6.12.14

The Rights of Nature Tribunal in Peru




In Lima over the past two days, in parallel to the UN climate summit, an interesting collecting of thinking and being has held a Rights of Nature Tribunal. Below is a statement from Vandana Shiva earlier this year.


'Official' Political Islam has failed to defend the rights of creation ( Huquq al Makhluqat ) and should take a long hard look at the the complex climatic scenario.




4.12.14

Bergman, Contemptgate and into the categories of the Bangladesh war dead

Dhaka based British journalist David Bergman has been found 'guilty' of contempt by a Bangladeshi court for contesting the figure of three million dead during the 1971 Bangladesh war [JUDGEMENT TEXT]. The legal grounds are  Byzantine, I would argue that the 'lesson' he is being given is for humiliating Bangladesh's judiciary and its mindless reproduction of the Bengali National mythology.

The judges are unfit to have an elevated position over 160 million souls, and pretty much deserve a good ribbing after having played a vital role in blowing probably the only chance Bangladesh was going to get to investigate the war and hold people to account, with key figures still alive. If you think about it, the judges have handed the government's political nemesis, the Jamaat-e-Islami a long term moral victory with these kangaroo trials, which their bleadership are likely to piss away on something trivial, neoliberal or both.

The Awami League government is faltering in step these days, bitchin' about the random US diplomats meeting with their deposed opposition, and doing a damage limitation exercise after a cabinet member accidentally let out what he really thought about Bangladesh's Muslims and their economic 'usefulness'.  A few days back, establishment court photographer Shahidul Alam complained that some of his Drik gallery staff were beaten up by government party cadres, without irony.

White and capital powers are always looking for a more convincing looking set of clients. The sins of the Awami League are documented and will not be used against them, but to negotiate against the people's interest to extract greater rent

The government probably going to try and deport Bergman to ease their path to judicially murder another Islamist bogeyman, this time the progressive Kamarrazzaman, in time for Victory day (soon to be Vengeance Day). There is no such thing as press freedom in Bangladesh, unless you are serving the government's will, then you can press and oppress what you like.

This moment does prompt one to reflect however, on the unjust continuing detention of Mahmudur Rahman, and why the establishment in Bangladesh is so scared of talking about how many people lost their lives in and around the Bangladesh War.
   

Bergman speaking outside court in Dhaka this week. Beside him is is wife Sara Hossein,  
a high profile barrister and BLAST campaigner.  Because its very relevant to how things work, 
I must add that Bergman's father in law is Kamal Hossein, an eminent barrister and 
Bangladesh's first Foreign Minister and constitution writer.  

Arrest of Amar Desh editor/owner Mahmudur Rahman in April 2013.
This followed months of intimidation for publishing revelations of collusion at the Tribunals,
and standing up to the fascistic Shahbag movement. The final straw for the government was
 his publication's giving voice to huge public revulsion at reckless anti Islamic provocations.
My way of resisting this illegitimate, tyrannical and hopeless government is to deepen the critical numeracy for which Bergman is being persecuted, and discuss numbers and ecology of violence issues further and more deeply. I disagree with Bergman's politics,laugh at his admission of confessions extracted under torture in his 1994 Channel 4 film, and am disgusted at his denial that the 24 dead he saw after the Shapla Chottor Massacre on May 6th, constituted evidence that the government had committed a massacre. However seeing how Al Jazeera journalist Nicolas Haque's family was threatened by ultranationalist for covering the trials, there might well be subsurface reasons, not bastardesque ones for the later.


Friendly fire or collateral damage?
The court has apparently given Bergman the choice of a token fine, or an opportunity to gain source material in a Bangladeshi prison over a week. This episode is surreal because  Bergman's white privileged, but flawed efforts have done a lot to render the trials possible and palatable to the white liberal left, not to mention the neocons.

What nobody has been able to do however, is to arrange things so that we might truly know all perspectives and experiences of the war year, robustly. 'Civil society' has always been intolerant of other perspectives, and the trial has been incompetent, murderous, collusive and entrenching of this tyranny.  I was against trials in these current historiographical circumstances.

Bergman, who maintains the best English language archive on the proceedings, has responded to the verdict here and here, while English PEN have jumped to his defense quite eloquently.   The court had problems three of his posts.

  1. His 11 November 2011 blog where he visited the honourless terrain of the origins of the 3 million war dead. 
  2. His 26 January 2013 blog where he analysis the in absentia judgement on Abul Kalam Azad, a month or so after the revelations of the Skypegate collusion materials and shortly before the ultra nationalist Shahbag kicked off. 
  3. A second blog analysing the Azad judgement on 28th January 2013, where Bergman questions the wisdom of putting a lot of prejudicial and un(con)tested information into the introduction of the court judgement.
A few weeks ago, there was another nationalist bunfight following a young deshi Al Jazeera English reporter's reference to Bergman's ruminations on the numbers of war dead. Establishment voices used the opportunity to reassert themselves and push alternatives ideas, and voices beyond the pale of acceptability.

Although he is not the only one to contest the figures, white people listen to him, so as the logic goes, he matters. It hurts the Awami ego when its source of power, the Bangladesh foundational mythology, is interfered with. This hurt is amplified by the fact that the ruminator is white, accepted as such by the west, and has married into an elite local family not unfamiliar with Bangladeshi and International law.

