[Documentary] The Coconut Revolution

A 2001 documentary film focussing on the resistance of a Bougainville Revolutionary Army, faith, community, ingenuity and tenacity.

Dhaka and the Developmentia Dollar

A representation of capital transfer
Jyoti Rahman imagined a fascinating research agenda for Bangladesh the other day, problematising a few holy cows of developmentshire and confirming some very socially present and legitimate curiosities. Its long overdue for folks who are interested in getting their fingers through public relations arguments and into the essence of things.

From the above, inflation notwithstanding, it looks like developmentor-developmentee field strength has doubled in strength between now and the last BNP time. There's also, usually, a subsidence in the force during regime shifts, and that Donor Military Care Taker Government boost is noteworthy.

These are just number collected by technocrats at the end of the day, convenient fictions. In social life can look at the movement and alignment of personnel to explain the changes in flux, and we can listen for the induction/repulsion of developmentia amongst their victim/beneficiaries.

Developmentshire is a space configured by three main actors. With this diagram we make their relations and transactions explicit and issue an appeal to destabilise and vacate the farce.


[Documentary] Regarding Ali: The memories, and thoughts of Dr. Ali Shariati

This loving film is a good introduction to a personality who challenged static vested religion and whose contributions call out to our political hungers and still speak to our times and situations.

Ali Shariati (1933-1977) was an Iranian Political, religious thinker who enlivened the religious intellectual and justice seeking natures of his people suffering under the Shah. He was assassinated in the UK before the Iranian Revolution  in 1979.

For several years he would inspire and move student audiences with lectures at a progressive religious institution called Hussainiye Ershad in Tehran. His appeal transcended sector and class, and unsurprisingly he suffered the censure of the Shah's Government and was apparently disapproved of by Khomeini.

Many of his writings are translated and available online, for example on Hajj. He also wrote on and at the Islam/Marxism interface. It would have been interesting to see what he made of the country that emerged after his martyrdom.

The documentary is in 2 parts, total running time 77 mins.


[Article] Kite flying by RAW? by Mumtaz Iqbal

The ever interesting Mumtaz Iqbal in the Weekly Holiday responded to that fruity RAW flavoured article in the Time of India

Kite flying by RAW?

Mumtaz Iqbal
Every country’s intelligence agency employs journalists and newspapers on its payroll, remunerating them in cash (retainership or bribes) or in kind (access to inside or privileged information), as its surrogates to propagate motivated points of view. India’s RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) is no exception.
One such RAW journalist appears to be Subir Bhowmik, East India Correspondent of the BBC World Service for the last 15 years and described in the Sage website as an eminent—a term of endearment widely employed in South Asia!--journalist and academic researcher.

The newspaper is the distinguished Times of India (TOI) whose 3.2 million circulation makes it the world’s one of the largest selling English-language dailies. Based in Delhi where RAW and various organs of India’s national security establishment (South Block, ISDA, ICWA et al) are located, the TOI is often used as a sounding board and echo chamber of official thinking.

The roots for this observation stems from an 860-word 11 para article published in the TOI on 1 November 2013 by Bhowmik dateline Dhaka titled: Bangladesh is in a violent phase and India must do all it can to see a friendly regime return to power (underlining supplied) (timesofindia.com click archive click 2013 November click 1 accessed 10 November 2013) The article is an odd even quixotic mishmash of alarmist epithets; biased presentation; blatant meddling in our domestic politics; tiresome bogeyman clichés about Islamic fundos; and an open call for Indian military intervention.

Alarmist epithets 
The heading says it all. “Bangladesh...in a violent phase.” This can’t be denied. Bangladesh politics invariably generate more heat than light. The violence has been steadily building up for months.

While some of the blame for this unsavoury situation lies with our domestic leaders, it would have reflected objective reality had the article touched upon, even in passing, RAW’s role in creating this imbroglio. Bangladesh is RAW’s biggest overseas station employing directly and indirectly thousands of agents, sympathisers and associates.

Besides, its worth recalling that RAW money helped the AL come to power. There is a fair amount of evidence—none more telling than the TOI article—to suggest that RAW’s hoping to repeat this performance in 2014. This is made manifest for all to see in the second part of the headline: “and India must do all it can to see a friendly regime return to power.”

The undisguised arrogance inherent and implied in this statement is astonishing. Dhaka is considered no more nor less than the cat’s paw of Delhi, which alone can decide who and what is a “friendly” regime. The people of Bangladesh don’t matter at all!

The article’s first Para states: “Bangladesh... political crisis... might impact Asia’s regional balance.” Really? To what balance is Bhowmik referring? Is Bangladesh of such pivotal importance? “Utter rubbish” as our honourable Finance Minister would say with forceful clarity (MA English Dhaka University 1955). And for once he would be right!

Biased presentation 
We are enlightened in Para one that “...Indian diplomats in Dhaka were desperately trying to get...Hasina...and Khaleda to speak to each other and start a dialogue.” Well, their efforts were successful, in one sense. The two Begums did talk. But in another sense it wasn’t. The dialogue was a miserable failure. Perhaps the South Block diplomats should have coached their star player a bit better. Or maybe the dialogue was meant to fail.

