Aug 30, 2012

Cover by Somor Mojumdar
1998 was 15 years ago. 1998 was the year I started university. Before that, I remember long bouts of load-shedding during important exams, or short 3-4 hours of having electricity, and walking around the dark neighborhood at night when studying by the emergency lamps became a headache. Before that I remember walking about 30 minutes to a friend's house to play cricket in the afternoons, whereas I wouldn't walk that same distance to school since school was closed for security reasons. It was the time of the BAL's non-cooperation movement to get 'caretaker government' system in place (which they announced unconstitutional this year). Before that I remember a movement to oust Ershad from his presidency and enjoyed the satiric cartoons that were in Unmad and Cartoon.

As a teen in 1998, I was lightly aware of politics as it existed and it didn't really affect me. I wasn't a taxpayer or a voter. Now, is a different story.

In 1998, Humayun Azad (হুমায়ুন আজাদ) wrote a book titled Politicians (রাজনীতিবিদগণ), which as I read, I see that the bitterness I feel towards the idiosyncrasies I see in politics today, are nothing compared to what he penned down there. The book is satiric too, with fictitious names used to draw real characters and a landscape that reflects the continuing reality of politics in Bangladesh.

Here's what it reads like (going over a to-do list for politicians before an election):

নিম্নলিখিত জিনিসগুলি তাগো দ্যাখতে হইবো, নাইলে চলবো না:

(১) ক্যাডারভাইরা ঠিক আছে কি না, তাগো যন্ত্রপাতি ঠিক আছে কি না, তাগো আরো যন্ত্রপাতি লাগবো কি না, আরো নতুন ক্যাডারভাই লাগবো কি না; ক্যাডারভাইরা অন্য রাজবংশে চইল্যা যাইতে চাইছে কি না- এইটা খারাপ লক্ষণ, এমুন হইলে বোঝতে হইবো ওই রাজবংশই ক্ষেমতায় আসবো; খালি ঢাকা শহরের ক্যাডারভাইদের ঠিক রাখলে চলবোনা, দ্যাশ-এর প্রত্যেইক গ্রাম, প্রত্যেইক ইউনিয়ন, প্রত্যেইক থানার ক্যাডারভাইদের ঠিক রাকতে হইবো; ক্যাডারভাইরা দ্যাশের মূলশক্তি;
(২) ইনভার্সিটির হলগুলি দখলে আছে কি না; ইনভারসিটি দখলে থাকলে আল্লাহর রহমতে দ্যাশ দখল করনে অসুবিধা হইবো না; ইনভারসিটিই বাংলাদেশ, এইটা দখল রাখতে হইবো; এইজইন্যে দুই চাইরটা লাশ পরলেও ক্ষতি নাই;
(৩) নিজেগো রাজবংশ হইতে সুবিধাবাদী রাজপুরুষরা অন্য রাজবংশে চ'লে যাইতেছে কি না, চ'লে যাওনের পথ খোজ্তেছে কি না এইটা দ্যাকতে হইবো;
(৪) অন্য রাজবংশ হইতে ভালো ক্যান্ডিডেট ভাগাইয়া আনন যায় কি না, কারে কারে ভাগাইয়া  আনলে লাব হইবো; কয়টা জেনারেল ব্রিগেডিয়ার মেজর কর্নেল দলে যোগ দিতে চাইছে, কয়টা সেক্রেটারি দলে আসতে চাইছে, কয়টা ব্যাংক ডিফল্টার যোগ দিতে চাইছে, অন্য দলের কয়টা প্রাক্তন মন্ত্রী এমপি মেয়র দলে যোগ দিতে চাইছে, কয়টা নামকরা রাজাকার দলে যোগ দিতে চাইছে, কয়টা রজাকার ভাগাইয়া আনন যাইবো, রাজাকারগো অবস্থা আইজকাইল ভালো;
(৫) কন্ত্রিবিউটাররা ঠিক মতো চান্দা দিতেছে কি না; কে কে চান্দা দেওন বন্ধ করছে, আর কে কে নতুন চান্দা দিতেছে; নতুন কন্ত্রিবিউটার আসলে বোঝতে হইবো দল এইবার জিতবো; চান্দা বেশি কইরা তোলতে হইবো, বেশি চান্দা পাইলে বোঝতে হইবো দল জিতবো;
(৬) দ্যাকতে হইবো ব্যাংক ডিফল্টারগুলি ঠিক আছে কি না; তারা মোটা ট্যাকা দিতেছে কি না, আর কয় কোটি কইরা তাগো থিকা তোলন যাইব; তারা কোন বংশের দিক ঝোকতেছে সেইটা দ্যাকতে হইবো, তারা যেই দিকে ঝোকবো সেই দিকই ক্ষেমতায় আসবো; দ্যাকতে হইবো তাগো কারখানায় ক্যাডারভাই পাঠাইতে হইব কি না;
(৭) ক্যান্ডিডেটরা কে কয় কোটি ট্যাকা দিতে পারবো সেইটা দ্যাকতে হইবো, স্মাগলার পাইলে বোঝতে হইব ভাল মালপানি হাতে আছে, পাচদশ কোটি খসায়তে কস্ট হইব না, তাগো ক্যান্ডিডেট করনই ভালো হইব; আর দ্যাকতে হইব তারা নির্বাচনরে অবাধ নিরপেক্ষ রাইখা ভোটার ভাগাইতে পারবো কি না;
(৮) ডিছি, ওছি, এছ্পি, টএনওগুলিরে ঠিক রাকতে হইবো; অরা ঠিক থাকলে অবাধে ভোটের বাক্স বোঝাই হইবো, নিরপেক্ষতা রক্ষা পাইবো;
(৯) আরও বিবিধ রকম জিনিশ দ্যাকতে হইবো, সময় বুইঝ্যা কাম করতে হইবো|

