August 27, 2008

You say "goodbye" and I say "I'm moving to Wordpress"

Yes. The Recent Comments widget's umpteenth breakdown was the final straw. Therefore, I humbly ask my 16 readers to redirect their appetite for my sarcasm and rage to the new site.


Blogger... we'll always have Dhaka.

August 19, 2008

Killing Bangladeshis

(This post is rated R for violence and strong language)

If, like most Bangladeshis of all political hues, you are completely invested in the worldview of Indians and Pakistanis, you will not be able to follow the line I am about to draw. If you are too busy licking up the ideological crumbs from the tables at Delhi, Islamabad or Riyadh, then you will deplore my “tasteless comments”. On the other hand, if you are a self-respecting Bangladeshi, whose first priority is the preservation of Bangladeshi lives, you might still be offended but you will see where I’m coming from.

Two things happened the past few weeks. Firstly, a freedom fighter was humiliated at a Jamaat-sponsored “Freedom Fighter’s” convention. Secondly, around 4-5 Bangladeshis were killed by the Indian border guards, who carry the very deceptive title of “Border Security Force”(BSF).

These two events are not unrelated.

The first event underscores once again our complete, callous lack of willingness to try those who killed Bangladeshi citizens – rich, poor, Hindus, Muslims, civilians and armed forces personnel – between 25th March 1971 and January 10th 1972. This sends a signal to the rest of the world that Bangladeshi life is cheap, that killing Bangladeshis is an action without consequences. As a result, when they need to or feel like it, the rest of the world indulges in this murderous little exercise. Thus our migrant workers are fucked with on a regular basis by foreign governments everywhere. But more relevant to the matter at hand, the BSF guns down Bangladeshis at will, knowing full well that the only consequence they have to face is some hot air. Lip service without action. Hot air is the only thing Bangladeshis know how to dish out.

We need to ensure that killing Bangladeshis – at the centre, the border or outside – by anyone becomes a very, very, very costly venture.

And what better way to start than by trying the murderers and rapists of 1971? I have one very bloody, absolutely essential and absolutely un-Islamic suggestion: execute all collaborators found guilty of murder, take their dead bodies to the most volatile border areas and leave them hanging there with a small note (in all 23 official languages of India) stating precisely what their crime was and why their dead bodies are hanging there.

No, I don’t think that is going to stop the BSF shooting, but it will let those fuckers know exactly what we do to those who kill our people.

Whew. Enough about that. On the margins of each event are little points of interest I wish to touch upon.

Among the participants at the Jamaat-sponsored “Freedom Fighters” Convention were one Mr. Mahmudur Rahman and Mr. Rezwan Siddiky, both columnists for Naya Diganta. That speaks volumes. (Mr. Mahmudur Rahman, should you choose to sue me, please note I am implying that you are a piece of shit who does not understand the very meaning of the word “sovereignty” that he uses in every other op-ed piece, not a Rajakar.)

But my focus is more on Rezwan Siddiky. Last time I was in the country, I read an article on foreign policy by Mr. Siddiky, and almost threw up. He was bemoaning the current government’s perceived alignment with India (which I myself am not too fond of). But what induced vomit was his criticism of the current government for not completing the sale of Rupali Bank to a Saudi prince (which I consider a security risk).

According to Mr. Siddiky, “Saudi Arabia has always been our friend through thick and thin. They have been for a long time.” Even if this wasn’t written 3 days before March 26th, it would beg the question, “Where were the Saudis during 1971”? Unless of course Mr. Siddiky doesn’t think that 1971 fits his definition of “বিপদ-আপদ”.

Sometimes, spotting a Jamaati from a mile away is as easy as smelling piss at the stadium during lunch on day 4 of a test match.

All I wish to do by way of this little dot-connecting exercise is illustrate where Jamaat’s clout comes from. Maybe this gives us an inkling as to what keeps these lovely, “furry” people out of jail. Also, a clue as to why Jamaatis are ready to denounce “Western” ways of capitalism, liberalism, over-consumption etc. but never the environmental degradation that comes from fossil fuel over-use. Just something to think about.

I’ll conclude by taking a moment to remind myself and readers that all those killed that week were people like you and me: they had parents, they had loved ones, moments in their lives filled with unexplainable joy, moments spent just staring at space over tea and moments when they despaired of doing anything with life. They lived far away from the glittering lights of Dhaka city, all of them trying to put food on (perhaps non-existent) tables, some in the uniform of the Bangladesh Rifles and some without. They were all born in this green land, and born with Hope, which this land quickly snuffs out.

Is it then too much to ask the government, the media and Dhakabashis to make as much noise for those of its fallen citizens out of uniform as it does for those who wear the armed forces’ clothing? The reaction and coverage of the death of civilians and armed forces personnel deserve equal force. Note: equal.

Daily Star Coverage of the BDR personnel killing:

Front page day 1


1 of 3 articles on 20th July

Daily Star Coverage of a cattle trader’s killing

Gulf Times recap of the week says 4 civilians

BSF gunning down their own

August 07, 2008

Various stuff

Unfortunately, as many of you have figured out, my internet access is very limited at the moment and my time to blog is very limited indeed. So posts like this will unfortunately be the norm rather than the exception, about items that are of interest to me, but that I don’t have time to deal with at length.

Whither Central Bank Independence?