This would conveniently open the way for the next step in the AL’s mysterious and mystifying but largely self-defeating election strategy of going it alone after bludgeoning the opposition into submission. If so, we may see history repeating itself a la Marx, the first (1996) as tragedy, the second (2014) as farce (The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon). Indo-AL relationship may be as close as lip to teeth but this fosters the unpalatable image of a client-patron relationship.

But Bhowmik’s second Para takes the cake in selective narrative that shows up the AL as a spotless knights in shining armour. First, Bhowmik offers the comically novel comment: “Hasina finally broke the ice and offered all-party interim cabinet...” Really? Bhowmik must think us daft if we believe this airy fairy story.

Bhowmik then outdoes himself by breathlessly proclaiming that Hasina “...quickly followed it up by speaking to Khaleda over telephone and inviting her for dinner.” Well, we all know how that delicious dialogue ended.
As evidence of his pronounced partiality, Bhowmik observes in the next sentence: “Khaleda refused the invitation...instead decided to go ahead with a 60-hour...strike.” Note the word “instead.” It suggests cavalier unreasonableness on Khaleda’s part to Hasina’s sweet reasonableness.
Well, Bhowmik should know, or be informed, that that’s not the way things happened. The history of reciprocal scorn between the two Begums goes back a long way, into the mists of time!

In addition to bias, Bhowmik is partial to amnesia. For example, he makes no reference to poll after poll showing that 70-90% of the Bangladesh public want an election under a caretaker government. And that Hasina’s insistence that “...this was not possible after the fifteenth amendment” (Para 3) is an exercise by Bhowmik in creative sophistry and apologia that leaves out a crucial condition of the Supreme Court’s judgment.

That an eminent journalist like Bhowmik—a BBC correspondent to boot—can make such a doctored and one-sided presentation of AL’s innocence and virtue beggars belief! This makes sense only if Bhowmik is a paid advocate propagating his master’s voice.

Blatant meddling 
In what Bhowmik terms a sideshow but occupies three (27%) out of the article’s 11 paras are the protestations of Indian diplomats in Dhaka—Bhowmik’s source material—about US Ambassador Dan Mozeena’s activities.
In Para 5, Bhowmik mentions that these diplomats told journalists—read Bhowmik—that Mozeena was behaving “...like a standing committee member of the BNP.” The obvious riposte is: why not? This is what a superpower does, however disagreeable it may be. And yet, Indian diplomats are coy regarding the pro-consular role they play in the deliberations of the AL Presidium. What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander. One detects a note of wistful envy in the Indian diplomats’ complaint.

But the most disquieting feature of Bhowmik’s observation is the blithe notion that the fortunes of Bangladesh are to be carved up by external forces without any input by Bangladeshis except as passive tools of their diktats! This is a sad commentary on how little esteem the Bangladesh authorities are held by the sole superpower and regional hegemon.

But while these two forces are locked in surreal “combat,” Bhowmik quotes an unnamed Indian diplomat describing the Chinese stand as “constructive.” Surprise, surprise. Is this harking back to the good old days of Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai? No way.

What is at play is crass commercialism. The ostensible reason for this effusive praise is that if PRC were to build the Sonadia deep-water port of Chittagong—one of PRCs so-called string of pearls—the economic spin-off would benefit India’s north-east. Money obviously talks tantalisingly enough for an Indian diplomat to see virtue in the commercial venture of a historic rival. So Chinese “meddling”, in contrast to Mozeena’s intercession, is “good.”

Tiresome bogeyman clichés 
A main motivation for Bhowmik’s article is provided in paras 6 and 7 where he lets the cat out of the bag: “For Delhi, the real worry is Jamaat-e-Islami and Hefazat-e-Islam...US overlooking revival of Islamic radicalism ... when Khaleda was last in power...thus weakening the focus of the war on terror.” This commentary obviously reflects Indian security views.

Islamic fundamentalism and the war on terror are of course convenient whipping boys but they have become a bit blasé and dated, especially after Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. Even the US has abandoned the term “war on terror.” But is Bhowmik’s assessment valid?

Religious orthodoxy and conservatism in Bangladesh predates JI and HI. The strivings of the Muslim Bengali peasant for a place in the sun against the exploitative Hindu zamindars goes back to at least 1905, if not earlier. To that extent, therefore, there will always be “Islamic” parties in Bangladesh purely because the majority of its peoples are Muslim who traditionally have protested and fought an unjust economic system, even when perpetrated by fellow Muslims (Pakistanis).

Our situation is not unique. There are political parties in India extolling Hindu fundamentalism and revivalism. One of them is the BJP which, in contrast to JI, has held power nationally in Delhi. The BJP threatens to do so in the next Indian national elections under a prospective leader (Narendra Modi) who’s credited with masterminding a hideous pogrom against Muslims and who the US government has banned from entering America. No Bangladeshi leader comes anywhere close to the dubious distinction Modi enjoys.

In electoral terms, the JI has never won many seats in parliament in Bangladesh or, for that matter, in Pakistan. But it, like the AL and BNP, has a sizeable vote bank that could play a crucial swing role in credible elections. But both the JI and HI have been badly battered by the AL. To expect them to acquiesce meekly in their own annihilation and reduction to irrelevance is perhaps to expect too much.