There are more passages that I feel strongly to share or put out there, and maybe I will. Through his satire he just paints a picture that makes much more sense than what these 'leaders' would like us to believe.

Posted on Thursday, August 30, 2012

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Aug 26, 2012

Diplomacy. The recipe for diplomacy has secrecy, disguised statements, or sweet nothings. As politics have evolved throughout the world, we've seen how dear they hold their right to secrecy.

In highly educated societies who have a certain level of consciousness and enlightenment, the population has been ascertained certain levels of access or guarantee of openness with regard to public or international policies the state establishes.  At least thats how I perceive how things are, in contrast to living here in Bangladesh, where the politicians word, not matter how far away from reality, is seemingly final and 'true'.

The contrast to everything as it stood came in the form of the Wikileaks/Assange affair. Before that we were able to get government documents out of the USA every 5 or 10 years, a provision by which let us know that the Nixon/Kissinger regime was against granting independence from Pakistan. That seemed like quite a gesture from the biggest or loudest proponent of democracy. Wikileaks however has taken off the tablecloth off of it and now we can see who are rubbing legs or kicking under there.

We saw the website and the founder Julian Assange come under fire not long after major news vendors started peddling articles with information from the leaks. The sites were being taken down and Assange charged with rape! Assange is now eagerly waiting for a way out of his stay at the Ecuador embassy in UK, but being careful still. The man has every reason to be careful, with fear that he might disappear and no one would leak that story.

Seeing these events turn out on my TV screen, I am pressed to believe once more, that politicians are just all alike. I wish I was a psychology major, because I would like nothing better than to study the psyche of these guys in whose hands we put our tax money and all the resources of our lands.

Related:
Assange Is A True Democrat: Chomsky
Assange Extradition Fact Sheet
UK 'withdraws threat' to Ecuador embassy

Posted on Sunday, August 26, 2012

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Aug 13, 2012

Martin Lindstrom has used this to describe our tendencies in the world wide web's social spheres. Described as such:
  • Wow: We see something that offends us, we’re shocked and outraged, and then, all fired up.
  • Pow: We take to email, Twitter, Tumblr, and text to vent our horror and dismay to all and sundry, and then, almost as soon as it began…
  • Ciao: We’re on to something newer, more interesting, and perhaps even more controversial.
The article was discussing the 2012 Olympics logo and the kind of reaction it received upon its unveiling. I find it a very interesting way to describe it, and I don't think we can deny this phenomenon.

