This is a guest post by Navine Murshid The grief surrounding the collapse is unimaginable with more than 500 dead and hudrends still missing. It is clear that the accident was a culmination of the alignment of corruption, greed, inefficiency, and a bid to cut costs, at every level from acquiring lands through illegal means, using sub-standard materials for construction, and forcing workers to work despite life-threatening risks, to foreign buyers who show little regard for human life. It is clear too that the wealthy elite with political connections have capitalized on the textile industry by exploiting the poor; it reveals the evils of capitalism where the bid to minimize costs have led to the complete disregard for human lives, perpetuating the “race to the bottom.”
Thousands of RMG workers have gone on strike and taken to the streets to demand justice for what has happened and to demand changes in working conditions. Many have demonstrated in front of the BGMEA office. On the occasion of May Day, different groups came forward to support the working class’ struggle for a work environment that is safe and well-equipped for emergency situations and a justice system that actually does them justice. Indeed, such support and solidarity with workers can end these “murders.”
The relevance of Shahbag
Shahbag’s main contribution to the political culture in Bangladesh, arguably, has been to empower people, particularly urban youth, to speak up and realize that even ordinary people can make a difference when they unite; that they do not need political patronage to voice their demands and dissatisfaction. The outpouring of support in the wake of the Savar disaster can be attributed to the understanding of “taking back the nation” that Shahbag had instilled in people to encourage them to be active citizens instead of waiting for the state to take action.
The Savar disaster reveals some key points of convergence between the interests of Shahbag activists and the working classes.
The New Socialist Initiative (NSI), Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA), Nishant, Anhad, Krantikari Lok Adhikar Sangathan and the Stree Mukti Sangathan have put out this statement in advance of the demonstration tomorrow (9 April) 2 pm before the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi.
The neighbouring country of Bangladesh is going through a new churning. Hundreds and thousands of people have hit the streets of Dhaka, demanding strict punitive action against ‘war criminals’ and their organisations, who forty-two years ago—at the time of the liberation struggle/war of the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)—colluded with the Pakistan army and committed untold acts of atrocities on the general public.
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.
This is a guest post by Bangladeshi commentator JYOTI REHMAN: Delwar Hossain Sayedee, an Islamic preacher and a senior leader of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh, the country’s largest Islam-pasand party, was sentenced to death on 28 February for war crimes committed during the 1971 Liberation War. Within hours, Jamaat cadres and activists clashed violently with police and law enforcement agencies. Scores have been killed in some of the worst political violence the country has experienced in recent years.
Five other senior Jamaat leaders, including its current and former chiefs, are being prosecuted for war crimes committed in 1971. Another leader was sentenced to life imprisonment on 5 February. That sentence triggered what has come to be called the Shahbag Awakening—a month of largely peaceful gathering of tens of thousands of people in the middle of Dhaka. A key demand of the largely government-supported Awakening is to ban Jamaat. Continue reading The Jamaat factor in Bangladesh politics: Jyoti Rehman→
In the early hours of Saturday morning, a secret execution was carried out by the Indian government. Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri, was put to death for his alleged involvement in the 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament. Afzal’s family in Kashmir were cruelly denied a last visitation. They were informed that the Indian President had rejected his mercy petition, and of his imminent execution, by mail—the letter reached Afzal’s wife Tabassum two days after he was executed and buried in an unmarked grave inside Tihar Jail.
Meanwhile, across the border in Bangladesh, hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis from all walks of life have occupied Shahbag Square near Dhaka University, outraged that a notorious war criminal might walk free after having been spared the death penalty by the Bangladeshi International War Crimes Tribunal. Abdul Quader Mollah, leader of the right-wing Islamist party Jamaat-i-Islami, and convicted of multiple counts of rape, torture and murder, was photographed flashing a victory sign as he left the court. Continue reading Lessons from Delhi and Dhaka: Nagesh Rao and Navine Murshid→