But it’s also too much to expect that the JI (and HI) can translate the piety of Bangladeshis and their own many followers into a parliamentary sweep, taking account of JI’s past performance and the Bangladesh public’s prudent reluctance hitherto to vote in large numbers for religious candidates. This profile is unlikely to change. But the JI and HI could throw their weight behind the BNP and help it to a “comfortable” win.

Espousing military intervention
This prospect brings us to the crux of Bhowmik’s article in Para 10. He intriguingly and baldly asserts that “It (India) cannot afford a hostile government in Dhaka.” Why? Because “India appears nervous over the future of its east and northeast...afflicted by violent statehood movements and insurgencies.”

Obviously Bhowmik, reflecting the views of his RAW patrons, is making it clear in no uncertain terms that any government other than the AL would be considered hostile by Delhi. This Olympian view has some fairly large holes.
The first hole is that the Seven Sisters insurgencies predate Bangladesh’s independence. It goes back to 14 August 1947 when the Naga National Council led by A.Z. Phizo declared Naga independence on 14th August 1947 and informed the UN headquarters in New York by cable.

Since then India through using undiluted force and large dollops of cash has maintained an equilibrium in the north-east that, while queasy at times and has not won the tribals’ hearts and minds, has never seriously challenged or endangered Delhi’s rule.

Considering that Indian diplomats have said more than once that India is not wedded to any party in Bangladesh but to its people, can Bhowmik’s assertion be taken with a grain of salt? Hardly. To do so would be unwise.

That is because Bhowmik immediately goes on to make the following scathingly scandalous, highly inflammatory and entirely fanciful statement: “This, in a way, revives the pre-1971 scenario where a similar situation forced India to back the Bengali insurrection and militarily intervene in East Pakistan, braving threat of a US naval intervention.”

First, note Bhowmik’s reference to “Bengali insurrection” rather than the accepted term of “liberation movement.” This is insidious, inaccurate, insulting, demeaning and belittling. Bhowmik owes us an apology for this deliberate semantic slander.

Second, to equate 2013 as reviving the “pre-1971 scenario” is delusional. In 1971, our fight for our fair share of the national pie which we had been deprived since 1947 was peaking. Needless to say, RAW and its predecessor IB fished efficaciously in those waters.

Is it recreating March ’71?
The 2013 confrontation is over the constitutional question of how to hold elections. To say that a “similar situation” prevailed suggests that Bhowmik is engaged in deliberate disinformation and is off his rocker, to put it mildly
What’s really chilling is the reference to “militarily intervene.” Is Bhowmik suggesting that the India Army emulate the Warsaw Pact’s takeover of Czechoslovakia of 20-21 August 1968, recreate 25 March 1971 and then hunt down (commit genocide?) Muslim fundos like the Pakistan Army hunted Hindus in that year?

Or is the 1965 Indonesian model to be followed, when the Armed Forces (ABRI) led by Suharto killed an estimated 0.5 million PKI members and sympathisers with names supplied by CIA. Arrests and purges continued for ten more years throughout the archipelago at CIA’s behest and supervision.

Direct military intervention Warsaw Pact style would cost India more than what it would get in benefits. So this option, while technically feasible, is politically a non-starter.

The second option is the more feasible and likely, with RAW like the CIA supplying intelligence, logistics and support. Assuming that RAW does not have access to the equivalent of ABRI in Bangladesh, the most likely executing agencies—pun intended—would be a cocktail comprising AL and Chhatra League musclemen, official Para military units, infiltrators from across the border (Paschim Banga civilian Black Cats!) and local collaborators modelled on the Al-Shams and Al-Badr stereotype.

One wonders whether the RAB-BGB action of May 2013 against the HI was a dress rehearsal of things to come.?

The reference to braving the US naval intervention is irrelevant whistling in the dark. The nuclear aircraft carrier USS Enterprise steamed into the Bay of Bengal to mark Nixon’s displeasure with Indira Gandhi. However, neither DC nor Delhi expected to get involved in a shooting war, much as Pakistan would have liked this to happen. America was up to its neck in Vietnam and Nixon had no intention of engaging in any naval combat (The Blood Telegram—India’s Secret War in East Pakistan, page 314).

Are the tenor and tone of Bhowmik’s article the harbinger of a potent threat or some serious kite flying designed to spread panic and fear amongst the Bangladesh political opposition specifically and the public generally? Difficult to answer. Probably a bit of both, to illustrate Delhi’s capacity and capability for energetic arm-twisting.

But what is undoubtedly revealing about the article is its timing, coming as it does in the wake of the collapse of the dialogue and launching of a crackdown against BNP. This could backfire, stiffening rather softening Khaleda’s spine. She has precious little to lose and much to gain by being wronged.

But the more devastating drawback is that it will prove beyond doubt that the incumbent AL is an offspring sired by India and that Delhi will protect and promote it pretty well at any cost. This would of course destroy whatever little of the much-reduced credibility and legitimacy the AL still enjoys.

We have to thank Bhowmik and the TOI for their candid insight and revelation into the mind of a section of the hawks that grace Indian intelligence. Without doubt, the journalist and newspaper are sincere friends of Bangladesh.