Whose deaths matter?
 There has been a sad lack of analysis of the dynamics of war during this tribunal. Last month, during the bun fight, Bergman cracked open Categories of Death, which are quoted below

- there are civilians murdered by the Pakistani/collaborators 
- there are civilians who died in Bangladesh from war related diseases, hunger etc
- there are civilians who died in India in the camps
- there are those Pakistani solders and Mukti Bahini who died in the course of battle
- there are those Pakistani solders and Mukti Bahini who were were killed after being captured.
- there are Biharis who were killed by the Mukti Bahini

 I would add the following

-Biharis and Urdu speakers killed by Bengalis in the run up to the Pakistan Army crackdown
-Biharis and Urdu Speakers killed after the official end of the war
-Civilians and fighters killed by Indian armed forces.

Numbers, with dates, places and contexts tell us about the ecology, transfer and interactivity of violence. That is if we are interested in understanding ourselves.

It is a real pity, failure and indictment that the names and stories of death circumstances of everyone have not been collected. I have heard of one effort well underway doing so and wish that quiet man good luck. The urban middle classes flagellate themselves regularly over the deaths of urban middle class intellectuals, dedicating them a whole day, however the lives of sons and daughters of farmers are rarely accorded value.

An Elections Mubarak present from a well wisher. 

If late Pakistan is to be characterised by state crime, prejudice and economic deprivation, then we can see through the straight light from 25 March 1971 and 6 May 2013 that the conditions of Pakistan never ended. 

Bhashani was correct nothing structural has changed, if anything colonial continuities have grown more intimate.

And now that Bangladesh is established fact, not Biafran, and that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed is General Yahya Khan, and that former UN Peacekeeper and  Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner Benazir Ahmed is General Tikka Khan, maybe a few more might have an open ear to the cultural choreography and emotional blackmail surrounding the Bangladesh War - not to mention the underlying accumulation by dispossession. 


Why are numbers important?

What difference does a number make? is the line of argument used to persuade people away from asking too many questions, by people with a stake in continuing the ignoracracy. They are in their second generation.

These are the same people who insist that numbers do matter and that they are very low, if not zero for the Shapla Chottor massacre and related incidents last year. They demand that oppressed victims of crimes deliver the government that killed them lists of the dead immediately.

It matters because it gives us an idea of the lengths social formations will go to to achieve their goals and undermine those who challenge them, it also complicates the monoculturalised impacts of the singular Bangladesh narrative and trains us morally to even try and understand other people. Critically it matters because hegemonic power manipulates good people and kills with it. 

West Bengali political scientist Sarmila Bose walked through the heavily mined ground of Bangladesh war deaths a few years ago, with an empirically rooted study that examined a handful of incidents from different angles and closed of with a numerical analysis of estimates that caused some upset at the time. Her talk at the Brick Lane Circle was called How can we apply critical thinking to understand 1971? and viewable online here.

It is hard to know of her work's content in Bangladesh, where her book is perceived like a radioactive substance. One history professor was harrassed and nearly lost his job for including it on his student's reading list. however for all the narcassistic critiques on the pages of EPW, Bose does not provide us the most startling knowledge on the subject. 

These inconvenient reports emerge from Abdul Mu'min Chowdhury's bilingually sourced 1996 publication 'Behind the Myth of 3 Million', which can be read online . It seems studiously excluded from the Bangladesh canons of Bergman, Shahriar Kabir, David Lewis, Meghna Guhathakurta and Willem van Schendel, Gary Bass and Srinath Raghavan, though Sarmila Bose briefly picks up on it.

Chowdhury is not endeared to Mujib family's Bengali Nationalist project, most people with pro Islamic intellectual convictions see it as an essentially Islamophobic ideology.  Like Bose doesn't feel the need to massage egos and pride for repeat custom.  He has written at length on the long range histories, or Brahminism and Buddhism and their impacts on the Bengal Muslims. His focus on the Myth of 3 Million here may read to some as disparaging to those with genuine family suffering. However, when taken in the context of the human, economic , intellectual and civilisational costs of accepting such a big self regenerating and maddening lie that it critiques, the sharpness makes more sense.

The excerpts below shed light on Mujib's egotistical attitude to emerging quantitative evidence [p29-30], and through the words of a staunch pro Awami League writer and witness, the Provisional Government in Exile's responsibility for a great number of refugee deaths [p56-57] 


4.2. The Inquiry Committee Report:
The Inquiry Committee seemed to have also failed Mujib in giving him
the kind of truth he was after. The Government of Bangladesh never
said a word about officially receiving the report, which was, as per as
the original Gazette notification, due on or before 30 April 1972 or
what happened to the Inquiry Committee's work.

On 6 June 1972, William Drummond reported:
"Since the third week of March, when the Inspector General's
office in the Bangladesh Home Ministry began its field
investigations, there have been about 2,000 complaints from
citizens about deaths at the hands of the Pakistan Army have
been received."
[3]
Later, sources in Bangladesh reported that the draft report showed an
overall casualty figure of 56,743. When a copy of this draft report was
shown to the Prime Minister,
"he lost his temper and threw it on the floor, saying in angry voice
'I have declared three million dead, and your report could not come
up with three score thousand! What report you have prepared?
Keep your report to yourself. What I have said once, shall prevail."

