The South Asianist Blog is excited to announce that Vol. 2 Issue 1 of The South Asianist has been published.
This Special Focus Issue (Vol 2., Issue 1) of The South Asianist is guest edited by Kenta Funahashi (Kyoto University) and Shinya Ishizaka (Kyoto University/National Institutes for the Humanities, Japan) and draws on research presented at the Japan-Edinburgh Workshop “Social Movements and the Subaltern in Postcolonial South Asia” held jointly by the Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Edinburgh and the scheme of programs, “Young Researcher Overseas Visits Program for Vitalizing Brain Circulation” (JSPS, Japan) and “Contemporary India Area Studies (INDAS)” (NIHU, Japan) on the 17th, October 2012 at the Reception Room in the McEwan Hall, the University of Edinburgh.
*Cover image: Young boys out and about celebrating their leader on Ambedkar’s birthday. Photo by Hugo Gorringe, April 2012. To view our latest issue please click on The South Asianist.
Once again, Bangladesh is bombed by a political crisis. Have I experienced it before? The crisis bit is (unfortunately) weaved into our fabric of existence. In the sense that this familiarity arises from being in the comfort zone of many a political quake, which makes these tremors feel as normal as a heartbeat. At the fag end of every government, comes a time when the opposition gets fed up of not being in power and prototypes of “absolutely corrupting” propagated by the use of “absolute power” is seen. Hartals (strikes) where the opposition calls for a halt the country as they protest in the streets, which is often violent to many degrees is a common phenomenon. We remain ensconced by the fear of getting caught amidst any of the confrontations. Business is difficult to conduct, supporters of the hartals are on the streets, booted policemen stomp the grounds trying to provide security while the corridors of power thinks confrontation, thus mixing the pre-Boishakh mugginess with the hot political stew. This is where the comfort zone arrives at the period.
The discomfort begins at the fact that the new age battles that we see brewing are more or less ideological. Previously, politics was just a two party skirmish. It has been suggested that the genesis of this crisis being ideological is equivalent to the core of the liberation war. This problem is divided amongst the activists in Shahbagh (see earlier article) who see justice through the hanging of war criminals and the Jamaat E Islami Party which has been threatening mayhem if the trials are not halted. In the last month minority Hindus have been attacked, in bouts not experienced since 1971. Other notions of violence in the form of arson, looting, hand and cocktail bombing has also taken place in the recent past. The Jamaat E Islami is in alliance with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party which is blamed by many to have restored war criminals into the state apparatus, let alone bringing to trials those who have committed atrocities. Amongst these forces is the government of Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Awami League and daughter of the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the political upholder of the Bengali values of the 1971 War. As these forces cause coalitions, the collusions seem to propel the projectile. Many have noted that the country is so divided it is at the brink of civil war.
Opinions and speculations are rampant across the country. The notion of Bengali Adda has in recent decades a new venue has been found within the television studios, where anyone from any profession (even students) are invited in to partake on casual, non-Lincolnic debates on matters relevant for the day, often sipping hot beverages. In a country that loves to talk politics, the talk shows are a big hit for everyone for lateral discussions. Of course the newspapers flash similar news and opinions pages are filled to the brim presenting wonderfully written articles in both English and Bangla.
The initial demand in Shahbagh took place calling for justice of the war crimes. As any other Bengali National, I too would like to see justice and talk about my grasp. The key demand of Shabagh movement is “Fashi” or hanging of all war criminals. The other demand is to ban the Jamaat. I understand that capital punishment might be required in Bangladesh, but the idea of it bothers my soul. On the other hand, why is hanging of a few perpetrators of genocide justice alone? The discussions and debates could take volumes and if you are interested I suggest visiting this page which links commendable articles which spawn discourses across the spectrum.
Rather on this page, I will take you through a guided photo tour of what I saw of Shahbagh. Let me guide you through the larger questions which were sparked and why some pictorial memories are even more pertinent. I am largely taken aback by the immense amount of symbolism which is clear from these pictures. One note of caution, I loathe taking photographs, simple because even calling my camera skills terrible would be an understatement; hence please excuse the quality of the pictures.
The following 4 pictures were taken in front of Charukala Instituteof Fine Arts also in Shahbagh Square. The road outside is blocked. Charukala is the symbol of art in the country as art students from there create depictions for every event. Shabagh square, even without the movement is the hang out spot of Charukala students who are always upto playing with colors and displaying it for the public and passersby; additionally any of the cultural events the Bengali New Years, Bengali Spring, etc are celebrated from that point which is also adjacent to Surhrwardhy Udyan. This time a different spring dawned and ingenuity of the feeling of this artsy strata (at the very least) towards Razakars is clear. This reasons for the awareness which was created.
The lyrics of this popular patriotic song is printed in the banner by young healthcare professionals and placed outside of the Bangabandhu hospital right at Shahbagh. The faceless effigies represent the demand once again. After looking at this last banner, I could remember another song wich comprises of this popular line “Koti pran ek shathe jegeche ondho raatre, notun shurjo uthar ei to shomoi” or “Ten million souls have risen together in the middle of the dark night, the new sun rises then.” I remember this due to the mass demand, but also the division in demand which causes the tension. Whichever sun rises, the Shahbagh demands will not go unnoticed.
Hats off to the activists for being so proactive in voicing their opinion. It is great to be part of this era. I regret not being in Dhaka at the time of the hype of the movement. I still have questions on this wave of nationalism and how it has grown to reinforce the strength of the country. One cannot help but remain ponder over how Bangladesh will fare from this point onwards.
As said at the beginning Bangladesh is in the middle of a crisis. How sad is it that the impunities have not been tried in the last 42 years? When one does cry for justice, the country falls into crisis. Justice is through advertisement of Fashi. I wonder if the paradoxes are part of the comfort zone.