Tag Archives: war

Bangladesh, Jamaat Islami & Misinformation

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I was speaking with a close friend of mine who is based in the US but is involved in Bangladeshi politics. We casually discussed among other things the current street protests taking place in Shahbag, Bangladesh where there have been over a hundred thousand protestors taking to the streets and calling for the death of leaders of the Jama’at Islami in Bangladesh who were politically active in 1971 during the formation of Bangladesh by separating from Pakistan. The old leadership of the Jama’ath is being held on trumped up charges of rape and murder during this period. The current socialist government of Bangladesh (socially socialist I’d say, I doubt that Bangladesh’s badly managed economy can be explained by sound economic jargon) led by Sheikh Hasina , daughter of Mujibur Rahman the main figurehead of the 1971 movement is hell bent on taking revenge on the Jamaa’th for what I think was their lack of support to her father’s movement in ’71, a bit like George Bush wanted to settle his father’s scores with Saddam Hussein – though there are political underpinnings to all this.

Mahin Khan speaks here of the Bangladesh war crimes tribunal and the many structural discrepancies oozing from it, not to mention the pure hate filled pettiness. The tribunal has attracted widespread condemnation from world leaders and human rights institutions, from Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Turkish President Abdullah Gul to the British opposition leader Ed Miliband, all three of whom are amongst the many prominent world leaders who have called for a fair trial of the Jamaat leaders or condemning the large scale oppression of the Bangladesh Jamaat.

The media has given a lot of time and spotlight for the protests in Bangladesh, speaking of and amplifying their chants, though what is little understood by the international viewership is that more than hundred thousand protestors hardly are a credible representation in a country that has a population of more than a hundred and fifty million. The media is colluding with the Bangladeshi state to misrepresent much of what is actually taking place and to insulate the government and all its misdeeds.

As Mahin Khan says “Meanwhile, the media has continued its role in largely colluding with the state to minimise awareness and critique. State media, including privately run news channels and newspapers, most of which are subservient or fearful of the ruling regime, have maintained a telling silence over the ICT chair’s statement preventing the meeting of defence lawyers with their respective clients. The media critical of the tribunal or the regime have faced severe intimidation, not dissimilar to that experienced by defence witnesses. Mir Quasem Ali, owner of Diganta Media, an organisation critical of the Awami League-led government and the ICT in particular, has been arrested and locked away. This is not the only instance either; in 2010 the editor of newspaper, Amar Desh, Mahmudur Rahman, was arrested and tortured in custody while his publication was shut down for publishing articles accusing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son of corruption. Although Mahmudur Rahman was later released and Amar Desh resumed, the intimidation of Diganta Media, and the continued harassment of journalists across the country reflect that the regime has not changed tack.”

In typical south Asia fashion, what is happening is a form of state sponsored mischief, where protesters are allowed to cause havoc and breach every possible tenet of law and order with the connivance of the Police and other security personnel. Though it has to be said that the current protestors in Shabagh claim to be non-political, but that they have the fullest support of Hasina’s government is enough to contaminate them beyond redemption. What is happening now is structurally akin to Sri Lanka in 1983 when Tamil shops were burned by hooligans and the Army and Police turned a blind eye, except that the current protestors in Bangladesh are an extremely sophisticated lot who are using the media well to their advantage, albeit soaked in unethical practices.

This blogpost was triggered by a shameless way in which misinformation regarding a tweet of mine was spread. A tweet I posted was changed and retweeted manually by one such cyber protestor.

Here is what I said –

This is what was retweeted by Virtual Bangladesh

Virtual Bangladesh claim that ‘Virtual Bangladesh is an award winning site about the beautiful nation of Bangladesh.’, wonderful. I have screen shots of these tweets, so if Virtual Bangladesh has the conscience to delete the tweets, I will be delighted to post the screen shots here. Such is the level of misinformation currently taking place in Bangladesh, and from what I can gather this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Image from here.

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Filed under 2013, politics, world

Children – happy smiles do injustice to their predicament

Of all the extra-curricular activities I have done, be it during school or afterwards in uni, one of the most endearing and satisfying experience I had was working on a children related Architecture project I worked for in Trincomalee.

More about the project and more photographs can be seen here.

It’s amazing how photogenic children in their carefree ways can be, the most sincere emotions that children reflect from their smiles makes them such joyous subjects to capture. This is one of my favourite photographs I have captured of children. This was taken at a school in Muttur, Trincomalee, North-East of Sri Lanka.

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Filed under kids, Sri Lanka, Uncategorized

End of the War: The untold story of the Child

First published here on Groundviews.

This war has taken the lives of tens of thousands of men, women and children. Hundreds of thousands more are displaced, and the abnormality of the war and post war situation is fast and painfully becoming normalcy to most people, some don’t and didn’t even live to see that.

Hundreds of children are being born into such conditions, by virtue of the fact that the Muslim IDP’s displaced in the early part of the conflict are still languishing in Puttalam, I won’t be surprised if a decent amount of these children born would die (possibly as adults) in the same conditions to which they were born to.

Studies suggest that post war trauma is conceivably more painful than the emotional stress suffered during war. During periods of war and despite the aggressive conditions that ensue, people subjected to these live in pain and indescribable stress. However, the hope that these abnormalities will diminish and normalcy would resume lingers on and this is a solace of sorts to those who look for solace in the most difficult of times. In a post war situation, when there is no conceivable military conflict taking place and the people continue to suffer in difficult conditions it is inevitable that post war trauma will tighten its venomous grip.

