall still.
The drones that fly like sightless birds,
The tanks that roll through streets,
The men who fire on passers by,
Who buys and pays these?
****** Continue reading “We”
An inspiring soliloquy by Chris Hedges to those preparing for arrest in front of the White House protesting the continuous wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, intercut with interviews with Daniel Ellsberg and returning war veterans
At a time when Bangladesh is being asked (against the wishes of its citizens) to send troops to Afghanistan, an interesting article on the complex forces that are at play in the region.
related article: Sitting on a man’s back
By MATTHIEU AIKINS
Published1 October 2010 CARAVAN
Matthieu Aikins is a journalist whose feature writing and photography have appeared in such US, Canadian, British and Indian publications as Harper’s Magazine, the Globe & Mail, the National Post, the Coast, the Toronto Sun, The Caravan, Progress Magazine, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, the Kingston Whig-Standard, Bad Idea Magazine, SAIL Magazine, and on CBC’s ‘The National’ and Global TV’s ‘National News’.
THEY WERE BOTH YOUNG. One had just the first wisps of hair on his cheeks, like an adolescent. The other was not much older, his short-trimmed beard caked with dried blood. There were gaping exit wounds in his shoulder, and in the pale skin of his belly, where his undershirt had been pulled up to reveal the damage. The two boys were lying dead amongst scattered bricks, at the feet of a crowd of gaping onlookers and journalists, in an abandoned construction site in Kabul.
?Where do you think they?re from?? a reporter asked the policeman who was taking a picture of the bodies with his cell phone, his assault rifle dangling from his other hand. The glaze of adrenaline still shone on the cop?s cheeks and eyes. ?Pakistan,? he said. ?Definitely not Afghans.? They always say that here, as if you could tell. They looked like Pashtuns, at least.
It was just one of several attacks in Kabul this summer, unremarkable in its execution and impact, but as a result, a series of extraordinary events had been triggered that would serve as a bellwether of India?s waning influence in Afghanistan. It was 29 May, the first day of the National Consultative Peace Jirga, and the two militants had managed to set up in the empty site and fire rockets at the Polytechnic University, the site of the peace jirga?a carefully stage-managed event that had brought handpicked tribal elders and civil society figures to endorse President Hamid Karzai?s plan to reconcile with the Taliban.
Karzai was furious that the jirga had been disrupted, in the middle of his inaugural speech, no less. One of the rockets had severed the leg of one of his personal bodyguards, and the two attackers had held out for several hours in a gun battle with police before finally being shot to death.
The following week, Karzai called a meeting with Hanif Atmar, the Minister of the Interior, and Amrullah Saleh, the chief of the National Directorate of Security (NDS)? the Afghan intelligence service?where he accused them of deliberately failing to provide adequate security in order to undermine the jirga. In a heated exchange, both offered their resignations. It wasn?t the first time that either of them had offered their resignations in response to an angry outburst by Karzai, but this time the president accepted. Continue reading “India in Afghanistan, Nation building or proxy war?”
Following Israel’s criminal raid in international waters on May 31st, the Rachel Corrie MV continues to sail towards the Gaza coastline in defiance of Israeli threats.
In an act of tremendous courage, the Rachel Corrie MV is determined to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
At noon today, I received the following message from Christopher Chang and Ram Kardigasu, on behalf of the Malaysian and Irish peace activists, who are on board the Rachel Corrie:
RACHEL CORRIE: MV Rachel Corrie is now the sole ship on the international freedom flotilla moving towards Gaza.
The Malaysian and Irish peace and humanitarian activists aboard share their deepest grief and sense of lost with the loved ones of those killed and injured in the illegal action undertaken by Israel on Monday 31st May 2010 in the international waters of the Mediterranean.
In the names of our friends, we are more determined than ever to continue into Gaza with our humanitarian cargo and our support for the blockaded and suffering people of Gaza.
We expect Israel to respond to the international condemnation of its violence by not impeding by any means the safe passage of the Rachel Corrie.
We appeal to the international community and United Nations to continue to demand Israel our safe passage into Gaza.
Jointly issued by Malaysians and Irish on board the Rachel Corrie.
