Quelling anti-Rampal protests (with South Korean assistance)

rahnuma ahmed

It was a peaceful procession.

We had gathered under the aegis of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports, outside the National Press Club in Dhaka, on October 19, 2016. After a brief rally, where speakers described the harm that the Rampal coal power plant would cause the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest straddling both sides of the Bangladesh-India border, we formed a procession, raised slogans and proceeded toward the Indian High Commission in Gulshan to deliver an open letter for the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

Since India is the major partner in building the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project, i.e., the Rampal coal power plant, the National Committee’s open letter called on the Indian prime minister to scrap the project.

It’s not only us. Forty-one Indian people’s movements, green and civil rights organisations have called on Narendra Modi to scrap the the project. So has the Unesco and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). A Unesco statement recommended the ‘Rampal power plant project be cancelled and relocated to a more suitable location’ as it could damage the world heritage site, home to 450 Royal Bengal tigers, expose downriver forests to pollution and acid rain, threaten the breeding grounds of Ganges and Irrawaddy river dolphins, far worsen the already liminal ecosystem which is being threatened by rising sea levels (The Guardian, October 18, 2016). Three large French banks, including BNP Paribas, a sponsor of the Paris climate summit in 2015, have refused to invest, while two Norwegian pension funds have withdrawn their investment. Continue reading

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Irfanul Islam, and an 8-mile stretch of road

by rahnuma ahmed

Dhaka-Narayanganj Link road. © Jannatul Mawa
Dhaka-Narayanganj Link road. © Jannatul Mawa

Why was Irfan killed? Why did they have to kill him, if it was for the money, they had already snatched it away, why kill him? Was it accidental, did he die because a novice, or a brute, hit him on the head too hard? Or did he die because he had resisted, because one of his abductors had grabbed his throat and in the ensuing tussle, squeezed it for a fraction of a second too long?

These questions haunt us, as his killers remain untraced, unknown, even now, a year later. Continue reading

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RESISTING RAMPAL

‘Go back NTPC, get out India’
rahnuma ahmed

Dhaka, Bangladesh, August 20, 2016. © Taslima Akhter
Dhaka, Bangladesh, August 20, 2016. © Taslima Akhter

Of all the slogans raised in protest against the coal power plant being built at Rampal in Bagerhat, this one’s the best. Continue reading

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Posted in 1971, Bangladesh, Coal, development, environment, India, politics, Rahnuma Ahmed, Resistance, Sheikh Hasina, South Asia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Had cadmium ever glowed so red?

I’d pretty much perfected the art. I’d go down to the newest library I could find. Become a member as quickly as I could, and armed with my new membership card head straight to section 770, the magical number for photography at UK public libraries. I would take out the full complement of 8 books that I was allowed at any one time. When the lending period was over, they would be replaced by another eight.

I devoured the books, which were mostly monographs, or ones on technique, composition or even special effects. I knew too little about photography, to know how limited my knowledge was. It was many years later, when my partner Rahnuma, gave me a copy of “The Seventh Man” by John Berger, that a new way of looking at photographs opened up. Unknowingly, it was the book “Ways of Seeing” that later opened another window. One that helped me see the world of storytelling. That was when I realised that image making was only a part of the process. Once youtube arrived on the scene, and the television series with the same name entered our consciousness in such a powerful way, his TV series “Ways of Seeing” became my new staple diet. Here was a leftie who could still speak in a language the average person could understand, and that too on a topic such as art. His fascination was neither about the artist nor the artwork itself, but how we responded to it and how it gained new meaning through our interaction. While it was art he was dissecting, it was popular culture he was framing it within.

That there was so much to read in a photograph, beyond the technicalities of shutter speed, aperture and resolution, is something my years of reading section 770 had never revealed. The photographs of Jean Mohr (The Seventh Man), were unlikely to win awards in contests, or fetch high prices in auctions, but Berger’s insights into the situations and the relationships that the photographs embodied, gave them a value way beyond the mechanics of image formation. Berger never undermined the technical or aesthetic merits of a photograph. He simply found far more interesting things to unearth.

John Berger signing book for Pathshala, and Shahidul Alam, at South Bank in London. Photo by Paul Bryers
John Berger signing book for Pathshala with Shahidul Alam, at South Bank in London. Photo by Paul Bryers

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Posted in Arts, culture, Film, literature, Pathshala, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Save Sunderbans: Global Protest 7th Jan 17

The Price of Gratitude

It is where the Bengal Tiger, now close to extinction, still stalks. It is where deer roam and hummingbirds fly. It is the richest terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem anywhere. Sunderbans (‘beautiful forest’ in Bangla), the world’s largest single tract mangrove forest is a UNESCO-declared World Heritage that has sheltered 50 million coastal people from ravaging storms. The beautiful forest is in danger. The joint project of PDB (Bangladesh) and NTPC (India) for 1320 MW Rampal imported coal-fired power plant spells disaster for Bangladesh. Thousands have taken to the streets in protest, braving arrest and torture, but the government, who have already killed protesters of other energy projects are determined to bludgeon through. We need you and we need you now.

