Monday, July 21, 2008


What I have written about Amnesty International here is spot on:

For detailed analyses of AI's publicity stunts, etc. read these invaluable articles by PAUL de ROOIJ

Amnesty International

Amnesty International & Israel:
Say it isn't so!

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Originally uploaded by if6065
just outside Khagrachari town


Originally uploaded by if6065
paddling on Jalil's Island

Jalil's Island - Joilla Deep - is no longer what it was when my wife and I first went there. It was a place unspoilt and virginal. Today, right across from the Parjatan Motel stands the admittedly unbucolic spectacle of the Teknaf River Port. Noise and light pollution have invaded the scene. And above all, a boat ride to Jalil's Island no longer makes for romance.

Tyrannicide, or murder?

Immanuel Kant first drew the distinction between morality and law. Since then, the distinction has become commonplace, even trite: we know that what is illegal is not necessarily immoral, and what is immoral is not always illegal.

On August 15, 1975, this bifurcation of law and morality made itself apparent in our country. The question is: did what happen on that day constitute an immoral act, as well as an illegal one?

That murder is illegal in peacetime is well-known: is it also immoral? Did the assassination of Sheikh Mujib constitute justifiable tyrannicide or plain, ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill murder? Were the circumstances of the president such as to warrant a violent end to his life?

People may be forgiven for thinking that they did. After all, Sheikh Mujib had become hated by then, and with good reason. To take one instance: while a famine raged in the country, he permitted the export of food to India by domestic merchants (“Famine”, The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition). Further, his sons and his private army, the Rakhshi Bahini, terrorized the nation. Further examples of tyranny can be adduced from history books (for instance, Albert Reynolds observes in his book “One World Divisible: A Global History Since 1945” - New York: W.W.Norton and Co., 2000, p. 217 - - “He failed to disarm the guerrillas or check the rampant corruption, and the country soon degenerated into anarchy”), but the memory of those frightening days are as vivid as yesterday’s events.

Had the soldiers not acted, would they not have been even more culpable? Not to come to the aid of your nation when it is sliding into anarchy must surely be immoral, even wicked – though illegal. They made it possible to take the nation away from atheist Soviet Union and polytheist India; away from a disastrous socialism that refused to feed the people; towards what prosperity this unfortunate nation has known over the last decades.

And can it not be argued that what they have received so far is victor’s justice – but for an electoral quirk in 1996, the indemnity ordnance shielding them, and conferred on them by an approving and grateful government, the law would have remained silent on the subject. For every honour was heaped on the soldiers by successive governments: the nation rejoiced on that day as it has never done since. These are facts: they testify to the gratitude of the people, whatever the law may decide.

And in South Asia’s dynastic democracy, it is a pathetic fact that assassination needs must extend to the family: the soldiers, it can be said, are being tried, not for killing the first family, but for failing to kill the first family.

And should they be denied a presidential pardon, and walk the gallows, will it not be said that they were condemned merely by the law, and exonerated – nay, perhaps even elevated – by a higher law?

And should a verdict be reached, the Supreme Court will be accused of taking political sides; our learned judges are well aware of the schism between law and ethics. Whether they say “aye” or “nay”, the Court will make itself controversial, for one cannot legislate over men’s hearts. And the sorry tale would have an even sorrier epilogue: a compromised judiciary. And the nation itself shall feel the cleavage within, one half approving, the other half deploring the outcome of a trial – whatever the outcome. For the country is so divided along partisan lines that not even a word can be breathed without having to nominate the faction for whom, and against whom, it is intended.

Such are the perils that await the nation since passions cannot be disinflamed by the magistrate.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Muslim women's satisfaction highest in the world

"Dahlia Mogahed, who overseas Gallup's research on Muslim opinion, has made some stark observations about that poll. There are, she notes, many Muslim countries where men and women alike are fed up with life. But of the ten places with the highest correlation between being female and (relatively) satisfied, nine are mainly Muslim: Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Palestine, Jordon and Morocco. Ms. Mogahed says this reflects the travails of being a Muslim man as much as any blessing of being female. In traditional lands, where men expect to be breadwinners, many suffer the trauma of being jobless or doing hard, ill-paid work. Another factor, she thinks, is that one big source of female and child poverty in the West – single motherhood – hardly exists in Muslim societies."

- The Economist, July 14th 2007, page 62

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Quad Scripsi, Scripsi (3): The Badhan Episode

31st December 1999.

A young woman named Badhan went out to the university area to celebrate the coming-in of the new millennium.

She was stripped nearly naked by the student politicians of the ruling party, the Awami League. She somehow got away.

On January 25th, the subject came up in parliament – by means of an Awami League MP, a criminal called Joynal Hazari. The opposition was, of course, absent – that is what the opposition does in Bangladesh: it stays away from parliament.