Sent on behalf of the humanitarian activists on aboard the Rachel Corrie – by PGPO land team (Ram Karthigasu and Christopher Chang)
In recent developments, the Netanyahu government is in crisis:
“Senior ministers [of the Netanyahu cabinet] have been sharply critical of the fact that the decision to seize control of the flotilla to Gaza was made after two meetings of the forum of seven senior ministers but without official deliberation by the inner cabinet, the body that has the authority to approve military actions of this scale.” What this suggests is that the actual decision to conduct the raids in international waters bypassed the Cabinet. (Haaretz.com headlines RSS
The question remains: if the Israeli cabinet did not ratify the operation, who ordered the raids and through what procedure?
What were the respective roles of Israeli intelligence and the IDF in planning these raids?
What role was played by Rahm Emmanuel, Obama’s White House Chief of Staff, who had meetings with both Netanyahu and president Shimon Peres, respectively on May 26 and 27?
Did Rahm Emmanuel meet officials of Israel’s military and intelligence establishment?
Did the Obama administration give the Green Light?
It is important that this news gets out, with a view to ensuring that the Rachel Corrie MV safely reaches the coast of Gaza without encroachment, with a view to breaking Israel’s criminal embargo.
In this endeavor we shall prevail. Our hearts and minds are with those who continue to sail on board the Rachel Corrie MV.
It should be noted that Israel has not in any way modified its policy with regard to the Rachel Corrie MV: There are two more ships heading for Gaza including the Rachel Corrie MV. Israel has promised “to respond even more harshly”:
?Israel will use more aggressive force in the future to prevent ships from breaking the sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, a top Navy commander told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
?We boarded the ship and were attacked as if it was a war,? the officer said. ?That will mean that we will have to come prepared in the future as if it was a war.? (www.ynetnews.com)
The Rachel Corrie MV is in part supported by the Perdana Global Peace Organization under the helm of Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.
Global Research Director Michel Chossudovsky is a member of the Perdana Global Peace Organisation and of the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission.
Global Research Articles by Michel Chossudovsky
Israeli commandoes have stormed a flotilla of ships carrying activists and aid supplies to the blockaded Palestinian enclave of Gaza, killing as many as as 16 of those on board.
By Richard Spencer, Middle East Correspondent and Matthew Kalman in Jerusalem
Published: 7:21AM BST 31 May 2010
Fighting broke out between the activists and the masked Israeli troops, who rappelled on to deck from helicopters before dawn.
A spokesman for the flotilla, Greta Berlin, said she had been told that ten people had been killed and dozens wounded, accusing Israeli troops of indiscriminately shooting at “unarmed civilians”. But an Israeli radio station said that between 14 and 16 were dead in a continuing operation.
“How could the Israeli military attack civilians like this?” Ms Berlin said. “Do they think that because they can attack Palestinians indiscriminately they can attack anyone?
“We have two other boats. This is not going to stop us.”
The Israeli government’s handling of the confrontation was under intense international pressure even as it continued. The Israeli ambassador to Turkey, the base of one of the human rights organisation which organised the flotilla, was summoned by the foreign ministry in Ankara, as the Israeli consulate in Istanbul came under attack.
One Israeli minister issued immediate words of regret. “The images are certainly not pleasant. I can only voice regret at all the fatalities,” Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the trade and industry minister, told army radio.
But he added that the commandoes had been attacked with batons and activists had sought to take their weapons off them.
Israeli military sources said four of its men had been injured, one stabbed, and that they had been shot at.
“The flotilla’s participants were not innocent and used violence against the soldiers. They were waiting for the forces’ arrival,” they were quoted by a news website as saying.
The flotilla had set sail on Sunday from northern, or Turkish, Cyprus.
Six boats were led by the Mavi Marmara, which carried 600 activists from around the world, including Mairead Corrigan Maguire, the Northern Ireland peace protester who won a Nobel Prize in 1976.
It came under almost immediate monitoring from Israeli drones and the navy, with two vessels flanking it in international waters. The flotilla, which had been warned that it would not be allowed to reach Gaza, attempted to slow and change course, hoping to prevent a confrontation until daylight, when the Israeli military action could be better filmed.