On the 7th January 2017, we have called for a global protest. You have a role to play. Join the movement.

Stage demonstrations/human chains and send written appeals to the embassies of Bangladesh and India.

Organise bicycle rallies, boat rallies, use theatre, songs, cartoons, masks or just hold up placards. Send us your protest/solidarity video messages and photographs.

Appeal to United Nations.

Campaign to International Press/Media

Find other creative ways to resist.

Send them to: shahidul@drik.net and kallol_mustafa@yahoo.com. Share this message and make it go viral.

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Photo thief

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Shame Shame! Photo Thief! (c) Drik/Majority World

With publications increasingly stealing photos and publishing them without permission, without payment and without credit, it is time to name and shame.

We have created this banner. It’s in Bangla, but shaming is essentially what it tries to do.

Please put the photo that you have found to be stolen in the column and provide the link. Let us at least create a public display of all the people who steal our work.

Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

 

 

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Open Letter to the Prime Minister of India

On behalf of the National Oil, Gas, Mineral Resource, Power and Port Protection Committee, Bangladesh

Engineer  Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah

Prof. Anu Muhammad, Member Secretary

 

Professor Anu Muhammad (centre) and Engineer Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah (right)
Professor Anu Muhammad (centre) and Engineer Sheikh Muhammad Shahidullah (right). Photo Dhaka Tribune

October 18, 2016

The Honourable Prime Minister,

We respectfully address you with grave concern and anxiety. The people of Bangladesh today is sternly worried over the future of the Sundarbans, which not only happens to be the only protection barrage of the southern belt of Bangladesh, but also the largest Mangrove Forest of the world, as well as the most valuable ecological habitat of the country and the World Heritage Site. The joint venture of both India and Bangladesh to build a1320 MW capacity coal-fired power plant has caused much worry among the people of Bangladesh. Continue reading

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Do Goats Go To Heaven?

The last meal. Dhanmondi. Rd 9A. 12th September 2016
The last meal. Dhanmondi. Rd 9A. 12th September 2016

Awake, deep in the silence of the night
I dread the sound, I’ll hear your bleat tonight
Your tiny toes tied together with twine
Your tiny body weighed down by people fine

Children circling, some in fright, others in glee
Butcher man with knife, crouching on his knee
You’ll struggle in vain, your bleat a garbled cry
Blood will spurt, red floor, no questions why

Is someone there, another goat, a baby even?
Who wants you, regardless of who goes to heaven
What God needs blood, as evidence of love?
What sacrifice in swapping, money for life above?

A shopping spree, celebrations on TV
What’s one goat less or more for you and me?
It is quiet again, a respite from the heat
The sound remains, I’ll forever hear your bleat

Shahidul Alam
12th September 2016
Dhaka

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Forest of Tides: The Sundarbans

Written by Louis Werner Photographed by Shahidul Alam / DRIK

Split not quite in half by the border between India to the west and Bangladesh to the east, crowning the Bay of Bengal, the world’s most complex river delta works like South Asia’s showerhead—one the size of Lebanon or Connecticut. Fed by Himalayan snowmelt and monsoon runoff, carrying a billion tons a year of Asian landmass suspended as sediment, the three great flows of the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna rivers all end in one vast estuarial tangle, one of Earth’s great water filters, the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans. Continue reading

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Posted in Bangladesh, environment, India, Major Features on Bangladesh, My Photo Essays, Photography, Shahidul Alam, South Asia, Water, World | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Biman Fails

The long queue outside is nowadays usual. But I was unperturbed. I had come in early and there were the Hajj passengers to photograph. The cat strolling through the airport was somewhat amusing. A man, who could have been Chinese, gave it some food. The cat knew his way around the place. I had found cat pooh on several occasions before, but now I had the source file!

Alarm bells should have rung when I found no notice of the flight on the electronic board. The lack of people at the Biman counter was a bigger case for alarm. My friend Porimol, a journalist from the Daily Star, who was also going to Kathmandu was in the queue. At least I was in the right place! It could have just been “Biman Time” I convinced myself. When no one had turned up by 10:00 am, we all went off to the Biman Sales counter. At least there was a Biman employee there. “We have had nothing official” they said, but hear that the flight might be cancelled. They had no arrangements for rerouting, or any other arrangement. Their excuse for not letting passengers know had some logic. Since they themselves hadn’t been told, what could they tell us?

No attempt to inform passengers that flight BG701 to #Kathmandu cancelled #whybimanfails #eavig #Biman #bangladesh

A photo posted by Shahidul Alam (@shahidul001) on

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