As someone who has been in or around London since the days of the anti-Ershad movement in the late-eighties, and as someone with more than a passing interest in the lives of Bangladeshi workers, I have to say that the launch of Drishtipat in London last weekend by Asif Saleh and his team is a landmark event. As far as I can tell, and this may be a caricature of the outfit, DP is composed of Bangladeshi ex-pats or Bangladeshis born and raised here. They are professionals with successful careers and they are interested in “doing something.” Indeed this is pretty much what they say in their web site. One would not necessarily expect a group with such AB people, to use market research speak, to take up any socially uplifiting cause (apart from their own upward social mobility) let alone the cause of Bangladeshi workers. But they have. And they have done so with great success in an event highlighting the issue of garment workers in Bangladesh. Using the internet to its fullest, DP have managed to tap into the sense of concern, outrage and justice that exists out there amongst Bangladeshis living abroad. Asif has managed to harness that desire, latent in many of us, of wanting to “do something” - a desire which prevails everywhere in those with even a modicum of conscience.
Actually Asif has done much more than that. He has broken the mould of activism to be found in the Bangladeshi community in the UK. I remember the old days when political activity was tiresomely and tediously based around AL, NAP, CPB etc. There would be meetings and demos and the entertaining of various visiting functionaries of the above organisations and that was it. Education was zilch. Thinking outside the box was unheard of. Thinking outside of party lines was not even contemplated. Stultification is not the word. It was just awful.
DP’s approach is non-partisan and furthermore centralises education and culture. This is key to attracting young Bangladeshis who want to know and who want to do. And it is key to attracting people who are fed up to the teeth of the sterile politics which holds sway in Bangladesh. Good luck DP and thank you for telling Suraya’s story, upon which the dance/drama production was based, to a wider audience.