Sunday, December 23, 2007


I was going by rickshaw the other night, when I looked up and saw – The Red Planet! To ‎the east, it shone like a red star, but it wasn't Antares. ‎

This is a great opportunity to see the Red Planet in its glory: it is almost as bright as ‎Jupiter. ‎

Of course, it isn't as bright as it was in 2003, when it seemed to be overhead, but I have ‎never seen it this bright since or before then. ‎

Watch out for Mars tonight!‎

effect of education on character

According to Bertrand Russell, the effect of Aristotle's teaching on Alexander was nil. ‎We can generalise this to affirm that the effect of education on character is zero – or even ‎negative. ‎

In light of the recent events in Bangladesh involving the academic community, it can be ‎safely inferred that with education comes a progressive deterioration in character. What ‎would have appeared culpable to any illiterate peasant appeared not only innocent, but ‎even laudable, to our teachers and students. Tolstoy was right to elevate the unlettered ‎farmer above the educated intellectual.‎

After all, it took a massive amount of education to turn French peasants into murderers. ‎

"no" to subsidised campus politics

Since our recalcitrant teachers cannot be disciplined by the law (for it seems that they are ‎above the law), and that they cannot discipline themselves, the only recourse for the ‎people of Bangladesh is to impose upon them the discipline of the market.‎

The public universities should be privatised: once private, they will charge market rates, ‎and teachers won't be able to moonlight as politicians and shut down the institutions. ‎

They will have to compete for market share: in short, they will have to start earning their ‎living, like the rest of us, instead of being subsidised by the rest of us. ‎

We, the people, refuse to subsidise campus politics. ‎

Sunday, November 11, 2007

where failure pays

Nirad C. Chaudhuri, in his otherwise stimulating article ‘India, West Bengal ‎and East Bengal’ overlooked two leaders who would disprove ‘the fact...that no ‎responsible political or military leader has ever played with the security of his ‎people when military resistance seemed irrational’. They are Napoleon and ‎Nehru. ‎
The French revolutionaries had every reason to fear that their cause ‎would not succeed: they were surrounded by monarchies bent on killing the ‎infant republic in its cradle. By all rational calculations, republicanism was bound ‎to fail. That it did not was largely the work of Napoleon. However, his astonishing ‎military successes were due to that epochal innovation in military history: the ‎National Army – a body of people dedicated to a set of ideas for which they were ‎willing to die by the thousands.‎

Again, on his return from Elba, Napoleon knew that this time, not only was ‎all Europe against him, but even his own country: he still destroyed 100,000 lives ‎on a personal gamble. ‎

In our own day, we have seen similar revolutionary wars undertaken by a ‎nation covetous of dignity and freedom against – by all rational reckoning – ‎seemingly invincible military might. Vietnam and Iran are the latest examples. As ‎Joseph Conrad said, “It is not the clear-sighted who lead the world; great ‎achievements are carried out in a warm, blessed mental fog.”‎

Therefore, pace Nirad Chaudhuri, it is not the “fact of the matter that East ‎Bengal Muslims and their leaders did not know the basic principle of seeking or ‎continuing a political conflict when faced with an overwhelming military ‎superiority of the opponent”. The fact of the matter is that there was no ‎revolutionary, national sentiment shared by the whole people. As Mr.Badruddin ‎Umar has observed, the winners of 1971 were the new elite, totally divorced from ‎the aspirations of the people. As Mr.Afsan Chowdhury has pointed out, those ‎villagers who took up arms did so to protect their homes or as a reaction to ‎violence against their villages, not for the ‘nation’. ‎

There is another parallel to the actions of Sheikh Mujib: those of Nehru ‎during the border-conflict with China. Here was a ‘responsible’ political leader ‎who had been advised by diplomats and military experts not to confront China on ‎the battlefield. He chose to ignore them. Nehru refused to negotiate; he was ‎goaded on by the political class; he firmly believed that China would not attack; ‎the army was politicised at the top and the officers were inefficient. ‎

