Apolitical Intellectuals

One day
the apolitical
of my country
will be interrogated
by the simplest
of our people.

They will be asked
what they did
when their nation died out
like a sweet fire
small and alone.

No one will ask them
about their dress,
their long siestas
after lunch,
no one will want to know
about their sterile combats
with “the idea
of the nothing”
no one will care about
their higher financial learning.

They won’t be questioned
on Greek mythology,
or regarding their self-disgust
when someone within them
begins to die
the coward’s death.

They’ll be asked nothing
about their absurd
born in the shadow
of the total lie.

On that day
the simple men will come.

Those who had no place
in the books and poems
of the apolitical intellectuals,
but daily delivered
their bread and milk,
their tortillas and eggs,
those who drove their cars,
who cared for their dogs and gardens
and worked for them,
and they’ll ask:

“What did you do when the poor
suffered, when tenderness
and life
burned out of them?”

Apolitical intellectuals
of my sweet country,
you will not be able to answer.

A vulture of silence
will eat your gut.

Your own misery
will pick at your soul.

And you will be mute in your shame.

–Otto Rene Castillo

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CALL FOR ENTRY Chobi Mela X International Festival of Photography, 2019

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Chobi Mela, the international festival of photography since its inception in 2000 has been the single biggest photography event in Asia and the first of a regular biennale, one that has become one of the highlights of the Asian calendar. It is organised by Drik Picture Library Ltd. and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute. The Tenth edition of Chobi Mela will be held on February, 2019. 



No heaven, no hell, no everafter, do I care for when I’m gone
Peace here I seek, in this sand and soil, this place where I was born
As oceans deep, as deserts wide, as forests and fences loom
As children die, as lovers sigh, no cross, no epitaph, no tomb

As bullets whiz by, as shrapnel shard, as hate pours from above
As blue skies curse, the wounded I nurse, as spite replaces love
It is home I long, as I boundaries cross, a shelter that I seek
A world for us all, white brown short tall, the boisterous and the meek

If my bosom is raised, or my beard is long, or I sleep with the ‘wrong’ kind
If my politics isn’t yours, nor my country of birth, a terrorist you will find
You return my boat to the cruel sea, back to the wars you wrought
Walls you will raise, to keep me at bay, my children in danger fraught

I love the land I was born in, the tree that gave me shade
My broken home, my shattered dreams, my slain lover that goodbye bade
My slanted eyes, my dreadlock hair, my tongue though strange may be
I bleed red blood, as flows in your vein, Is there a place in your heart for me?

-Shahidul Alam

Continue reading

Posted in Arts, Bangladesh, culture, Education, Photography, Photojournalism, South Asia | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Propaganda, and the suppression of dissent

By Rahnuma Ahmed 

 First published in New Age

I have not acquired any fortune but I have my paternal estate and the pension of a Subedar. This is enough for me. The people in my village seem to respect me, and are now fully satisfied with the ease and benefits they enjoy under British rule.

THUS wrote Sita Ram in From Sepoy to Subedar, first published in 1873, sixteen years after the first war of independence (the British still refer to it as the Indian Rebellion, or the Indian Mutiny).

Sita Ram wrote the manuscript at the bidding of his commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Norgate in 1861, his son passed it on to the Englishman; the manuscript is supposed to have been written in Awadhi, Norgate translated it into English. An Urdu translation is also heard to have surfaced the same year. Few copies are known to have been sold, until 1911 that is, when a Colonel Phillott created a new syllabus for Hindustani exams, taken by colonial officers to test their knowledge of the language. Phillott himself translated the book into Urdu, and from then onwards, the autobiography of Sita Ram, who worked in the Bengal Native Army of the East India Company for forty-eight years (1812 to 1860) ? became a ?key text? for British officers. The book was still part of the curriculum in the 1940s, it was translated into Devanagari in the same decade; a new and illustrated edition of the book (Norgate?s English translation), was brought out by James Lunt, as late as 1970.  Continue reading

Posted in Bangladesh, Censorship, Democracy, Governance, Media issues, New Age, politics, Rahnuma Ahmed, South Asia | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ROMEL CHAKMA. PART-I: Is custodial killing heroic?

by rahnuma ahmed

Romel Chakma, 20 year-old HSC examinee and student leader of Pahari Chatra Parishad,

was picked up by army personnel on April 5, 2017. Allegedly tortured, he died in hospital two weeks later.

Romel Chakma ? Photographer not known.