But in the early hours of this morning local time commandoes boarded from helicopters.
The activists were not carrying guns, but television footage shown by al-Jazeera and Turkish television channels show hand-to-hand fighting, with activists wearing life-jackets striking commandoes with sticks.
The Israeli army said its troops were assaulted with axes and knives.
The television footage did not show firing but shots could be heard in the background. One man was shown lying unconscious on the deck, while another man was helped away.
A woman wearing hijab, the Muslim headscarf, was seen carrying a stretcher covered in blood.
The al-Jazeera broadcast stopped with a voice shouting in Hebrew: “Everyone shut up”.
Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza after the strip was taken over by the militant group Hamas in 2007. It has allowed some food and medical supplies through, but has prevented large-scale rebuilding following the bombardment and invasion of 2008-9.
The flotilla is the latest in a series of attempts by activists to break through the blockade. The boats were carrying food and building supplies.
Activists said at least two of the other boats, one Greek and one Turkish, had been boarded from Israeli naval vessels. Activists said two of the other boats in the flotilla were American-flagged.
The confrontation took place in international waters 80 miles off the Gaza coast.
It was attacked by the head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh.
“We call on the Secretary-General of the U.N., Ban Ki-moon, to shoulder his responsibilities to protect the safety of the solidarity groups who were on board these ships and to secure their way to Gaza,” he said.
Turkish television meanwhile showed hundreds of protesters trying to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul. The incident will be particularly damaging for Israel’s relations with what had been seen as its closest ally in the Muslim world.
“By targeting civilians, Israel has once again shown its disregard for human life and peaceful initiatives,” a Turkish foreign ministry statement said. “We strongly condemn these inhumane practices of Israel.
“This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a fragrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations.”
“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality,”
an unnamed Bush official told reporter Ron Suskind,
quoted by Eric Alterman, Bush’s War on the Press, The Nation (2005)
Even when the US hadn’t been the only empire around, powerful members of the American administration had collectively attempted to create their “own reality.” One such plan, Operation Northwoods, consisted of staging terror attacks. To justify the launching of a war against Cuba. To (of course) defend America.
The secret plan was drafted by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962, signed by its Chairman, and sent to Robert McNamara, secretary of defense. Declassified in 1997 by a federal agency overseeing records relating to president John F Kennedy’s assassination, the plan proposed real or simulated actions against various US military and civilian targets: landing `friendly’ Cubans to attack US base (Guantanamo). Sinking a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida. Building a Soviet MIG aircraft to be flown by an American pilot, which would attack and destroy a US military drone aircraft. Launching a wave of violent terrorism (bombings, hijackings) in Washington D.C. In Miami. Elsewhere, too. The desired result? To convince Americans and the larger western public that the Cuban government was not only “rash and irresponsible” but a threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere. That America had no option but to `retaliate.’
Operation Northwoods was not implemented because, as the story goes, Kennedy had rejected it. But other false flag operations designed to create America’s own reality?to deceive the public, to manufacture support?have been successfully conducted. Of course, America is not the only culprit, as history attests. The Japanese blew up a section of the railway to annex Manchuria in 1931; kidnapped one of their own soldiers to invade China proper, 1937. The Soviets shelled their own village near the Finnish border, 1939. The Israelis secretly sponsored bombings of US/British interests in Cairo to sour relations between Egypt and the West, 1954.
Central to America’s “our own reality” story are two myths: it is America’s enemies who are `sneaky.’ The government goes to war only to `save the lives’ of US soldiers. Historical research proves otherwise: president Roosevelt let the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor (1941). Nearly three thousand American service men including civilians were killed which by fuelling public outrage at Japan’s so-called sneak attack, enabled FDR to overcome massive opposition to war.
According to America’s ideologues, if Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not been bombed?still described in official history as the “least abhorrent choice”?the lives of 500,000 American soldiers would have been at risk. But in reality, as people connected to history know, Japan was ready to surrender.
Dissenting opinion did exist, and in powerful circles, too: Japan was already defeated, dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary (Dwight Eisenhower). The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare are frightening (Admiral Leahy, chief of staff to presidents Roosevelt and Truman). The use of the atomic bomb, with its indiscriminate killing of women and children, revolts my soul. (Herbert Hoover, 31st US president). There was no military justification. I was not consulted (General Douglas MacArthur).
