Tag Archives: Dhaka

Letter from Shahbagh: Kalyani Menon-Sen

POWER_OF_LIGHT_orgGuest post by KALYANI MENON-SEN: Ever since I came back from Dhaka on 12th April this year, I have been opening my mailbox every morning with a feeling of excitement and anticipation, confident that there will be a mail from  Bangladesh with the latest news from Shahbagh. Just brief snippets – a slogan, a comment, a moment captured in a cellphone photo – but they are enough to bring back the   feeling of being there, feeling the excitement and the energy, sensing the emergence of a new kind of political space – chaotic and confused, yet alive with radical possibilities.

But last Sunday, 12th May, came a brief one-liner from Habib: “The police have dismantled Projonmo Chottor. Will keep you informed of further developments.”  Continue reading Letter from Shahbagh: Kalyani Menon-Sen

Hefazat-e-Jamaat, Nothing Else : On the Recent Developments in Bangladesh

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Talibaner aar ek naam – hefazat-e-Islam!” (Another name for Taliban, Hefazat-e-Islam)               

– Slogan raised at Shahbagh square

 

To such a degree has Religion fuelled conflict, complicated politics, retarded social development and impaired human relations across the world, that one is often tempted to propose that Religion is innately an enemy of Humanity, if not indeed of itself a crime against Humanity. Certainly it cannot be denied that Religion has proved again and again a spur, a motivator and a justification for the commission of some of the most horrifying crimes against Humanity, despite its fervent affirmations of peace. Let us, however, steer away from hyperbolic propositions and simply settle for this moderating moral imperative: that it is time that the world adopted a position that refuses to countenance Religion as an acceptable justification for, excuse or extenuation of – crimes against Humanity.

(Wole Soyinka, Source: http://www.granta.com/New-Writing/Religion-Against-Humanity)

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The above quote was part of a long intervention made by Wole Soyinka, Nigerian writer, recipient of the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature, and the first one from Africa, as part of UNESCO International High Panel, in a Conference on the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence.(21 September 2012) . The immediate context for Soyinka’s speech – was the desecration and destruction of centuries old tombs of Muslim saints in Timbuktu, Mali by radical Islamist group Ansar-al Dime which had ‘discovered’ them to be unIslamic. There were rumours  that the ‘invaluable library-treasures of Timbuktu may be next.’ on their agenda. Cautioning people about the fact that “[t]he science-fiction archetype of the mad scientist who craves to dominate the world has been replaced by the mad cleric who can only conceive of the world in his own image, proudly flaunting Bond’s 007 credentials – License to Kill.” he urged leaders to “..[u]nderstand this, and admit that no nation has any lack of its own dangerous loonies, be they known as Ansar-Dine of Mali, or Terry Jones of Florida, the earlier they will turn their attention to real issues truly deserving human priority. “

One was reminded of Soyinka’s words when one was witness to the march organised by the newly emergent group Hefazat-e-Islam ( can be loosely translated as ‘Defenders of Islam’) on the streets of Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh and the consequent mayhem that followed.  Continue reading Hefazat-e-Jamaat, Nothing Else : On the Recent Developments in Bangladesh

What a time to be in Dhaka! Kalyani Menon-Sen

This is a guest post by KALYANI MENON-SEN

I am in Dhaka right now.

Being here at this moment, in Shahbagh (Projonmo Chottor, as it is now called) and on the streets with activists from the Gonojagoron Mancha – young people, academics, veterans of the liberation movement, singers, artists, writers, professionals and thousands of ordinary people – is a unique and inspiring experience.

Battle for the soul of Bangladesh – Rally in February against the killing of Rajab Haider, the blogger who was a key figure in the protests against Islamists

The similarities and differences with the Delhi mobilisation are striking. Continue reading What a time to be in Dhaka! Kalyani Menon-Sen

Shahbagh: The Forest of Symbols: Naeem Mohaiemen

This is a guest post by NAEEM MOHAIEMEN

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© Syed Latif Hossain

There is a particular way of lensing mass movements, when we are observing from within immediate tactics. In a fast moving situation, with opponents and allies squared off, the first thing to shrink is the space for internal critique. Professor Azfar Hussain uses the term “critical solidarity” for his approach to Shahbagh. A critique that seeks to help the movement, but also a critique some are not ready to hear yet.

For the last sixteen days, Bangladesh has been in an intense new political phase. The ground has shifted and been recast by the scale of the Shahbagh movement. The flash point was the sentencing of the “Butcher of Mirpur” (a war criminal who collaborated with the Pakistan army in 1971). But, by now, the demands have expanded to a call for a ban on the main Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, or even Islamist politics altogether. Older leftist thinkers like Badruddin Umar are daring to ask questions of the hallowed place of “state religion” in the constitution. Younger bloggers are urging all to make it clear that the movement is about war criminals, not religion. But of course, with war criminals conflated with the Jamaat-e-Islami, and that party eager to present themselves as standing for “Islam,” category errors will happen. Continue reading Shahbagh: The Forest of Symbols: Naeem Mohaiemen