The Plight of the Stateless: The Rohingya Diaspora

This article was written in collaboration with Eshpelin Mishtak for umnotablogger.com, a Bangladesh-based e-magazine, to address the recent Rohingya refugee crisis of Bangladesh.

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Photo courtesy: The Daily Star

The photo shows a Rohingya man pleading to officers of the Bangladesh Border Guards to let him and the children and women of the boat to land ashore on Bangladeshi land. The military officers then gave them food, water and fuel, and mandated them to return back to their home from where they had escaped to flee a murderous sectarian violence between the Muslim Rohingyas and the Buddhist Rakhines in the state of Arakan.

Heart-breaking as the photo looks, it clearly symbolizes what the Rohingyas have been going through in Myanmar for decades.

Rohingyas are a particular ethnic tribal group of Myanmar who speak a local dialect of Bengali and are all Muslims. These two reasons make the Myanmar government claim that the Rohingya are actually Bangladeshi immigrants who have settled there when in fact the tribes have existed there for centuries at a time. During the partition of India in 1947 when the British packed all their belongings to leave, the Rohingyas asked Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League, to include Arakan in Pakistan (which was formed as a separate state for the Muslims) because of the huge Muslim population prevalent there.

While the Myanmar government persistently claims that Rohingyas are actually Bangladeshis, the Bangladesh government in turn says that they are all

Photos from the conflict

Burmese(people from Myanmar). As a result of this, the government of Myanmar has denied citizenship to the Rohingyas, keeping them widely segregated outside the wider Buddhist communities. They are severely repressed and no family is allowed to have more than two children. Access to their basic human rights such as food, shelter and education are all controlled by the central government. They are not allowed to get posts in the government or in the private sector, and no Muslim minority is allowed to be employed in the police or army.

However despite all these problems the Rohingyas have coexisted peacefully with the Rakhines in Arakan. Most of the youth have crossed the seas and traveled into Malaysia and Thailand, where they work as illegal laborers with no security as the law enforcers there can arrest them off as illegal immigrants. But the majority have moved into the neighboring Muslim-majority state Bangladesh.

Now in Bangladesh, which is already brimming with a huge population of its own with a severe competition for resources, most of these stateless Rohingyas get captured by the Border Guards Bangladesh and are then dumped into the UN refugee camps found in the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. An estimated 30000 Rohingyas live in these camps while the number of Rohingyas present in Bangladesh is actually around 300000. The ones who survive abuse and arrest from the Bangladesh border forces escape into the nearest villages. A significant portion marry off among the Bengali Muslim communities, get a Bangladeshi passport and a national id card and become Bangladeshis for life. A good number use the Bangladeshi passports to go off to the Middle-Eastern countries, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where they work as laborers and foreign expatriates.

But recently the plight of the stateless Rohingyas have escalated all of a sudden. When a group of three Rohingya men raped a Buddhist woman, the Buddhist communities fired assaults on the Muslim minorities. A bus carrying Rohingyas was burned down in response to the rape and eventually this fueled into a huge sectarian conflict between the Muslim Rohingyas and the Buddhists. Far from being rational, the state media and the political leaders of the newly-democratic Myanmar launched countless assaults on the Muslims and thus brought about a huge anti-Muslim fever among the apparently peace-loving Buddhists. Houses, shops and businesses were vandalized and openly Muslims were persecuted under the heat of the day by the locals and also the law enforcers. The people dubbed the Muslims as terrorists and compared the violence to that of 9/11 and the Mumbai attacks without having absolutely no knowledge of the events that led to the aforementioned attacks.

The widespread persecution have prompted a diaspora of the Rohingya populace into Bangladesh in boats and fishing trawlers. Now for Bangladesh, this has become much more than a problem. It is quite evident that the government of Myanmar will never accept these Rohingyas back into their land, and there is no way that the government of Bangladesh will be able to accede more people into the already impoverished country. Therefore the best thing that the government decided to do was to strengthen the Bangladesh-Myanmar borders and coerce the incoming Rohingyas back into their land, where they are almost sure to be persecuted by the wider Buddhist communities. This not only violated several international UN laws for refugees—-through which international human rights groups have asked Bangladesh to open up its borders—–but also brought about an ubiquitous dilemma for the Bangladeshis living inside the country. On the one hand, denying the Rohingyas into the land automatically increases the likelihood that they will be persecuted and discriminated against in their own homelands. While on the other hand, Bangladesh happens to be both one of the most populace and poverty-stricken country at the same time.

The decision sparked massive outrage among the public in Dhaka and the rest of the cities. A poll carried out by the Daily Star shows that most of the people want the borders to be opened for the Rohingyas to come in. But the majority of the intellectuals think that Myanmar should solve its own problems. The Rohingya massacre should be stopped no doubt, but Dhaka is unwilling to comply with mounting international pressure to allow the Rohingyas into Bangladesh because of the obnoxious, racially-prejudiced Myanmar government which continues to call the Rohingyas Bengali immigrants.

According to international journalist and Myanmar specialist Francis Wade, more Muslims are being persecuted than reported by the media. This is what he had to say:

“The role of security forces in the violence has also been underreported, which contributes to statements like this one yesterday from an EU spokesperson: “We believe that the security forces are handling this difficult intercommunal violence in an appropriate way.” That does not marry with reports from locals on the ground.
At least four people have told me that police are acting alongside Arakanese in torching homes of Muslims, while several reports have emerged of police opening fire on crowds of Muslims (NB: Muslims are forbidden from entering Burma’s police force or army – this does carry significance when violence is of this nature). An NGO worker said last night that her family friend, a former politician from Sittwe, has been killed after being arrested over the weekend, while AFP reports that a Rohingya shot by Burmese police has died in Bangladesh.
The UN is unlikely to act unless there is clear complicity in the violence by state agents. The trouble is however that with few journalists or observers on the ground, those responsible for the deaths (which could well be in the hundreds by now) are hard to pinpoint. The UN has withdrawn staff from the region, but Human Rights Watch has urged the government to allow observers in.
There also seems to be something of a PR campaign to cast Muslims as those behind the killings (to make clear, Muslim groups are not innocent bystanders, but have also been involved in arson attacks across the state). One such example is the shaving of the heads of dead victims, often Muslims, and dressing them in monks robes – “and they (media) will take photos of this fake monk corpse to show to the world that these dead bodies were murdered by Muslim [sic]”, one source wrote.”

On the other hand, Rohingyas captured by BGB, Bangladeshi Border Guards, tell horrific tales of persecution and abuse by the Buddhists, who are normally perceived as peace loving and gentle. One family reportedly lost a daughter en route to Bangladesh, and were forced to bury her at sea since they could neither go to Myanmar to bury her, nor reach Bangladesh without being pushed back. Reports of robbers/pirates attacking refugee boats are also prevalent, with one boat captured by BGB with no-one but a malnourished new-born inside; supposedly, the elder members could not take him when they jumped out of board in order to save themselves from pirates.

Amidst all of these, the Bangladeshi Government is maintaining a strict policy of not calling them refugees, and nor allowing them entry. The newly formed democratic government of Myanmar agreed on principle, to take back 30,000 registered “non-refugees”, but the project has seen no light since the talks, and it appears that the Bangladeshi government is scared about taking in more of them because of the categorical denial of citizenship of the Rohingyas as Burmese.

