February 5, 2009
NOW that an elected government is in power, we want to be assured that the most basic of our rights — the right to life — will be respected.
Too many lives are lost to political violence in Bangladesh every year. People die in brawls with bamboo sticks. Deadly ambushes on activists are common. Thugs armed with machetes and daggers sweep down on political foes routinely. Continue reading
Published in the Forum on February 2009
When talking about human rights, complacent analysis comforts us with nostalgic notions like: “Bangalis have always been egalitarian/secular/(insert favourite value).” But in the context of life in a subcontinent with too many people fighting for too few resources, legal infrastructure is far more important than attitudes and social norms.
Within this context, there are certain laws that stubbornly stay in place. In some cases, this is because political parties consider them to be useful future tools (Special Powers Act). In other cases, it is because questions of patriotism and security are considered off limits to debate (anti-terrorism laws). Continue reading
Published in the Guardian, UK (April 3 2008 )
John Pilger mounts an impassioned and spirited defence of the Bangladeshi politician Moudud Ahmed (The prisoner of Dhaka, March 12). “There is a decent, brave man sitting in a dungeon in a country where the British empire began,” Pilger says. “I have known him since a moonless night in 1971.” Pilger does his reputation an immense disservice with his erroneous and exaggerated claims on behalf of Ahmed, by ignoring the real issues at hand in favour of using his influence to defend an old friend.
On the 37th anniversary of its independence, Bangladesh faces a human rights crisis. Our fledgling democracy – hard won in 1971, and resurrected again in 1991 after years of military rule – is in suspension. Thousands of ordinary citizens have been rounded up and imprisoned without cause, without due process, and with no hope of release. It is true that Ahmed is one of those people. He was arrested by the security forces and is now in jail as a VIP prisoner. Continue reading
Published in the Forum (June 2008 )
Why speak up about things that don’t seem to affect you? Silence is, after all, protection. When demanding accountability and seeking dignity can be slandered as “anti-state activity,” it is better to save one’s skin by not raising one’s voice.
Yet silence connotes another message — compliance, and more wretchedly still, agreement. In the end, the politics and psychology of fear, compounded by our ability to disengage based on what is “us” and “them” robs us of our conscience. And we seem to accept without censure or question, what we give away — our consent. Continue reading