The very possibility of Chinese retaliation for Indian provocation was ‎rejected. Without a shred of evidence, the Intelligence Bureau endorsed this ‎illogical view; those officers who questioned the assumption were shunted aside ‎to make room for more docile soldiers. And the most docile of them all was ‎General Kaul. The chief of general staff, without any combat command ‎experience, was moved to active command despite the knowledge of his total ‎unsuitability for the post! When General Thapar suggested that China might ‎counter-attack, Nehru said that he had ‘good reason to believe that the Chinese ‎would not take strong action against us’. Soon, the situation was out of his hand ‎‎– he was a pawn of the powers he had encouraged, both national as well as ‎international. ‎

Therefore, it is not the Bengali Hindu or Bengali Muslim who has 'the ‎disease’, as Nirad Chaudhuri put it. Rather, it appears to be a South Asian trait: ‎intransigence, the inability to accommodate any other point of view but mine, an ‎unrealistic appraisal of the situation – all these qualities are on abundant display ‎in South Asia. We see them at work in the Kashmir question in India, in the ‎Tamil question in Sri Lanka, and in our own domestic politics in Bangladesh. ‎

However, the real lesson of Nehru’s debacle is different. Despite losing ‎the newly-won freedom of India to China (but for Chinese forbearance), he not ‎only did not resign, there was not a murmur against his continued leadership. ‎Moreover, his daughter and his grandson went on to inherit his position. ‎Similarly, Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, despite losing half the country, managed to ‎bequeath power to his daughter. The Bandaranaike family, notwithstanding the ‎fact that it was father who started the Tamil-Sinahlase division, managed to keep ‎the prime ministership as well as the presidency simultaneously in the family! Our ‎dynasties have their similar origins in fiascoes and debacles.‎

The experience of being ruled for several hundred years by foreigners ‎must have eaten away the intellectual fibre of our elites. Surely, it will take ‎several generations before we start thinking for ourselves, and not let others do ‎our thinking for us. Perhaps 60 years of ‘independence’ is not enough for ‎independent thought. How long before the slave mentality finally disappears? ‎

In South Asia, failure pays. ‎

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

lobsters and diamonds

Glenn Jones studied several hundred menus in the United States, going back into the past. ‎He made a remarkable discovery: there was a time when lobsters were so cheap that they ‎were used as fertiliser! They were so abundant that they were fed to prisoners and ‎children in orphanages. Servants deplored the fare, bargaining with their employers not to ‎be served the crustacean more than twice a week. ‎

Then lobsters became scarce, and their price began to rise. In 1870, a meal cost $4 (in ‎today's money), but $30 dollars or more around 1970. ‎

That's when the lobster became a prized delicacy, sought by the rich. ‎

This is an excellent example of the failure of economic theory: economic theory predicts ‎that the more expensive a product, the less people will consume it. When the supply of ‎lobsters began to shrink, the price rose, and the product came to be in greater demand, ‎pushing prices even further.‎

This observation was made a hundred years ago by Thorstein Veblen: he noticed that the ‎rich engage in conspicuous consumption; they value things just because they are ‎expensive (diamonds, for instance). ‎

If you're still not convinced, consider the case of diamonds ('girl's best friend'): if ‎diamonds were cheaper, more people would buy them, right? Wrong! Diamonds can be ‎as cheap as glass, and hardly anyone would buy them then. ‎

The only reason why diamond is not cheap as glass is because DeBeers, the cartel, hoards ‎several billion dollars worth of diamonds in its vaults: it releases just enough to ensure ‎that the price remains high – but not too high. Does that make sense? It certainly goes ‎against economic theory: if diamond drops sufficiently low in price, nobody will buy ‎diamonds!‎

It is the same case with gold: there is enough gold in the world's central bank vaults and ‎the IMF's hoard to make gold as cheap as any metal. Then who would ever buy gold? ‎

Still not convinced? Consider silver: at one time, it was very expensive; today it is cheap, ‎and how many people crave silver? ‎

The Conversion of Asoka (fiction)

The Conversion of Asoka (fiction)‎

Bangladesh has devils to exorcise: this is the story of Lalla Rookh, a distraught mother, ‎whose son enters the sinister world of student politics. Not even the well-meaning Zafar ‎Shah can help her, as evil seemingly triumphs over good. ‎

click below to read: ‎ ‎

Friday, October 26, 2007

racism in england

A friend of mine is a doctor in England – a consultant, in fact. He came to Bangladesh a ‎few months ago, and he told me that the English regard colour as Muslims regard the pig. ‎

