imperfect | world | 2010

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Jan 24,2008

Yes folks its time to give you a free mp3 download. Kamal Ahmed gives a glorious performance of this classic Ghazal. ( right click and select save link as).

We use this song in our documentary Swapnabhumi (about the plight of the urdu-speaking community of Bangladesh). Kamal, the singer, is from Adamjee “bihari camp.” During the making of a documentary, the nature of editing is such that you go over the footage multiple times.  During that entire period, we never tired of Kamal’s wonderful voice and the ghazals he sang. You will find this mp3 and at at least one other song in the web site for the documentary (almost finished!!).

Right Click this link and select save as. Or if you want to play in your browser just left click. And here is rough translation of the lyrics from urdu.
(please) embrace me, i am very sad

release me from the sadness of this world
i am very sad

embrace me

Now even beautiful sights spike my eyes like arrows
i’m weary of all crumbling relations

hand me some more burdens, i am very sad
embrace me

You have borne much sorrow in this world

but do not be sad
the eventide of sorrow is near

do not be sad
you have borne much sorrow in this world
the sword of injustice will break
this wall of high and low will fall
i promise you my friend , do not be sad
you have borne much sorrow in this world

who knows when this way, this condition will change
when this perod of torture, sorrow and trouble will change

take me from the world
i am very sad

embrace me, i am very sad
(please)embrace me

Why release “evil forces?”

Jan 23,2008

Only last august they were termed as  “evil forces.” The most “evil” among them was forced to issue a grovelling apology “to every single member of the ranks ranging from a soldier to the army chief” and yet today they are all free. What happened? Simple. What happened is what usually happens to those who start throwing around the term “evil” to deal with those who dissent and those who view things differently. Sooner or later, it catches up with them. And how are they who label people “evil” feeling tonight as the professors and students return triumphantly? As I have said before last august, the worst democracy is better than a ……… Indeed who are the evil FORCES?

Jan 4,2008

I wake up this morning and my ever changing RSS feed reader tells me Libya is heading the UN Security Council. My first instinct is change my feed reader again. But no, it appears to be true no matter what xml I digest. My second instinct is to rub my eyes vigorously. Again that didnt change things either. The country which has sponsored terrorism in Scotland, Italy, Germany ( these are the ones I know of and there are plenty of other places I am sure) and has been involved in wars and conflicts in Africa and which has given succour to the killers of Sheikh Mujib is now the President of the world’s security council??? For fxxxx sake I say. Is there no limit to this? The rehabilitation of Gaddafi the nutter is now complete. Blair visited him. Then Sarkozy and now this.

Is there a positive side to this at all? Well, if it means we get to see more of Gaddafi’s Amazonian guard then at least that’s something…..?! For those who dont know….his personal bodyguard teams consists exclusively of leggy women, trained to use sophisticated weaponry and dressed, literally, to kill :- )

2007 - A bad year for dynasties

Dec 29,2007

Bangladesh did it haphazardly. Pakistan did it violently. And Nepal did it democratically.

In July of this year, there came the stunning news that Sheikh Hasina had been arrested. The writing was on the wall for some time but no one could believe it when it actually happened - especially not Hasina herself! She always thought that her status as daughter of Mujib conferred some special status  above and beyond that due to a politician or even a party leader. And she repeatedly reminded people of that relationship in her own hectoring, finger-wagging style. The powers of state were supposed to be hers by birthright and then suddenly and incredibly, she was at the mercy of those powers! Before the CTG took over and during Khaleda’s tenure in 2006, Hasina was busy preparing her son to take on the job. After each deadly clash on the streets, her son Joy ( who would stay at home during the demonstrations behind mummy’s apron), would visit the wounded in hospital. Yes it was a farcical as that. Read HERE and HERE.   But with her arrest, the annointed son has not had the spine to show up in Dhaka and protest in person. He prefers blogging in the US and has launched a toothless petition on the web seeking his mother’s release and which has garnered something like 800 signatures (many obviously fake- I put in two names myself!) over all these months .

And not long after, in september, came the arrest of Khaleda Zia. And before that her dear son Tarek was arrested. Ah Tarek. I doubt if there has ever been a “politician” so bereft of a sense of proportion and so unable to appreciate the role history had handed his family. Uncouth and uneducated, she and her son Tarek are finding out the hard way. “Zia is the idea, Khaleda is the present, Tarek is the future.” Last year that slogan looked menacingly possible but now Tarek’s chances of becoming the future are as good as George Bush’s chances of becoming a Hafiz.