If a democratic polity hinges on an independent judiciary, then a free, prosperous economy hinges on an independent Central Bank, one that is supposed to look after the economy as a whole and not after the government’s fiscal interest.

Among bloggers, I think Saif@Addafication (whose lack of posts is a far greater loss to the Bangladeshi blogosphere than my current sojourn, but that’s another story) was the only one to have noticed it and asked us to keep an eye on it. Taking a cue from that post, I did try my best. Basically the Central Bank kept telling the commercial banks that their spread (difference between lending and deposit rates) were too high. Now that is basically the equivalent of the Potato-Eaters going around telling rice merchants that they are making too much profit.

Theoretically spreads/profits reflect the level of risk associated with any venture, and yes, in the real world that is not always the case. But while 99% of the population is dependent on the rice trade, how many are affected by the “spread”? Obviously there was something else at work here. Some of my friends mentioned that the big borrowers had gotten to Bangladesh Bank so they could refinance the loans they had taken out for bad investments.

Then the budget was announced and another angle came out. The government was going to be a big borrower this coming fiscal year. So why not pressure them to get the spread down and free up tax-money to spend towards other, worthier causes (say for instance, higher wages for civil servants? Trust me: the savings aren’t coming back to the people’s pockets through tax cuts or rebates!). Central Bank independence? There is none and with good reason. Only a capitalist pig, IMF-driven, seditious, unpatriotic and possibly yaba-smokin’ Indian Agent like me could want it.

Waiting for the Star (with pre-emptive apologies from the tone-deaf)

Just a small note to readers that it has been a month and a half since we were privileged to engage in this space, Mr. Zafar Sobhan, the Assistant Editor of the Daily Star in charge of the Op-Ed page and Forum. Mr. Sobhan had suggested that I or some other reader should pen a piece refuting the lick-spittle propaganda piece by one Abdul “we-are-wallowing-in-press-freedom-you-ingrates” Hannan. To which my suggestion was that they should either get a professional journalist to do it or re-publish Rahnuma Ahmed’s op-ed on the matter. Which may or may not have been fair, but I’ll leave that up to my readers to decide. I will just mention that in the month and a half since, they have failed to do either. In that month and a half the op-ed page carried a piece on the prospects of World Government (honestly, I’m laughing out loud as I write this, even though I know this isn’t funny… but World Government?) In that month and a half, the irrelevant coverage of the US elections continued on the Op-Ed page instead of the International Page where it belongs. Truly the Daily Star and I, a BANGLADESHI citizen, share different priorities at this point.


Transit, gas blocks, terrorism. Those are some pretty heavy issues to talk about with an allegedly interim government. India’s jaundiced views of BNP and their lack of diplomatic engagement with a democratically elected (if noxious, but that’s OUR call to make) BNP government are well known. With that in mind, India’s willingness to engage with an undemocratic government over some of the key issues in our bilateral relations really sends all the right signals to Bangladeshis. Lets just say that I, for one, will be a bit less patient when I hear my Indian friends or their politicians drone on about their lofty democratic ideals vis a vis their Evil Twin. It was never Gandhi’s India. Now it seems that it is not even Nehru’s India anymore. This is the post-Emergency, “Emerging Markets” India. USA-lite the South Asian version. Not good for us. Not good for friendly relations in the long term. On a side note, the most important issue – water – doesn’t seem to be on the agenda according to the reports I’ve seen.
(Since I started writing this, there have been more killings of Bangladeshis by the Indian Border Security Force. A separate post on that is forthcoming. Yes, within the week!)

Nizami gets bail

How does he do it? How does Jamaat do it? What magical powers do they have in an independent Bangladesh that they didn’t have in occupied Bangladesh in 1971? How do they manage to walk between the raindrops when it’s pouring like an unforgiving আষাঢ় day?
And how do the Utterly, Unquestioningly Patriotic Sector live with this outcome? Jyoti bhai tells me that Jamaat expressed disappointment at its own lack of following inside the Patriots’ Club. If so, then why are we seeing this? Are the hands of Most Disciplined Force tied?

Honestly, some answers would be good. My philosophy has always been to follow the money/arms trail. Who funds Jamaat? Not from the powerless inside, but from the powerful outside. Maybe that’s where we should be looking for answers.

I would like to end by mentioning a small, unnoticed punch to the nose of all anti-Hindu bigots out there. Alok Kapali’s century may have gone in vain, but it proves once again – if further proof were needed – where the loyalties of Hindu Bangladeshis lie. If only bigots relied on proof…

August 01, 2008

Where’s Waldo?

[Unfortunately, as many of you have figured out, my internet access is very limited at the moment and my time to blog is very limited indeed. So posts like this will unfortunately be the norm rather than the exception, about items that are of interest to me, but that I don’t have time to deal with at length. ]

A few months ago, you couldn’t visit a newspaper’s website or read a story without coming across Akbar Ali Khan, the bespectacled former advisor and current chairman of the Regulatory Reforms Commission. Indeed, he was starting to make pronouncements very close to what political parties were saying and that must have been terribly uncomfortable for this government. Indeed, what is the state of the RRC at the moment? Are we still keeping up that pretense of reform?

(Since I began writing this, there has been a news item that Mr. Khan has just returned from the U.S. after medical treatment. I still feel that this was a move to sideline/discipline him and would look out for any change in tune if/when he returns to the talk-show circuit. Reader help (all 5 of you!) in this is most welcome.)