Tag Archives: Bangladesh

100th day of Shahidul Alam’s Detention – Eminent South Asians Write to Bangladesh Prime Minister

Today, it is 100 days of the detention of acclaimed photographer and cultural activist Shahidul Alam. On this occasion, Arundhati Roy, Aparna Sen, Vikram Seth, Romila Thapar, Amitav Ghosh, Shabhana Azmi, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Nandita Das, Mohammad Hanif, Anish Kapoor among other eminent persons from across South Asia have written a letter to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed demanding his immediate release.  on the 100th day of his detention.

Shahidul 3

H.E. Sheikh Hasina Wazed
Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Prime Minister’s Office
Dhaka, Bangladesh
13 November 2018

Subject: Appeal for release of Shahidul Alam on 100th day in custody

Your Excellency:
As well-wishers of Bangladesh and supporters of its 166 million citizens’ struggle for dignity, social justice and prosperity, we are distressed by the continued imprisonment of photographer and cultural activist Shahidul Alam. Since the founding of the nation in 1971, the people of Bangladesh have led by example, fighting poverty, ending social injustices and being standard-bearers of participatory development. This advance has been made possible by the democratic spirit of the people, who have challenged military rulers and autocrats alike. As well-wishers of Bangladesh, we fear that these gains are in danger due to the rising political intolerance and denial of fundamental freedoms.

Shahidul Alam is a Bangladeshi citizen, but the rest of us in South Asia are also proud to call him our own, for the values of truth, justice and social equality he promotes. His work and activism are respected all over our region and beyond, with innumerable friends who admire his concern for the voiceless and marginalised. One example is his latest work highlighting the tragedy of the Rohingya people, who have been given refuge in Bangladesh by your Government.

Since Shahidul Alam was forcefully taken from his home on the 5th of August, he was remanded first in Detective Branch custody for seven days and, then held at Dhaka Central Jail at Keraniganj. He is accused of ‘hurting the image of the nation’ while reporting on protests by young students demanding road safety.
It is clear to us that the case of Shahidul Alam is being used as a means to suppress criticism by others in civil society. His arrest and continued detention appear to be manifestation of an intolerant political atmosphere, an attempt to threaten and silence the voice of Bangladeshi citizens. With the country preparing for general elections, this is a time when there should be more space for debate and discussion, not less.

As believers in the rule of law, we are shocked to learn that government lawyers continue to oppose Shahidul Alam’s release on bail using various stratagems and delays intended to deprive him of his fundamental rights to liberty and due process. Across South Asia, politicians and citizens have fought for the right to speak, and to write, and it is astonishing to us that a government today, especially one which seeks to harness technology for progress, should choose to use a law to proscribe online speech to jail a citizen.

Prime Minister,

We the undersigned urge you to ensure the release of Shahidul Alam on this, the 100​th​ day of his detention. We look forward to Bangladesh retaining its place as an exemplar of
participatory democracy in South Asia.

Sincerely,
1. Akram Khan, London
2. Amar Kanwar, New Delhi
3. Amitav Ghosh, Goa
4. Anish Kapoor, London
5. Aparna Sen, Kolkata
6. Arundhati Roy, New Delhi
7. Ashok Vajpeyi, New Delhi
8. Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Kolkata
9. Dayanita Singh, New Delhi
10. Ina Puri, Kolkata
11. Jayadeva Uyangoda, Colombo
12. Kanak Mani Dixit, Kathmandu
13. Laila Tyabji, New Delhi;
14. Manjushree Thapa, Toronto
15. Mohammed Hanif, Karachi
16. Moushumi Bhowmik, Kolkata
17. Nandita Das, Kolkata
18. Nimalka Fernando, Colombo
19. Patricia Mukhim, Shillong
20. Pooja Sood, New Delhi
21. Rachana Singh, New Delhi
22. Raghu Rai, New Delhi
23. Rajdeep Sardesai, New Delhi
24. Ramchandra Guha, Bangalore
25. Romila Thapar, New Delhi
26. Salima Hashmi, Lahore
27. Sanjay Kak, New Delhi
28. Sanjoy Hazarika, Shillong
29. Sankha Ghosh, Kolkata
30. Shabana Azmi, Mumbai
31. Sushila Karki, Kathmandu
32. Vijay Prashad, New Delhi
33. Vikram Seth, New Delhi
34. Vrinda Grover, New Delhi

Tough Girls in a Rough Game: Normalizing public discussion of ‘She things’ in Bangladesh — Nazia Hussein

Guest post by NAZIA HUSSEIN

On 28- 29 May, 2015 the play titled It’s a She Thing was first staged in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Inspired by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, eleven young Bangladeshi women decided to develop a local adaptation with their own accounts of sexual, aesthetic, psychological and emotional experiences of being a woman. Many of the stories were written by the performers themselves while some were taken from Naripokkho, a nationwide women’s advocacy organization. Continue reading Tough Girls in a Rough Game: Normalizing public discussion of ‘She things’ in Bangladesh — Nazia Hussein

And then they came for Oyasiqur Rahman Babu !

Courtesy : m.bangladeshtime.com

….It is not the young who are writing obituaries for the old,…I have seen the blood shed by so many young people steadily mounting up until now I am submerged and cannot breathe. All I can do is take up my pen and write a few articles, as if to make a small hole in the mud through which I can draw a few more wretched breaths. What sort of world is this ? The night is so long, the way so long….

