Stories from Quick Reads and Bangladesh
If we look back the history of Bangladesh, we see examples of ancient kings and land lords who sponsored cultural activities, making literature, music and art flourish in the region. In the present era, we see affluent corporations, mostly telecom companies in Bangladesh, taking their place.
They have been going the extra mile to sponsor a wide variety of cultural pursuits, including a rural festival celebrating Fakir Lalon Shah (c. 1774–1890), a popular Bengali baul saint, mystic, songwriter, social reformer and thinker, but not always with positive reception.
Zahid Islam at the blog Alal O Dulal explains how corporations are selling the Lalon culture:
In 2007 for the first time in history, Lalon Phokir’s Dol Uthshob (Lalon's Dol Festival) was held under sponsorship, with promotion campaigns so aggressive and ill designed it disgusts me to even remember it. Since then Grameenphone and Banglalink (telecom brands) took turns in sponsoring the festivals.
He also mentions that Lalon festival is getting a modern shape under corporate banner:
The first time around, those of us who had been visiting Cheuria for many years, were shocked to find the sponsorship junks.
And the need to protect their sanctity:
There are many people and organisations, home and abroad, that feel we need to “protect” the baul way of life. I do not necessarily agree with this notion. Rather I feel our intervention is what creates most of the “problems.”
Bangladeshi blogger Raad Rahman tells the story of a girl in rural Bangladesh who avoided a forced child marriage after she started a grocery shop using a small grant from a local non-government organisation. She was going to be married off to her neighbour's son because her family could no longer support her financially.
ActionAid, a British charity, mentioned in a recent report that 90% of commercial sex workers in Bangladesh are addicted to Oradexon, a steroid meant for cattle. Diaspora Bangladeshi blogger Anushay Hossain explains why they use this drug:
This medicine meant to fatten cows has become the preferred drug among the madams [employers of sex workers] of Bangladesh. They are using the pills to mask the real age of the underage girls working for sex in their brothels by making them appear older and at the same time making the more ‘seasoned’ sex-worker look plum and voluptuous.
Water hyacinth (water weed) is a menace in Bangladesh which restricts water flow and blocks sunlight in rivers and ponds contributing to contamination and killing of fish. Instead of spending much in removing or eradicating them they can be used for a good cause. Kristin Boekhoff at Panigram blog informs about an innovation in Jessore, Bangladesh which will be the first commercially operating biogas reactor running off of water hyacinth in the world.
BRAC blog profiles how girls in Bangladesh are learning lucrative yet unconventional trades for women. Khadija, for example, was forced to drop out of school before finishing fifth grade to help support her family. Not so strange, given that only 55 percent of children in Bangladesh complete their primary education.
But now, Khadija, who has never driven a motorcycle, can fix one as well as any man.
During the Eid holidays, Carnival Park at Jamuna Future park welcomed a large number of visitors. On October 7, 2014, one of its attractions, the 360-degree shuffle ride, stopped in the middle of a ride. Everyone on-board was stuck in their seats for about an hour. The ride had no emergency backup system, preventing a normal shutdown, delaying the release of its riders. Rescue workers had to free every individual manually, in a rather painstaking process.
Facebook user Sultanul Nahian Hasnat was present at the mishap and later uploaded to Facebook two videos (click her to watch the 1st and the 2nd), which went viral. These are now available on YouTube, also.
There was no mention of this incident in the local mainstream news.
Bangladesh's Elite Paramiltary Unit Is Under Fire for Human Rights Violations. This Blogger Asks: What About Israel's IDF?
Brad Adams, the executive director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, has recently written a letter to Bangladesh's prime minister suggesting that the Bangladesh government should disband the paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). Quoting news sources, he accused the RAB of being responsible for more than 800 extrajudicial killings in the past 10 years.
Human rights organizations have long accused the elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit, which was created in 2004, of human rights violations. A number of its members are under investigation in Bangladesh in connection to the abduction and killing of seven men (see Global Voices report).
