The hitherto stateless urdu-speakers of Bangladesh (or Biharis) exercised their right to vote in the parliamentary elections yesterday as citizens of Bangladesh. Here are some snaps from Mohammadpur - the site of one of the original “camps” in which urdu-speakers were interned in 1971. ( Voting booth was at the Mohammadpur Model College)
I will be writing more soon. Notice the female only queue ( applied to all areas not just urdu-speaking areas!)
The Hidden Face of Globalisation
Take a look.
This, my friends, is the staggering figure quoted in this article in the New Nation. Do you believe it? Do I believe it? Hell no. I have had occasion to blog about the Manpower ministry before when they were looking for measures to punish absconding labourers. Now I read that they have exacted fines from labour recruiters and have distributed the accumulated money - about a million quid - to labour victims. This sounds too far fetched to even contemplate. Someone should tell them its December and not April 1st.
This article is interesting in that it gives a flavour of what it is like to be born and grow up in a country and yet not be a full citizen of it. The article looks at a Bengali Paara (locality) in Karachi and the biharis in Bangladesh. But in terms of the forthcoming Bangladeshi elections, these figures are worth noting:
Official figures note that 15,000 refugees (sic, but referring to biharis) out of approximately 300,000 have applied for enrolment in the voting system to date. According to data collected from various sources, some 6,000 people spread across 70 different camps in Bangladesh preferred to register themselves. The number includes 360 inhabitants of Mohammadpur Geneva Camp, Dhaka. However, only 180 were able to provide all the information and photographs necessary for the registration process.
So firstly there is a discrepancy between the government figure (15,000 registered) and figures from other sources (6,000 registered) it seems. The same article hints at some of the apprehensions of the Bihari community which might be responsible for this. Many apparently felt that taking up citizenship would entail letting go of their current status ( The article incorrectly notes this status as “refugee status.” The biharis do not have refugee status in Bangladesh as far as the UNHCR is concerned. Their current status has some very meagre and rapidly vanishing benefits in terms of camp access to services etc). And it was this fear of losing out on these scraps of assistance that possibly explains the low numbers.
The article notes:
Their fears crystallised after several families in camps in Khalispur, Kulna were issued with legal notices ordering them to evacuate the camps, as they were no longer officially refugees.
The figures in the article are a bit surprising and I wonder why a newspaper would publish without references or anything. My own sources - Hasan Mohammad of AYGUSC tells me
- About 15,000 camp inmates living in Mohammadpur and Mirpur of Dhaka enlisted their names in this process. But the actual number of voters may be more.
- Out of the above number about 2,600 Geneva camp inmates enlisted their names and got NIC (official report)
- 80% of the total eligible voters will be enlisted in the voters list and NIC of 116 camps
- There are 116 settlements all over the country according to survey conducted by Al-Falah and UNHCR not 70 camps.
in the form of quotations with the usual apologies…
“The difference between a (Bangladeshi) politician and a (Bangladeshi) pickpocket is that a pickpocket doesn’t always get indignant when you tell him to keep his hands to himself.” (Joseph Sobran)
“Looking for an honest (bangladeshi) politician is like looking for an ethical burglar.” (H L Mencken)
“When politics is used to allocate resources, the resources all end up being allocated to politics.” (P J O’Rourke)
“God has no role to play in politics except to make sure politicians go where they belong. To hell.” (P J O’Rourke)
“No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the (Bangladeshi) Legislature is in session.” (Judge Gideon J Tucker).
“Experience to a politician is like experience to a prostitute — not much to recommend them.” (Charley Reese)
Don’t try this at home or in the office. The health and safety people won’t like it.
Suddenly there is a buzz that George should somehow be honoured by Bangladesh for his efforts in bringing to light the plight of Bangladeshis way back in 1971 through his Concert for Bangladesh. But this has been in the pipe works for about two years. The Liberation War Museum have a plaque ready and are making some kind of effort to celebrate the ex-Beatle this coming February. Is this a late attempt to raise some cash and to get some official response tagged on to their events?
Yesterday was the 60th birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It has grown old and states only pay lip service to it with a few exceptions here and there. What is surprising is that given that the document was drafted after the 2nd world war with countless displaced people and refugees, you would have thought the document would have contained some right of the UN to intervene on behalf of stateless people and asylum seekers? And yet it doesn’t.
Superb satire on the garment industry
Is it a joke? Seems not to be. Of all the things that need money…this geezer decides to replicate the Taj? If you think of all the archaelogical sites in Bangladesh which could do with an injection of money and a bit of TLC, this guy wants to build a replica of the Taj Mahal? If you think of Paharpur, Charpatra Mura, Gokul Medh, Bhaga Mosque etc etc etc….ah this is unbelievable. I am going to lie down for a bit.