One of his patients came to him and said: "I don't mind coloured doctors, but my friends ‎do."‎

He has to put up with such taunts regularly. ‎

Another friend – also a doctor, but a Ph. D candidate at a prestigious university – says ‎that he would never live in England because of the racism he has encountered. ‎

My cousin's husband recently went to England to do his MBA, leaving his wife and new-‎born son behind. He planned to take them to England after finishing his MBA and getting ‎a job. ‎

He was little prepared for his experience there. Now he swears he will return because he ‎doesn't want his son to go through what he has to go through.‎

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

the positive stereotype of the western woman

The first thing to note is that western women do not suffer any harm through war – they ‎are at the delivering, not the receiving, end of the missile. ‎

A UNIFEM report has it that " The economic cost of violence against women is ‎considerable — a 2003 report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ‎‎(CDC) estimates that the costs of intimate partner violence in the United States alone ‎exceed US$5.8 billion per year: US$4.1 billion are for direct medical and health care ‎services, while productivity losses account for nearly US$1.8 billion." ‎

In peaceful Geneva, Switzerland, a randomly selected study of nearly 1,200 ninth-grade ‎students revealed that 20 per cent of girls had experienced at least one incident of ‎physical sexual abuse ‎‎( ‎

According to The Care Center ( ):‎

‎• Of rape victims who reported the offense to law enforcement, about 40% were‎
under the age of 18, and 15% were younger than 12.‎
‎• Of 1,000 representative female students at a large urban university, over half‎
had experienced some form of unwanted sex. Twelve percent of these acts
were perpetrated by casual dates and 43% by steady dating partners.‎
‎• Female adolescents are frequent victims of sexual assault and rape. The‎
incidence of rape in the United States peaks among young women 16 to 19‎
years of age. The reported incidence of rape and sexual assault reflects a
fraction of the actual frequency of this crime. The National Victim Center
estimates that almost 700,000 women are raped each year, and that 61% of the
victims are under the age of 18.‎
‎• Female adolescents are at high risk for becoming victims of acquaintance rape‎
or “date rape.” Studies have shown that the highest incidence of acquaintance
rape occurred in grade 12 and during the freshman year of college. Of the‎
‎25% of college women surveyed who reported having had unwanted sexual‎
intercourse, 84% knew their assailant, 57% of the episodes occurred on dates,‎
and 41% of the women stated that they were virgins at the time of the assault.‎
Again, this is probably an underestimation of the true incidence of date rape

Alcohol a factor:‎
‎• It is estimated that approximately one-half of assault cases involve alcohol
consumption by the perpetrator, victim, or both. Moreover, while alcohol
consumption and sexual assault frequently co-occur, this phenomenon does
not prove that alcohol use causes sexual assault. Rather, alcohol contributes to
sexual assault through multiple pathways, often exacerbating existing risk
factors. For example, the desire to commit sexual violence may actually cause
alcohol consumption in that a male perpetrator drinks alcohol before
committing a sexual assault in order to justify his behavior. Whereas, among
college-aged males, fraternities encourage both heavy drinking and the sexual
exploitation of women.‎

Date rape drugs:‎

‎• Date rape drugs or drug-facilitated sexual assault causes sedation and amnesia
to the extent that a potential victim cannot resist or may not be aware of the
assault. In fact, about 25% of the women who contacted the Canadian Sexual
Assault Center reported that drugs were a factor in a rape. The most
commonly reported drugs in addition to alcohol to facilitate sexual assault are
flunitrazepam and gamma hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), which is now touted as
a new recreational ‘club drug’.‎

Long term effects:‎
‎• Victims of marital or date rape are 11 times more likely to be clinically ‎depressed, and 6 times more likely to experience social phobia than are non-victims. ‎Psychological problems are still evident in cases as long as 15 years after the assault.‎

That's not a pretty picture for any society, especially one that claims to be the universal ‎conscience, with the ability to tell right from wrong. Why should a society that respects ‎women as individuals, unlike (remember) Muslim society, why should such a society ‎present such awful statistics? ‎

