Bangladesh: The ghosts of 1971

Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 00.07.26

The country’s independence war created divisions that persist to this day, in politics, religion and the media.

?Last Modified:?02 Mar 2013 12:32

In 1971, Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan and fought a bloody war to establish itself as a fledgling nation. More than four decades on, a country born out of troubles and bloodshed is experiencing growing pains. A war crimes tribunal that was meant to bring closure has instead brought old wounds back to haunt a new generation. At the heart of the story is the country?s main opposition party, the Jamaat-e-Islami.
For the past four weeks, thousands of Bangladeshis have occupied Shahbag Square to call for the harshest possible sentences ? including the death penalty ? for senior Jamaat leaders, figures who supported Pakistan against the pro-independence movement 40 years ago. It has not helped that one of Bangladesh?s most important newspapers has propagated the idea that the protesters are atheists who are against Islam. Violence has also been a problem with several dozens killed until now and prospects for a speedy resolution extremely slim.
With both the Shahbag protesters and supporters of the Jamaat demanding a voice to tell their version of Bangladesh?s past, how does the national media present a narrative to take the country into the future? Much of the current debate is also happening on social media with bloggers being targeted for their views.
In this week?s?News Divide?we examine the role and place of the media in the Shahbag protests. Helping us to gain a deeper understanding are the photographer and writer Shahidul Alam, Sabir Mustafa of the BBC Bengali Service and Abbas Faiz from Amnesty International.
Related link: Bangladesh’s War Wounds
 

Author: Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography. Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.