Deciphering David Bergman's Lalon Geet

Decoding the International Crimes Tribunals in Bangladesh, and the different characters, narratives and values entangled within it requires some work, as with everything in dear desh, one has to go beyond the surface and dig deeper to find hidden realities. David Bergman, our guide, is like a modern day Persian Sufi poet, or even Lalon, with his cross dressing and political syncretism.

His article below appeared in the New Age newspaper, and provides some good lessons in gatekeepers, the coupling of Tribunals and secular ideology, the politics of the information bazaar, and the social production of journalism at the conjunction of Bangladesh and the UK.

The author has bravely reported on the War Crimes Tribunals and been hauled over the coals for challenging the Awami Liararchy of Bangladesh over its national crown jewels.

It is a contemptible Tribunal, but inevitable given the failure of the surviving accused ,and their parent organisations, to tell their side of the story for the past 43 years, to challenge the completion of the narrative of Bengali nationalism, and to honour the people of the country with an explanation, warts and all.

Below, the author takes a trip down memory lane and shares an interesting cut of events surrounding his own involvement in framing the issue of some of the war crimes committed during the Bangladesh war, especially to a Western audience.

Tracking down the killers

by David Bergman 

FORTY-TWO years ago, on the cusp of Bangladesh winning independence following a nine-month war, gangs of men drove round Dhaka picking up journalists, physicians and academics from their homes.
At least some, if not all, of the 17 men and one woman were taken to a sports centre in Mohammadpur on the western side of the city, where they were detained, and some of them tortured. All of them were killed. [Outrageous crime]
Some bodies were found in a mass grave in Rayer Bazar — but most were never recovered.
All eighteen of those picked up in the four days between the 10th and 14th of December 1971 had one thing in common. They supported Bangladesh’s independence and had either spoken out in favour of it or otherwise assisted those fighting to make it a reality.
A few days after these abductions, whilst the rest of the new nation of Bangladesh celebrated its independence after the surrender of the Pakistan military, the families of these men and women could only grieve.
In 1994 [during BNP, Khaleda Zias first term] , 23 years after the end of the war — and 19 years ago today — I came to Bangladesh to investigate whether or not a man called Chowdhury Mueen Uddin was involved in these abductions. [ I wonder how much of this investigation was following a breadcrumb trail complete with local gatekeepers. There was another target unsuccessfully doorstepped in the documentary, but strangely airbrushed out of this article as he wasn't prosecuted and wasn't any longer associated with East London Mosque, the institutional nemesis of the Bangladesh Awami League in Tower Hamlets.]
Gita Sahgal, a good friend, had been researching the possibility of making a documentary on the attacks on Taslima Nasreen [A terribly handled car crash]  and on non-governmental organisations in Bangladesh, and its relationship with growing fundamentalism in the United Kingdom [Ok so not a shit-stirrer then]. She asked me to read through her research proposal and in it there was a line [which could have been a lie] about a man who was the vice-chairman of East London mosque having been involved in war crimes during the 1971 war [Bit of a random link person]. I was intrigued. [Gita Saghal is a bit of an aristo-yaar, a decendant of Nehru with her own South Asian Islam issues as emblematised by her behaviour against Moazzem Begg when he was released from Guantanamo Bay, which prompted Amnesty International to ask her to leave their organisation. On another level this inner narrative has many lessons regarding Indian gatekeepers of the 1990s]
She told me that the information had come from a book — and another friend, a teacher in the East End of London, gave it to me: Genocide 71: an account of the killers and collaborators published in 1987. Shahriar Kabir was one of the editors. [The architect of the Nirmul Committee, the prequel to Shahbag, Bangladesh's very own Tea Party, and an indefatigable proponent of the  Secular Bangladesh-War Crimes complex that graced the early internet with half-baked McCarthite lists of 'war criminals' which were basically anybody they identified who didn't support the victorious side of the conflict. In my opinion, and many others, Shahriar Kabir is not a reliable source, many in the opposition camp regard him to be an Indian Agent (but cant show any payslips). There must be a terrible story of how he came to be like he is, but he speaks with such certainty that a shadda wouldn't have the equipment to know any better.]
The book comprises summaries of press reports published during and immediately after the war [uncritically], and provides an account of how some of those who were alleged to have committed crimes in the 1971 had managed to escape proper investigation and processes of accountability, with many resuming successful political careers. [Was the current home minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir in this book?]
In it was the name of Mueen Uddin, a man who had come to England in 1972, become a British citizen, and subsequently an influential person within the Bangladeshi and wider ‘Muslim’ community as it is known in the UK. [Personally I think the influence is overplayed, the target selection has been good for publicising the issue, and creating a hate figure to unite around. The use of quote marks around the word Muslim is worth noting too, we are being patronised here.]
The book [It is all about this book] alleged that Mueen Uddin was the operation-in-charge [on the basis of an organogram?] of the abduction of the intellectuals. It claimed he was a leader of Al-Badr, a militia set up by the political party Jamaat-e-Islami, which had collaborated with the Pakistan military.
Based on this book, Gita and I then worked on a proposal for a documentary for broadcast on the Uk television station, Channel 4. Working with a team of Bangladesh journalists [I wonder how self selecting a group this was and how native informants were picked] , we spent many months in Dhaka and Feni talking to people who knew Mueen Uddin during the war, interviewing the families of those whose relatives were abducted, and trying to find eyewitnesses. [Did Gita and David talk to any who departed from their script? n=?]
Slowly, we were able to piece together a [partial] picture of what had taken place. [David, Gita and the Nirmul Committee?]
In 1971 Mueen Uddin was a young journalist, working for the Dainik Purbodesh newspaper - so we first tried to meet journalists who used to work there.
Our first breakthrough [Have to wonder how atom splitting this was] came when we were given the name of the then Purbodesh journalist Atiqur Rahman [Who seems to have been a professional rival of the man he is accusing and is deceased] . He told us that he first came to realise that Mueen Uddin was closely linked to Jamaat and the Pakistan army when he became the first Bangladesh journalist to write about the formation of Al-Badr [Are there any surviving copies of the newspaper?] .
Atiqur’s initial concerns about Uddin were confirmed by two subsequent incidents. [Are these corroborated?]
A few weeks before the war, Mueen Uddin enquired about the number of Atiqur’s house in Arambagh in Dhaka. Feeling momentarily uncertain about giving Uddin the correct details of where he lived, Atiqur gave an inaccurate number 7, instead of 111, and the wrong name of the house, Paglavilla. [trans. Madhouse, a very clever detail, but a bit strange as deshi media is so inbred that everybody shares transport and knows where each other live]
When the war ended, he was shown a list of names of journalists found [Does this list survive to this day?] in the Fakirapur office of Al-Badr, and on it was written his own name, with the false address he had given Mueen Uddin. 