In this situation, many Bangladeshis, who are in favor of allowing the Rohingyas to enter Bangladesh, have started publicly supporting the view. Facebook groups have opened up, and many are blogging in support of them. Some categorically suggest invading Myanmar, an improbable idea, while others opt for allowing entry on humanitarian grounds. Bloggers have even asked the widely popular Bangladeshi premiere, Shiekh Hasina, to intervene directly into the matter and not forget that the prime minister herself was given asylum by Germany when her life was in danger back in 1975.

While all decisions rest on the government, the enraged public is patiently waiting to see an end to this massacre. Because this is not only a crisis and a violence that disrupts interfaith and interracial harmony, but also prompts a huge humanitarian crisis for the world. After all, each drop of human blood, regardless of religion, castes and creeds is equally important.

The rising dissent—–Bangladesh’s divulging ‘labor-spring’

As the world celebrates another Labor Day, here in Bangladesh, laborers have a hard time grappling with their family and professional lives. Due to the availability of cheap labor and a huge population of 160 million people cramped together in a very small state, in this part of the world labor-intensive industries have been thriving continuously since the early 1990s—the period when a democratic and investment-friendly economy was formed for the first time. This liberalization of the economy has introduced work for millions of impoverished Bangladeshis with little or no training. But on the other hand the privatization has also created an extremely capitalistic society.

 

Today within two decades, Bangladesh has already become one of the leading suppliers of the global cloth manufacturing industry, frozen foods and leather. It is also predicted that with the current boost in the export of high quality, cheap pharmaceuticals to the European Union countries and the Middle-East, the pharmaceutical industry will soon begin to dominate as well. In addition, along with India, the poverty-stricken country has always been a top producer of jute and jute-based products, although this sector has surpassed through many upheavals and hindrances in the past few years.

 

But the conditions of workers in all these industries who help to amass huge amounts of foreign income each year for the country are far from good. Not only do they have to go through extremely dangerous and poor working conditions, but are also forced to lead lives with  low wages as a result of which almost all the industrial workers live much under the international poverty line. This is the very reason why the country is always abuzz and making international headlines with workers’ strikes and protests. And the government also has always been under intense domestic and international pressure for securing the rights of the workers.

 

A shimmering example to demonstrate the inhumane conditions of the industrial workers in Bangladeshi factories is the ready-made garments industry. As the highest export income-earner for the economy and as the world’s second highest global supplier, the industry employs around 3.6 million workers, around 95% of which are females. Recently the international think-tank Mckinsey has also predicted that by the year 2015, the Bangladeshi cloth industry will have overtaken its Chinese counterpart to become the leading cloth supplier and also the first choice for international investors and importers to invest in this sector. During the last fiscal year, the industry has exported $18 billion worth of apparels to the global market.

 

But the naked truth is that this rise has been achieved on the saddles of exploitation of the impoverished workers in these industries. It is their hands and the investors’ money that produce high-quality, cheap clothes for global superstores like Walmart, Tommy Hilfiger and H & M. An eminent local economist has recently calculated that for every $100 worth of ‘Made in Bangladesh’ apparel sold in Walmart in America, $25 is taken by the US government; $35 by the factory-owners, shareholders and the other investors; around $38 by Walmart; while the worker whose arduous work and dexterity produced the item has to remain content with barely a small fraction of a dollar.

And so, due to this unequal division of the money, the country has always been rife with workers’ rights issues and dissent. Violence is not uncommon between protesting and demonstrating worker groups and the policemen. And several workers have even been killed in clashes with the police forces and other owner-sponsored agencies. However, most of the time the Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), one of the most powerful lobby groups in the National parliament, has always succeeded in crushing down the trade union groups and any call for riots.

 

With the set-up of the government-sponsored Industrial Police—-an elite police force specialized in monitoring, gathering intelligence and quenching any demonstrations by the workers——trade unions have been thrown into silence by repeated torturing of trade union activists. The current government has increased the minimum wage rate of garments’ workers from around $20 to $36 in terms of the current exchange rate. Yet, the price is far from enough. The workers, most of them living in slums and closed quarters in cities, barely manage to survive with the 10% inflation rate currently in the country. The Bangladesh Center for Workers’ Solidarity, a prominent trade union in the country, has demanded that the minimum rate be raised to at least around $58 but the government, with the strength of the BGMEA lobby, has firmly quelled all forms of opposition and has strictly claimed that after the increase, even though it is meager, no forms of protestations or indiscipline will be tolerated in the aforementioned sector.

 

Although most of the industrial workers live in slums, some get the privilege(!) of dwelling in cramped, shabby little quarters and buildings in the narrowest alley-ways of the cities

During the last big uprising of garments’ workers back in 2010, activists from several trade unions were even arrested by law enforcement officers and brutally tortured to preempt them from going against the owner associations and to stop them from demanding a greater minimum wage rate.

 

As if the wages weren’t enough, the garments’ workers have to deal with a lot of other issues as well. One of the most important concerns is safety. The factories which house thousands of male and female workers are equipped with little or almost no security. With lax safety standards, fires have erupted in many factories quite frequently in the past decade, killing many workers on the spot due to the absence of any emergency or fire exits. While the owners of these factories are among the highest tax-payers of the country with their kids being sent to American schools that charge fees up to $11000 annually, and while

Garments workers clashing with the industrial police

they themselves reside in posh apartments in the wealthy neighborhoods and drive luxurious cars, the laborers work arduously throughout the day with small lunch and prayer breaks risking their lives constantly to be able to feed their families. Although due to the assistance of welfare organizations like BRAC they are sending their kids to schools, they know perfectly well that in the near future their children will also have to embrace the same fate as them because of the enormous class difference.

A fire in a luxurious-looking factory of the locally owned Hameem Group killed 20 workers and injured a further 100.

 

There is also the severe case of gender discrimination in these factories. Women are allowed to work side by side with their male compatriots, although most factories have segregated the sexes in the clothing lines. But the wages offered to females is almost half as that offered to males for the same job. The majority of the workers in the garments trade are females who have come to the cities in search of jobs to feed themselves and help run their families. But with the money they earn they can hardly run their own self. Also, since they have absolutely no guarantee of maternal leave or pregnancy leave or any other feminine facility, life becomes harder and more and more stressful for them at work everyday. While the government, the Western leaders and the religious mullahs of the country, along with the fiercely Islamic elite, champion the state of women empowerment in an extremely conservative, religious state like Bangladesh and never fail to underscore that women in this country are much better off than our mightier neighbors like India and Pakistan, the growing exploitation of the female populace has taken a toll with the rapid growth of the garments’ trade.

 

With the next Olympic Games under the red carpet, big brands like Nike, Puma and Adidas, are already active with the manufacture of sports’ clothing throughout the world. And a big chunk of these outfits are being made in this small state of the 160 million, where these high profile brands are constantly underpaying the workers and maintaining their solidarity with the government and the industry owners. International allegations against many of the factories supplying these global sporting brands have been brought about  but even with the repeated calls for better wages and conditions, the lives of the average worker remains virtually unchanged.