More than 103,000 people died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There were unrecorded deaths. There were slower deaths, caused by radiation.
But surely, just because previous US administrations have committed false flag operations, it doesn’t mean that 9/11 too, is an inside job? Granted. True. Except that when one looks at the mass of evidence, including oral testimonies, diligently gathered by physicists, pilots, architects, structural engineers and a host of other professionals (firefighters, whistle-blowers) over these last couple of years, also by grassroots people, under the rubric of what has come to be known as the 9/11 truth movement, even the blind are bound to be convinced.
What persuaded me most was the strange response of the Bush administration. Why was the government reluctant, why should family members of 9/11 victims have to insist that a commission be established to investigate the failures that made 9/11 possible? Why did Bush want someone as disreputable as Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state (who should be tried for war crimes in Bangladesh and Cambodia for starters), to head the Commission? Why should Bush and vice-president Cheney agree to testify before the Commission on the condition that they should not have to take the oath, that their testimony should not be electronically recorded nor transcribed, nor made public? Why did the Commission co-chairmen allege later that the CIA had not cooperated with the Commission? Why did NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) officials provide inaccurate information in their testimony to the Commission, and in media appearances? Why should the Commission have to use subpoenas and force NORAD and FAA to release evidence? Why did the Commission chairmen say that the Commission was “set up” to fail? Why did the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) not hold enquiries into any of the 4 plane crashes, which is required by law?
Another thing that I find odd, like many others, were the words blurted out by Bob Kerrey, a 9/11 Commission member. Several months ago he was pressed by a member of We Are Change who said, according to the constitution, a cover-up of an act of war is treasonous, the Pentagon continually changed its story, the country needs to get to the bottom of 9/11 etc., etc.,
Bob Kerrey: It’s a.. the problem is that it’s a 30 year old conspiracy.
Jeremy Rothe-Kushel: No, I’m talking about 9/11.
Bob Kerrey: That’s what I’m talking about too. Well anyway, I gotta go.
Listening to Kerrey reminded me of what the Bush official, who I quote at the head of the column, had gone on to tell Suskind, “And while you’re studying that reality?judiciously, as you will?we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
General Leonid Ivashov, former joint chief of staff of the Russian Armed Forces did just that. Having found the free-fall collapse of the towers disturbing, he instructed his staff to search for answers. Three days later he came to the conclusion that the 9/11 attack was the result of “a clash of interests among US leaders.”
While more recently, a Vietnam war veteran, former director of studies of the US Army War College, Dr Alan Sabrosky, has come out with the bold statement that 9/11 was not only `an inside job,’ but more specifically, a CIA-Mossad job. Nine-eleven would have been impossible to stage without the full resources of the CIA and the Mossad. Its Building 7, he says. It was not hit by a plane but still went down. “If one of the buildings was wired for demolition, all of them were wired for demolition.”
And it was my column on Sabrosky that yielded me accusations of being anti-Semitic. I wonder whether part of the problem lies in the strong western belief, an indissoluble one, that `the government loves them.’ Despite the history of false flag operations.
May be the Bush official, utterly contemptuous and disdainful as he was, knew what he was talking about. We create our own reality. And our people fall for it.
First published in New Age
His eyes flitted forward and back, and having surveyed the scene for possible danger, it stopped. The head stooped, and that was how he stayed. Crouched on the floor of a bus full of Bangalis, the Pahari (hill person) amongst us, was living in occupied land. Keeping out of trouble was his best chance for survival.
It was only when the uniformed men with guns boarded the bus and prodded him that he raised his eyes. Scared, tired, hurt, angry eyes. But he knew enough to not express his anger. Meekly he obeyed the commands. His humiliation was also ours, but we did not complain. We were tourists in our own land, but the constitutional guarantees enshrined in our laws, while not fully respected anywhere, was particularly absent here. As well-connected Bangalis, we were far more safe than he was. But the rules of occupation are never generous, and they had guns. They left. We breathed more easily. He continued his journey with his head bowed. I took no photographs.