[4]


7.2. The Categories of People ‘Killed’
...Irony is that they were made victims by
their fellow 'Bengalis'. Abdul Gaffar Choudhury, the columnist,
disdainfully wrote:
“Now we are saying three million Bengalis have been martyred.
Without even having a survey we are claiming that three million
Bengalis have died. But those of us who went to Mujibnagar
and took up administrative responsibilities were responsible for
the death of four hundred thousand children, one million women
and two hundred thousand old people, out of the ten million
Bengalis who took refuge in India. The records of their death
exist in the newspapers of Calcutta and in the refugee related
documents of the Government of West Bengal....A section of
our public representatives have taken away food from the mouth
of these women and children and have sold the goods that came
from foreign countries as aid to the refugees ....Millions and
millions taka's worth of foreign aid came and most of them
disappeared in the cavern of corruption.”
[3]
It was not Abdul Gaffar Choudhury alone, M.R. Akhtar Mukul, another
leading liberationist, has also provided us with a vivid eye witness
account of this heartless killing of hapless women and children at the
hands of the Awami League politicians. [4]



Newspaper representation from June. What on earth does Abdul Ghaffar Choudhury mean?










3.12.14

The continuing disaster of the poisoning of Bhopal and its people

This night thirty years ago was the last, and the beginning of the end for 25 000 people in the central Indian town of Bhopal. The Union Carbide pesticide factory leaked poisonous gas into its nearby environment, immediately killing thousands. To this date the land has not been remediated and people still suffer from birth defects. The International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal states that 150 000 battle chronic illnesses. The build up and aftermath of the disaster provide a vivid example of how things can go so wrong, and stay wrong, and how difficult it is to hold corporate entities to account.

The factory had been established in 1970 and is typical Green Revolution fare. It was located in the middle of India with help from the Indian government and no little diplomatic grease. Near its ultimate end, the factory was undergoing cost cutting, which affected health and safety.

Indians farmers were not so interested in buying its pesticides at the time, Indira Gandhi had been assassinated and Anti-Sikh pogroms (8 000 +) had ravaged the country just a month earlier. Her assassination was in response to the terrible (and SAS supported) Operation Bluestar mounted against the Sikh's Golden Temple in Amritsar, which left up to 5000 people dead. Not to mention the Nellie Massacre of Muslims in Assam (2000-5000) that had unfolded the year before.

Corporate propaganda.
Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide died this autumn, escaping justice in this life. He was more wanted figure in India than Osama Bin Laden for the USA. Makes you wonder what kinds of justice there are for situations like this.
Corporations continue to enjoy more-than-human rights.

I got to watch Ravi Kumar's Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain at #ReframingDisaster last weekend, and found it to be beautifully written, complex and saddening/maddening.

Dow Chemicals, who were involved in the manufacture of nuclear weapons, Agent Orange and Napalm aquired Union Carbide in 2001. Dow is a huge commercial concern, with 50k+ employees and $50billion + annual revenue. It is a pity that Fight Club is not real.

On another note, there is an ummahtic connection from the UK to the town, via its first purpose built mosque. Bhopal used to be ruled by Queens called Begums (Beg-Om: Mothers of Warriors)

The 1860 Pearl Mosque at the heart of Bhopal, built by Begum Sikander Jahan.
Woking Mosque in the 1930s, the first purpose built mosque in the United Kingdom (1889).
It was financed largely by Begum Shah Jehan, who it bears the name of to this day




Resources


Bhopal Medical Appeal
Good background info and campaign materials

Raj Keswani, 
Bhopal based journalist and Union Carbide whistle blower reflects on the tragedy (Hindi)

The Yes Men Sting Operation
Claiming to be Dow Chemicals, the social justice activists fooled the BBC into believing Dow, who had 3 years earlier acquired Union Carbide, was taking responsibility.

Bhopal: Facing 30
A photography project, that honours surviving families with regal portraits.

Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain (Trailer)




Martin Sheen interview, he plays Union Carbides CEO


2.12.14

Farhad Mazhar lecture in East London

Farhad Mazhar is an interesting figure in Bangladesh today, one of the few bridges between the Left and the pro Islamic sections of the society. He has founded some practical and non-donorised organisations, which focus on practical networks of creation and ecological agriculture.

His Marxist and Leninists pasts and current strong defense of Islam and Muslims from political attack confuses people who think statically and sectarianly (if they have any impression of him at all).

This post is to introduce him and a recent speech he made in East London. Readers in Bangladesh may not have heard from him in a while due to his black listing.

So who is Farhad Mazhar?
This 1998 Himal article by Naeem Mohaimen is a good introduction to the journey of his political and poetical practices. In 2008, I wrote a reflection on his Language Movement busting article on Language, Ecology and Knowledge Practice.

And why is he important?
Over 2013, his public outspokeness against the brutal government and the subservient media allied to it earned him vilification and state intimidation in Bangladesh, where the racist and Islamophobic ideology of Bengali Nationalism haunts and taunts the society, and is also accepting the new demands of neoliberalism without question, like genetically modified Aubergines, and goodness knows what else in the name of climate adaptation, war on terror and poverty reduction.