 

Last month, the deepening divide and the growing dissent have escalated all of a sudden. Aminul Islam (39), a former garment worker and one of the presidents of the Bangladesh Centre for Workers’ Solidarity, went missing on 4th April. On 5th April his tortured and murdered body was discovered on the sides of a road around 61 miles from Dhaka, in an area with a high concentration of garments’ industries. Previously he had been arrested several times along with many others for organizing protests and demonstrations. Recently he had also been working hard to organize a mass protest for better working conditions and improved wages in several garments factories of the Dhaka-based Shanta Group, which supplies clothes to global companies like Tommy Hilfiger and Nike.

 

It is evident that the murder was carried out with a political motivation. Several

Aminul Islam, 39, a labor activist who was found dead just outside Dhaka on 5th April

international and domestic human rights and workers’ rights groups such as Human Rights Watch, Worker Rights Consortium, Bangladesh Garments and Industrial Workers’ Federation have all asked for a transparent and carefully monitored investigation into the matter.

 

It is mainly due to the hard-work of these industrial workers and their struggle for better lives for themselves and for upcoming generations that the country is earning huge amounts in foreign income. With the rapid industrialization and inflow of foreign money, economic growth and poverty alleviation throughout the country has been robust throughout the last decade. A burgeoning middle-class and upper class population has been created in Dhaka, Chittagong and the rest of the cities and villages due to the ubiquitous growth of these industries.

 

Dhaka, the city I grew up and live in, is currently a heavily industrialized urban city. Everywhere you go—except in the wealthier and the middle class residential areas—you will come across factories on both sides of the roads. I am, in fact, a direct product of that industrial revolution in Bangladesh. My

The growth of the industrial and urbanized Dhaka has brought about a sky-scraper boon for the burgeoning middle & upper class to live in

father is a raw materials supplier to garments factories and although his is the sole income for the family of four, we are quite a thriving middle class family with me and my other sibling sent to English schools to read Shakespeare and to get ourselves mesmerized by the natural sciences.

 

But what about those children of industrial workers who know that they will also have to work hard and live with injustice for the rest of their lives just like their parents? Will their be more killings of the Aminuls then?

With the garments owned by Korean or local investors, or even a joint venture, with the cotton from neighboring India and equipments from China, it is the hands of these workers that assemble the final product in garment factories and stick the ‘Made in Bangladesh’ brand label on it. The product is then packed up and sent across the seas, deserts, mountains and oceans to Europe and the United States, the Middle-East, Japan, Korea, Russia and Australia. It maybe a shirt, skirt or a trouser. Or simply a mass-produced Western dress. Due to the assembly line mass-production in this age of globalization, the prices of these Western and global clothing in the domestic market have actually become much lower than the traditional Bengali clothes for the middle-class citizens. But when the price at which the foreigners are buying the item is considered, it will surely be far beyond any worker’s total monthly income. Yet these workers have a hard time grappling with their life and overcoming the hindrances of discordant prospects and a grim future for themselves. They lead a life with extreme discomfort and risk just to be able to live. Time and again they are forced to confront to the fact that their succeeding generations will also have to lead the same lives. Yet, they move on. Shoving away their tears, they go to work each day to the factories, where discipline is stringent and no latecomers are ever tolerated. They work towards a bleak future, yet continue to serve the global community at whatever price that is available to them for survival.

While the workers live and work in extremely hostile conditions, the industrialists, merchants and businessmen enjoy the air-conditioned, safer & well-ventilated modern commercial buildings of Kawran Bazar, Motijheel, Gulshan & Dhanmondi.

 

The truth about pornography

I have been trying to write something like this for months.
I will not hesitate to at first mention that I am one of the most anti-pornography people out there. So for people who have regular cravings for the addiction, you might like to deter yourself immediately from reading this post.
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US Presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently mentioned that if he gets elected, the pornography industry will definitely be in deep trouble as a part of his women’s rights campaign. Even before that, the Salafists of Egypt, a pro-Islamic political movement, publicly held the global adult film industry culpable for the increased cases of sexual harassment and rapes of the female population. They demanded the immediate removal of such erotic sites from their land in order to stop corrupting and polluting the youth.

Both these events had incurred mass public protests in the respective countries. Terming the condemnation as a violent repression of ‘democracy’, people, both males and females, thronged on the streets and on twitter bearing placards calling for riots against the associated people. They claimed that the government had no right whatsoever to tell them whether to watch pornographies or not. It ought to be a personal issue, something that the person attacked by lust must deal with all by himself.

In Bangladesh, however, a few years back the Parliament under the Awami League government did pass a law against the making and distribution of pornographies. But just like everything else in Bangladesh, no one really cares about rules. Blue films are sold at low prices on open alleys, over-bridges and of course, inside the DVD shops in the presence of well-groomed people, and sometimes even in front of the police.

But the real source of pornography, as we all know—-except the representatives in the Parliament— is the Internet. As long as the Internet sites distributing blue films are not blocked centrally, the youth will continue to be polluted by lustful desires ever since their earliest age. That single feeling may be attributed to the increase in ‘eve teasing’ in Bangladesh, where women regularly face sexual harassment on the streets of small towns and villages. The desire gets rooted inside the bodies of the viewers, and before long it becomes too late to preempt those corrupt feelings from being manifested towards the opposite or the same sex. As a result the society suffers from increased rates of rapes, adultery, post-marital sexuality and of course, prostitution.    

However, the real and permanent harm is actually done to the subjects inside the blue film. The adult film industry is one of the most thriving industries in the world. With a net turnout of around $20 billion per year it is one of the easiest and the most prolific Internet businesses around the globe. In the developed world, the actors of these films do everything deliberately and their families and friends know and approve of what they are and how they earn a living. However in the developing world with the high conservativeness, the case is far from sour. Many films show brutal rapes of women and children. Some even capture sexuality through hidden cameras in cheap hotel-rooms where prostitution and illegal sex is carried out with the approval of the authorities. Makers of such films are also known to use sexually-stimulating drugs on females in order to capture a complete intercourse with them while the females are under a daze and mostly unaware of what is happening. In Muslim-majority countries like Bangladesh, prostitutes are never allowed to blend in with the society. And so with the guarantee of a small amount of extra money they can be easily coerced to commit intercourse in front of a camera .

The global centerfold of the blue film industry is in California, United States (is that a surprise? Really?). Like me, you also might like to correlate this with the fact that the US also happens to have the highest incidences of rapes in the world. Although it is assumed that the actors of such films in the West are aware of what they are doing, a minimum of $5 billion worth of pornography is still illegitimate. Not only do these films put the actors at increased risks of sexually-transmitted diseases but violate the norms of the society severely. While politicians all over the world shout about women’s rights and invade countries (read Afghanistan) in order to improve the conditions of the female population, they are not very much inclined to stop pornographies from getting distributed. On the same road, while activists riot against women and child abuse, they can hardly see the harm the pornography industry is doing to the society and think that banning such items will actually be a repression of freedom of expression.

At the end of the day, even I, a hard-lined right wing libero-fundamentalist, think it should be up to the people to decide for themselves. Every single download of a pornography film encourages further development of the industry. Somewhere in Africa, or even in your home country, someone, perhaps a trafficked child or a destitute woman, has to pay for that film with her body. If it was the rape of a south Indian, then know that you have breached the very basic essence that constitutes a human being. Your action might seem invaluable to you right now but every single action counts. And no matter how hard-hearted or tough you are, there is a human being inside you that feels for his or her family, friends and for every creature suffering out there in the cruel world. Know that your action and inaction has the capacity to change things. It will definitely not put food to that African six year old who could have earned food for a day by participating in such a film, but it will help her to preserve her body. After all, is there something more sanctimonious and powerful than a person’s body?

