Mukti

The choice is clear

Posted in Uncategorized by jrahman on December 29, 2018

K Anis Ahmed’s New York Times op ed is half-right, and therefore is all wrong. Bangladesh indeed does face a choice, and on one side stands authoritarianism.  The other side, however, is not extremism as he alleges.  On 30 Dec, Bangladesh faces a choice between continuing a brutal authoritarianism and the beginning of liberal democracy.  This blog stands for liberal democracy, and urges all its readers who are eligible to do so to go out and vote for Jatiya Oikya Front.

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Cometh the hour…

Posted in elections, music, politics, rock by jrahman on December 25, 2018

One common concern trolling among the Awami League supporters is regarding the leadership of the Jatiya Oikya Front — who is your leader, if you win, who will be your prime minister, who will be the real decision maker etc.  The idea of collective leadership, cabinet governance, the party room deciding who will be its parliamentary leader — these notions are simply alien to Bangladeshi political culture.  Meanwhile, in many seats, it’s hard if not impossible for many JOF candidates to present themselves before the voters — some are in jail, others are forced out of their areas by AL thugs, and violent interruption of electioneering is commonplace.

Does it matter?  Perhaps the public doesn’t mind that JOF is a collective effort.  Perhaps it’s all about the election symbol.  Perhaps the public sentiment is: We don’t need another hero / We don’t need to know the way home / All we want is life beyond the Thunderdome.

If people come out to vote, is state machinery strong enough to suppress the public will?  But will people come out to vote?

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Ghosts of Shapla Chattar

Posted in Bangladesh, history, Islamists, politics, Uncategorized by jrahman on November 4, 2018

What is the current status of Jamaat politics in Bangladesh?  The country’s largest Islamist party — at least in terms of parliamentary representation over the past few decades — is denied registration by the Election Commission.  So it can’t participate in the next election under its own name.  Its members can, of course, participate as independent candidates, or under some other party’s ticket.  In either case, they won’t be able to use the party’s traditional electoral symbol of scale.

But Jamaat is not officially banned.  The party still exists.  And is used as a cudgel by every Awami hack to beat up, literally all too often, any opposition voice.

Ironically, the legal status of Jamaat in today’s Bangladesh seems to be pretty much what it was under the bette noir of the current regime.  As Rumi Ahmed describes in detail, Jamaat was denied electoral registration when Ziaur Rahman restored multi-party politics.   ‘Zia rehabilitated Jamaat’ is one of the commonest lie in Bangladesh, and is so successful as a propaganda that even BNPwallahs don’t tend to refute it.  The fact of the matter is, to quote Rumi bhai:

Ziaur Rahman’s assessment was that after their direct opposition to Bangladesh in 1971 and their atrocities – Jamaat brand politics is too toxic and unsuitable for Bangladesh. He was also very aware of Jamaat’s organizational base and 5-10% vote base which he wanted to be used in the joint moderate IDL platform.

To elaborate on this, Zia was acutely aware of the risk of disenfranchising a part of the country that was capable of ruthless, organised violence.  In that regard, allowing a parliamentary party that explicitly drew its politics from Islam was an act of far-sighted statesmanship in 1978 — that is, before the Muslim world was rocked by Ayatollah Khomeini’s triumphant return to Tehran, Soviet tanks in Kabul, and the bloodbath in Mecca’s Grand Mosque.

Anyway, this post is not about Zia’s legacy.  Instead, I want to think through some issues around Islamist politics in Bangladesh as we head to what might be another politically charged winter.

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Qurbani style

Posted in Bollywood, culture, movies, music, society by jrahman on October 27, 2012

(Content may offend religious sensitivities).

The Qurbani Eid never seemed the real thing to me.  Fasting or not, it’s undeniable that Ramadan has an impact on the life of anyone remotely associated with Muslims.  So there is a month-long build up to the Eid.  That doesn’t happen with Qurbani.  And I am not into slaughtering and gluttony anyway.

And yet, sitting alone in a hotel room thousands of miles from friends and family, I find myself missing Qurbani.  Hence this post.

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The fifth anniversary post

Posted in blogging by jrahman on October 10, 2012

While I was involved with student magazines, it was only during grad school that I started toying with the idea of long form writing.  The first idea was a Clancy-style Desi thriller — a Muhajir general in Pakistan army trying to affect the ground realities in Kashmir, setting off a nuclear crisis, which is defused by a daring Indian Muslim academic with the help of a Bollywood heart throb with a secret past…  It was good six months before the Kargil War, which (along with the pressures of school) put paid to that story.

The next idea was a bit more serious — a group of Desi boys and girls growing up in a Sydney-like city, with its sun and surf, but also the ethnic suburbs, you know, the angst and the agony of the whole ABCD existenz.  Zadie Smith had just written a book on that theme, but hey, while she dedicated White Teeth to Jimmy Rahman, I was Jimmy Rahman.  That story was to end with a spectacular explosion in some iconic location.  The story was conceived prior to 9/11, and needless to say, it died on that day. 

That story upset many of my closest friends because, well, I didn’t portray them in charitable fashion.  I tried to redress it a few years later.  With my brother, I wrote about 70 pages of this.  This would have been the biggest, baddest Bollywood movie ever.  Sadly, life got in the way. 

Blogs are much easier to write.  Couple of hours maximum for a long piece, half an hour for shorter ones.  Write about whatever you fancy.  Don’t need to continue on the same subject.  That was the idea behind A-A-A.

As Bangladesh was sleepwalking into 1/11, I started following UV, where a blogger named Rumi caught my attention with his political analysis.  While everyone was convinced that Iajuddin Ahmed was going to rig the January 2007 election for BNP, Rumi Ahmed argued that in the ‘digital age’, it’s very difficult for an unpopular incumbent (like BNP was at that time) to pull off a rigged election against a determined opposition (like the Awami League could have been).  I agreed with Rumi bhai’s analysis, while he felt strongly enough about Ziaur Rahman to write to me personally about this post

Correspondence continued after 1/11, with analysis of what happened and what was to come. By April 2007, I was blogging in UV. That was also when DWC started.  By then, UV had decided to oppose the regime, and DWC heavily pushed the anti-1/11 agenda. 

While I contributed regularly to UV/DWC, I needed a space to post personal thoughts/ideas/ramblings, most of which were too half-baked for broader association.  A-A-A wasn’t really the place for it, not the least because the other bloggers there had little interest in Bangla politics.  So, five years ago this week, this blog was born.

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