The second, and even more significant, incident was when Atiqur Rahman, sitting in the press club sometime in January 1972, received a call from a freedom fighter who told him to come quickly to a particular address. There he found a man called Khaleq Majumdar, whom Atiqur knew as the office secretary of the Dhaka city Jamaat-e-Islami office, tied down to a table [This sounds like a torturous scenario all too common in Bangladesh, but more perilous in those months after the war when many were ruthless to their foes, real and perceived. Perhaps an inquiry into the health of Khaleq Majumdar is due.]
Majumdar pleaded [Why did he have to plead? Was he being intimidated?] with Atiqur that he was not involved in Al-Badr but claimed that Mueen Uddin was the operation-in-charge of Al Badr in Dhaka city. Atiqur questioned him on this, and got Majumder to sign a hand written statement [written under what would appear to be duress].
Based on this conversation, Atiqur Rahman  wrote and distributed a press release, which was published in many newspapers, about Mueen Uddin’s alleged role in the Al-Badr and the killings of the intellecutals, a report that was picked up by the New York Times [Very weak evidence, but the NYT will have rendered it into truthhood].
Along with these reports, a picture of Mueen Uddin was published. And this turned out to be very significant. 
One of the next journalists that we met was Ataus Samad, who subsequently became the BBC correspondent in Dhaka  [1982-1994] but during the war worked for the West Pakistan based newspaper The Sun [Ataus Samad passed on little more than a year ago] .
In December 1971 he had closed up his home, and had moved to a relative’s house, and thus had no idea that a gang of men came looking for him.
A few days after the war, one of his tenants, Mushtaqur Rahman, saw Ataus Samad on the veranda of his house and came running to him with a copy of a newspaper.
Samad told us that Mushtaq explained to him that a few days before the war ended, some men had come round to his house, found the gates locked and then come to the door of Mushtaq’s house. The face of one of the Bengali men was visible, but at the time Mushtaq had no idea who this person was. However, Mushtaq said the picture of Mueen Uddin in the newspaper was the same as that of the man who had come round to the house.
It was not easy to locate Mushtaq, but when we did, he confirmed the story. [What was the story?]
And when we found another of Samad’s tenants, Mahmudur Rahman, he also said that he had, immediately after the war, recognized Mueen Uddin from the published picture.
Another person who opened up an important line of inquiry for us was Professor Anissuzzaman, now emeritus professor at Dhaka University, from where seven of the men were abducted.
One of his teachers was Moffazel Haider Chowdhury who was taken from his house on December 14, 1971.
Sometime in the middle of the following month, Anissuzzaman went round to Chowdury’s family house. There he met Chowdhury’s brother, Lutful Haider Chowdhury, who told him Mofazzel had recognized Chowhdury Mueen Uddin, a student of his, as one of the men who came to abduct him.
Lutful had died by 1995 when we were making the film, but their sister Dolly was also present at the time of the abduction. And when we met, she said she had recognised that a student of her brother was present at the time of the abduction and later came to [Seems plausible that Atiqur's report and NYT RT provided an authoritative fall guy] know that it was Mueen Uddin.
All of this — and more — became the film The War Crimes File, which was broadcast in the UK in 1996 and won the Royal Television Society special commendation award [Well done you for solving the mystery]. 
Chowdhury Mueen Uddin has always denied the allegations against him. [and didn't cooperate with Bergman's documentary]
The evidence collected in the course of the research — much of it subsequently set out in affidavit form — was put together and sent to the New Scotland Yard’s War Crimes Unit, which had been set up to investigate war crimes, and was primarily concerned then with allegations that former Nazis during the Second World War, were living in the UK.
The New Scotland Yard responded to the evidence we sent by stating that, in its view, ‘primary jurisdiction’ for the prosecution of these offences lay with Bangladesh, and sent the material to the Bangladesh High Commission. It never said, as claimed by Mueen Uddin in a recent interview with Al Jazeera, that there was insufficient evidence to initiate investigations. [interpretation]
The file slowly found its way, through the Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, onto the desk of Abdul Hannan Khan, a senior police officer appointed under the newly installed Awami League government in 1996[Interesting insight into the security bureaucracy complex . Abdul Hannan Khan is another interesting character. Like many of those in the War Crimes Tribunal Prosecution, he hopes to get the change to become an MP at the next election. This recent statement is scarily sweet, “I think I have every potential to get nomination from the ruling Awami League as I have much popularity in my constituency as a benevolent and sincere personality. I have sincerely worked as an investigation official for the crimes against humanity committed during the War of Liberation. So, I am optimistic of getting nomination from Netrakona-5.”]
A first information report was lodged by one of the relatives, and Hannan then initiated his own investigation. 
So now, fast forward, another 17 years, and Mueen Uddin’s case came up before the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh — with Hannan now its chief investigator [I wonder what he contributed to the research file]
The prosecution had not sought Mueen Uddin’s extradition. Possibly this was because it knew that this would delay any trial in Bangladesh [I think it's more likely that they were incompetent, and figure this 'uncontested result' is a consolation prize for them]. Or it may have been the government’s understanding that it would be difficult or impossible for the UK courts to extradite him as the prosecution in Dhaka would seek the death penalty.
As a result, the trial was held in absentia. This, in my view, was a great pity, as the prosecution case was not able to be been properly tested, and Mueen Uddin was not able to put forward his own defence. [Reading this article and knowing that David was working with Gita Seghal with a Bangladesh war framed by Shahriar Kabir, I am not surprised that the accused declined to respond when being doorstepped in his lungi.] 
I have always thought that evidence against Mueen Uddin, collected in the making of the film, was compelling [As any young idealist in Bangladesh for the first time would, ask a billion disenchanted development workers]. But I also knew that journalistic endeavours are in themselves not sufficient proof of a person’s guilt, and an appropriate judicial process was essential. 
The moment of conviction was hugely significant for the families of the 18 intellectuals who were abducted and killed [I can't imagine what it must feel like if you sincerely believe it to be true].
Immediately after the trial, I met Anirban Mostafa. He is the son of Golam Mostafa, one of the journalists abducted. In the early morning of December 11, Anirban, then a baby, was being walked in his father’s arms to get him to go to sleep [Duas].
A group of men came and asked Mostafa, ‘Are you ANM Golam Mostafa?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ Then they said, ‘Please leave the baby for a while and come with us. We have to go to the office for a while.’
That was the last time Anirban saw his father.
I had last met Anirban almost two decades earlier in 1995 when he was a young student and we were interviewing his uncle Dulu Rahman.
It was an emotional moment when we met again in the tribunal. I asked him how he felt now with the conviction of Mueen Uddin. He said that, since his father’s death, ‘Bangladesh had become his father’ and he always had faith in his country. [I saw an interview with Anirban by the BBC Bangladesh hack Mahfuz Siddique, "They sacrificed their lives for a secular Bangladesh, and I hope today's verdict will let that Bangladesh be here again, because Bangladesh itself is secular, I hope, I believe we shall find that Bangladesh again".]
It was quite a moment. 
Whatever questions there may be about this trial process, it is important for people to recognise and understand that it does at least meet the need for justice felt by the families of those abducted and murdered forty two years ago. [Vendetta more like.]
David Bergman is editor, Special Reports for New Age.