Child abuse=Pornography viewing & making

It hurts me when my juniors nowadays ask me how many pornographies I see every week. It fills me with an anguish too terrible to bear to see how their young minds, which were supposed to be filled with facts and fancy, are now being made to absorb corrupt feelings and sexual fantasies too harmful for the society at large. I was awestruck to hear one of my tutored students telling me how one of his friends’ younger brother, who studies in class three only, is already watching blue films on a regular basis along with his elder brother.

It also saddens me when I find out that brothels are sprawling in the country. Like many others, I will firmly attribute them to the easy availability of pornography everywhere on cell-phones, handy cams, computers and laptops.I was shocked when one of my friends told me that, during his physics class the girl sitting in front of him was watching pornography on her friend’s cell-phone. I was even more startled to realize that the girl in this case happened to be my cousin!

You might call me a ‘bachcha’(the Bengali word for baby) just like many of my friends do, but I will proudly proclaim that I have never seen porn in my life and never intend to do so.

And I do think that my not seeing really matters to the world out there at large.

Just do it before it gets too late!

 

Thoughts on March 26—-from 1971 to 2012

This piece was written on the occasion of March 26, the day when as one of my friends had aptly put “the world became pregnant and bore a new country called Bangladesh”. It marked Bangladesh’s 41st Independence day.

1971 flag of Bangladesh

1971 flag of Bangladesh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Flag of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

I stand atop the mounted floor of my apartment’s roof, over the newly embellished cream-colored tiles. I stare ahead of me at the monstrous skyscrapers of Dhanmondi dominating the skylines with prestige. I think of this evening. I think of what it might have been like at this very instant back in 1971.

Although the Indian writer Sharmila Bose has firmly argued that the figures of the Bangladesh liberation war were fabricated, I try to imagine the moment, the time when the city was shivering after the loss of around 4000 unarmed civilians within one midnight at the hands of a brutal regime that was supposed to protect them. I try to feel the darkness that had engulfed the sun which had risen over Dhaka on March 26, 1971. And all that I get is the stench of death, the death of a vibrant, overpopulated city. People ambushed and then run over by the military tanks in an effort to mix the dead with the mud. Alas! From the mud we rise and to the mud we return, and it is there that we meet the Hereafter.

I see people running. Not in the year 1971, but today. Running about their daily affairs, working hard to meet their everyday needs. Trying their best to make some sense of their life. These are the people, I think to myself, whose diligence have given our country economic progress and emancipation. These are the people because of whom at only 41 years of age, Bangladesh is already the 42nd largest economy—ahead of the colonialist nation that had devastated and exploited it before its liberation—- according to IMF in terms of purchasing power parity . These are the people who make me proud today for working towards the golden future of the glorious land of Bengal, towards the legacy begun by the illiterate Dravidians, continued by the courage and power of Shaista Khan, Siraj-ud-Daula, Preeti Lata, Titu Mir, Sher-e-Bangla, Maulana Bhashani, Sheikh Mujib and countless others. These are the people who teach me to live, enjoy and blog.

What was it like for these people back in that pitch dark day of March 26, 1971? Were they still running about? To bring food and shelter for their families? Or only to flee the darkness that loomed ahead and awaited them eagerly? Was the Adhaan to signal the commencement of night still so loud back then as it is today? And did the men and women still prostate and switch off radios and televisions after the Adhaan even on that particular day?

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The spirit of freedom and egalitarianism has penetrated permanently into our hearts the day Sheikh Mujib took the mike on 7th March and announced freedom from tyranny as soon as even one ounce of blood was dropped from a Bangladeshi man. Ever since that day we have taken pride in being part of a nation that has been oppressed and treated as second-class ever since its formation after independence from the British Raj. We know for a fact that no matter how many Sharmila Boses rant at us and accuse us of being story-tellers, no matter how turbulent our political arena has become, no matter how rampant corruption is in our everyday lives, we are a nation that can be proud of its achievements. We are a nation looking for peace, diligence and simple lifestyles.

It is always very exciting to hear remarks about the War of Independence from foreigners. And what could be better than a quote directly from a new generation Pakistani? One interesting link I made recently is with Nayab Fareed, a Pakistani student studying Mass Communications in Abu Dhabi. This is what Nayab had to say about the Bangladesh liberation war:

“All I know is that Bangladesh was once East Pakistan & then they got separated. It was our fault till an extent. I asked my mom but she told me that she herself was a kid back then. We lost a war to India because of some East Pakistanis when they disclosed some secrets about the navy (I am not sure which incident Nayab is referring to at this point but the Daily Prothom Alo recently published a report on a group of Bangladeshis in the Pakistan Army who accumulated arms and ammunitions for the Bangladesh cause) That’s what I heard once. Also, I heard it was our fault too. Discrimination. We were not very fair to them. At the moment my own country is in a mess, so we discuss Pakistan or maybe other Muslim countries like Palestine/ Iraq/ Afghanistan. It’s disappointing though. Pakistanis regret it & still wish it was our part. I know the Pakistani version of the story, never heard the Bangladeshi version though.”

Of course, expecting a Pakistani to know something about the liberation war is pointless really. The history lives only with the ones who suffered. It is transferred only by those who had been afflicted with pain, with an anguish so terrible to bear that it becomes an offense not to transfer it on in words, thoughts and deeds. Actually, I half expected Nayab to tell me straight in the face that Bangladesh was the result of the India-Pakistan rift as described by many conspiracy theorists. But whatever it was, Bangladesh paid dearly. We lost 3000000 civilians including freedom fighters, children and women, while countless mothers and sisters were raped incessantly till their death. In addition, the country suffered huge droughts after the war as a result of which many more lives were claimed.

Although the Bangladesh government later on proudly proclaimed the raped women as ‘war heroines’ the damage was already done. This is what Taslima Nasrin, an eminent Bengali writer currently exiled from the country for her sectarian writings, had to say later on about one of her aunts and the month of December when the war finally came to an end:

“……………It is December now. This was the month when 18 years ago, nine months after the war, I, as part of a bunch of kids, did procession in the backyard tying a piece of cloth, with red on the dark green and yellow map in the red, on a piece of bamboo, and uttered: Joy Bangla.

In Mymensingh, from March until November ’71, the head Imam of the big Mosque has dumped many into the well after slaughtering them in his own hands. It was in December again when the city people brought out countless corps from the well in order to find their nearest ones. My relatives went out to search for those who had left for the war, or vanished without for good. Pakistani soldiers looted our properties, burnt our house before they left, took my father away and bashed him with boots and bayonets, shot two of my uncles and left their dead bodies on the road, plucked my brother’s right eye out. In December two out of my three uncles, who had left for the liberation war, returned. Sixteen days later, from the Pakistani camp, returned home my 21 year old aunt. Some of the neighbors, who fought for liberation and returned home, have lost their hands, some their legs. Still December is the month when the relatives of the crippled war victims became overwhelmed with joy for their homecoming.