( Lu Xun, Written for the Sake of Forgetting, P 234, Selected Works of Lu Xun, Vol III, Beijing)

Md Oyasiqur Rahman Babu , aged 27 years is dead. A travel agency executive by profession and a secular blogger by passion he was killed by radical Islamists in Tejgaon, Dhaka when he was going to office in Motijheel. The three assailants – who did not personally know each other – met just for planning the murder and then executed it with military precision.

Thanks to the courage exhibited by trans genders living nearby who caught hold of these murderers while the locals who watched the act before their eyes just dithered to move. Zikrullah, a student of Hefazat-e-Islam’s Hathazari Madrasa in Chittagong, and Ariful, student of Mirpur Darul Uloom Madrasa – were caught while the third member of the team, Abu Taher of Mirpur Darul Uloom, managed to flee the spot. The arrestees said they had killed Oyasiqur for writing on religious issues. It is a different matter that none of them had read his blog, they even did not know what blogging is, they  just executed the order issued by some mastermind. Continue reading And then they came for Oyasiqur Rahman Babu !

That Elusive Thing with Feathers – After the Killing of Avijit Roy: Abdul Bari

Guest Post by ABDUL BARI

Avijit Roy was brutally murdered in Dhaka a few days ago. His wife, after heroically trying to shield his person with her own body, now lies in an ICU bed, fighting for her life.  I was an infrequent visitor to his website, Muktomona. Visiting it was like running your tongue over that tooth you’re missing, or reflexively checking whether you had your keys with you in the morning. Its presence was a reminder that, no matter how circumscribed, the nation-state of Bangladesh still had men and women who liked to think unconventional thoughts; give expression to unpopular ideas; endeavored to stand, as it is, in the very edge of what the societal limit of what could be expressed, and then take another firm step, not back, but forward. Continue reading That Elusive Thing with Feathers – After the Killing of Avijit Roy: Abdul Bari

Statement on David Bergman Case in Bangladesh: Concerned South Asian Journalists and Others

Guest Post. Statement by Concerned South Asian Journalists, Writers, Historians and Activists

We, the undersigned journalists, writers, historians and activists from South Asia,  are deeply concerned about the use of ‘contempt of court’ law to curb freedom of expression. The conviction and sentencing on December 2, 2014, of Dhaka-based journalist David Bergman by the International Crimes Tribunal 2 on charges of “contempt of court” for citing published research on killings during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, is a serious set-back to Bangladesh’s commitment to free speech and independent scholarship.

At the outset, we reiterate our belief that those responsible for genocide and international crimes during the Liberation War must be prosecuted and punished through an open and transparent process.

Continue reading Statement on David Bergman Case in Bangladesh: Concerned South Asian Journalists and Others

Ghulam Azam : Death of a War Criminal

Wily strategists meet their nemesis in unexpected ways.

Ghulam Azam, the once all powerful leader of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, who died recently, might have brooded over this old dictum, in his last days in detention. It was only last year that he was sentenced to 90 years of imprisonment for his crimes against humanity which he committed when people of the then East Pakistan – todays Bangladesh – had risen up against the occupation army of Pakistan in the year 1971.

It was not surprising that the funeral of this man who evoked intense hatred and loathing from a large cross-section of the population of B’desh for his role during and after the liberation of the country witnessed protest demonstrations all over the country. There were even demands that his body be sent to Pakistan for final rites and should not be buried here.

“The janaza (funeral prayer) of a war criminal can never be held at the national mosque,”

Ziaul Hasan, chairman of Bangladesh Sommilito Islami Jote, an alliance of progressive Islamic parties, said at a human chain near the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque where Azam’s body was taken for funeral prayers. (The Telegraph, 27 th Oct 2014). Continue reading Ghulam Azam : Death of a War Criminal

A tale of two passports, the year 1979, and walking to India: Fawzia Naqvi

Guest Post by Fawzia Naqvi

For the first time Pakistan’s elected President has completed his full five-year term and has willingly stepped down to transfer power to another elected President, a herculean achievement for a country with chronic dictatoritus.  The people of Pakistan must be congratulated for ensuring that democracy becomes an enduring grace and not just a good idea in some unforeseeable future.  So while there is earsplitting cacophony of debate and disagreement on virtually all issues, there is near unanimous political consensus that the army should remain in the barracks and that there should be peace with India. The time is now. And Pakistanis have accomplished this in an era when Pakistan is suffering its worst hellish nightmare of daily bombings and killings by terrorists, and a loss of over 40,000 of its own citizens in the last decade or so.  Pakistan teeters on the precipice of a very dark abyss, and has been inching ever closer to this dangerous edge for the last 34 years if not more. The first disturbing sign which I can remember was when the state institutionalized bigotry by officially declaring the Ahmadi community non-Muslim in 1974, opening up a hornets nest of discrimination, violence and unequal citizenship.  A tragic disaster, and fatal capitulation to right wing elements, by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. No one is really safe in today’s Pakistan but clearly those less safe, those hunted and killed are the Shias, the Christians, the Ahmadis and the Hindus. Those doing the killings have given insidiousness to the meaning of “the land of the pure.”

Continue reading A tale of two passports, the year 1979, and walking to India: Fawzia Naqvi