Weekly Holiday sci fi take on The Phone Call

This weekly publication has a terrible, perhaps purposefully, web archive. So im pasting this piece here. Zia and Mujib discuss their female relative's conversation with eachother.

A ‘dialogue’ about the dialogue

Mumtaz Iqbal

Between two past Bangladesh Presidents Bangabandhu Seikh Mujibur Rahman (SMR) and Ziaur Rahman (ZR) at an undisclosed location. Wiretap, courtesy US National Security Agency (NSA) and Edward Snowden, NSA’s exclusive news distributor.

SMR: Zia, your wife and my daughter don’t talk to each other much or often. But on the rare occasion they do, incendiary sparks fly like fireworks on Independence Day. Do you agree?
ZR: Absolutely, Bangabandhu. I’m really impressed by the wide range of topics they discussed on 27 October 2013. Aren’t you?
SMR: I am. Hi-tech communications; red alert; dinner invitation; birthday celebration; swearing-in ceremony; mayhem; chicanery; even murder. You name it. Astonishing virtuoso duet.
ZR: Do you think that Khaleda’s red phone was dead?
SMR: Not sure. But I’ll give Khaleda the benefit of doubt, considering the T&T’s legendary efficiency (!) and the limitless vindictiveness of all political cadres irrespective of party, whose vocation is to be more
holy than the pope, and usually say what they think their leaders want to hear!
ZR: But why the emphasis on the red phone? Couldn’t Hasina have called Khaleda on her mobile? Millions of Bangladeshis do.