I will let Andrea Dworkin speak on the subject of western man's perception of western ‎woman. ‎

‎"The skin of white women has a meaning in pornography. In a white-supremacist society, ‎the skin of white women is supposed to indicate privilege. Being white is as good as it ‎gets. What, then, does it mean that pornography is filled with white women? It means that ‎when one takes a woman who is at the zenith of the hierarchy in racial terms and one asks ‎her, What do you want?, she, who supposedly has some freedom and some choices, says, ‎I want to be used. She says, use me, hurt me, exploit me, that is what I want. The society ‎tells us that she is a standard, a standard of beauty, a standard of womanhood and ‎femininity. But, in fact, she is a standard of compliance. She is a standard of submission. ‎She is a standard for oppression, its emblem; she models oppression, she incarnates it; ‎which is to say that she does what she needs to do in order to stay alive, the configuration ‎of her conformity predetermined by the men who like to ejaculate on her white skin. She ‎is for sale. And so what is her white skin worth? It makes her price a little higher. ‎‎("‎

What Andrea Dworkin had to say about women being objectified in western society ‎cannot be easily denied: and one does not have to go as far as pornography to see it (though we must keep in mind the fact that pornography in the US alone constitutes a $10 billion industry). ‎Advertisements routinely use women; there are women's pageants still; the diversity of ‎lingerie that western, consumer society has dreamt up – and which is almost totally ‎missing in a place like Bangladesh – can leave little room for doubt that women are ‎meant to be gazed on – consumed - by men....

In conclusion, what are we to say about the positive stereotype of the western woman against the negative stereotype of her easter sisters?

They are both completely wrong.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Flash flood in Khagrachari

Khagrachari is a small town in the district of the same name. Nestled in a valley ringed ‎with blue, magnificent hills, it is a jewel in the crown of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of ‎Bangladesh. ‎

Next to the town runs the rivulet known as the Chengi, which pours its meagre stream ‎into the artificial lake of Kaptai. ‎

Meagre stream? Most of the time: meagre, but lovely, especially when its meanders are ‎viewed from the hills. ‎

However, on the night of the 16th of October, 2007, the Chengi changed beyond ‎recognition. It had rained all night, and by dawn, the river was a surge of rapid waters ‎carrying flotsam from the hills. It was a magnificent sight!‎

A brief trip into the city, and the devastation wrought by the usually docile Chengi was ‎heartbreaking. People had woken up with their houses flooded, their crops destroyed, ‎their belongings ruined….‎

And what was worse was that this was the second flash flood in a month. But the ‎previous overflow of the monsoon had been mild. The city people recalled that the last ‎time such a terrible flood had occurred was in 1984. They are a hardy lot, and every year ‎during monsoon – which lasts from June/July to September/October – they are visited by ‎at least one such calamity. ‎

The Chengi reminded me of that famous line uttered by Mrs. Moore in E. M. Forster's "A ‎Passage to India": "What a terrible river…what a beautiful river!" ‎

The story of the flash flood is told in pictures below (copy and paste in browser to view). ‎

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Two Religions of Bangladesh

The Two Religions of Bangladesh
Category: News and Politics

The Two Religions of Bangladesh (Analysis)

According to Ninian Smart, nationalism is as much a religion as any of the regular variety. Nationalism has never been able to supplant Islam in Bangladesh, and the two religions coexist in hostility.



The freedom industry comprises western governments and ngos, local politicians and intellectuals – everyone who hopes to gain financially and in terms of kudos from the spread of "freedom", covering up all traces of violence and whitewashing the darkest crimes. Read this definitive account, with an introduction by Les Blough.

Reflections on Democracy and Violence

Reflections on Democracy and Violence

The second section of this article establishes a correlation, witnessed by evidence and the testimony of S. E. Finer and Stanley J. Tambiah, between democracy and violence, a correlation that is strengthened in the third section by John Keane and Robin Blackburn's observation that civil society tends towards violence; but correlation is not causation, and section three is dedicated to establishing a causal link between the Forum-type polity and violence.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Is Poetry Dead?

{clcik above for article}

Is Poetry Dead?