What is he saying?
One of the important moves in Mazhar's speech is the reading of Bangladesh's Declaration of Independence, which frames the Liberation War as being for equality, human dignity and social justice, which are non-exclusivist aims, and underplayed by the Awami League. His Citizen's Movement article, on Human rights and the decay of ethical values of state and society  expands on the point.

In his recent speech, a video (in Bangla for now)  of which is embedded below, he communicates with a section of generally Islamically moved Bangladeshi people in East London, and provokes them over whether they are seriously interested in removing oppression from the society.

He is of a philosophical and dialogical bent of mind, which is evident from his insistence that the audience be active to learn, not chant, and provocative. He advocates the need for an alliance between  the pro Islam, nationalist and those whose politics is for the oppressed. Noting a sharp absence of 'The Left' in the hall, he says they are essential, and calls on them not to be dismissed as nasthiks and gave the example of Maulana Bhashani, who was affectionately known as 'Father of the Oppressed'.

Many in the current generation of deshis, in the UK or otherwise, might not have much idea of Bhashani, or the pro Islam politics of the oppressed in Bangladesh. However he is a vital figure in history, and recently the Brethren of Black Lotus explored his significance to the political and spiritual imaginary of Bangladesh..

Communing with the left is more easily said than done, but not without recent precedent, think Ali Shariati, Moulana Bhashani, not to mention the story of the Stop the War Coalition. It is a necessity, not just to remove Sheikh Hasina from power, but to address deep seated problems, continuities form colonial times, that remain undressed and devastating.

It is high time that there was open dialogue, reassurance and confidence building on such vital issues. Hopefully there is some learning within the system, in particularly amongst the younger people in the audience.






12.11.14

[New Word] Liminonymous

Identity partially witheld, at biting point, to mitigate narcissism.

see also: 

Luminonymous, more suitable to describe adherents of the sacred tradition of giving with one hand so that the other doesn't know

9.11.14

The 1st November Bangladesh Blackout

This is a straight cut and paste from The Weekly Holiday periodical from Dhaka published on Friday 7th November 2014, which has no indexing facility. It is an important, though hardly technical, analysis of a significant power outage in Bangladesh one week ago. Power outages are fairly common place in Bangladesh, but this one highlighed the strategic vulnerability regarding interconnectivity with India.

It also spoke symbolically about the actuality of Bangladesh's independence today and every day since it was acheived with the resources and initiative of the Indian Armed Forces nearly 43 years ago. It is Bangladesh's unfortunate national riddle, The Liberation Mortgage, and it is hard to speak openly and publically investigate dues to its powerful Liararchical Structure.

For the record, pro Shahbag folks on social media are at pains to push the Bhramara station failure account given by an alleged engineer. This reminds me of how the nephew of Sheikh Hasina, Radwan Mujib Siddiq deployed 'expert journalistic opinion' to deny that any massacre had taken place in Dhaka on 6th May 2013.

The politics of the blackout unfold in Bangladesh amongst the current regime's beneficiaries and victims, but more interesting would be India's working goals given their dubious higlighting of JMB and the pace of execution verdicts delivered last week.

If the action actually was purposeful and from India, it would constitute and act of war.


Structural damages to bleed the nation for generations


M. Shahidul Islam

Not all damages are repairable. A slew of structural damages are set to bleed the nation of Bangladesh for generations. Precedents have been anchored that elections can be arbitrary, non-inclusive and devoid of voters' participation while democracy can be defined as the will of the mighty.

In economics, best interest of the nation can be sacrificed to satisfy the hunger of a regional hegemon while the rule of law can mean one thing for the ruling coterie and quite another for the rest.

Worst still, the definition of power politics has undergone a tectonic shift; the mainstay of domestic power now hinging on the inconsiderate backing of an external hegemon that applies one set of rule within (democracy) and quite a different set to its weaker neighbours.

Sovereignty at stake
Bangladesh's sovereignty is now at stake. In economic diplomacy, sovereignty is circumvented in the realm of a perception that must be prophesized only, not upheld. Starved of the input to produce electricity, our powerful neighbour can get the input (gas) from Bangladesh, produce electricity and sell it back to Bangladesh. Bangladesh, on the other hand, must not use its input to produce electricity and sell it to India, if requested.

But follies and selling off has a price tag that comes to hound time and again. That is what had happened lately. Burnt by the lesson of a 12-hour long power shut down across the country last Saturday, Bangladeshis now mull helplessly why and how this could happen.

Reliable reports claim a failure in India caused the disruption which affected all the existing grids and transmissions in  Bangladesh. If true, this also denotes that the entire electricity transmission system of Bangladesh has been linked with India without someone knowing much about it, or keeping mum for mysterious reasons.

Source of power
The source of the failure was across the border in India, according to a BBC report that had quoted an Indian official. This begs another question: how this dependency on Indian electricity matured so much in the first place.

According to available literature, it followed from an inconsiderate deal struck in January 2010 during PM Sheikh Hasina's visit to India, resulting in the setting of 130 km power transmission that had connected Behrampur of India with Bheramara in Bangladesh. Under the deal, India agreed to supply 250 MW of power to Bangladesh with the provision of another 200 MW to be supplied on Bangladesh's special need.
The deal also encompassed a joint venture scheme between India's state-owned National Thermal Power Cooperation and Bangladesh Power Development Board to set up a coal-fired power plant in Khulna to produce1320 MW of power that can be transferred back to India through a transmission link to be set up by Power Grid Corporation of India Limited.