But nobody expected my poor aunt’s return home. They all would have been relieved if she did not. Ever since, I always proudly referred to my father, brother and uncles. I was proud of our losses. But I never mention my aunt. Today stepping out of all damn inhibitions, I am proudly saying that: in the darkroom of the military camp ten brutish lechers (Pakistani soldiers) have incessantly raped my aunt for 16 days.

Our society did not pride on my aunt. In newspapers and magazines, in conferences, meetings and seminars the big shots went loud about raped women. Their pompous title “War heroines” for the victim women of war is nothing but a farce in the name of liberalism.

Although everybody accepted the ravage, the torture by boots and bayonets, even dreadful deaths unleashed by the war-they did not accept the hapless accident: rape.

Photograph of a brutally raped & murdered woman found on the streets during the war

In December, the political leaders were shouting outside for the honor of the raped mothers and sisters; then in December, the month of our victory, as the last resort to keep her honor: my aunt hanged herself on the wooden beam of their house.

Taslima Nasreen: Nirbachita Columns (P: 25-26)
The genocide that began for ethnic cleansing to remove Hindus from the Muslim land, while murdering Muslims and Hindus without any discrimination did eventually come to an end. But the truth is, we are nowhere near to achieving the dreams seen by our freedom fighters. We are not making sure that the women who were raped and the people that were martyred were not done so in vain. We need people to carry on that light of equality, human rights and justice that refused to preempt the courage of the fighters against all odds. We need to relay on this light of freedom.
Are we, as yet, ready to carry on that light forward for our own sake?
Photos & Taslima Nasreen’s words copied from muktadhara.net

The Politics Of Social Media

         
reempting the media has always been a big issue for every government in this world. This is because, giving the public the exact facts and the true nature of the details might just harm the government’s term in office. The media is an extremely effective and powerful tool and can soar someone’s popularity while at the same depose others from their thrones. Making everything public therefore has a lot of cons for politicians, businessmen, actors and business corporations, and this is why everyone places a lot of weight to everything demonstrated in all forms of media.

In the past censorship has been an extremely prominent issue. During the World War II and also during the Vietnam War, American and other Western powers had violently fudged with the true accounts of the wars. Figures had been manipulated and casualties under-estimated to make sure the public does not know about the horrible accounts of the war. Doing so would have polarized the situation at home and the families of the soldiers would have mounted pressures that would have breached their ‘national interests’. It was therefore considered better to hide everything from the general public.

Fast forwarding onto the 21st century, in today’s Information Age, it has become impossible to keep most of the information concealed in files and conversations. We have hackers adept at breaking through every security system in this world (makes me wonder whether security systems are made to be breached) and journalists who are eager to breach all sorts of protocol and hack into phone conversations (News of the World anyone?). But the power of the media has become truly manifested today through an extremely unorthodox yet revolutionary form.

Introducing: the social media. The Internet Age, along with a lot of pornography sites to destroy today’s teenagers, has also forged a powerful new tool called the social media. In this form of media it is impossible to keep any information hidden. No matter how censored the figures are or how much propaganda there is, a photo or a video taken through a cell-phone is enough to spread the issue into the social media and cause ripples across the globe. It is simply not possible for any government to keep any of its wrongdoings hidden and silenced due to this ubiquitous new revolution. ‘Time will open every hidden treasure’—-as the cliché goes, is really true for social media.

And this is why governments all across the globe are enraged at this tool. In fact they have a very good reason to be. Like for instance, if you haven’t been hibernating for the past few years you will have known that the Arab Uprising has been attributed mainly due to the existence of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and the blogging world. In this virtual new Universe people are constantly sharing their opinions and ideas, and protesting at any occurrences which shake their conscience. And the result has therefore been revolutionary. The protesters organized themselves and recruited others sharing their cause, and together they created the largest wall ever: the People’s Wall. Whether it was the Arab Spring or the Occupy Wall Street Movement, people have truly been able to show the power they can yield if they are brought together under one roof. And a lot of credit goes to the social media sites for playing such an impeccable role in creating the People’s Wall.

Therefore the guillotine has been on social media for quite some time. As opposed to terms like ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘democracy’, many governments have implemented censorship on the social media. And the social networking sites, to help themselves do business with more comfy, have also decided to censor every thread or comment and are always deleting anything even remotely associated with ‘inspiring revolt’. In Egypt during the uprising, while the opposition leaders were hiding in caves, normal citizens, both males and females, were all abuzz on Twitter calling for protesters to organize and demonstrate at the required places. As a result bloggers like Mona Eltahaway were arrested for ‘inspiring violence’ while Facebook and Twitter were shut down temporarily to stop protesters from coordinating together before the regime finally came to an end.

Seeing what the social media has done in Egypt, neighboring dictators adorned all their alarms against the social networking sites. Bahrain has placed several bloggers under arrest for trying to demonstrate and recruit, and the military has crushed any opposition firmly. The famous Bahraini blogger, activist and human rights defender Zainab al-Khawaja(Angry Arabia) was arrested and detained when she staged an anti-government protest against the royal family. Another activist popularly known as ‘the Bahraini blogger’ has been sentenced to a lifetime imprisonment for ‘trying to inspire sectarian conflicts’ through his protestations.

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where an 80-something King rules an economy with an average age of 19(yeah that is one big irony!) the thrashing has been more violent. A Saudi journalist who tweeted his misgivings about the Prophet on Eid-e-Miladunnabi was arrested by the Malaysian government in a Malaysian airport and extradited to Riyadh when he had tried to escape to New Zealand via Malaysia after receiving death threats in response to his tweet. Given the ancient state of laws in the Kingdom, which ironically is one of the wealthiest countries of the world, such apostasy will lead to a severe death sentence by the conservative Saudi court where the man will be beheaded in public. Armed with this tool of blasphemy, the Saudi Royalty and the pro-government religious leaders asked the religious Saudis to abandon Facebook and Twitter because they directly destroyed the Kingdom’s segregation and ‘Islamic customs’.

Tweeting to create a revolution!

However, along with such propagation of information the social media is also always abuzz with all forms of irreverence. The Internet is flooded with Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and anti-Christian sites. The aforementioned Saudi journalist should have known better than to tweet about his personal feelings about an issue that is likely to hurt the feelings of many others. After all, in a democratic country or not, this is what a responsible citizen should have done. And this man’s profession is supposed to be one of responsibility. Not of impiety.

Another Middle-Eastern scandal occurred when a female Egyptian blogger posed nude ‘to support her cause’ against the military. The girl, who calls herself an atheist, dubbed her action as appropriate ‘to ensure women’s rights and women’s struggle against the regimen’. Now, these are things that are horrendous for a conservative culture like that of the Middle-East and therefore attracted a lot of distaste from many societies. In short, ranting about rights is equal but people must know where to draw the line. I personally think this was simply a publicity stunt the girl undertook to make herself famous worldwide and increase her blog traffic!

I should also like to attract my reader’s attention to a recent event in Bangladesh which had caused quite a stir not in the traditional media, but in the social media. A professor who had wished for the country’s premier’s death on his facebook status was arrested and sentenced to six months in prison. Although most of you here will rant about this being a consummate breach of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom of speech’ in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh I will firmly disagree with you. Wishing someone’s death in public is not how a responsible citizen should behave no matter how much hatred you have for him or her. In a democracy people are supposed to learn to be responsible by themselves. Unlike a dictatorship you will not be forced to restraint yourself as much as possible. And this is our country’s prime minister we are talking about. The person might not necessarily be a paradigm of excellence but she is all we have. If we desire a change we should go forth and create a space for our ownselves, and not be a coward and wish the person to die. Most importantly I was awestruck that the status came from a professor, a person towards whom people look forward to and appreciate. Such irresponsibility should not be allowed to persist in the society.