Who reads poetry today? And who reads the modern and contemporary poets? And yet ‎there is a deluge of poetry – for the producers and consumers of poetry constitute a giant ‎industry, from which the 'average' reader is left out. ‎


Venus will be rising at 3:20 am - long before the sun, which is interesting because Venus is usually seen just before or just after sunset.

After Venus, Saturn will be rising, and between them Regulus, one of the brightest stars in the sky.

On October 14th, Venus passes to the south of Saturn.

So there's a lot to look forward to this weekend.

A good pair of binoculars are, of course, essential for any star-gazing trip.

bats and birds

Bats and birds both fly, but a bat is not a bird. So how do you tell them apart?

If we look at the red corpuscles of a bat under a microscope, we'll find that they don't have nuclei.

On the other hand, birds' red corpuscles do.

This proves that bats are mammals - more evolved, mammals have more efficient corpuscles. Nuclei take up space, precious space that can be filled with the red pigment haemoglobin which carries the oxygen. Red corpusles in mammals are totally filled with haemoglobin.

This is further proof that birds are descended from reptiles, which also have nuclei in their red corpuscles.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Four Years AFTER The Revolution

Four Years AFTER The Revolution

I have lived to see, first-hand, how an entire society goes mad, and loses all humanity…‎The personal is the political, and the choices we make in our everyday lives translate into ‎good or evil in the (supposedly distinct) public sphere. Whether misled by ambition, or ‎blinded by ideology, our actions have consequences beyond the family and private life: ‎they can make or destroy the lives of strangers. ‎

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Knowledge Sinners

Socrates maintained that all evil proceeded from ignorance. Boy, was he wrong!

The Bengali language has an exquisite term for a corrupt intellectual: I refer to the word ‎vigorously doing the rounds these days – “ganpapi”. ‎

The word, like many a word in another language, is untranslatable, and literally would be ‎rendered “knowledge-sinner”. Now, what is a “knowledge-sinner”? ‎

A man or woman who uses his/her knowledge to do evil rather than good: that is, one ‎who knowingly does evil. The term is applied to our intellectuals, and that is cause for ‎hope. People have realised that it is not our politicians alone that are responsible for our ‎present predicament, but that the active connivance of our intellectuals was required for ‎things to come to such a pass. ‎

And today the intellectuals at Dhaka University have come out in favour of our two ‎hartal-walis. These teachers have corrupted the students – as can be seen by the Chatra ‎League going along with them. And are there sons in Chatra League? No! ‎

Meanwhile, Mahfuz Anam's editorial on "strengthening democracy" has come in for ‎criticism from readers here and abroad. That's another "ganpapi" who has shown his true ‎colours. Indeed, today, we are getting a slow-motion analysis of the pathologies of the ‎last 16 years. ‎

Indeed, over the last sixteen years, it was the intelligentsia that legitimised the two ‎murderous groups that we called political parties, that sanctioned the edict of Washington ‎in our affairs, that colluded in the disappearance of decency and humanity from our daily ‎lives. Now, all we have to do is to take that insight to its logical conclusion. ‎

But logic, of course, has never been our forte. ‎

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Secular is Very Religious

Any almanac, such as the Britannica, will tell you that around 85 per cent of the people of ‎Bangladesh are Muslim, that Hindus trail at about 10 per cent, with Christians, Buddhists, ‎animists…bringing up the rear. My concern here is with two religions – and one of them ‎is Islam, and the other? Nationalism! No almanac announces this surreptitious religion in ‎the body politic, but its tokens and totems are as visible as those of the more run-of-the-‎mill variety.