The sordid lessons of last Saturday notwithstanding, the dependency on India is increasing further as Dhaka strives to get another100 MW electricity from the ONGC-run 726.6 MW Palatana gas-run power plant set up lately in Tripura for which equipments were transported through Bangladesh (without paying tax) and the gas too will flow from Bangladesh. A new transmission line is being installed that will run for 12 miles within Bangladesh to connect with the 22 miles-long Indian transmission line to bring electricity to greater Comilla region. Simply put: Bangladesh is looped, scooped and spooked from all directions.

In these three projects, environment-spoiler coal-generated power plant is set to be based in Khulna while less harmful gas-generated plant went to Tripura. That's not all: sources of power remain in India near the Bheramara transmission link as well as near the Agartala border. It's our gas that will produce electricity for us in the foreign soil. What a pity! Is that how we have learnt to define national interest?

Testing-testing
The nation is immersed in a cloak and dagger theatric and the Bheramara shut down seems like a testing-testing gaming to see how effective the dependency on India is. Pending to an investigation reportedly being conducted by the very people in charge of putting the deal and its execution in motion, nothing much is known as of now. Yet, the fact that all the existing power grids and transmission linkages within Bangladesh collapsed in what seemed like a cascading effect is very worrying. Is our entire electricity transmission system integrated with the Indian system? We wonder.

While the possibility of that being the case is very strong, an answer is not expected to be forthcoming from a regime that sees no harm to the country's national security due to such unexpected disruption coming from a neighbor which is touted as a 'trusted friend.'

But trust without verification can lead to dreadful spectacles. Already perennial power failure is bleeding the economy to the tune of $1 billion a year, reducing the GDP growth by about half a percentage point, according to studies. If major disruption of similar nature can be affected frequently from outside the border, one must be convinced that our national security will have been punctured irreparably through irrecoverable economic damages.

And, this will occur at a time when the total transmission and distribution losses amount to one-third of the total generation; the value of which is over US $247 million per year, according to a World Bank study.
As well, why should Bangladesh depend on India for electricity when India remains gas-starved and over 80 natural gas wells in Bangladesh produce over 2000 m cubic feet of gas per day (MMCFD) to help produce over three-quarters of the nation's commercial energy; besides catering for around 40% of the power plant feedstock, 17% of industries, 15% of captive power, 11% of domestic and household usage, 11% of fertilizer production, and, 5% of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) output.

Vulnerability
Bangladesh's commercial energy consumption being mostly natural-gas -depended (around 80%) -- followed by oil, hydropower and coal,  ­how does gas-drenched India fits into this equation is a conundrum that must be answered soon.

We feel the nation has 'ascended the back of a rowdy camel,' to paraphrase poet laureate Shamsur Rehman, and, the policies of the AL-led regime have made the nation, its economy, national security and the sovereignty vulnerable to external manipulations.

Despite per capita energy consumption in Bangladesh being as yet one of the lowest (321 kWH) in the world­ fire wood fuel, animal waste and crop residues accounting for over half of the country's energy consumption ­remains the major source of power for most of the economic activities. The vulnerability to economic independence and national security hence looms large if this vital sector is tied with India from all directions.

Before the situation gets worse, it will be wise to rethink the options available for energy security and ward off all the perceivable and real vulnerabilities stemming from across the border. This is more important because, although installed electric generation capacity has reportedly reached 10,289 MW in January 2014, only three-fourth of that is available for consumption and only about 62% of the population has access to electricity, as of now.

National security
This is a serious national security matter too. From Delhi's perspective, energy connectivity with Bangladesh is laced with national security considerations which Bangladesh seems not to recognize. Delhi thinks, Bangladesh dominates the lines of communication with the north-eastern states of India and interconnecting the national grids in India with those in Bangladesh can enable transfer of economically viable power to various energy starved parts of Assam, Mizoram, Tripura and other north-eastern Indian states.

Added to Delhi's desire to use Bangladesh as a corridor to ferry goods and military hard wares to insurgency-infested seven north eastern states, the power connectivity scheme has become something indispensible to Delhi. This reality, however, got overshadowed when Bangladesh's present government was made to believe that, since it brings electricity to the western part of the country from the east, it should bring from across the border in India.

Our national interest guides us to opposite direction: an integrated energy scheme with India is not an answer to Bangladesh's energy afflictions. Rather, a viable energy policy for Bangladesh will be not to bank too much on connectivity with India alone.

Policy alternative
Instead, sucking in bulk foreign investment in the energy sector to help the economy sustain and grow further shall be the focus. As well, the economy must be integrated fully with the full potential of the power sector. To do that, the rate of investment must be increased to 34-35 percent of the GDP from the existing 28 percent to ensure persistent 7 percent annual growths.

Quite the opposite is happening now. Instead of seeking ways and means to attract more FDI in the sector, obsessive cronyism has choked off domestic investment too; taka 25,000 crores already having washed away from the four state owned banks to loyalist defaulters while FDI in the most lucrative power sector still hovering below $1 billion due to reckless hobnobbing with a neighbor which is considered a competitor by most of the desirous Western energy companies.