Khaleda uses Grameen phone!
SMR: Good god, no! Khaleda uses Grameen Phone. Hasina would never stoop to call her on that network. You know, bloodsucker Yunus and all that! Besides, Khaleda’s telephone is black. Hasina’s a red phone addict, having a soft corner for red. A hangover from the days when she took part in May Day rallies. After all, the AL fights for the working man—despite Rana Plaza—and despite the pretensions of the Workers Party, Volkswagen model.
ZR: I note your comments. One should always respect a lady’s choice of colour combination. (Pauses. Clears throat). Bangabandhu, can I speak frankly about Hasina’s strategic mistake?
SMR: Of course. BAKSAL doesn’t operate here. What’s it?
ZR: Well, Hasina should have told Khaleda that she was going to cook the dinner, as she did for Joy on his birthday. Khaleda loves home cooking. She would have accepted the invitation in a flash, especially as Hasina’s kitchen is the only one in Bangladesh awarded the coveted three stars (***) by Guide Michelin, an honour those in the know—the cognoscenti—consider far greater than the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2012, there were only 58 such restaurants worldwide. There have been 125 Peace winners since 1901.

‘Hasina quite modest’
SMR: Interesting. But, you know, Hasina is really quite modest even shy and doesn’t like to blow her own or family trumpet though, for political reasons and filial love, she does. This deification embarrasses me no end, especially when some South Asian leaders especially Indira Gandhi and Zulfi Bhutto make snide remarks about my divinity and mortality.
ZR: Yes, this must be awkward. Are you as upset as Hasina that Khaleda celebrates her birthday on 15 August, the day you were killed?
SMR: Mixed feelings. 15 August is also birth date of Pakistan, Napoleon, Walter Scott, Julia Child and other celebrities. So, if Hasina’s logic were to apply, should there be no “celebration” by people in Pakistan, France, England, USA or elsewhere over these birthdays? I don’t think so. Nevertheless, I believe Khaleda’s decision to cut cake shows poor taste. It’d have been better if she had done this privately without fuss, respecting Hasina’s sensitivity. But I’m also aware, as Hasina is or should be, that public opinion in Bangladesh is divided and polarised over the AL’s performance 1971-1975 and my death. So if I were Hasina, I’d grieve in private with family and friends and not make it a political or national issue or vendetta. That’s counter-productive. We should move on and give the past arest. But I’m curious about two things, Zia?
ZR: What’s that, Bangabandhu?
SMR: Can Khaleda really blow out all the 68 or so candles in one breath? Why would she want people to know how old she is?
ZR: First question. Don’t know. But she’s no longer a demure housewife and may have developed strong lungs since entering politics. Second question. Your guess is as good as mine.

Cagey answers!
SMR: Cagey answers, Zia! But you are right. We men throughout history haven’t been very adept at understanding powerful women (such as Boadicea; Czarina Catherine: Dowager Empress Cixi; Cleopatra; Rani of Jhansi). Let’s not get bogged down on this fascinating point when there are more interesting questions to ponder about the dialogue.
ZR: I agree. Let’s do that. About the date for the dinner, there was quite a tug-of-war, ping-ponging, yo-yoing, wasn’t there?
SMR: Yes. This reminds me of the adage: What’s in a name? Nothing yet everything. Both the Begums had their own logic and self-interest to insist on the dates (27 Oct by Hasina; 30 Oct by Khaleda) they were prepared to have dinner. But I wonder if Hasina was being too clever by half in inviting Khaleda on 26 October for dinner the next day, when the 60 hour hartal was to start, on such short notice?
ZR: We don’t agree on many things, Bangabandhu, but on this point, I believe you may have a point. Also, if my wife is right, getting permission at about 11 pm on 25 October to hold the 26 October rally with a few mikes appears to be classic guerrilla skirmishing by the government against political opponents. Give a little to avoid the charge of muzzling public opinion but place conditions and hindrances to make the permission ineffective. It’s not cricket! Even the Pakistanis in 1971 didn’t do this to you on 7 March 1971, did they?

Things have changed
SMR: Well, Zia, things have changed a lot since the relatively halcyon days of 1947-1971. In my time, Bengali politicians would criticise each other in public but break bread and talk civilly in private despite their differences. But then we didn’t have any women politicians around! We’ve become like US politicians, behaving nastily with opponents publicly and privately, as the recent US government shutdown and the last US presidential election suggest. Are the frosty and divisive Tea Party politics of the sole superpower resonating in Shonar Bangla? Or is it the other way round? If the latter, we should be flattered: the hyper power imitating Kissinger’s “basketcase” Bangladesh! Both US and Bangladesh public hold politicians in utter contempt.
ZR: Even though I’m a political neophyte, Bangabandhu, your observation is astute. As you’ve already stated, the charges hurled and topics discussed by the two ladies are incredibly eclectic: sweet double-talk; hearing deficiency; sleep patterns; stubbornness; and reciprocal gory accusations of homicide, all the while going round and round in circles, getting nowhere. Everything under the sun except elections!
MR: Interesting points, Zia. The ladies covered impressive ground in just 37 minutes. We men would still be talking or would have ceased talking after five minutes or so. Fish or cut bait, I say. Perhaps the intellectual make-up of the “weaker” sex is more formidable and durable when it comes to discussing matters of state, especially when compromise is considered a sell-out. No quarter is given or sought. It’s a gladiatorial fight to the death, like in ancient Rome. I hope this doesn’t sound like gender discrimination on my part!