‎A secular religion? No, not an oxymoron, but an ascertainable fact. How does one define ‎‎“religion”? According to Ninian Smart, in his book The World’s Religions (‎(Englewood ‎Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1989, pp 10 - 25‎), every religion has seven characteristics, or ‎dimensions. We tick them off one by one, with respect to nationalism: (1) the ritual ‎dimension: speaking the language, saluting the flag, national holidays, pilgrimages to ‎sights considered important (the Shahid Minar comes readily to mind); (2) the ‎experiential or emotional dimension: nationalism has a powerful emotional side, a fact ‎that seems to me to explain why children are peculiarly susceptible to it, as during the ‎Chinese May 4th Movement, or the 21st February 1952 students’ movement in the then ‎East Pakistan; these emotions are always kept simmering below the surface through ‎patriotic or heroic songs, dramas…(3) the narrative dimension is obvious in nationalism: ‎the history of the nation; the stories (fictionalized, or embellished) of great men, women ‎and even children who made the nation what it is; (4) unlike the emotional dimension, ‎nationalism lacks a strong doctrinal dimension, reinforcing my observation that the power ‎of the emotional aspect renders nationalist sentiments peculiarly appealing to children; ‎however, nationalism can appeal to a set of doctrines, such as democracy, individual ‎freedom and rights (or it could appeal to purely religious doctrines as well); (5) the ‎ethical dimension of nationalism refers to loyalty to the nation, martial values needed ‎during defense (or offence), family values; (6) the social and institutional aspect of the ‎nation-state consists in such public figures as the head of state, the army and its military ‎ceremonies, the education system – a formidable apparatus for collective indoctrination – ‎and even in games (the Olympics is the egregious example); (7) finally, the material ‎dimension of religion are the physical monuments and artistic objects that have been ‎created by the “nation-builders”.

‎There are those in Bangladesh who are proud to be “secular” and perform ‎‎“secular” pilgrimages to the shrine of the language martyrs every 21st February, promote ‎the language at fairs and cultural soirees, in short, place themselves diametrically ‎opposite the religion of Islam, which, naturally, has its own, sharply differentiated ‎dimensional contents. In fact, of course, the “secularists” are not secular at all: they have ‎a religion, just like the people they despise (and who despise them).‎

Now, to what extent are these dimensions shared across the nation? To a very ‎minor extent. The Bangladesh Television interviewed crowds of ordinary people about ‎such seminal events as 21st February, asking them what the day meant, and nobody could ‎reply. I write “21st February”, when in fact I should write “Ekushey February”, for that is ‎how the day is commemorated. The ordinal number occurs in Bengali, and the month ‎belongs to the international calendar, not the corresponding Bengali month. It is the same ‎with other “national” dates: “sholoi December” (16th December), “Chabbishe March” ‎‎(26th March)…Other dates are entirely in the Gregorian calendar: “Martyred ‎Intellectuals’ Day (13th December)”, “Homecoming Day (10th January)”, “Asad Day (20th ‎January)”, “Declaration of Independence Day(7th May)”…. These considerations would ‎indicate that the language and nationalist movement has been a purely elite, urban ‎phenomenon, highly influenced by western ideas and totally divorced from the people. ‎

As anthropologist Stanley J. Tambiah has observed: “In India, Pakistan, Sri ‎Lanka, and Bangladesh, the attempt to realise the nation-state on a Western European ‎model has virtually failed. The nation-state conception has not taken deep roots in South ‎Asia or generated a wide-spread and robust participatory “public culture” that celebrates ‎it in widely meaningful ceremonies, festivals, and rituals”.‎

That brings us to a major point: Sheikh Hasina as the symbol of nationalism is ‎largely an elite symbol.

The Dhaka University teachers who wore black badges and ‎abstained from work are members of the elite. ‎

Not a single member of the hoi polloi has voiced any protest at her arrest – or at ‎the house arrest of the other leader. ‎

Why then, this appeal to "the people"? ‎Newspapers and newspaper readers, teachers, student politicians are not the whole ‎‎– or even a small fraction – of "the people".

‎In the name of the People, as in the name of God, or Dialectical Materialism, or the Herrenvolk, ‎anything goes. ‎

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Operation Clean Hands

What is happening in Bangladesh is not at all unprecedented. Almost identical events occurred in Italy in the early 1990s.

But we have to go back a bit.

Mussolini had nearly destroyed the Mafia. After his defeat, the Americans, who are fond of the vilest bedfellows, resuscitated the mob in order to fight off communism. The Christian Democratic Party (DC) – this was the age of the Christian Democratic Parties in Europe – forged a symbiosis with the Mafia. Throughout the continuing pontificate of Pope Pius XII, the Italian Church was mobilized to feed votes to the DC – anything against the communist devil! (Italo Calvino recounts how the good nuns of post-war Turin brought the mentally ill and defectives in their care to cast votes.) Supported partly by American cash, the Social Democratic Party became a coalition partner of the DC.

