The journalist who got too close

‘REPEAT a lie often enough and it becomes the truth’, is a law of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels. The Bangladesh government seems to have studied Goebbels’ book well. The lies generally come in the form of denials. ‘No, we have not been involved in “crossfire” and “disappearances”.’ ‘There is no political motive.’ ‘No one will be spared.’ ‘The elections were fair.’ ‘The judiciary is independent,’ the list goes on. The lies are repeated ad nauseam in political rallies, in talk shows, in press briefings and through social media trolls.

Shafiqul Islam Kajol photographed by his son Monorom Polok

‘We do not condone any such incident and will bring the responsible officials to justice’ said the foreign minister Dipu Moni at the Universal Periodic Review of Bangladesh at the Human Rights Council in Geneva on February 4, 2009 in response to accusations that the government was involved in ‘crossfire,’ a Bangladeshi euphemism for extra-judicial killings. She added that the government would show ‘zero tolerance’ to extra-judicial killings, or torture and death in custody. Indeed, doing so was part of the election campaign for the Bangladesh Awami League when they were in the opposition. As often happens however, once elected, their position changed, and ‘crossfire’ has become so integral to the Bangladeshi lingo that MPs now use the term in parliament, ‘You are allowing crossfire as part of a fight against drugs. Then why aren’t you doing the same in case of rape?’ Continue reading “The journalist who got too close”

RESISTING RAMPAL

‘Go back NTPC, get out India’
rahnuma ahmed

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

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

Government’s self-publicity with public money

by Taj Hashmi in The Daily Star

The Daily Star
It is time to protest the ruling Awami League’s self-publicity through billboards at a staggering cost of more than Tk.3 crore (one senior minister would possibly say taxpayers’ Tk.3 crore is “rubbish” as he “rubbished” the 4,000 crore stolen by Hall-Mark). I am really shocked and saddened by the government’s overwhelming “billboard campaign” — whose impact will be grossly under-whelming though — and the deafening silence of our civil society, intellectuals, politicians and youths over this scandalous act of the ruling party. The removal of commercial billboards to the detriment of commercial firms by the government is also shockingly unwarranted.

BILLBOARDS EXTOLLING THE VIRTUES OF AWAMI LEAGUE. ROKEYA SARANI. DHAKA. PHOTO: SHAHIDUL ALAM/DRIK/MAJORITY WORLD

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Playing ball with the Jamaat

The Jamaat?s worldview is antithetical to the kind of nation Bangladeshis have repeatedly wanted to build

By?Salil Tripathi?First Published in Live Mint:?Wed, Mar 13 2013

Bangladeshi police detain a supporter of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party during a protest in Dhaka. Photo: AFP
Bangladeshi police detain a supporter of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party during a protest in Dhaka. Photo: AFP
I write this column with some regret. As a college student, among the bylines I grew up admiring was that of S.N.M. Abdi, who was a young reporter in the late 1970s, and exposed one of the most horrendous examples of police brutality in post-independence India?the blinding of undertrial prisoners in Bhagalpur in Bihar. Some politicians defended that barbarism, saying the practice had ?social sanction?. But Abdi rightly focused on the atrocity, stirring the nation?s conscience, which was at that time still reeling from the effects of the emergency. Continue reading “Playing ball with the Jamaat”

Shahbag protesters versus the Butcher of Mirpur

?By Tahmina Anam, Guardian

Abdul Quader Mollah has finally been convicted of war crimes committed in Bangladesh in 1971. Now a huge popular protest in Dhaka’s Shahbag district is demanding the death penalty.

Shahbag protesters in Dhaka

The Shahbag protesters resemble a jubilant flash-mob. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
It all began with a victory sign. When Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary-general of?Bangladesh‘s?Jamaat-e-Islami?party, emerged from the supreme court on the afternoon of Tuesday 4?February, he turned to the press waiting outside, smiled, and made a victory sign. An odd reaction for a man just sentenced to life in prison.
Mollah smiled because for him, a man convicted of beheading a poet, raping an 11-year-old girl and shooting 344 people during the?1971 Bangladesh war of independence?? charges that have earned him the nickname the Butcher of Mirpur ??the life sentence came as a surprise. Earlier this month, a fellow accused, Abul Kalam Azad, who is reputed to have fled to?Pakistan,?was sentenced to death in absentia. Continue reading “Shahbag protesters versus the Butcher of Mirpur”