The energy policies sunk into further chaos due to taka 32,000 crores subsidy being doled out annually to the quick rental power plants set up under partisan patronization of the power that be. The sector is infested with cronyism, corruption and heinous conspiracy to wipe out anyone critical of the scheme, like the murder of journalist couple Shagor-Runi.

All these realities are parts of an overall structural damage of the nation and its fabrics which succeeding regimes might find impossible to mend. It's also alarming to know that India had proposed to set up another 1,000 MW liquefied natural gas terminal in Bangladesh to open up Bangladesh's gas market to Indian private sector while increased demand on gas is likely to drench Bangladesh of this veritable resource within a decade or so, unless new fields are discovered and explored using foreign experts.

Lest we forget, it is on such considerations that the previous BNP regime said no in 2003 to Indian request for gas import from Bangladesh. Many still wonder whether that decision has had anything to do with the BNP's lingering and painful plight toward oblivion.

3.11.14

Muhammad Kamrazzaman's impossible situation and the problem of knowing what happened

The Government of Bangladesh has seized momentum from the recent death of Ghulam Azam to advance its War Crimes Trials Agenda on the remaining leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh. In recent days former Minister Matiur Rahman Nizami and media pioneer Mir Quasem Ali have been given death sentences. Perhaps most tragically, the reformist Muhammad Kamarazzaman's appeal was quashed and he looks likely to be executed soon, in time for the ruling party's National Independence Day celebration.

A Rare Reformer
I haven't met any of the Jamaat official leadership, but Kamarazzaman is one figure I would like to . Last year I wrote about his Strategy for Changea lengthy document circulated among Jamaat's leadership, rejected, then leaked by supporters. Weirdly, its one of this 10 year old site's most read posts.

The Strategy recommends a number of measures to lift the party, rather its interpretation of the socio-political cause of Islam to a better situation. Written before the Arab Sting, it seems very inspired by Turkey's AKP experience, as Shah Abdul Halim narrates on a Muslim Brotherhood blog, It engages with party nepotism, clearing out 1971 era dinosaurs and social shrapnel, demands that the party cease manipulating its student wing and proposes organisational gender justice.  Personally, I'd like to know more about how a new party would implement and maintain the social justice focus his writes of and steer clear of narrowing shariah politics.

short analysis of the charges and evidences brought against Kamarazzaman can be found on the Kaagoj blog collective, which is sympathetic to the politics of the accused. The BBC's Sabir Mustafa, (an ex Daily Star hack) is maintaining an editorial line in favour of the Government of Bangladesh as we saw throughout his cover up of the massacre of protesters in Dhaka last May. David Bergman, whose white privilege works differently, has organised court transcripts and his own analysis on his war crimes blog, and the original court judgement can be accessed here.

The Problem of Knowing
The conditions for knowing (reliably and exactly) what happened during the Bangladesh war year do not exist. This is no thanks to the gravity of the Bengali Nationalist motanarrative and the epistemic autism of its victims, but also the failure of Jamaat-e-Islami's misleadership to honour the public's right to know their detailed side to the story, and the stories of their own dead. The public sphere is closed to empathy for situational environment for 'loyalist' auxilliaries to the late East Pakistan.

It is really hard to know what really happened, even if you want to as the assemblage of institutions, informations, human's and knowledge supply chains perpetuates dubiosity. I'm not saying that everybody needs to eat themselves up over this, but some need to investigate thoroughly, against the grain.

The practice of fabricating and manipulating people prosecution witnesses during these tribunals has been established with the (apparent state) abduction, disposal and detention (in India) of prosecution witness Shokranjan Bali and new video evidence suggesting malpractice from Investigating Officer Abdur Razzaq Khan . The lack of integrity, judgement and competence of the judges involved, given their coaching by diehard ideologues and manipulation by the state has been evidenced by leaked or hacked skype conversations and emails.

On the other hand,  crimes are committed, selectively remembered, represented and mobilised with deadly and debilitating political effects, like we saw on 28th February and 5-6th May 2013.

Advocates of the 'these trials are fine, messy, but fine, line of thinking' which dominates the small and inbred elite establishment voice in Bangladesh commonly argue that there needs to be justice for the victims as well as the alleged perpetrators. This may be a rhetorical tool, but there are many who are sincere who hold this line and the legalistic and lobbying defence doesn't touch the core of the matter, which is ' If you didn't kill X , then who did? what was your role?'


Shohagpur
One of the terrible events Kamrazzaman stands accused and condemned for is the case of the Shohagpur massacre. We might connect the event with the war machine operating in the area and time, comprising the Lt Col Sultan Ahmad's Army garrison at Jamalpur,  the army riverbank killings at Shashan Ghat on 21 June, and the Mukti Bahini attack on Capt Ahsan Malik's Kamalpur border outpost on 31st July.

This is not Dhaka, or the beginning and end of the Dhaka-centric experience of the war, it is north Bangladesh, and the middle of the monsoon near the borderlands. Its not the suffering of the globalised urban elite, it is the forgotten rural poor.

Born on 4th July 1952, the condemned is just a few months older than Pakistani cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan. He would have just turned 19 at the time of the 25th July/10th Srabon Shohagpur Massacre. He wasn't to finish his A-level equivalents until 1972, before graduating in 1974 and completing a masters in Journalism at Dhaka University in 1976.