And  this week’s awful news of the killing of Bhutto. Two brothers and father…all dead. That is the tally. They are blaming the nebulous Al Qaeda ….as it says you must on the song sheet. Musharraf’s anti-democratic politics had nothing to do with it of course! US stooge status has brought further ruin to this failing state of Pakistan, a process that started in 1947.

And this week too the Nepali political parties have decided to boot out the monarchy. I say democratically above but I am not forgetting the ten years of bloodshed between 1996 and 2006. Nearly 15,000 people died in that conflict - mostly non-combatants. The Maoists walked out of the interim government and demanded that the monarchy end. And it looks like it will.

But getting rid of these dynasties, though significant, pales in comparison to the other upheavals these countries are likely to witness in the near future. Brace yourselves.

Dec 15,2007

We are human; We want human rights.

That is the thundering title of a play by a theatre group working with the intersex (hijra) community of Bangladesh. The play was written and directed by Subhas Biswas Shuvo and performed by Rongberong theatre group. The objective was to create greater awareness of the marginilisation this community faces in mainstream society. READ MORE HERE. You will note the presence of heavyweight politician A Noor (noted in the text of the report). Yet in what capacity was he there? I hope as a human being, as an actor and as a politician (and not Hasina underling).

A friend of mine - a film editor - wants to do a short doc on this community. He is collecting information currently. Any help from any experts out there would be greatly appreciated. Get in touch with me.

Our subject matter overlaps a little. I have started finding out about prostitution in the context of rickshaw drivers and their lives. A very brave woman film-maker and I are hoping to explore and see if we can get anywhere with this subject. Its not a ride in the park this. He he..I couldn’t resist the pun there. She ( and I will reveal her name shortly) has already made some headway in getting herself accepted by the rickshaw drivers. I am impressed by the small NGOs and activists who are doing the hard slog, unrecognised and poorly supported. Anyway, here is an interesting article about the sustainability of prostitution by Md. Khairul Alam.

….In some countries, including Bangladesh, presence of prostitution and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is systematically denied, being considered a taboo by the majority of the society. There is no official record of the prevalence of residence base & fleeting sex workers in Bangladesh. Lack of any reliable records of the underground sex industry makes the data shaky. Sex workers in Bangladesh are suffering from unavailability of medical services and knowledge about STIs. Social stigmatization stops these resource-deprived women from seeking proper medical care.

War Criminal Frenzy

Dec 14,2007

As Bangladesh’s Victory Day approaches, I have been getting a stream of reminders and emails about war criminals. Yes we are such a cheery lot aren’t we. No end of year celebrations for us but instead we focus on fundamentalists, their beards and what not. I mean it. Suddenly in late 2007, there seem to be a myriad organisations both inside and outside Bangladesh which have made this issue their central focus. And whenever I see an email from Ansar Ahmed Ullah, I know immediately there will be some call to hang this razakar or that, or some other blood curdling plea. He is actually a very nice chap if you meet him, and so these emails sit rather uncomfortably with the image I have of him.

He organised a meeting a couple of days ago at the Brady Centre, Londonistan. Various people from various outfits were invited including Jeremy Seabrook (journalist and writer of a book on Bangladesh which exposed the growth of fundamentalism), Gita Sahgal ( Head of the Gender Unit, Amnesty International and previously a leading campaigner against fundies) and Martin Bright, Political Editor of the New Statesman and the man who exposed the British governments dilly-dallying with fundies. But do all these high-profile anti-fundie campaigners approve of the leaflets that Ansar sends out? Here is a portion of his latest leaflet …Its like something out of a macabre december panto show.


And what kind of politics calls for the hanging of people and the banning of those who opposed the liberation war from political life? To me this kind of politics smacks of….ehm the same sort of thing the fundies engage in …authoritarianism. It is also brutal and undemocratic. This is not the way to seek justice for the victims of 1971. This is not the way to combat fundamentalism.

But the most perplexing thing for me is why now? Why are there so many organisations making the same noise now? Is it to portray Bangladesh in a particular light for particular purposes and to serve particular ends?