Some netizens were Irked by the tone of Adam's letter to a sovereign country. Blogger Himu wrote for Bangla blog Sachalayatan a response to Adams, suggesting he be consistent and write to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
ব্র্যাড অ্যাডামস লিখেছেন, “র্যাবকে এখন আর সংস্কার করে চালানো সম্ভব বলে আমরা বিশ্বাস করি না। আইনের ঊর্ধ্বে থেকে কোনো ধরনের জবাবদিহিতার তোয়াক্কা না করে র্যাব পরিচালনার একটি সংস্কৃতি তৈরি হয়ে গেছে। এই অবস্থায় এ বাহিনীকে অবশ্যই বিলুপ্ত করতে হবে, যাতে হত্যাকাণ্ড বন্ধ করা হয়।”
মানবাধিকারবারি ব্র্যাড অ্যাডামসের উদ্বেগের প্রতি শ্রদ্ধা জানিয়ে এবার একটা ছোটো আবদার করি। প্যাড থেকে আরেকটা কাগজ ছিঁড়ুন। কলমদানি থেকে কলমটা বের করে খাপ খুলুন। তারপর লিখুন ইসরায়েলের প্রধানমন্ত্রীকে। তাকে বলুন, ইসরায়েল ডিফেন্স ফোর্সেস প্রতিষ্ঠানটিকেও বিলুপ্ত করে দিতে। ২০০০ সাল থেকে ২০১২ সাল পর্যন্ত ইসরায়েল ডিফেন্স ফোর্সেসের হাতে নিহত ফিলিস্তিনিদের একটি পরিসংখ্যান পাবেন এখানে। এদের মাঝে একটি বড় অংশ নিরীহ বেসামরিক মানুষ, তাদের একটা বড় অংশ শিশু, এবং সংখ্যাটাও ৮০০ থেকে বেশি।
আমি নিশ্চিত, আপনি বিশ্বাস করেন না যে ইসরায়েল ডিফেন্স ফোর্সেসকে সংস্কার করে চালানো সম্ভব। কাজেই ফিলিস্তিনে নির্বিচার হত্যাকাণ্ড বন্ধ করার জন্য যে এই বাহিনীকে বিলুপ্ত করার অনুরোধ আপনি ইসরায়েলি প্রধানমন্ত্রীকে করবেন, সেরকম তো আমরা ধরে নিতেই পারি। নাকি?
কবে আপনি ঐ চিঠিটি লিখবেন, দেখার জন্যে সাগ্রহে অপেক্ষা করছি।
Brad Adams wrote, “We do not believe that RAB can be reformed. It has developed a culture of operating above the law without civilian accountability. It must be disbanded so that the killings come to an end.”
With respect to human rights activist Mr. Brad Adams, I would request him to tear another page from his pad, take a pen and to write a similar letter to the Israeli prime minister urging him to disband the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). You will have the accounts of killings by IDF available here. A lot of these victims are innocent civilians and a large portion of them are children, and the number is a lot more than 800.
I am sure you will agree with me that the IDF cannot be reformed. So can we hope that you will also suggest the Israeli prime minister that IDF should be disbanded?
We are eagerly waiting to see when you will write this letter.
One commenter wondered cynically:
মানবধিকারের সংজ্ঞা বোধহয় অঞ্চল ভেদে ভিন্ন হয়।
Perhaps human rights is defined differently in regions of the world.
Mahbub Shaheen, a student of Dhaka University, posted a suicide note in Facebook at 7:08PM on 2nd of June, 2014. He wrote:
I am lying on Rail Line. The Train is coming. And I am going to kick out bloody myself, the useless eater.
Once I've posted a comment “I should leave” then after I posted “I have to leave”. Some of you asked me- “From where & where will you go?”
I don't know where I am going. But I am leaving. Leaving useless myself forever.
Good bye, good bye forever.
In the comments section of the above post it is revealed that his friends tried to locate Shaheen who was supposed to reach Dhaka, the capital by a train by the evening. His mobile was unreachable so they tried to inform police and his family but did not know how. A few hours later someone confirmed that his body was found near Kamalapur Railway Station.
This shows that Bangladesh desperately needs an effective suicide prevention hotline to act quickly and save people like Shaheen.
Equity analyst and blogger Asif Khan posts a brief economic update of Bangladesh in his blog. According to the analysis, despite political uncertainties the economy looks stable and inflation remains under control:
The chances of an interim election in the next 12 months look slim. Current account surpluses continue, currency looks stable and inflation remains under control, largely due to weak demand. On the negatives, tax revenue fell short of the target as per expectation. In our opinion, the major negative was the slower pace of recovery of business activity post election.
Bengal was once known as the richest province of the Indian subcontinent mainly due to its famous and varied agricultural and textiles products including the Muslin, world renowned finely-woven breathable fabric. M Ahmedullah posts in Alochonaa.com a two part series (Part 1, Part 2) discussing the history of the Bengal's textile empire.