"How could a Muslim woman go for an outing in the dead of night during the month of Ramadan?" he queried rhetorically. "Was it wrong that the drunk young men jumped on the lady who was dancing on the street with half her body exposed? It was natural that she was treated this way. (Star Magazine, February 11 2000, p. 22 "(That Muslim boys are not supposed to drink seemed to have slipped the MPs mind.)

Now, the above might seem to have issued from a rabid, Islamist political party. In fact, the Awami League is considered (and described as such by the western media) to be "the secular party".

"The Daily Star reported that Hazari finished his statement uninterrupted. Even the Chair, Professor Ali Ashraf, did not use his power to stop him under rule 270 of the Jatiya Sangsad's [Assembly] Rules of Procedure. Under the rule, a member is not allowed to use any offensive, abusive or vulgar expressions, or defamatory word."

What the Daily Star Magazine conspicuously failed to mention (the title of the article is "Badhans of a Male Chauvinist State") was the fact that there were thirty female MPs present, and not one of them uttered a word of protest, then or later.

Among them was – you guessed it – Mrs. Chitra Bhattacharya.

Party loyalty in Bangladesh comes before everything else – decency, humanity, morality....

I must credit my parents with having instilled in me such notions as that it is wrong to hang out with rapists, murderers and other criminals. But here was a woman I had regarded as a lady since infancy keeping the very company I was meant to abhor.

Joynal Hazari and his thugs later beat up a journalist within an inch of his life; another MP, Shamim Osman, had the prostitutes at Tanbazaar brothel evicted (after one of them was murdered to create the necessary crisis)to seize the property.

And then there was the rape and sexual assault of over 300 girls at Jahangir Nagar university by the student politicians of the Awami League – and again Mrs. Bhattacharya's deafening silence and continued membership of a barbaric party.

"Hasina, in fact, has been the biggest disappointment for even AL supporters. Throughout her term she showed incredible tolerance to her party-men, who virtually unleashed a reign of terror all over the country. She did not ask any of her cabinet members to resign even after knowing about their criminal activities. The student wing of AL the Chhatra League carried on the legacy of their predecessors, the Chhatra Dal, with equal zeal, occupying the university halls, controlling tenders and spreading crime across the country. One group became famous for their serial rape spree in Jahangirnagar University where a Chhatra League (interestingly former Chhatra Dal) leader celebrated his 100th rape on campus. Again Hasina remained silent."

Mrs. Bhattacharya should have resigned after this, for sure.

For details on the political parties abuse of students (and the rapes they committed), visit:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Quad scripsi, scripsi (2)

The other day I received an irate e-mail. It accused me of being 'indecent' and 'insensitive'.


Because I had revealed certain unpleasant truths about his parents – and said that they were 'alleged' lady and gentleman.

I'm sure he is right, being a sober, scholarly gentleman, soft-spoken and with good taste in his choice of reading and viewing material.

Let me review the facts regarding the 'lady' first.

I have known, and respected, Mrs. Chitra Bhattacharya since I was a child. They are family friends.

I remember her now as the MP during the rule of the Awami League. I remember it as though it were yesterday, the violence that preceded the election. For months, Dhaka city was besieged by the thugs, goondas and foot soldiers of the Awami League. The other thugs and goondas of the ruling BNP resisted them, as did the police.

Then what I had predicted three years earlier started – the state began to split. Some bureaucrats joined the opposition!

Anyway, Mrs. Chitra Bhattacharya was selected MP (women were not elected) by the triumphant Awami League. The preceding violence seemed not to have disgusted her at all. Au contraire. She served the party very loyally.

I remember one evening my mother received a call from Mrs. Bhattacharya.

The 'peace treaty' with the insurgent PCJSS in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) had just been signed.

My mother was breathless with excitement – she had caught the infection. I was utterly despondent. It was not because I did not want peace – but because the treaty was an eyewash. It stipulated that there would be a Land Commission in the CHT, which would hear all land disputes.

But its judgements in the disputes would be final – no appeal would be allowed.

Thus, in one stroke, the residents of the CHT were denied the right of appeal to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, and the country became split in two, with two ultimate arbiters.

This was absurd, and ultra vires of the constitution, and so to this day the treaty has not been implemented (it was signed in 1997). Indeed, the treaty caused a split among the Chakmas – the dissenting faction styled itself the United People's Democratic Front (UPDF). The two factions, according to newspaper reports, killed 200 of each other's members between 1997 and 2007. So much for the 'peace' in the 'peace treaty'.

A lawmaker should have known (and must have known) that this was a piece of skulduggery – indeed, Mrs. Bhattacharya's husband, Debesh Bhattacharya, was a retired supreme court judge. Wives in Bangladesh derive high-flying careers from their high-flying husbands.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Quad scripsi, scripsi

Dear Dipen,

I understand how you feel (and I'm sorry about that), but your comments are way off the mark. (And frankly I don't see why you should take up with me what I wrote about your parents. That strikes me as distinctly odd.)

