A few old men

Posted in Bangladesh, democracy, elections, history, politics, Uncategorized by jrahman on December 4, 2018

A corrupt, selfish elite rules over you, an elite in cahoots with foreigners, to whom the nation’s assets and future is being sold; and the lying media and rootless intellectuals stop you from seeing the truth; and yet, you sense the truth, that’s why you flock to the leader; even as the enemies of the people demonise him for not echoing their sophistry, you feel he tells it as it is — that he will kick the elite out, drain the swamp, lock the corrupt up, kill the criminals, and fix what ails the country; and make no mistake, it’s not hard to fix things, it’s just the knavery and perfidy of corrupt elite that need to be rooted out, and the leader will do just that; and he has proved it, hasn’t he, in his remarkable career as (business tycoon or mayor or army officer or whatever); he will make the country great, because he is truly of the country, like you are, and unlike those footloose elite who will flee the land with their ill gotten wealth if things get tough.

In recent years, variations of the above have reverberated from Washington DC to New Delhi, Warsaw to Brasilia, and Istanbul to Manila.  And politics around the world has been shaken.  There appears to be one exception — there doesn’t appear to be a Bangladeshi strongman on the scene.

There might have been.  After all, charges of corruption and ‘selling the country to foreigners’ can be laid quite easily against the current regime in Dhaka.  And historically, Bangladeshis have proved as susceptible to the cult of the leader as any other people.  So there might well have been a would be strongman leading the opposition.

Curiously, as Sherlock Holmes might have said, strongman in Bangladeshi politics is a dog that didn’t bark.


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Liberty or death

Posted in history by jrahman on December 5, 2011

Earlier this year, Pakistani nuclear black marketeer AQ Khan created a bit of a storm over his observation that ‘the purpose of a nuclear weapon is to deter aggressions, such as the ones Pakistan faced in 1971’ — that’s my translation of what he says in the video below, Urdu is a foreign language to me and I’m happy to be corrected).

The cyberspace is, of course, as close to a free speech utopia as we can get.  Notice the hilarious (to me, at least) ape-like chest-thumping of the person who posted the video.  That vulgar Pakistani nationalism was matched by equally crude Bangladeshi (and I suspect Indian, haven’t checked) exercise of comparative phallic measurements.  In the process, sadly, an interesting discussion was missed.

What follows over the fold is an attempt at that discussion.


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Lest we forget

Posted in history by jrahman on November 21, 2011

Throughout the year, Bangladeshis have been marking the 40th anniversary of freedom.  I’ve been posting articles from the now defunct Far Eastern Economic Review in UV — these articles are the closest to ‘liveblogs’ of Bangladesh’s Liberation War.

On this day 40 years ago, that struggle entered its final stage when Mukti Bahini, with the support of Indian artillery and air power, attacked Pakistani positions in several parts of the occupied country in a co-ordinated manner.  That’s why 21 November is commemorated as the Armed Forces Day in Bangladesh. 

To mark the 40th anniversary of the day, and to pay homage to the freedom fighters, over the fold is a documentary titled Major Khaled’s War that aired in British TV in the summer of 1971.


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এই গান থামার নয়

Posted in history, movies, music, people by jrahman on August 13, 2011

For Tareque Masud.

(Updated: 14 August 4.30pm BDT).

It’s been over 24 hours.  Still coming to grips with it.  Halfway through the last decade, when Al Badr commanders were cabinet ministers and Islamists threatened every ounce of creativity, progressive artists/activists used to joke grimly that anyone could meet a ghastly, violent death anytime.  I don’t know how to vent against the state-supported killers of today.

These are the days when I feel like giving up, like a brother who said in desperation, ‘nothing good will ever last in this cursed country’.  And then I tell myself, this is still the country that we cannot give up on.

Many of us in our mid-30s watched the Liberation War for the first time in our life through Masud’s camera.  Masud is gone.  But the camera, and the vision of freedom, is still there.

এই মুক্তির গান থামার নয় — these songs of freedom are not for stopping.

May they be our redemption.

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Once upon a time in Dacca — back to basics

Posted in fantasy, movies by jrahman on March 31, 2011

If it’s not obvious from my writing, I like movies.  I don’t think there is any movie on 1971 that one can call a classic.  And there isn’t a single movie that captures the war element of 1971. 

Inspired by a lot of Tarantino, Leone and the like, back in 2009 I thought about a storyline to redress this.  After the whole Meherjaan fiasco, I am now going back to the drawing board. 

No, I am not doing so because I was imagining some complicated and implausible ‘counter-narrative’ that would make me a target of overzealous Bangla bloggers.  Rather, as Naeem Mohaiemen points out, Meherjaan packs many subplots: the closeted possible lesbian, the last Muslim quasi-feudal, the feisty coquette, the leftist radical — it seemed as if Rubaiyat Hossain wanted to have everything she read/heard/thought on the subject in the two hours.  And it occurs to me that I have been guilty of precisely the same sin. 

So, back to basics it will be.  Over the fold, for record, my initial idea.  Two posts on this are here and here.


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Islamic secularism

Posted in culture, history, politics, Rights, society by jrahman on January 15, 2011

(This piece was originally posted in Kafila on 11 January.  Thanks Naeem for the poster).

Bangladesh will mark its 40th year of independence in 2011.  The celebrations have already begun, and will continue until next December.  The TV channels are already playing patriotic tunes.  One such tune is Shona shona shona.  The song says the land, mati, of Bangladesh is better than gold, and under this land sleeps many heroes: Rafiq, Shafiq, Barkat, Titu Mir and Isa Khan.

Who are these heroes?  Rafiq, Shafiq and Barkat were killed by the Pakistani authorities during the language uprising of 1952 — a milestone moment in Bangladesh’s nationalism. Titu Mir defied the East India Company and organised a peasant revolt in the 19th century. Isa Khan was a Bengali chieftain who resisted the Mughals in the 16th century.

Notice how all of these heroes are Bengali Muslim men?


On the trial

Posted in history, politics, Rights by jrahman on July 7, 2010

By the trial, I mean the trial against those alleged to have committed crimes against humanity in 1971 — though this clarification should be redundant to anyone following Bangladesh, as if there can be any other trial?

In recent weeks, I have been asked by a number of people whose opinion I value dearly to state clearly my views on the trial.  The shortest answer is, of course, with no equivocation whatsoever, that I am for trial.

But it’s a bit more complicated than that — and the longer answer, taking into account these nuances, is over the fold.


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Once upon a time in Dacca 2

Posted in fantasy by jrahman on December 16, 2009

Recap: we are making a war movie largely set in the occupied Dacca of 1971; the opening chapter — ‘… strike terror in their hearts…’ — is in Major Khaled Mosharraf’s headquarter; the second chapter — রুখতে হবে জাতীয়তাবাদের ফাঁকা বুলি — is set in the heady days of March, focussing on Babul Chowdhury, a young radical teacher of DU.

This post lays out the opening scene, and then discusses the third chapter.


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