Walking through Rangamati as Bangali tourists was a disconcerting feeling. Many of the Bangalis here were also poor. Displaced from their homes in far away places, they had been dumped here with promises of a happy life. Left to fend for themselves, they joined the power chain well above the Paharis, but very low down all the same.
At the top of the chain was the military. Then the wealthy Bangalis, the ones who made the deals, then came the Paharis who had sided with the government. The Bangali settlers (the poor ones anyway), were quite a bit further down. The Paharis never dared to reach for the rungs of that ladder.
Rangamati was still a beautiful place. The homes buried beneath the lake when the Kaptai Dam was built, the tropical rain forests that had been destroyed, the hill people who were forced to leave their ancestral land, were things that never made it to our history books. The Hill Tracts featured in the picturesque postcards and tourism ministry books and the well rehearsed cultural programmes in the government Tribal Centre.
Occasional photographers from the lowlands came to discover the ?authentic tribal lifestyle?. A bare chest woman bathing by a waterfall, backlit women with children strapped on their backs, a wrinkled old woman smoking a pipe and other photographic trophies were potential award winners.
As anticipated, the tiktikis (lit: geckos, local term for government spies, generally members of ?Special Branch?) soon found us. They followed us everywhere. Asked stupid questions. Made notes. Questioned the people we had spoken to or visited. We consciously stayed away from friends. No point in getting them into trouble.
At a later visit, Drik?s printer Nasir and I had gone to Bandorban. Amongst the photographs I?d taken on that trip was this one of a mother weaving. Perhaps I was repeating what the trophy hunters had done, but the poster above the window, part of a UNICEF blindness prevention campaign, had words that seemed poignant. ?hai re kopal mondo, chokh thakite ondho?.? (oh what irony we find, we have eyes but are blind.)
My eyes had shown me the military operations in the hill tracts. The deer being taken to the major?s home. The all Bangali military. The timber being taken to the military camp. While we did see Paharis, carrying loads, and doing odd jobs, most of the shop owners were Bangali settlers. It was Bangalis who had access to the government. They who obtained the local contracts. Menial labour was generally, all that Paharis could aspire to. Kalpana Chakma?s abduction followed (12th June 1996). Friends got arrested. Some were released, but killed upon release. The violence continued, more murders, more rape, more displacement.
On 2nd December 1997 the newly elected Awami League (1996) signed the ?Peace Treaty? with Jana Samhati Samiti (JSS). This had led to divisions amongst the hill people. Many felt that the core concepts of:
1.??????????? Autonomy for the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
2.??????????? Withdrawal of the Bangali settlers.
3.??????????? Demilitarization of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
were being compromised. Others were more pragmatic. Even those who questioned the signing of the treaty by JSS, despite their demands not having been met, recognise that peace in CHT is the ultimate goal, and that the land disputes that resulted from the government aided settlement of Bangalis was the core cause of the conflict.
The sole purpose of a nation?s military is to protect the sovereignty of all of its citizens, not to suppress them. The need to protect a nation?s borders cannot justify the forced eviction of people from their ancestral land. The disregard for even the commitments made, exposed the government?s lack of sincerity to the peace deal. Imperfect though it may be, for those clinging to the flimsiest of promises, the treaty still held hope.
The irony of the military and the settlers – in the second term of the Awami League – choosing the month of February, to remind the Paharis of how brutal they could be, was not lost on the survivors of the massacre. Salauddin, Jabbar, Barkat, Rafiq and Salam had died in 1952 to protect our mother tongue. In February 2010 many Pahari names joined the list of people who died for their mother tongue. But these different sounding names would never make it to that official list.
These were names that probably didn?t exist anyway. Without rights to land, citizenship and protection of the state, they were second class citizens at best, fugitives to be hunted, raped and killed at worst.
matri bhasha (mother tongue), has a very different meaning when your mother is Pahari. Kalpana,?I failed you as a brother, when they abducted you. I failed you as a friend, when they killed your brothers Mantosh, Samar, Shukesh and Rupan. I fail you now as a citizen, when my military and my government burn your villages, murder your families, take away your land. I fail you all as a human being, when you are prevented from laying flowers at the Shahid Minar in your village home. amar bhaier rokte rangano, ekushey february. ami ki bhulite pari. This month, red with your warm blood. I cannot, will not, must not, ever forget.