Sharing is caring!

It feels quite weird when I think about the persistent role of social media in our everyday lives. And this is why propaganda has entered the virtual Universe as well. But no matter where we are or how advanced, manipulated, infiltrated and tainted by disgust this area becomes it is our responsibility to discern the good from the bad and allow the free flow of truth and justice to perpetrate. It is easy to be filled by propaganda but I should say that social media is one of the most wonderful inventions of the 21st century.

As an ending note I should like to add a quote I came across recently:

“… you’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it and now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built and the only way it’s going to be built is with extreme methods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone, I don’t care what color you are, as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”

—-Malcolm X

The writer is an active participant at The Stream. This is a live,interactive,award-winning political show of Al Jazeera English(yup he is that nerd!) where viewers can participate through the Internet.In case you are nerd enough like him you might like to join in this program.

Save Childhood

The scene is a rural setting in the Middle-East/South-Asia/Africa. 12 o’clock midnight.

The entire village is asleep. However, one of the houses, located in the deepest part of the indolent village, was buzzing with activity. Everyone was in his or her best clothes. The fact that child marriage is illegal was known to every single person present there. Yet tonight,when most of the more responsible in the society were sleeping inside their homes, the 10-year old girl will be successfully married off as the 45-year old bridegroom’s 5th wife.

The little bride, clad with the most resplendent colors her poor father could afford, lay huddled in a corner. Eyes swelling with tears, she hardly had any idea what was going on. All she knew was that she was about to be sent away from the comfort of her father’s home to live with the big, fat man whom she despised. No one was there to understand her. Her father had justified himself by saying that he had incurred huge debts from the fat man and will never be able to repay them even with his life. The only option that the fat man had given him was to lend his 9-year old daughter’s hand in marriage. And thus there was no other way………………..……………..

Child marriage in Afghanistan

A couple of months back while reading the Reader’s Digest Asia I came across an article on child marriage in Yemen. The subject of the article was Nujood Ali,a hapless second-grader whose parents had married her off to a man in his 30s. Although her poverty-stricken father had requested her husband not to touch her before she had her first menstrual period, for two months the young Nujood had had to endure physical tortures and rapes by her husband when she refused to commit sexual intercourse with him. And then when she could take it no more she escaped to her father’s house where her stepmother, who did not hold the matter with much gravity since such incidents were not uncommon in that part of the world, playfully asked her to go to the court to seek a divorce. Young Nujood, then did what she was told. She went to the court and spoke with the judge Mohammed al-għadha who, submitting to humanity, took her to provide a

Nujood Ali & her lawyer Shada Nasser

temporary refuge and had both her father and husband taken into custody. Renowned Yemeni women’s rights lawyer Shada Nasser then took up the case for a divorce and finally on April 15 of the same year she was granted the much-needed divorce.

Child marriage in Muslim countries and certain other conservative nations like Niger, Chad and the Caribbean is not at all an uncommon incident. But the link between child marriages is with something different: poverty. Families in the less-developed countries marry off their young daughters to ease their economic burden since after all, one family member deducted means one less person to feed or clothe and particularly if it is a female, who typically remains dormant in these conservative societies, the sooner she is got rid off the better for the family. And perhaps more importantly these families tend to be big, like really big. According to Muslim traditions you are not allowed to undertake sex during menstrual periods so there is actually a high possibility of giving birth to a large number of offspring. You are not allowed to use birth-control methods either since these things promote Fawahish (illegal sexual intercourse). And with the shortage of jobs and repression of women the prime bread-winners of these families are limited to one or two males. There is also the matter of dowry. I do not know whether dowries are given in the Middle-East or Africa but in countries like Bangladesh, India and Afghanistan they are an extremely pervasive issue in the rural communities. The more aged an unmarried bride is the higher her parents will have to count for dowry. Our society is also a big problem because it looks down on older females who have not yet secured a marriage for themselves and perceives them as having sexual difficulties.

With all these monstrous social and ethical issues child marriage has grown into a significant headache for human rights’ activists all over the world. It is not only about a female who is deprived of a proper childhood but also the perfectly-productive society that we all dream about. One daughter sent off for good might be a blessing for a financially-troubled family but for the economy as a whole it has profound consequences. It limits the literacy rate of the country and does not allow a productive working population. And especially for all these developing countries these nationals represent exorbitant sums of foreign income through machine-oriented industries, remittance, hand-loom enterprises etc. It is imperative that the government closely monitor this issue if it wants to edge ahead in the economic race.

I must mention something here. The fact that only the poor-class families adopt child-marriages is actually not the entire picture. In Dhaka I have come across an extremely wealthy family with one daughter and no other children. Although it might make you feel uncomfortable, this well-to-do family got their only daughter married off at the tender age of 16, when the girl had barely passed her tenth-grade! The reason you ask? The bridegroom was wealthier than them!

But I must also acknowledge that in the past few years Bangladesh has made major strides in combating child marriages not only in the cities but also in the rural areas. It is not uncommon to open the newspapers and read how the local police arrested a bride’s father and husband for being associated with child marriage after being tipped off by the local councilor. Even if it is in the middle of the night inside the deepest part of the village the local magistrates and the police departments are always aware to bring down the number of child marriages or marriages with dowries. According to UNICEF, Bangladesh, after its partition from Pakistan in 1971, has successfully brought about a decrease in this brutal treatment of children through increased awareness programs all over the country.

Perhaps the success of Bangladesh in fighting against child marriages has more to do with the fact that every single government, despite all its cons, has always given women’s education the topmost priority. And the result has been beneficial as well. Not only has this brought down the number of child marriages significantly but it has also allowed the women population more self subservience and a more productive role in the country’s rapidly growing economy. In fact the country’s renowned textile industry, the second-largest

Women workers in a garments factory in Dhaka.

cloth-manufacturing industry in the world market as of 2011 and also the country’s primary source of foreign income, employs more women than men. For the factually dependant, 9 out of 10 workers in this thriving industry of 2 million workers (2005) are women.

As an ending note I should like to reiterate the story I wrote in the beginning but this time I will change the ending.

The scene is again a rural setting in the Middle-East/South-Asia/Africa. It is again12 o’clock midnight.

The entire village is again asleep. However, one of the houses, located in the deepest part of the indolent village, was buzzing with activity. Everyone was in his or her best clothes. The fact that child marriage is illegal was known to every single person present there. Yet tonight, when most of the more responsible in the society were sleeping inside their homes, the 10-year old girl will be secretly married off as the 45-year old bridegroom’s 5th wife.

The little bride, clad with the most resplendent colors her poor father could afford, lay huddled in a corner. Eyes swelling with tears, she hardly had any idea what was going on. All she knew was that she was about to be sent away from the comfort of her father’s home to live with the big, fat man whom she despised. No one was there to understand her. Her father had justified himself by saying that he had incurred huge debts from the fat man and will never be able to repay them even with his own life. The only option that the fat man had given him was to lend his 9-year old daughter’s hand in marriage.