Years ago, establishment columnist and 1971 film maker Afsan Choudhury wrote a piece on Shohabag, which he first visited in 2000 after UBINIG's Farida Akhter's efforts to highlight the truly awful and continuing plight of the village of widows whose 120 menfolk were massacred at dawn, and who suffered all sorts of deprivation.

Kamarazzaman is absent from the scene recreated by the journalist who focuses instead on a local quack Kader Daktar, who, enraged at miscreants raiding his storehouse full of ill-gotten items, took out his vengeance on the villagers by playing the War on Terror card of those times, reporting them to the local Pakistani garrison ( presumably connected with Jamalpur headed by Baloch 31 Regiment's CO Lt Col Sultan Ahmad )

Absence in previous accounts is a recurring theme in this tribunal, but one which is summarily dismissed by the jurisprudence upon which it runs. Hasan Iqbal, the son of the condemned made the point today, that no book on the subject before 2011 includes the name of Kamarazzaman in connection to this shaytanic event. Indeed, this absence can be noted when googleing around the usual areas of knowledge production, of mukto mona and uttor shuri. Given this, the vulnerability of witnesses to prosecution inducement suggestion and manipulation, and the degree of influence that a 19 year old could have on such a situation even if they were in the fray, and it requires a leap of faith or calousness to assign Kamrazzaman command responsibility and guilt for genocide.

Because the tribunals are so singularly about destroying the current leadership of Jamaat, they do not connect with the ebb and flow of the war and the two (main) military establishments experiences of the place. Unless these knowledges are interacted, reconciliation and understanding will be incomplete. Without accounts from the JI accused's experience, how might their presumed guilt be unproven to the court of kangaroos?

Don't talk to me about heroes
At the time of the massacre, there was Mukti Bahin and Pakistani auxiliary activity in the area, but the Indian account, so far that I can tell, doesn't really attribute much effectiveness to Mukti operations at this time (July). Much later however, banter between Indian and Pakistani commanding officers at the siege of Jamalpur garrison in December, reproduced here, is relevant. MachoPaks extoll Sultan Ahmad as an 'unsung hero' for 'fighting talk', despite his post cowardly escape 'gallantry award'. I think it points out a key lead and potential villain.

Just like in Sarmila Bose's multiple angle account of a handful of war situations, the precision, arrogance and helicopter bragishness of military accounts, stands in sharp contrast with the narrative of human sorrow of the survivors. It is really unfair, but legal epistemologies (sorry) privilege the most established and familiar forms of knowing, mitigating the weird, the alarming and strengthening the powerful.

So my questions for now are.
  • What kind of investigation is possible in Shohagpur?
  • Who will invest resources there?
  • What does restorative justice look like?
  • Will Imran Khan's PTI agree with proposals for truth and reconciliation with the truths?
  • What to Farida Akhtar and Afshan Choudhury have to say?
  • When will Bengali Nationalists officially be able to bear razakar historiographies?


Fratricide + Politicide = 0?
Most people will not have heard of Kamarazzaman before these tribunals started because he was never picked out as a specific figure of hatred. This is because of the underlying intention of the tribunal,revealed by its rough sampling strategy of pin the crime on the Jamaati. However, there is something more holistic going on if we consider the capabilities, psychic impact and public perception of each individual. Given supportive public pronouncements and actions from the Awami League government and its supporters, the term politicide is very appropriate.

Late Ghulam Azam was singled out by the Shahriar Kabir and the  Nirmul Committee in 1992 as he and his party decided that his leadership would be a good idea given his seniority during the Bangladesh war. Delwar Hussain Sayeedi, who it transpired wasn't even in the Jamaat party during the war, was targeted by BRAC's Asif Saleh and his now defunct Drishtipat "Human Rights" organisation, to align the Islamophobic UK press with the Awami League's political imperative to disarm Jamaat's most charismatic connector and mover of the masses.

Nizami and Mujahid's inclusion in Khaleda Zia's cabinet and reportedly good individual performances as ministers for Agriculture, Industry and Social Welfare must have provided strong motivation amongst the disgruntled urban elite. In the case of Mir Quasem Ali, his innovative Diganta media outfit challenged the idea that Islamists were destined to remain poorly presented and inarticulate in this media driven age. That was until the TV station was shut down on the morning of the May 6th Massacre.

It seems to me that it is Kamarazzaman's reformative approach to political practice, frustrated by internal opposition that completes the sense of politicide of Jamaat. Contrary to some opinion, the personality-cult politics of Bangladesh does operate in its biggest Islamist party and it is unfortunate for him, his family, party and the general society that it is doing him wrong. He presented a transformational option with Strategy for Change a continuing good deed proportional its eventual unfolding, inshAllah.



14.10.14

[Political Tragicomedy Alert] A Diary of a Bad Man does PREVENT

Today around lunch time a piece of weird news was circulating the social media, that the maker of the YouTube phenomenon A Dairy of a Bad Man had sold out to Prevent, the UK government's deradicalisation programme. Sure enough, the BBC article, then the Leicester Mercury piece furnished us procrastinators with the sad tidings and a vivid of Muslim cultural degeneration's latest wrong turning.