28th February 2010 A story in Croatia with similar concerns:
For the past few months, I have been preparing for an almost meaningless exam, one which graduate students in the US have to take, called ?comps? (short for comprehensive/PhD candidacy exam). During moments of sarcasm, we also call it the intellectual boot camp. While preparing for the exams, I have created a bubble around me, a self-imposed isolation, as if the Atlantic Ocean between me and Dhaka is not vast enough. Inside this carefully constructed bubble, I allow myself to read Bangladeshi newspapers or reply to emails only during periods of protracted procrastination. Friends? requests to read their pieces pile up. The news of a launch capsizing on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha, news headlines of RMG workers? awful plight remotely catches my eyes ? shamefully so. I rapidly read emails, I quick-read news from home and elsewhere, whether good or bad, I don?t have moments to react and reflect. It is in this privileged insulated life of mine, that I get an email from Rahnuma that Jashim Uddin Manik, the ?alleged? rapist, has died of cardiac arrest in Italy.
In the next few days, I get many emails, all from old friends from the anti-rape movement. In 1998 the students of Jahangirnagar University took to the streets for two months protesting against campus rape, and demanding punishment of the rapists, many of whom were Bangladesh Chhatra League activists. These emails bore witness to those nights when we sat in front of the university?s administrative building shouting, ?Amar boner apoman shojjho kora hobe na, dhorshonkari jei hok bichar take petei hobe? (We will not tolerate our sister?s dishonor, the rapist must be punished, whoever he may be). I would not read the letter but only its subject heading, and flag it to read later. An email from Jashim Uddin Manik?s friend incidentally landed in my mail box, forwarded by a friend. It expressed shock and grief at the untimely death of a close friend. It contained routine details which follow such news. Jashim Uddin Manik died in Padova, Milano at around 10:30pm local time (which I guess, on the basis of email exchanges, would be January 5). His body lies in a morgue while his Italian friends are making arrangements to send his body back to Bangladesh. Manik?s wife took the news very badly, she?s still not herself. In the email, Manik?s friend writes how hard it is for him to stop his tears, he urges everyone (the recipients of his email) to pray for the departed soul. In a way, there?s nothing striking about this email. A grief-stricken friend is breaking to others the news of the death of a close friend. Yet, the ordinariness of the news sends a chill down my spine.
In 1998, during the anti-rape movement in Jahangirnagar University, Manik had been identified by the disciplinary committee (fact-finding committee) as having been one of the rapists. We knew of him as the Chhatra League cadre who was said to have distributed sweets to ?celebrate? his 100th rape. I re-read the last line of his friend?s email ? please pray for the departed soul. I stumble at each word, did the man who committed many rapes, if not a hundred, one who had the heart to celebrate it, have a soul? But it?s for a few seconds only, and I close my email window.
I try to thicken the bubble around me. I must pass this exam.
My indifference towards Manik?s death makes me start thinking about death. Any news of death is supposedly saddening. But here I am, sitting in front of my laptop, recollecting the details of his sexual offences, and flinching. His crime had been proven in front of the university administration. He had been punished for what they had termed ?misconduct?; his studentship had been cancelled. However, no legal case had been filed against him. I remembered those days when many of us, those for whom the anti-rape movement in Jahangirnagar University had been a political turning point, had shared hours of rage as we had read news of Manik fleeing/flying to Italy. In those shared moments of rage and despair, we had learned to recognise the gendered nature of the university, and of our legal system. Since the movement ended, in the decade that has gone, the rage which we had felt has presumably turned into indifference.
I mean no disrespect toward his grieving family and friends. I am sure it is an irreplaceable loss for them. His death matters to me only in the larger historical context of Bangladesh. What does this particular fate of the alleged serial rapist tells us about the legal system? How does it write the history of violence against woman? If I remember correctly, many national dailies printed headlines during the movement that the incidents of rape on Jahangirnagar University campus are for us a matter of ?national shame? (jatir kolonko). I cannot help but wonder what is the state of national shame when known rapists are never brought to justice? When the sexual harassment policy on Jahangirnagar University campus still remains not enacted, officially?