And then all of a sudden the roaring engines of a Police jeep were heard and policemen poured out of it in numbers. Behind them came the college-going village councilor, who had been appointed by the local authorities. All the relatives and the guests in the marriage ceremony fled immediately for fear of a police scam. The bridegroom was handcuffed and the bride’s father was shoved into the police van. At the Police station the father was made to sign a document stating that he will not get his daughter married off before she was at least of age, i.e. in the Bengali tradition the age of 18. The bride was kept arrested. The local magistrate will give him a jail sentence and a small fine. Perhaps one day child marriage will be successfully eradicated from this society…………….

[The above story is entirely fabricated but incidents like this happen all the time in Bangladesh]

For those of you who want to check out the ebook version of Nujood Ali’s autobiography ‘ I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced’ click here. You will need to scroll to the bottom of the page if you want to download via a torrent client

 

 

Link
Imran Khan at the conference “Rule of Law: The...

Image via Wikipedia

Selective Islam– an article by Imran Khan

In a society fraught with issues like extremism, racism and oppression Imran Khan serves as an exemplary political leader for every politician in the South Asian subcontinent. His philanthropic ideals and search for justice has really impressed me and will continue to do so as long as I learn about him. The blog talks about how Islam is used politically by people who hardly know about the fundamental tenets of the religion and how the Western world has capitalized on this beautiful religion just so as to make the rest of the world secular and more dependent on them. Imran Khan pities those Westerners who despite practicing the Islamic laws of equality and justice do not hesitate to denounce the religion. And he rightfully accuses the Muslim leaders of either being extremists or Western puppets when they should be liberals in accordance with the laws of the Holy Qur’an and the Shariah.  Overall this is one helluva blog.

Occupy Wall Street—Lobbying for justice

The Occupy Wall Street Movement, which began on 17th September 2011 at Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, has spread rapidly across the world. What began as a random NYC protest by some youngsters who have been choked to death (not literally obviously!) by poor socioeconomic infrastructure is currently a movement accumulating a lot of media heat and international gossip. Amazingly these protesters are not the usual politically motivated spoiled brats trying to seek some attention to their cause but are hard-core middle and low-class citizens who have a lot of hurdles to pass through. They have named themselves ‘the 99%’, calling the Wall-Street predators and other famous CEOs ‘the 1%’. Though I am not actually sure how the protesters mourned over the death of a billionaire CEO like Steve Jobs. Maybe it is because Jobs was the one to initiate this revolution of giving the public whatever it is they desired through his unique products like the IPAD and the IPhone which the protesters are constantly using to reorganize, develop, recruit and bring everything under one roof.

However the 99% movement does have a lot of significance. Lately, America as a nation has been going overboard on its capitalist policies. The policies, designed by politicians who are funded for their agendas by various interest groups, are more or less designed to make the rich get richer and the poor to become poorer. Whether it is inflation or recession the wealthy have nothing to worry about, since if their expenses increase their incomes also rise, but the consumers from the middle and low-income backgrounds go through a lot to pay for their increased expenses while simultaneously maintaining their basic (and expensive!) amenities like health security, rent, food etc.

Graph showing income inequality in the United States. Source: The Economist

This disparity in income has been demonstrated by the graph above which was published in the economist on Oct 26th 2011. According to the aforementioned graph, in the past 30 years the incomes of the so-called 99% have risen by around 45% whereas that of the 1% have increased (or coerced to increased perhaps) by around 300% !! Imagine that, the ones who hardly need any more have had their salaries increased by around 10 times more than the ones who are in dire need of pay-rises! In the US alone, in the past 10 years (2000-2010) the total inflation rates have been 27.38%. I could not find the data for the past 30 years but as you can realize from the available data the rates have got to be really high—-even the pay-rises to the 99% would not have been able to mitigate their increased expenses. Thanks a lot to the liberal economic policies of the most powerful economy of the globe that the rich dwell blissfully undertaking philanthropic stances in front of the public while at the same time behind the public they are robbing the poor from their basic rights. The poor, on the other hand, toil hard to bring food to the table and strive to live their lives through heart-attacks and other stress-related diseases.

With the likes of billionaire CEOs like Warren Buffet, Carlos Slim, Bill Gates, the New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the Indian Ambanis dominating the world market, the world in the past three decades has had rapid lapses in income distribution. Not only have the youngsters had to fight through overwhelming inflation rates ever since their birth, when they finally emerged out in the world with the degrees and all they have had to confront themselves with the fact that the promised jobs were never going to be there. And moreover with the frequent recessions the graduates were pushed to dead ends and thus the final result is an outbreak of revolt against all those apparently responsible for controlling the entire world economy.

However the best part of this movement is that it has no leader. Everyone involved is a leader, because after all this is the 99%. The movement cannot be controlled by a handful few like the manipulators of the world economy, which can now be classified as an oligopoly. All the protesters are fighting for their rights, regardless of castes, creeds, religions or nationalities. They only need a better future for themselves and their future generations. And to achieve their objectives they have taken up placards in thousands of cities across the globe and invested their time in rallies and demonstrations. I do hope and think that their time and energy will bear fruit. The desired changes all across the world will definitely be there at last.

A point to be noted here is that although the mob may be extremely gullible and short-sighted—-qualities which all the politicians have, are and will always be exploiting to achieve their lofty ambitions——they have successfully demonstrated the meaning of teamwork, discipline and pacifism. They have credited the Arab Spring as their inspiration for trying to create a change and although the American politicos have been more than supportive during the Middle-Eastern revolution it now seems that they are not at all happy with the new revolution in their own land. After all their seats are at stake here. Just goes on to show how pretentious politicians always are. In fact, pointing at the billionaire NYC Mayor who, being a foe, is also trying his best to squeeze the movement, a protester has recently remarked: “as a billionaire, he’s under constant temptation to squelch protest” . The media is not being very helpful either. It is evident from their tone and use of language that they firmly disapprove this protest for better democratic countries. Obviously, all these newspapers, television channels, studios are owned by the signature 1% only so it is just natural that they will not be very helpful to the cause.

As an ending note I should like to define ‘democracy’ properly.  The word democracy is said to have originated sometime during 1525-1535 from the Greek dēmokratía, which means a popular government. My grade 7 History teacher always insisted that it means ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’. And since the past few decades the so-called democratic countries haven’t at all behaved democratically. Tax cuts were imposed to favor only the wealthy and to choke the poor. International policies were developed for the money-making and business-minded communities and most importantly the general public, who were under the impression that they were living in a democratic country were fooled by the politicians and corporate leaders by taking advantage of their innocence. The true spirit of democracy was violated by the very people who were supposed to protect its sanctity. A valid example is Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan which is a democracy at the time of writing this article, who despite being a billionaire does not pay a penny in tax.

Therefore I urge everyone to defend what is truly yours. Politicians and other sociopaths must be made aware of the fact that the voters nowadays are no longer illiterate and guided by illusion. They must not try to elude the public any more. And we, the youngsters must now get rid of our laidback nature and stand for our rightful positions because “the only solution is World Revolution” (the slogan for the Occupy Wall Street Movement).

Beheading?It still exists?

Beheading? Really?