Tanvir Mokammel on Youtube

Dec 10,2007

So here is an interview I conducted with Tanvir bhai to highlight some of the themes of our documentary on the bihari community. It features in the DVD of “Swapnabhumi The Promised Land.”

INTERVIEW (youtube)

Aid and Brand Recognition

Nov 20,2007
  • Saudi Arabia has pledged $100m.
  • The UK is sending $5m.
  • The US has offered $2m and is sending two amphibious naval vessels with helicopters.

All that means is that for a minimum layout the US will get to create some brand awareness in a muslim country. This is how USAID describes it

Clear evidence of the value of the increased visibility of foreign aid came in the aftermath of the 2004/2005 U.S. tsunami relief effort, the first time USAID’s new “brand identity” was used publicly. According to a State Department study, in 2004, favorable opinions of the U.S. were at record lows in many Muslim countries. But, in early 2005, favorability of the U.S. nearly doubled in Indonesia (from 37 to 66 percent) thanks to the massive delivery of — for the first time “well branded” — U.S. foreign assistance. A Pew Research study confirms this: “Positive opinions of the U.S. in Indonesia, which had plummeted to as low as 15 percent in 2003, also have rebounded to 38 percent. The U.S. tsunami aid effort has been widely hailed there; 79 percent of Indonesians say they have a more favorable view of the U.S. as a result of the relief efforts.”

And given the noise being made by some US based Bangladeshi bloggers about this american aid, no doubt the branding will succeed …at least as far as the hearts and minds of these US based bangladeshi bloggers are concerned!

Saifur Rahman

Oct 29,2007

Yes here is a pic of the journalists gathered at Saifur’s gate in Road No47 at around 11.45pm. The great intercessor is trying to bring about unity in the fractured party of Khaleda Zia. My flat is only yards away from his residence. ( Sadly I can’t choose my neighbours….)

Saifur's residence

Oct 20,2007

in the World Press Freedom Index, according to Reporters san frontieres. Yes, don’t knock it! Just behind India (120) but ahead of Nepal (137) and well ahead of Pakistan(152), Sri Lanka (156) and Burma (164)! I suspect that there are some US based bangladeshi bloggers out there who will be livid that Bangladesh’s placement isn’t 169. I shan’t name any names….!

Oct 17,2007

DVD cover of Swapnabhumi

( cover image UNHCR-GMB Akash; design Catalin Dantis)
Swapnabhumi: The Promised Land ( Documentary, 90mins)

This is a story of six decades, three countries and statelessness. A story about the urdu-speaking community of Bangladesh.

The terms “urdu-speakers” and the more loaded “biharis” are used to refer to muslim people who originally emigrated from India to the newly created East Pakistan in 1947 and afterwards.

Many of them, but by no means all, originated from the state of Bihar and were fleeing large scale communal massacres.

Three decades later, during the struggle for independence in Bangladesh in 1971, this community became embroiled in conflict. Isolated as collaborators against Bangladeshi independence, this moment was a defining one for the urdu-speakers and has had a devastating legacy.

This is a story abou the 160,000 people from this community who live isolated in 116 “camps” or “settlements” in Bangladesh.

Script & Direction Tanvir Mokammel; Co-Producer and Researcher Shafiur Rahman; Editing Mahadeb Shi; Cinematography Anwar Hossain; Background Music Syed Shabab Ali Arzoo; Sound Mashrur Rahman; Assistant Directors Uttam Guha & Sarwar Tamijuddin; Commentary Chittralekha Guha; Assistants Research Khalid Hossain & Mohammad Hasan; Produced by Kino-Eye Films.

Free Burma!

Oct 4,2007

Free Burma!

Arifur Rahman

Sep 20,2007

Arifur Rahman Arrest. Reporters without Borders statement.

Sep 5,2007

Voting rights and national identity cards are to be given to the “Biharis” or Urdu-speaking people or Stranded Pakistanis of Bangladesh or whatever other name you wish to apply to this stateless and marginalised community. A high level ministerial meeting took place today, and the news was released an hour or so ago. A final decision will be taken two weeks from now.

This is a long and sad saga, and perhaps there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The topic is the subject of a film documentary I am involved in making with Tanvir Mokammel. More, a lot more, to come on this issue.