The clock ticks away? my exam is only a few months away. I try harder to thicken the bubble. I succeed but only for two and a half weeks.
On January 28, the convicted murderers of Bangabandhu, five former army men, were hanged at Dhaka Central Jail, after midnight. They were proven guilty of killing the country?s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and all but two members of his family, on August 15, 1975. And yet again, emails overflowed my mailbox. A friend called a number of times, finally, leaving a Facebook message: ?I see that they executed Sheikh Mujib?s killers. It must be a good thing? It was weird going to his house and seeing the blood stains and thinking they were still about.?
Her question leaves me perplexed. More than a week after the event, I visit the online archives of daily newspapers to retrieve the issue of January 28. I watch ATN news clips posted on the Daily Star website. Most of the reports try to walk us through the execution night, covering each moment of waiting at the jail gate between 11:00pm to 3:00am. As I read along, I feel uneasy at news of the celebratory chants, and the flashing of V-signs. Members of the public had gathered at the jail gate, they had chanted slogans as the serial executions had been completed. I think, what would have been an acceptable response to the execution of the death penalty of Sheikh Mujib?s killers? Amnesty International has condemned the executions for being ?hasty? while a European Union delegation to Bangladesh has found the trial ?respectable? (New Age, January 29), but it added a twist. The EU statement said, it was, in principle, opposed ?to all death penalty in all cases and all circumstances? (New Age, January 29). Their principled opposition to death penalty, interestingly enough, excludes cases like Saddam Hussein and Chemical Ali. In the final months and days of this trial, a debate on death penalty had surfaced, but I don?t want to engage with that debate today.
Colonel Jamil?s widowed wife?s narrative of August 15 reminded me that at issue was not only the healing of the surviving daughters of Bangabandhu, but that there are others too, who had faced similar losses, had equally waited for the execution (Daily Star, November 19, 2009). For a split second, I thought about the emotional wound and the healing of the family members of Siraj Sikdar. Is it time to talk of other extrajudicial killings? To talk about Cholesh Richil? But, maybe, I am moving too fast, in both directions, past and future. Let me dwell on the present ? on the night of the execution, the chants and the flashing of V-signs.
I go to blogs which I have not dared to visit the last couple of weeks or more, may be months. Activist bloggers and Facebook friends express similar discomfort at the celebration, the flashing of V-signs. Involved debates trace the missing pieces to reconstruct the political context which had led to the killing of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. A friend who had gone to the jail gate had posted a video clip on Facebook. I watch it a few times to see what people had chanted ? ?ajker ai dine mujib tomay mone pore? (On this day, today, we are thinking of you Mujib). A comment on the video-post caught my eyes, ?Shouldn?t Henry Kissinger have been somewhere in there?? Implicit in this question is the alleged ?foreign involvement? in the coup. I remember reading in Willem Van Schendel?s History of Bangladesh (2009) that ?by the spring of 1975 the Indians knew about the possible coup and warned Mujib about it? (p 182). I believe, by ?Indians?, he had meant the Indian intelligence, the government. The fact that a neighbouring state knew suggests that the coup of 1975 had involved far more political stakeholders than those who had been convicted, and hanged. The execution of Mujib?s killers may have healed the trauma of his family and followers but the ?national wound? is far from being healed. Imperial links with the assassination of Sheikh Mujib remains undisclosed. It remains outside the circle of our political concerns.
We have been witnesses to two kinds of death, one was natural, the other unnatural. The wounds to the nation in both cases remain open. Unattended.
Saydia Gulrukh is a PhD student at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), USA and a faculty member of Pathshala, The South Asian Media Academy Published in New Age February 11, 2010
BODIES of army officers had been found, they had been dumped in the sewage canals that lay underneath the BDR headquarters in Pilkhana. Two dead bodies had been the first ones to surface, far away, in Kamrangirchar.
Three civilians had died too, on the very first day. But as news of fifteen more dead bodies of army officers surfaced the next day, the civilian deaths seemed to pale away.