‘Hell hath no fury’
ZR: Not being a sociologist, I can’t answer that, Bangabandhu. But the English playwright William Congreve wrote in The Mourning Bride in 1697: Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned! Perhaps this saying may explain the bittersweet much-ado-about-nothing nature of the dialogue. There is near universal unanimity in the media that the telephone chat was an exercise in banality and futility, a high-class crass farce that ill-serves our people. They deserve better, don’t they?
SMR: Your observations are not without merit, considering it involves two bitterly antagonistic females. How do you think a contemporary Congreve would deal with two scorned women turning on each other?
ZR: With extreme delicacy. Probably stop writing; retire to the lovely English countryside to navel-gaze, do some Freudian analysis and contemplate possible options.
SMR: A pox on both parties?! Commendably neutral. The two ladies could do worse than emulate this latter-day Congreve. This might just save the frustrated Bangladeshi population, a hostage to their irrational, emotional and self-serving whims and fancies, from further bondage and outrage. Right is might but might is not right.
ZR: Aameen! But who will bell the cat?


Jumma at Motijheel, the Hay Dhaka Festival and those pesky Macaulay Development Goals

The Mighty Re-arranger who curates our every living moment has a real treat for us next week, one which challenges us to make new meaning, feel differently and explore the essence of things.

As the run up to elections hots up, diplomats and media hacks work overtime and people kill and are killed in street violence we develop an idea of where each of us is at. Some of us are nursing broken hearts, others marketing and still more distrust anybody with anything remotely resembling a political position.

A Tale of Two Cities
The roundabout in Motijheel Dhaka, where protesters
were massacred by cover of darkness 6th May 2013.
 Hay fest's Tahmima Anam, daughter of Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam launching Hay Dhaka 2012, which excluding inconvenient truths. 

A few days ago Hefazot e Islam announced they would be offering Friday congregational prayers on November 15th at the Motijheel site in Dhaka*, from where they were so violently evicted on 6th May earlier this year. That massacre was the centre piece of a constellation of state crimes that one might describe as Bangladesh's Lal Masjid without the militants or media coverage.  This time, Hefazot e Islam are demanding an investigation into what happened.

In an almost orthogonal universe, the Hay Dhaka Literary Festival will take place 2.5 km to the west at the Bangla Academy by the Dhaka University campus from Thursday 14th to Saturday 16th November. From the promotional feature in one of the organiser's father's newspaper The Daily Star, figures like Pankaj 'Unpacking Empire' Mishra, Ahdaf  'Pro-Egyptian Coup' Soheif and Tariq 'I told Mujibur Rahman to go for total Independence' Ali will feature.

It looks like an interesting set of staged events, albeit quite elitist, donory and insulated from the reality unfolding in Bangladesh as I tap on a keyboard from thousands of miles away. Read politically this festival provides a platform for Eastern liberal performance to demonstrate how much progress has been made towards Macaulay's Development Goals. They are numbered below.

We must at present [1] do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern -- a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in [2] opinions, in [3] morals and in [4] intellect. To that class we may leave it to [5] refine the vernacular dialects of the country, to [6] enrich those dialects with terms of science borrowed from the Western nomenclature, and to [7] render them by degrees fit vehicles for conveying knowledge to the great mass of the population.
Minute by the Hon'ble T. B. Macaulay, dated the 2nd February 1835.

A World Bank analysis published last week showed that Bangladesh had surpassed India in reaching its Macaulay Development Goals. Ten million nationalists smiled.

So what's the matter?
I fear that there will be another massacre, that the Government of Bangladesh will act with wild abandon and that our native seculibs, and the wider Internationale will continue to provide the mind numbing mood music.

Although nobody really believes the press, it is important not to give them a free ride. The BBC's coverage of Bangladesh is increasingly resembling that of the state broadcaster BTV and the local English-language outlets, The Daily Star, the Dhaka Tribune and BDNews24 exhibit a diversity of crookedness which grows more hyperreal with every passing day. Perhaps it is a natural pity that the official transcript of events is a million light years away from planet truth which I hope to visit sometime.

The right to form your own opinion and refine your thoughts is at a low point in Dhaka. This is a critical block on maturing our culture, thinking through our problems and being vibrant. Amar Desh's Mahmudur Rahman who published the Tribunal Leaks and challenged the Shahbag while everybody else was trying to get down with the kids is still in detention and his presses sealed. In recent days the decolonial poet and agriculturalist Farhad Mazhar has been subjected to a witch hunt for challenging the media's complicity in the murderous strife that is lobotomising the country. See this Facebook group.

In the absence of official journalism of integrity, competence and courage, there is a need to bypass it with real human communication and sense-making. We have been here several times before and need to remember to be less sheepish this time. 

* I hear that the Government's 'sufi' toolboy Tariqat Federation is trying to throw a spanner in the works, watch this space.