Although one of the wealthiest  economically-independent countries of the world, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is still medieval in terms of its court proceedings. The recent beheading (yes you read beheading!) of eight migrant Bangladeshis in Riyadh caused quite a stir in the international media. The execution of eight poor Bangladeshis who had gone to Saudi Arabia to change their destinies and now lay dead with their heads ripped off from their bodies has caused ripples in the heart of every individual who heard the news. And being one of them I could not help but protest.

I am quite acquainted with the Islamic laws and as far as I know Islamic law directly decrees that any murder should be answered by executing the murderer. And Saudi Arabia being the only country with the Al-Quran as its constitution has firmly held true to this law. But my point is before carrying out what the law says we must at first be fully aware of the offender’s position and perhaps also refer to the time that the Laws of the Quran were laid down in. The Quranic Laws were made at a time when modern courts rarely existed and when people were still extremely barbaric. Murderers back then could commit murders and still be at large, going about their day-to-day activities. To stop this injustice against the deceased the stern laws against murder, robbery etc were decreed and these laws were and are still extremely effective, making KSA one of the few countries with extremely low crime rates even in today’s world.

But when considering the legal proceedings we must at first understand that the murderers were not politically motivated, neither attracted by greed (or may be they were but that is impossible to know now). They were poor Bangladeshis who had gone to KSA to change their destinies and work towards a better future. But once they had gone there they had to confront themselves with the fact that they had been deceived. Yes, the entire visa procedure that KSA employs to take migrant workers from Bangladesh is extremely flawed. Time and again specialists in both these countries have made the two governments aware of this fact. When the impoverished Bangladeshis buy this expensive visa they are promised great jobs by the visa-sellers who thrive on guile and deceit. And thus when the illiterate, lower class Bengalis reach KSA they have to face the realization that the jobs assured would never be there, and the ones that were available for the Bangladeshis had extremely difficult working conditions coupled with low salaries. Forced to take up these poor jobs they see their dreams of a better tomorrow perish and most of them fail to reconcile themselves with the fact that their lives will never change for the better. In addition most of these people tend to be young, energetic and most importantly poor; so poor that they buy these faulty visas through loans and mortgages or sale of valuable personal assets and belongings. And plus they have really big families in their home nation to feed and clothe. Keeping these factors in mind when we judge their crimes in a court of law we must be liberal and sometimes listen to our hearts.

Although such a mass-execution of foreign nationals is one of the few of its kinds, the KSA government in the past one year has beheaded 20 foreigners other than these helpless Bangladeshis. The total number beheaded in the past one year amounts to 58. Of the aforementioned 20 foreign-workers, one includes an Indonesian house-maid who had killed her Saudi-Arabian master after suffering from severe ill-treatment and poor living conditions at his disposal. The Indonesian government was onerous in its efforts to save its active citizen—something which the poverty-stricken, corrupt and donation-dependant government of Bangladesh failed to do—–but the helpless girl could not be saved from the guillotine. The Indonesian government then boldly refused to give anymore labor visas for KSA to its female citizens. The stance was seen quite courageous, considering the power of the Saudi Arabian government in the current world, but nevertheless it was appreciated worldwide. Inspired by this move many of the developing countries have also stopped sending their female citizens on labor visas to KSA—fearing another incident like the Indonesian maid. But for Bangladesh this has meant more trouble. The Saudi Arabians are now looking for Bangladeshi female house-keepers!

My reader must not think that I am trying to talk in favor of the murderers—-they deserved to be punished for committing robbery and then killing the Egyptian guard but decapitating them in public is something I will never support. And why kill all the eight for killing one person only? In addition to this, the migrants were so poor that they could not even afford a defense lawyer or even talk for themselves—the reason for which Human Rights Watch and Amnesty condemned the trial. They did not even have much proficiency over the Arabic language either and as far as I know the Bangladesh government did not even attempt to drag the case to international court, fearing the exorbitant expenses of an international lawyer and a translator to boot.

So you might ask what the Bangladesh government is doing to ensure the welfare and security of its citizen abroad who are earning foreign income and sending them back as remittance to their home country. I will have to disappoint you here. The government is hardly doing a thing. The only thing it seems to be interested in is to send its extremely high working-class population to countries in the Middle-East, Malaysia, South Africa etc so that they can earn foreign currency for the rapidly-industrializing Bangladesh economy. Most of the ministers and members of the Parliament are even dominated by the idea that raising a voice against the barbarism in Riyadh will entail them to a loss of their highly-popular international market for workers.

Yours truly is just a blogger who is tired of all the pretense happening around him. He can’t do much really. But together if we can fight against such heinous acts I believe we can do some good to this world. May be then the Saudi government will be able to judge between criminals in a much better way than simply by beheading them.

Anna Hazare–a myth to be unravelled

“The dream of India as a strong nation will not be realised without self-reliant, self-sufficient villages, and this can be achieved only through social commitment & involvement of the common man.”

I copied the above quotation from Anna Hazare’s website. You can

Mr Hazare leading the fight for the anticorruption movement from the front

recognize the truth of the aforementioned words only if you have ever been to any of the South-East Asian developing economies, where,  even after more than 60 years of independence from the British colonial rule,  the common man’s importance seems to be diminishing continuously.

So who is this Anna Hazare? If you haven’t come across this name at least a hundred times on the newspapers in the past few months you seriously do not belong to this world. Anna Hazare is a dream that has successfully united all the Indians against the pervasive notion of corruption and oppression. This is the man–social activist and visionary— behind whom all Indians–devoid of castes or creeds—- could  once again rally behind after the fight for independence in1957 for justice from the power-hungry corrupt politicians and greedy government-officers. This 71 year old man, through a series of hunger strikes, has successfully taught all Indians and also the rest of the world the very essence of patriotism that should be inherent inside every responsible citizen. Such was the aura generated by this white-clothed peace-loving follower of Mahatma Gandhi that even activists from the neighboring countries—which are also heavily afflicted by corruption and terrorism—could derive inspiration and fight more valiantly in their struggle for justice.

Now I am a very pragmatic young man. Whenever  something good occurs for too long I can sense something wrong behind it. Being quite pessimistic, initially I was apparently under the preconceived notion that Anna Hazare was simply another political pawn planted by the opposition in order to oust the dominating  Congressmen from the Parliament. And although the omnipresence of corruption in today’s world does not elude me,  at first I had thought that the charges brought against the six corrupt ministers were nothing but fabrications made deliberately to destroy the reputation of the Indian Government.

But it did not really take me long enough to understand that whatever might exchange behind everyone’s back an old man who goes through such extraordinary extents in order to fight for his people is an inspiration for every citizen in this world. I do not really care if the innocent-looking man is actually a part of some conspiracy, or has some particular motive behind his tireless efforts in his struggle against subjugation, because what has amazed me is the remarkable ability of this man in bringing together a nation of more than around 1 billion people on one stage and under one shelter to be guided by the same rays of hope and dreams of creating a much better world. Thus Anna Hazare is a legend not only for all Indians but also for millions of people across the world who are defenseless against the corrupt and irresponsible politicians whom they themselves have elected as part of the puppet show known as voting for your representatives in a democratic society . This man in white, a past soldier of the Indian Army, must be commended for showing us how even without wreaking havoc and destroying national property we can achieve our purposes from the Parliament through peaceful and patient methods. And thus, if he receives the Nobel Prize for Peace within the next few years I will not really be amazed. His methods of social activism will be followed by many upcoming generations