And then a mass grave was discovered in the BDR grounds. Thirty-eight dead bodies were unearthed, including that of the director general Shakil Ahmed. A couple of other bodies were found, killed and dumped in ponds, drains, and sewage lines.
As the long hours passed, the whole nation seemed to be holding back its breath, aghast at the enormity of what had happened. At the carnage that had accompanied the rebellion. People gathered around to listen to the radio, watched breaking news spots on television, read aloud newspapers. News travelled through word of mouth. Collective sighs of relief were heaved when family members who had been held hostage were released. But the discovery of more mass graves, the news of family members also having been killed, of the many scores still missing, leave people speechless.
Horror, incredulity, and a sort of numbness have set in. Scores still remain missing, as the gagging stench of decomposing flesh hangs over Pilkhana grounds.
How could the jawans go on such a killing spree to right the wrongs done to them? What on earth could have possessed them? These are questions that are repeated endlessly by people in all parts of the country. Yes, they did have grievances (over not being given full rations, not being sent abroad on UN peacekeeping missions, over low pay, unpaid daily allowances promised for extra duties rendered, recruitment from the army to the higher, decision-making positions, etc, etc) but surely, their course of action was disproportionate by all accounts. Not to mention, suicidal (as I write, the idea of disbanding the BDR is being considered).
Is there more to it than meets the eye? In a crisis as grave as the one that faces the nation now, where does one seek answers to the truth? It is better to know some of the questions than all the answers. But what if some of the questions being raised are seen, especially by powerful sections, as blaming the victims of the tragedy? Do we have the resources, the intellectual capacity, the political will, and above all, the courage, to raise the right questions? Will these be tolerated, in moments of such deep grief, where passions rage high?
Were unseen forces at work? Wild conspiracy theories are doing the rounds. Do these not block off hard-headed attempts at understanding whether unseen forces were really at work? Surely we need to know the truth, in the interests of the nation-state, and in the interests of the survival of the many millions who live within its boundaries. It is a nation whose citizens are proud of their hard-earned and fought-for independence, and of their sovereignty, notwithstanding the deep fractures that cause long-standing divisions.
I see women and children seated on the pavement or standing outside the BDR gates, keeping long hours of vigil, for news of their loved ones. I see a few faces break down in tears as yet another body is identified. I see some women reach out to console, while others, who still have shreds of hope, lower their heads in shared grief. Hoping against hope that their husbands, or fathers, or brothers or sons will return. Alive.
I see a mother holding up a wedding photograph of her missing son and his newly-wed bride. I grieve for them, just as I grieve for much-respected inspector general of police Nur Mohammad?s daughter, widowed, at two months. Scores remain missing, still.
I read of the Indian government?s offer to send a peace mission to give security to the Calcutta-Dhaka-Calcutta Moitree Express that runs between the two cities on Saturdays and Sundays, to be manned by Indian paramilitary forces such as the Central Reserve Police Force, the Railway Protection Force, maybe, even the Border Security Force (The Telegraph, February 27).
I listen to balance in reporting being urged, particularly in the case of the electronic media, since the accusations of the BDR jawans had been highlighted on the first day of the rebellion in some of the private TV channels. It is being said, the other side?s version, that of the army officers, had not been sought, that it had not been reported. But surely the lack of press briefings, either from the government or the Home Ministry, or from the ISPR, contributed to this situation? I listen to a discussant argue that command failure, intelligence failure and corruption should not be mentioned. I cannot help but wonder, how does one seek out the truth where such a besieged mentality operates, where collective grief, horror and condemnation can be offered and accepted but only on terms that are acceptable to the recipient? Where narratives of grief and pain and horror seem to be overlaid with other narratives, that of the right to rule.
The dead cannot be brought back to life, nor can the brutal happenings be erased from the nation?s history. We can only console the bereaved. We can only learn lessons from it, as a nation.
It is the nation ? as a whole ? that grieves for the army officers, and their family members. It is the nation that must stay united, since the crisis seems grave enough to threaten our existence. It is the nation that must come together to seek answers, and to discover the truth. A unity of interests must prevail, rather than that of any particular institution. Or else, I fear, we would be doing injustice to those who lost their lives at Pilkhana.