Thus, over some fifty years, the Christian Democrats became corrupt and criminal. Then the Berlin Wall collapsed, and, with it, Communism.

The Christian Democrats and the Mafia were clearly liabilities now. A systematic purge of the Italian ruling elite began.. It was engineered by some brave magistrates known as mani pulite (clean hands), with, no doubt, the United States in the background. Several of those magistrates were assassinated by the mob. But enough pentiti (penitent mobsters) were rustled up to blow the whistle on the Mafia.

Bribe taking was discovered within the judiciary. The press came under public suspicion, as did the Vatican. By late in 1993, allegations had been made against over 3,000 politicians, business executives, and civil servants, of whom almost a third had been arrested or were under investigation, causing such a backlog in the courts that, it was estimated, the trials might not be concluded for a decade. Ten of those accused had committed suicide. (Nothing so dramatic has yet happened in Bangladesh: we don't even have 500 politicians behind bars, let alone 1,000, and nobody's shot himself.)

The Italian Christian Democrats were finished. Corruption did return, notably in the shape of Silvio Berlusconi; and so did the mafia, which was never an entirely criminal organization, but performed social services in the poorer south of Italy. However, the mafia was a shadow of its former self, and the nexus between politics and organized crime had been broken.

In Bangladesh, things happened in reverse. The Berlin Wall collapsed, and General Ershad was given the heave-ho by the donors (donor-propped dictators were falling like dominoes after 1989 – in that year, there were three democracies in Africa; in 1991, there were thirty! For more on the subject, see Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal Daloz's excellent book, Africa Works.)

Thus, instead of one dictator, we had two; and instead of men with guns, we had boys with guns.

Sixteen years later, the western powers realized that democracy was going the usual way, and sought to clean up their little colony called Bangladesh.

Thus, we have our own brand of mani pulite, the ostensible ridding of corruption and actual dismantling of dysfunctional political parties.

The Wicked Civilisation

The Wicked Civilisation

After the end of the cold war, the target of western demonization shifted from the defunct Soviet Union to the anticipated new adversary, the Muslim world. Supposedly universal concerns – women and democracy – were brought to bear with obsessive focus on Islam, to the exclusion of other civilizations where these were, by the same yardsticks, legitimate concerns – including the West.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Freedom and FREEDOM


Individual freedom has been a recurring theme in western literature and society. The essay argues that the word freedom connotes individual freedom in western culture and literature because of the experience of slavery. Since Asia lacked this experience, freedom in the sense of individual freedom has no meaning here. In Asia the word freedom connotes collective freedom in keeping with its colonial experience. Present day implications for the cultural and political transmissions taking place are profound.

Using Students Again

Déjà vu.

‎The Bangladesh Chatra League has again been mobilized to come to the rescue of ‎their patron, Sheikh Hasina. These boys can't be blamed for letting her ruin their ‎young lives: but we, the silent spectators of their ruin, can.

‎How many parent would send his or her son to join the Chatra League? None. ‎

A boy who graduated from Pabna Cadet College, and joined Dhaka University, ‎became a leader overnight. His father is a teacher, and his mother a housewife. He ‎comes from a good family. Nevertheless, he was given control over a hall: he had ‎power, and he was thrilled. ‎I personally know two ex-BCL boys (men now, yes they grow up) who are social ‎outcasts. One of them is a junkie, and the other can't hold a job. His wife left him, ‎saying that she would come back only when he could get, and hold, a job. The ‎former student leader has had another round of rehab – let's hope this will be his ‎last. ‎

I know an intellectual who refused to let his son get admitted to Dhaka College – ‎even when the boy failed to get into Notre Dame. And yet he was a stalwart ‎supporter of student politics. I spoke with Fr. James T. Banas to get his son ‎admitted, and we both stared down at the floor in shame that a man of his stature ‎should have such terrible double standards. The intellectual himself approached Fr. ‎Peixotto and got his son in through the back door. ‎The boy's married now (yes, he has grown up also) and his wife hasn't left him, and ‎he isn't on drugs.