That Debesh Uncle was not a formal member of the Awami League, we all know: but he was definitely associated with the party. After all, Chitra Auntie (to her credit), was not a career politician: she wasn't elected, she was selected. One of my points was that this is how politics works in Bangladesh : behind the scenes! One doesn't have to become a member explicitly.

Secondly, please read my language carefully: I said "she [Auntie] was to be" MP – that means after 1994, when the Chatra league student-thug came to extort money from my father; she "was to be" MP. I did NOT say she was MP before or after. ["was to be" = "was going to be"]

I have shown considerable restraint in what I wrote about everyone. There's a lot of dirty laundry that I did not air about all the people mentioned in the article. I hope you will appreciate that: not what I wrote, but what I did not write.

The strange thing about your e-mail is that you did not find appalling the fact that a young boy was used as an extortionist (and thousands like him) by the party where Auntie was MP – and that he's rotting in jail. After all, a person is judged by the company they keep – to keep company with the League is...well, words fail me here.

It's curious that nobody finds that appalling. After all, that poor bugger is no relation of mine.
It is needless to add that these are my last words on the subject. Quad scripsi, scripsi.

With immense regret,


--- Dipen Bhattacharya wrote:

> On browsing through the internet, I came across an
> article of yours where you write:
> "My parents were close to two members of the Awami
> League, Justice (retired) Debesh ýBhattacharya and
> his wife, Chitra Bhattacharya, who was to be MP
> after the next election ýthat would bring the AL to
> power (these threats were, incredibly enough, being
> made ýwhen the AL was the opposition! This was a
> foretaste of what would happen when the ýAL would
> come to power). ý
> It was only later that I had enough leisure to
> ponder the fact that these two people – the ýretired
> judge who had sat on the highest court of the land,
> and his distinguished wife – ýwere allied to a party
> that drew its funds with the agency of
> students-turned-thugs: and ýthis was no secret.
> Everybody knew that the parties employed the
> services of musclemen ýý– more like muscleboys – to
> extort money. But what were an alleged gentleman and
> lady ýdoing with these people? "ý
> What’s striking about these two paragraphs is first,
> that they expound inaccuracies. My father was never
> a member of the Awami League and was never
> associated with it and you may want to look up his
> historic judgments on civil rights during the early
> years of Awami League rule. My mother was a member
> of Awami League only during her tenure in the
> parliament (not before or after).
> Second, the level of insensitivity that you have
> shown in writing about my parents is simply
> incomprehensible. “An alleged gentleman and lady?”
> You have no idea what my parents had to sacrifice to
> stay in erstwhile Pakistan and later in Bangladesh.
> But more than that, you have taken the memory of
> these two families’ friendship and turned it into a
> spectacle that ultimately could only make life
> difficult for my mother and maybe to a certain
> degree your parents. This is especially appalling
> because my parents had no bearing on the case that
> you mention. Why bring up their names on the
> Internet? This is simply indecent.
> Dipen

Friday, July 4, 2008

vilage paths

vilage paths
Originally uploaded by if6065
the well-trodden paths connect huts on hills newly planted through the slash-and-burn method

dawn at Nilgiri, Bangladesh

dawn at Nilgiri, Bangladesh
Originally uploaded by if6065
midsummer sun rises in the north-east

the sanghu river

the sanghu river
Originally uploaded by if6065
seen from Nilgiri in June

rapes committed by student politicians

uring our 16-year democratic nigtmare, student
politicians were encourages to rape by the
politicians, with impunity - it was part of their "spoils"

the sanghu river

the sanghu river
Originally uploaded by if6065
the Sanghu river emerges from Burma, travels through Bandarban in Bangladesh, and finally reaches the bay of Bengal.


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

the early mangoes (poem)

the early mangoes

(poem at link above)

a poem inspired by the sound of mangoes falling on tin roof

Carthago delenda est (article)

Carthago delenda est

(click above for article)

"Carthago Delenda Est" – these were the words uttered by Cato repeatedly to persuade his peers to destroy Carthage. The Third Punic War gives the lie to the thesis, touted by McCain and Tony Blair, that "democracies never go to war against each other". The League of Democracies is just an idea for the democracies to remove all checks on their powers.


Now, why is it that democracies want to spread democracy, but autocracies don't want to spread autocracy?

It's something in the DNA, of course. I have argued that the flipside of "freedom" has been "slavery", which was widely practiced in the west, but not elsewhere . Western civilisation has been a civilisation of domination. Another Englishman made statements similar to Messrs Skidelsky, Blair and McCain. He said: "Surrounded by congregated multitudes, I now imagine that . . . I behold the nations of the earth recovering that liberty which they so long had lost; and that the people of this island are . . . disseminating the blessings of civilization and freedom among cities, kingdoms and nations. " Now, who could have uttered such an unholy wish, so redolent of George Bush, Tony Blair, the neo-cons, and other assorted ruffians?