Overall, its also a way life in Bangladesh seem to roll day-to-day, web or no-web, stark naked on the streets and on our newspapers. Issue after issue of newsparpers, episode after episode of talk shows and interviews, we were wowed, we powed, and we ciao-ed.

Posted on Monday, August 13, 2012

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Aug 9, 2012

Ahmed Zidan and his posse are my heroes! We have many migrant workers in the middle east, where they have suffered while trying to earn a better living. Employers who knew their money was giving them a better life probably used that excuse to not grant them rights in other areas. Work, take the money and go, don't complain about anything.

What these guys did was create a website and highlight human rights violations against migrant workers in the middle-east. Bravo!

What really shows their commitment in this area is the release of their website in Bangla, the language that these workers can access information in. Awesome X 3000. I thank these guys for their efforts and enlightened focus!

Source: http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,16150774,00.html#
The Website: http://bn.migrant-rights.org/
The Organization: http://www.mideastyouth.com/

Posted on Thursday, August 09, 2012

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Aug 7, 2012

I had lunch outside today, with a sneaking suspicion that the food was stale.

While we collectively run Dhaka to the dogs with our reckless styles of living, the developers - people who find/take/make* land and construct (as much as rise they can get) apartments - seem to be offering us a way out with their products. They'll say, for clean air, live in Bodhua City, or for your children's future, come to Apartment Dreams, etc.

*make land by filling up spaces where there were ponds, streams or channels of water.

Being the lunatic I am, I get infuriated by these. Now I have to buy clean air, clean pavements and buy into areas where people park properly (or so I assume).

As can be seen in the picture above, they are promising Safety and Security. I suppose we won't have to fear muggers, killers and the occasional bump and quarrel with other vehicles on the road while we live there!

Modhumoti Model Town - the name itself suggests that its a 'model' town! Model of Safety and Security. Meanwhile, I live in one model town already, and its not really clear what kind of a model they had in mind with the cars running on any side of the lane they wish and the bad roads.

The Modhumoti Model Town project is from Metro Makers, who BELA (Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association) sued recently. All developers are highly connected and you need a lot of luck to be able to sue them or have the police take any action against them. You also need to ensure you have protection from unknown assailants who are not tied to them. BELA is doing a courageous thing, and seems like the High Court has ruled against them!

Articles:

Modhumoti town in Amin Bazar illegal: SC

Advocate Iqbal Kabir Litan, a lawyer of Bela, yesterday told The Daily Star that the SC upheld the HC verdict on the grounds that the project authorities had been filling up Aminbazar sub-flood-flow zone, violating the Environment Conservation Act, Town Improvement Act and Rajuk rules, and a number of people had invested a lot of money for purchasing plots of the project.
- Daily Star



Posted on Tuesday, August 07, 2012

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Aug 1, 2012

Many people call her many names, but me, I don't go for the 'PM', to me she's QM... she is my, our - Queen Mother. Lately, she had visited our other Queen Mother - The Queen of England, and BBC was blessed with a chance to be graced by her pointing finger and excellent democratic constitutional vocabulary ~



মহাজননেত্রী জাগ্নাখোয়াবে দেখেছেন কোটি কোটি মানুষ মুকুট আর সিংহাসন মাথায় করে আসছে তাঁর বাড়ির দিকে, তারা খুঁজছে তাদের প্রাণপ্রিয় রাজকন্যাকে, এবং তাঁর মাথায় পরিয়ে দিচ্ছে মুকুট, নাচতে নাচতে তাঁকে বসাচ্ছে সিংহাসনে. আমরা বুঝতে পারি আগামী বছরগুলোতে বারবার বিদেশভ্রমণে তিনি ও তাঁরাই যাবেন.

রাজনীতিবিদগন (১৯৯৮)
হুমায়ুন আজাদ

  Full Transcript of the Interview
(The beginning of the transcript says its missing some parts. Those parts contained questions from Stephen Sackur about human rights violations, the murder of a labor activist and the disappearance of a political activitst. The reply from QM on the disappearance issue was in the form of another question - let me as you, how many people disappeared from the UK last year? Stephen, quite shocked or bemused, replied you mean political disappearances? I would have to say none! - of course, these are not exact words, but really close. God Save the Queen)

Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2012

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