Reflections on Bengali motherhood and storytelling

BISWAJIT’S PUBLIC MURDER
By rahnuma ahmed

Zohra Begum, mother of Emdadul Haque; the latter has been identified from photographs and video footage as being one of the Bangladesh Chatra League activists who beat and hacked Biswajit Das, a tailor, to death on December 9, 2012 during a hartal called by the BNP.? bdnews24
Zohra Begum, mother of Emdadul Haque; the latter has been identified from photographs and video footage as being one of the Bangladesh Chatra League activists who beat and hacked Biswajit Das, a tailor, to death on December 9, 2012 during a hartal called by the BNP.? bdnews24

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ALTHOUGH Bengali culture would have us believe otherwise, motherhood is not something — regarded by some as an instinct, by others, as a virtue — that is timeless and unchanging. It is social and historical. Continue reading “Reflections on Bengali motherhood and storytelling”

An ode to Biswajit

Freedom fighter at Suhrwardy Uddyan. 26th March 2012. Dhaka. Bangladesh. Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

He stopped at every print. Getting close to scrutinise every character, pausing more at some that perhaps stirred a memory. He smiled broadly when I approached him. ?eto amar chobi tulsen? (it is me you?ve photographed) he said. This was his war. He remembered the pain the terror, the joy. He had never applied for registration. No card, no land, no perks. He had never been asked to speak at a dais extolling his glory. Victory being won, he had drifted out the way he had drifted in.

He was a Baul singer, living off the alms given by visitors to Suhrwardy Uddayan, where the deed of surrender had been signed on the 16th December 1971. He had no regrets for his lack of wealth, or for not having had his share of the spoils of war. It was our departure from the values that had driven him and his fellow muktijodhdhas (freedom fighters) that saddened him. He had a great love for Mujib, and felt we had let him down.

Continue reading “An ode to Biswajit”

Communal attacks in Ramu: of family feuds and corporate culture

by Rahnuma Ahmed 

SUPREME Court lawyer Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, 39, initiated a writ petition immediately after the violent attacks of September 29, 2012 when innumerable Buddhist monasteries, temples and houses in Ramu, Cox?s Bazar district, were set on fire, pillaged and looted by Bengali Muslim men, mostly youths. The attackers included both locals and outsiders, angered at the news that a picture defaming the Holy Qur?an had been discovered on a Buddhist youth Uttam Kumar Barua?s facebook account. Investigative reports reveal that the allegations against Uttam were manufactured since the picture had been tagged to his account; credible news reports also reveal that the attacks were pre-planned and pre-meditated, a view subscribed to by both the ruling party and the major opposition party, who, however, blame each other for the attacks.

Jyotirmoy Barua returned to Bangladesh last year after completing his Bar-at-Law; he lived in the UK for nearly nine years, partly financing his studies as karate instructor. He has filed the writ on the basis of being personally ?aggrieved? since he belongs to Ramu. It challenges the ?inaction? of the police; hearings have begun
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The interview is based on transcripts of recorded conversations held with Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua on four different occasions totaling more than fifteen hours. I am grateful to him for having taken me into his confidence, for having gone through the draft and suggested modifications.
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UPDATE: MAY 07, 2012 Reclaiming Jahangirnagar from a ?godfather? VC

by rahnuma ahmed

Two faculty members, one speaking in support of the JU vice-chancellor, while the other's placard demands exemplary punishment of "terrorist" teachers, alluding to botany faculty members who had allegedly assaulted the departmental chairperson, an allegation which led to the prompt arrest and overnight detention of two teachers of the department, they were released on April 26 morning. Outside the VC's residence, May 1, 2012. ?Saydia Gulrukh

Jahangirnagar University Sangskritik Jote president Koli Mahmud, who was attacked by 'VC League' activists on April 28; besides a broken leg, Koli has deep gashes on his shoulders and back, doctors there say, the injuries speak of 'attempted murder.' He and other Jote activists had been rescued by Shikkhok Shomaj teachers who had rushed to the spot. Enam Medical College Hospital, Savar, May 1, 2012. ? Saydia Gulrukh

Four fast-unto-death students listen as striking compatriots sing protest songs in teacher-student seige outside main entrance to VC's residence. The Jahangirnagar Shangskritik Jote and Shontrasher Biruddhe Jahangirnagar's banner behind demands the resignation of the VC, for being authoritarian and providing protection to attackers of teachers and students. May 1, 2012. ? Saydia Gulrukh

The strike has been called off. Continue reading “UPDATE: MAY 07, 2012 Reclaiming Jahangirnagar from a ?godfather? VC”

March 12 Rally

We were, we are, we'll stay, was the slogan on recent Awami League posters. BNP haven't quite gotten to three generations yet, but the dynasty game is certainly one both parties want to play. ??Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The government was hell bent on preventing the opposition rally. Trains, buses and launches were all stopped. Ordinary passengers were beaten up and prevented from off loading at stations and ferrys. The police were out in full force in the city, checking on people to make sure they were not opposition supporters heading for the rally.
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