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→
Guest Post by Irfanul Rahman Rafin, translated from Bengali
[ Kafila normally does not carry poetry. But sometimes we make an exception, and we are making one in the case of this tribute by Irfanul Rahman Rafin, dedicated to Rafida Ahmed Banna, Bangladeshi blogger and partner of Avijit Roy, the Bangladeshi-American writer and blogger who was attacked and killed by Islamist thugs while the couple were on their way back from the Dhaka Book Fair. Roy wrote regularly on the Bangla blog Mukto Mona, and had written several books about religious belief, doubt, homosexuality and other issues. He had recieved death threats from Islamist groups in Bangladesh in the recent past. Roy is not the only blogger, writer and intellectual to have been attacked in this way. Last year, Ahmed Rajib Haider, another blogger opposed to Islamic fundamentalism, was hacked to death in February by a gang of Islamist thugs.
Hundreds of people have come out in protest against the killing of Avijit Roy in Dhaka. The killings of Avijit Roy and Rajib Haider mirror the assasinations of Narendra Dabholkar, and only recently, of Govind Pansare, in India by Hindu Fundamentalist thugs. ]
Sister Banna, listen
by Irfanur Rahman Rafin (translated from Bengali)
I don’t have the words to beg forgiveness
But something still has to be said
So I whisper in your ear sister Banna
Seven brothers still stand by Parul
I know some will say it was atheism
I will say he was child of my mother
We will see if they or Nazrul was right
Those who claim divinity to take life
Do not believe their prophecies
Those who play games with corpses
The war began with bullets and fire
Bringing white shrouds to each home
In this land nobody’s life has value
I know blood flows equally for all
But sister Banna listen to these words
Even the hardest heart cries out today
February 28, 2015
বন্যাদি তুমি শোনো
ক্ষমা চাইবার ভাষা নেই আজ কোনো
কিছু একটা তো বলতেই হয় তাই
কানে কানে বলি বন্যাদি তুমি শোনো
বোন পারুলের পাশে জেগে সাত ভাই
জানি কেউ কেউ বলবে সে নাস্তিক
আমি বলে দেবো সন্তান মোর মা’র
দ্যাখা যাবে তারা নাকি নজরুল ঠিক
খুন করে যারা নিয়ে নেয় দায়ভার
তুমি বিশ্বাস করো না ওদের বাণী
লাশ নিয়ে যারা পাশা খেলে অগোচরে
বুলেট আর আগুন নিয়ে যেই হানাহানি
সফেদ কাফন নিয়ে আসে ঘরে ঘরে
জীবনের দাম এই দেশে কারো নেই
কোনো রক্তই বেশি লাল নয় জানি
তবু বন্যাদি তুমি শোনো আজ এই
দেশে পাষাণেরও চোখ জুড়ে আছে পানি
In Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Petrucchio declares the noontime sun to be the moon: “I say it is the moon,” to test his wife’s loyalty and obedience. As long as she stands by her reason and asserts “I know it is the sun”, she continues to be a ‘shrew’. Only when she consents to ‘zehn ki loot’ (plunder of reason), when she agrees to subordinate her own reason to the whim and diktat of her husband, and deny the self-evident truth, does she achieve approval as a suitable wife.
We, the people of India, are being similarly tamed of our ‘shrewish’ behaviour, with propaganda and public shaming in TV studios accomplishing the ‘zehn ki loot’. It is a process that seeks to bully us into declaring that the sun is the moon, that night is day, that ‘khula jhooth’ (open lie) is in fact the only truth. Refuse to part with your reason, and you are chastised for ‘bad behaviour’.
I would like to revisit the #GovtVsNGO News Hour show on Times Now, on 17th February, as a particularly glaring instance (Activism or Anti-nationalism, Parts 1 and 2 )
The topic of the show was the Government of India’s decision to deplane a Greenpeace activist Priya Pillai from a London-bound flight, because she was planning to depose before British MPs about the violation of India’s forest rights laws by a British mining company, Essar, in Mahan in Madhya Pradesh.
Guest Post by Vasundhara Jairath and Bonojit Hussain
In the first of its kind in India, youth in Kochi launched a campaign called ‘Kiss of Love’ to challenge the moral policing of the Hindu Right. While that protest was attacked by right wing thugs and suppressed by the police, this form of protest has since spread to different parts of the country like Hyderabad, Bombay and Calcutta. Today, the ‘Kiss of Love’ protest was held at nowhere short of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) head office in New Delhi. A few individuals took the initiative and gave a call for this protest on Facebook with the title, ‘Sanghi Gunde Hoshiyar, Tere Samne Karenge Pyaar’ (Sanghi thugs beware, we will love in front you). Continue reading ‘Kiss of Love’ in Delhi, confronting the RSS: Vasundhara Jairath and Bonojit Hussain→
This January, in a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), the award-winning writer Jerry Pinto said something that sent most of us into a tizzy.
“We are sitting in the ‘Google’ Mughal Tent discussing how crucial the freedom of expression is for us writers,” Pinto said wringing his hands animatedly. “It’s the same Google that reads all our mails, encroaches on our privacy, and here, under its roof, we are discussing how we should feel free to say whatever we want without any fear.” The crowd was amused, and left with some food for thought. Would it have been possible to organize an eventas grand as the JLF, free for all, without Google’s help? I asked myself. The answer was a no. Google’s deep pockets couldn’t be ignored. Should I refrain from attending the fest just because of Google’s invasion of my privacy? The answer, after some thought, was again a no. Google monitoring my mails doesn’t affect my freedom of expression that I prize most as a writer.
Two weeks later, another literature festival has arrived, this time in New Delhi. Run by arguably India’s most revered newspaper, The Hindu’s Lit for Life is being held at the Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi, on 8th February after its successful three day stint at Chennai in mid-January. The guest-list is embellished with names of noted luminaries like the writers Rana Dasgupta, Sam Miller, Rahul Bhattacharya among others, the Olympian Mary Kom, and politicians Shazia Ilmi and Manish Tewari. The entry, like every other literary festival nowadays, is free. The beautifully designed logo is aptly shaped as the fountain pen, representing the craft that it celebrates. However there is something below the logo that disturbs me. It says, ‘Powered by VIT University.’ Continue reading Are you celebrating free speech, Mr. Lit Fest? Harsh Snehanshu→
NEERJA DASANI on the Kabir Kala Manch, their life, art and the constant hurdles set before them by the State. Previously published in Literary Review section of The Hindu on January 5, 2014.
The art of irony is something that the members of Kabir Kala Manch (KKM), who identify themselves not as a cultural troupe but as a political movement, are well-versed in. This could be because life for them has been a series of curious contradictions. Emerging from mohallas and bastis, their voices reverberated through the corridors of power, disturbing the slumber of those within. Finding democracy’s din too unsettling, its elected guardians branded KKM as anti-national. The resultant time spent either in jail or underground, strengthened their resolve instead of silencing them into submission.