We learn that PC Rizwaan Chothia, of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit's Prevent team coordinated the project on the same day as a secret trial of a terrorism suspect possibly alludes to an attempt to bring Tony Blair to a belated and worldly account via some kind of Bollywood dance move. Its worth noting that we might have expected better, as PC Rizwaan was subject to Islamophobic humiliation a few years back. I wonder if he 'gets' any of this?


A Dairy of a Bad Man has made me belly laugh at times, especially in its early physicality. Who can forget the classic tribute to the 'Roti or Rice?' dilemma, or Humza's Rap Battle with His Mum? Yet its not hard, even for a comedically challenged miseryguts like me, to notice how he found it hard to grow beyond the slapstick and toilet humour of the facebook/iphone degeneration. Salafis turned on him once they were guilt tripped by their seniors into disapproving of the fellow. His political commitments were admirable, appealing to followers to sign the Babar Ahmad petition, and objecting to Boris Johnson's hair in the run up to his recent reelection.


Think for Yourself is a royal bumwave of epic proportions

His Deradicalisation episode 'Think for Yourself' (above) is very unconvincing. See for yourself, he said, patronisingly. I'm struggling whether to rank it above or below that  #HappyMuslims video earlier this year. But its not just appalling cultural product, by any standards, its menacing. Think for Yourself appeals to viewers to snitch on their close ones, which is deeply Stasi-esque.

Perhaps the Muslim Oaf is an important dumbographic, but I think its been a mistake from Humza, who would appear to have sold himself, and his efforts out to the prevent agenda. Perhaps he made it all the more awful as an act of subversion, or was institutionally bullied into it - sixty eight excuses to go. I hope somebody close to him raises these issues and he considers his community with enough respect to dialogue on the issue.

Analyse the whole A Diary of a Badman experience, with ISIL's most recent propaganda offering 'Flames of War' (liveleak URL here, watch it carefully if you dare), and the whole problem of Muslim Ridiculisation is revealed.


1.10.14

Moazzam Begg to be freed, and why these issues should matter more to us

Moazzam Begg is an articulate, intelligent and justice hungry individual who has been locked up by the British authorities for 7 months. In parallel, CAGE the human rights organisation he works for has been targeted for harassment, in all manner of devious ways by the British deep state, from its right to keep a bank account, to its right to organise a public event.

Their crime is just being Muslims standing up for Muslims rendered into meat by the War on Terror Industry and investigating the British state's complicity in abuses of human rights. It is okay for a white middle class organisation to be in the business of documenting these kinds of things, but heaven forbid that the victimised pull their thumbs out of their arses.

Recently, CAGE published an analysis of the cradle to grave police state created for British Muslims by the Government's PREVENT strategy (Preventing Violent Extremism). It is a rare intellectual and legal push back for Muslims in the UK, but also globally empowering to the wider ummah, oppressive interests and frameworks from the core of the world system are readily exported and appropriated by cloned elites in the periphery and semi periphery.

A campaign image from Ramadan, within communities struggling 
with fear, mistrust, paranoia, pettiness and division

CAGE, which now has a branch in South Africa, is a bit of a departure from the script, most human rights organisations in the Muslim world are there to serve overseas interests and promote an exclusive, elitist secular liberal strategy. For example, the Dhaka based Ain O Salish Kendra, is virtually entirely funded from abroad and covers up, even justifies atrocities committed by 'secular liberal' friendly government. CAGE is good news in this respect.

The assembly of interests, personalities, ideas and objects responsible for Begg's recent internment ordeal wanted to send a clear message to the Muslim community. At the centre is the Conservative Home Minister Theresa May, but it is wider and more systemic than her. Moazzam was kidnapped by the state around the same time as the 'ISIS threat to UK' was being mediatised and the Trojan Hoax in Birmingham was staged to occupy a lot of people's time.


Theresa May at the Conservative Party conference yesterday, 
she is very interested in being Prime Minister, 
and abuse heavy insecurity is her forte

It is not unreasonable to assume that the state decapitation of effectively the only Muslim organisation standing up to the government's smothering and community disabling, co-opting and dehumanising prevent agenda was strategic.

Today all charges have been dropped against him and he is set to be freed from Belmarsh prison. We wish him a joyous reunification with his dear ones and listen eagerly to what he will say, or write, next. I remember that just before he was ripped out from his family home in a dawn raid, he tweeted along the lines of having come to know of something particularly sickening in the world.

He has the mind, spine and the exposure to put together important pieces of the jigsaw of tyranny. This 2010 article written by him gives a flavour of how the BS machine works.

There are a lot of people very unjustly detained and the muscles to campaign for them must be supported by more and more muscles. Shaker Amer remains in Guantanamo Bay and last week Samiun Rahman, a young Londoner visiting Bangladesh to settle a family land dispute was stitched up by the police and the government (and some rogue family) in order to provide an 'UK-Bangladesh ISIS recruiter' story just in time for the UN General Assembly meeting.

The moral and intellectual bankruptcy of this kind of internment politics must be challenged at every level.




28.9.14

[Caption Competition] Nawaz and Hasina at the UN

New York, or Loserville, filled up with global ruling elites last week. The Pakistan Prime Minster's Office thought it a good idea to release this image showing close relations with their Bangladeshi counterpart.