Because of its brutality, this has become the paradigm for traumatic experience, with the constant need for psychological and psychiatric help for victims long after its end.

My father was the architect for a project called ‘Food for Education’ by an Italian NGO. Thus he had to make several site visits to seventy schools in the Trincomalee District. In addition to the war, Trincomalee was also severely affected by the tsunami of 2004.

Due to poverty, lack of infrastructure, the loss of hope that school education will achieve little and for fears of safety, school attendance amongst children was very low. It was also known that malnutrition was rampant amongst these children. The project aimed to build Kitchen & Sanitation facilities in these schools and free food was distributed to students who attended school.  Thus this incentive helped mitigate absenteeism of school children to a certain extent in the Trincomalee district.

I joined my father in several of his site visits and I remember going to Trincomalee at least ten times during 2005 – 2006.

In spite of all the pain and suffering that was around, the faces of the children depicted a remarkable sense of resilience to the pain they and their families endured. These children coupled with the ready and mischievous smiles in their faces disguised the very painful story many a parent I spoke to in my limited Tamil told me.

There is now an end to a military conflict, and a year has gone by. And yet, there is years of work to be done in these areas to rebuild shattered hopes, dreams and society in general. These photographs can only attempt to ask questions about and to do justice to the untold story of many a child.

If not of most, this conflict didn’t manage to wipe out the smiles of all children in conflict zones. We must ensure that they never are, at least by planned yet hastened resettlement of all affected men, women and children.

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Filed under kids, Sri Lanka

Birds in a post war zone.

The absence of birds is one of the most strikingly common characteristics of post-war landscapes. The quotation below provides a contemporary example of how their return may make it possible to signal the return of peace:

“…I strained my ears but all I could hear was the distant rumbling of heavy guns in the mountains. Then I realised what I was listening to. Across the road of the top of a charred stump of a tree in the ruins of the palace gardens, a bird was singing”

– Christina Lamb in her book, The Sewing circles of Herat.

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Filed under landscapes, war

The Reality and the Cost of War..

‘The reality is that any organization that domesticates its rebels has won its peace but has lost its future.’ Gerald Arbuckle

sounds familiar ? It does indeed. The term rebel is very subjective and has a lot to do withe context that it is placed in.

However varied the term “rebel” is defined in the srilankan politicosphere the above quote aptly describes the current situation that we are placed in. The Sri Lankan state and its people are in cross roads, a historic moment and this moment is something which should bring with it a very prominent – whats it that intellectuals so often use- paradigm shift ?

That said Have you ever wondered what the International community (or any country which resorts to war to solve a conflict) could achieve if funding for war was diverted to urgent humanitarian needs? This Calculator shows what could have been bought and used for humanitarian purposes if the chosen weapon was not used.

For instance, The Cost of a Single B-2 Stealth Bomber Is $1,000,000,000. This could provide ‘Any One’ of the following resources:

* 2,564,102,564 Meals For Starving People.
* 1,150,510 Clean Water Wells.
* 31,446,541 Adult Cataract Operations. Restoring sight to the blind.
* 285,714,286 Blankets for refugees. In emergencies, families often leave home with only the clothes they are wearing. Blankets give essential protection from the chilling cold.
* 106,951,872 Mosquito Nets. Two million people die every year from malaria, most are children under five.
* 31,466,331 Child Immunisations. Protect a child from the six childhood killer diseases – diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, polio, tetanus and tuberculosis. A gift of life every child must have.
* 713,318 Houses for family’s currently living in cramped, unsanitary and dangerous conditions.
* 270,196 Schools Furnished with desks, chairs, tables, blackboards – vital things children need to build a foundation for learning.
* 53,504,548 Children supplied with school books for a whole year.
* 1,000,000 Landmines removed from the ground.
* 3,876,720 Adult Literary Classes.
* 3,030,303 World Response Medicine Boxes. Each containing essential medicines to treat the most common diseases for a community of one thousand people for approximately three months.
* 106,951,872 Fruit trees planted. Providing a giant boost to the diet and health of a poor family.
* 89,126,560 Fishing Nets. Give a man, woman or child a fishing net and they – and their families – will have a source of food.
* 41,152,263 Nanny Goats. Milk, cheese and kids. Families in places like Bangladesh can earn a living by starting a small goat-herding business.
* 35,663,338 Chickens. Eggs mean protein – vital for every diet. Three chickens can produce enough eggs to feed a whole family. They’ll produce baby chicks too.
* 89,126,560 Training courses for a health worker. Providing a local health worker basic skills on how to treat, prevent and stop the spread of the most common life-threatening diseases.
* 25,477,707 Childrens School Desk and School Supplies. For children who have no place to sit, study and read this gives one child a desk with pencils, pens and books.
* 3,876,720 Wheelchairs. For a disabled child, a wheelchair can be the ticket to freedom and education.
* 1,430,451 Vocational Scholarships. One year programme helps young people learn a trade and gives them the vocational and technical training they need to improve their future.
* 89,126,560 Water Filters. Poor families in places like Cambodia, have no choice but to drink water full of bacteria and parasites. Water filters saves lives by screening out small but deadly bugs.
* 15,285,845 Bicycles for a child to get to school every day.
* 100,000,000,000 Chlorine Tablets to make water safe to drink.

Food for thought indeed.

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Filed under Sri Lanka, war