‎Canny intellectual father! ‎

How many of you want your sons to join the student bodies? ‎

Thursday, July 19, 2007

No hope for indymedia in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, what we need badly (and will never get) is an alternative, or independent, media. By that, I don't mean a newspaper, TV or radio that reports without 'fear or favour'. By that I mean newspapers (online as well as offline) that are small and that have integrity. Take the case of Tom Feeley's excellent newsletter, Information Clearing House (ICH). His blurb says that it provides "News You Won't Get On CNN", and he is absolutely telling the truth.

His is a heroic one-man show, and his is forever strapped for cash. Other online journals include, the Online Journal, OpEdNews.Com, GlobalResearch.Ca….

These are people dedicated to telling us what's really going on: they are not corrupt because they have no ties with corporations. They are plainly not in it for the money. An excellent offline magazine that recently went out of circulation was Altar Magazine, run by Mandy van Deven – it went bust because she could no longer pay for it. But that's precisely why these newspapers can "afford" to tell us the truth.

People are gaga over corporate media in Bangladesh, especially one known as the Daily Star. I have worked with these people, and I know what lying weasels they are.

I once submitted an article to Daily Star in 1994. The editor refused to print the last line, which raised the question that has been prominent from Greek times: can democracy and safety go together? First, the sub-editor called me and asked me to change the line. I refused. The sub-editor chuckled and said: "We know people want martial law, but we can't print that". If you know that, then it's your DUTY to print that. My article appeared, and instead of the last line, the editor supplied one of his own!

The lamestream media (as it is known in indymedia, or independent media) is the corrupt mainstream: over the last sixteen years, the lamestream media has done as much damage as the politicians by legitimizing our monstrous democracy.

Research by the Centre for Civil Society, London School of Economics, has shown that, while in the United Kingdom people who join NGOs accept a pay-cut, people who join NGOs in Bangladesh get a pay-rise: they are in it for the money, not for the conviction.

That's why I think there will never be an indymedia in Bangladesh, no matter how badly we need one.

Corruption, once again.

Sheikh Hasina arrested

It's about time.

She has committed every crime in the book over the last sixteen years. She should be made to pay for every day of hartal that she called, for every life that she ruined with her student and youth fronts, for every rape that her goons committed....Greek democracy had the custom of ostracism: when anybody got out of hand, they would banish him from the city. Let us do the same to Sheikh Hasina and her ilk- but, instead of banishing them, let's put them away behind bars.

And we must remember that they could never prove AL Capone murdered anyone -they had to get him on tax evasion.

Whatever it takes, let her spend the rest of her days where she belongs - in a tiny 4 X 4 cell. That's more room for manoeuvre than she ever gave us.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Queen of Bangladesh

The Queen of Bangladesh has been arrested; for those who thought Bangladesh was a ‎Republic, this may come as news. A few Bangladeshis have reacted with horror at the ‎thought that the Queen of the Republic could be bunged into prison on extortion charges. ‎After all, if I had been bunged into prison, that wouldn't have mattered. I am a mere ‎subject…I mean, citizen. ‎

But the daughter of the King of Bangladesh is surely above the law. Mahfuz Anam of the ‎Daily Star, who had gone on and on about human rights and equality, condemned the arrest of ‎the Queen. After all, we are living in a constitutional monarchy, and a Queen cannot be ‎arrested. ‎

On the other hand, millions of people are happy that the Queen is behind bars: in her long ‎sixteen-year reign, the Queen had made life impossible for the average subject…I mean, ‎citizen. ‎

The oligarchs that grew rich around her, like the barons of old, are not in favour of the ‎army. They have stolen millions over the last sixteen years, and now they can't spend ‎their loot, or invest their booty…they are greatly irked at having to follow the law. This ‎again confirms that we are not living in a Republic. ‎

If a Queen is accused of a crime, she must be kept comfy at home, with hot and cold ‎running water, air-conditioning, soft sofas, thick carpets, a Mercedes. And if or when her ‎highness deigns to visit the court for a cuppa, then and only then should she be ‎questioned, after apologies from all concerned, judges, lawyers, ….‎

If she doesn't like the questions (a fair bet) she should be free to turn her backside on the ‎said judges and lawyers and go out to greet her lackeys…I mean, followers. ‎

That is how a Queen should be treated. ‎

Long live the Queen (in jail) ! ‎