How does one restore dignity to the memory of a youth who was picked up and tortured, who died of torture, whose body was not handed over to family members for cremation, but burnt after pouring petrol and kerosene? Continue reading

Posted in 1971, Bangladesh, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Democracy, Human rights, Killings, Law, Military, New Age, politics, Rahnuma Ahmed, Violence | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DEATH OF ROMEL CHAKMA: NHRC seeks Army?s explanation


NHRC seeks Army?s explanation

Muktadir Rashid | Published: 00:23, Jun 24,2017 | Updated: 00:38, Jun 24,2017


The National Human Rights Commission has written to the defence ministry asking for a Bangladesh Army
explanation for the death of Romel Chakma as a commission investigation has observed that army personnel concerned cannot avoid the responsibility for the death.
Commission chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque told New Age on Friday that a full commission meeting analysed the investigation report and sent a copy of the report to the defence ministry asking for the explanation from the army in the past week.
?We did not get any version from army, so we wrote a letter to the defence ministry based on the recommendation made by the commission probe committee on the issue,? he said.
He said the commission found circumstantial evidences against perpetrators and wanted to know the army?s explanation.
Commission officials said that the commission received the copy of a letter of the defence ministry to the army headquarters seeking their explanation.
The three-member probe body headed by commission member Banchita Chakma, also former Rangamati College principal, submitted the report to the commission on June 11.
Banchita Chakma said that they submitted the report without any version from the army.
She said that the witness accounts suggested that the visually challenged ethnic minority youth was in the custody of the army when he died at Chittagong Medical College Hospital on April 20.
Physicians at the hospital in the medical report observed that Romel Chakma died from kidney infection.
Probe committee members said there were two reasons for kidney infections ? severe internal injuries caused by either torture or major accident.
?We believed Romel was tortured,? said a commission member.
The probe body recorded statements of 15 people including Romel?s family, local police and physicians to examine what happened to the youth but no version from army was available.
The probe concluded that the army in no way could avoid the responsibility for the death of Romel Chakma.
The committee included commission?s deputy director in Rangamati Gazi Md Salahuddin and executive magistrate Tapos Shil from Rangamati district administration.
Committee members said that had approached army zone commander at Nannerchar on May 24 during the inquiry but could got no response.
The field office of army told the probe committee that they would speak if their high ups allowed them to talk.
The probe committee recorded the statement from five police officials who narrated that Romel Chakma was brought to them in a critical condition and that was why the police did not receive him.
The police officials told the committee that Romel did not carry major mark of injuries but he was vomiting and the army personnel carrying him informed police that Romel met an accident.
It takes hardly 10 minutes from the police station to the nearby health complex.
The inquiry found that it took one hour and a half to take Romel Chakma from police station to the health complex. Romel was moved to Chittagong Medical College Hospital where he was admitted under security protection by army personnel.
?We have collected the documents from police station and the hospital,? said a probe body member.
Formed on April 24, the three-member probe body met with Romel?s family and local people at his village Purba Hatimara under Burighat union of Nannerchar on May 1.
On April 6, Romel?s father Binoy Kanti Chakma wrote to the commission chairman demanding justice for the ?inhuman torture? on his son by army personnel.
In a statement issued on April 24, commission Reazul termed it a serious violation of human rights to kill an innocent person in torture.
HSC examinee Romel, 20, was the general secretary of United Peoples? Democratic Front-backed Pahari Chhatra Parishad?s Nannerchar upazila unit.
He was allegedly picked up by local army personnel on April 5 and taken to police station in the evening.
The next morning, police and army personnel admitted him to the Chittagong Medical College Hospital, where he died on April 20.
Romel?s father alleged that they were barred from meeting him at the camp as well as at the hospital.
According to media reports, the Inter Services Public Relations alleged that Romel had masterminded the attack in which two buses were robbed and a truck was set on fire in the area on January 23.
Different rights groups, student bodies and UPDF demanded a judicial inquiry into the death terming the detention and torture unjust. 

Posted in Bangladesh, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Human rights, Law, Military, New Age, politics, Violence | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Best Years of My Life

Best Years of My Life

After its highly successful tour of the German Foreign Office during the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Berlin and the Global Media Forum in Bonn, the exhibition will now move on to the Commonwealth People’s Forum at the Queen Elizabeth II Convention Centre in London.

Sadly the event is not open to the public as it is a high-security event with so many heads of government attending.


Posted in Arts, Bangladesh, Capitalism, culture, Drik and its initiatives, Governance, Human rights, Immigration, media, Media issues, Migration, Photography, Photojournalism, politics, Poverty, Shahidul Alam, South Asia | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

TAMPACO: Getting away with murder

By rahnuma ahmed

Tampaco Foils Ltd, BSCIC industrial area in Tongi, early hours of September 11, 2016. ? Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Unlike Rana Plaza where the stench of corpses wafted over when we were still half a mile away, there was no such smell at Tampaco.

Unlike Rana Plaza where the workers got a minute or so before the nine-storey building collapsed, at Tampaco it was just a matter of seconds, a firefighter told me. A huge explosion, the whole thing was burnt to a cinder.

Unlike Rana Plaza where news of the collapse led to worker protests in the industrial areas of Dhaka, where thousands of garment workers walked out, set fire to at least two factories, smashed vehicles and demanded death penalty for the building owner Sohel Rana and the owners of the garment factories (five) located in the building, where workers in neighbouring Narayanganj city vandalised five garment factories, where workers clashed with police who fired rubber bullets and tear gas? nothing happened at Tampaco. Daze, shock, horror, grief, of course. But nothing else, no protests. Continue reading

Posted in Bangladesh, Capitalism, Human rights | Leave a comment