Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Partition Center Journal 2012 -- Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Project Inc.


The Table of Contents


Second (2011) Conference Report                                   Page 1

October 16, 1905: An Important Date
of Indian History — Dr. Sachi G. Dastidar                                2

1905 Bengal Partition Commemorative
Petition; 2005                                                                           3-4

The O'Briens of India and Pakistan                          
The Hon. Derek O'Brien, M.P.                                                   5

Exodus of Hindus and other Minorities
from Pakistan and Bangladesh: Indian
Predicament and Tragedy of Indian
“Secularism” Dr. Saradindu Mukherji                                                            6

Socialist Cuba’s New Private Housing
Market — Prof. Jill Hamberg                                                                             7-8

Opinion: Post Partition Cultural
Transformation in East Pakistan
and Bangladesh  — Mr. Bimal Pramanik                                                  9-10

US Court Forces Boston College Oral History
Project to Turn Over Recordings —
Dr. Tom Lilly                                                                                                            11

Greetings from Elizabeth M. Barna, Esq.                                12

Greetings from Samir & Nirmala Sarkar                         13

Greetings from Tom & Teresa Lilly                                 14

Greetings from Dastidar Family                                              15

Message from Arun & Banasree, and
From ISPaD to Old Westbury                                                  16

Greetings from Pratip Dasgupta                                              17

Greetings from SriKant & Anindita
Mookerjee and Aahar Bengali Cousine                                   18

ISPaD: Partition Documentation
Appeal  Form                                                                           19

Greetings from HRCBM                               Inside Back Cover

Greetings from American Hindu
Public Affairs Council (AHPAC)                            Back Cover

Table of Contents                                            Inside Front Cover

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October 16, 1905: An Important Date of Indian History [1]
Sachi G. Dastidar, Ph.D.[2]
             October 16 is a very important date in the Indian calendar but very few people in the Subcontinent — India, Bangladesh or Pakistan — will remember this day as mythology- and ancient tradition-influenced Hindu culture is not readily influenced by date-specific historic events. On that day one hundred years ago in 1905 the Colonial British Administration mandated a Muslim-Hindu (non-Muslim) partition of mixed, tolerant Bengal Province in eastern India when there was no such demand from either community. In Indian history this date is possibly more profound than 9/11 for America, but very few in the Subcontinent talk about that. This is may also be the beginning of the modern Islamist movement of the world. In the late 1800s and early 1900s Calcutta, the British Colonial capital, and Bengal of which Calcutta was also the capital, was leading an intense struggle for Indian independence joined by India’s diverse religious and linguistic groups — Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Brahmo. Bengal was then evenly divided between Muslim and non-Muslim. Colonial ruler Lord Curzon devised a divide-and-rule policy to create a cleavage among Indians, starting with the Bengalis first. He proposed the creation of a majority-Muslim East Bengal Province with extra privileges for ‘backward Muslims,’ and a Hindu-majority (West) Bengal. The British Raj sanctioned huge sums of money to a non-native Urdu-speaking Muslim landlord, Nawab Salimullah, of Dhaka of East Bengal, now Bangladesh, to promote an anti-independence Muslim League Party to counter the more numerous Hindus and other non-Muslims in the independence struggle. After an intense effort by mostly-non-Muslim Indians of the entire Subcontinent the province was reunited in 1912 but that communal impetus gave rise to intolerant, separatist Islamism. Mr. Salimullah was first elevated by awarding him a title of nawab or prince. Muslim-non-Muslim killings became ‘a part of life’ in Indian Subcontinent. Success of the first ever use of divide-and-rule policy would make Britain use that tool later in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.  The Islamism that the British Raj nurtured in Indian soil eventually partitioned Bengal in 1947, almost along the same geographical line that Curzon devised in 1905, along with partitioning of Punjab, Assam and Kashmir regions with creation of Islamic Pakistan and Bangladesh. One could easily argue that this was the beginning of the making of the minds of extremism. Ironically for the creation of these Islamic states another October 16 in 1946, is intimately associated with. To galvanize public opinion for Muslim-non-Muslim partition of India a ghastly anti-Hindu pogrom was initiated on a Hindu holy day in its remote eastern Noakhali district when Bengal’s Muslim League Premier Surahwardy was in charge of the province. British Army and Police watched as thousands of Hindus were killed and tens of thousands of girls and wives were converted which is known as Noakhali Danga pogrom. Gandhiji went to Noakhali to stop that carnage. This killing followed the August 16 Hindu-Muslim killing also in 1946, known as Great Calcutta Killing, as the British Police, Premier Surahwardy and Calcutta Mayor Osman (Usman) remained in the sidelines. In India there weren’t any commemoration of that event which had untold human sufferings and enormous geo-political impact. Since the second British partition of Bengal in 1947 Bangladeshi Hindus have come down from a third of the population to below 10% now, a loss of over 49 million people from Bangladeshi Census as documented in my book! [3] Minority Muslim populations in both Hindu-majority West Bengal and India have risen since 1947; yet feels vulnerable by that partition. Let us hope that such divisiveness would never be used for national governance.
[1] From a 2005 commemorative article for a Calcutta (India) paper; [2] Distinguished Service Professor, State University of New York, Old Westbury; [3] Sachi Dastidar, Empire’s Last Casualty, Firma KLM, India, 2008
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 1905 Bengal Partition Commemorative Petition; 2005

Note: In October 2005, one hundred years from the first British-mandated Muslim-Hindu partition, a committee of Old Westbury students and faculty, and their neighbors got together and created the petition. This petition was signed by hundreds of people around the world through the Internet and by pen in a hard copy that was delivered to all the leaders mentioned below as well as to the news media. (http://empireslastcasualty.blogspot. com/2008/12/1905-bengal-partition-commemorative.html)
A book exhibition was held at a Baptist church in Queens, New York City.

Committee to Commemorate Banga-Vanga (Partition of Bengal) Centenary, New York City
October 16, 2005

  On this day, October 16, one hundred years ago in 1905, the Colonial British Administration mandated a Muslim-Hindu (Non-Muslim) partition of Bengal Province in British India ushering in the rise of intolerant religiosity and communal politics over the past 100 years. This event is commonly known in the Indian Subcontinent as Banga-Vanga or Partition of Bengal into a Muslim-majority East Bengal and a Hindu-majority West Bengal. With minor changes that Muslim-majority East Bengal is now Bangladesh where Islam is the State Religion and that Hindu-majority west is the West Bengal State of pluralistic, secular India.

A. Whereas before October 16, 1905 Bengal (and rest of British India, now Indian Subcontinent) was an area where Muslims and Hindus (non-Muslims) lived rather amicably;

B. Whereas prior to that engineered communal partition there were no demands for communal, sectarian, regional or racial separation between Muslims and Hindus from either of the communities who lived next to each other for hundreds of years or from any other segments of the society;

C. Whereas preceding that forced communal divide of majority-Muslim Bengal, as in rest of India, the religious-linguistic-ethnic communities had woven a composite culture where Muslims and Christians drew strengths from their ancient nature-worshipping, deity-worshipping Hindu-Buddhist-Jain roots while Muslims studied at Hindu tolls, just as Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs had drawn strengths from Muslim pirs (saints) and worshipped at those shrines, and many Hindu philanthropists establishing Muslim institutions;

D. Whereas 19th and early 20th Century Bengal was one of the leading players of India’s independence movement giving birth to numerous anti-colonial writers, intellectuals, poets, composers, saints and spiritualists — Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Brahmo, Buddhist — including Raja Ram Mohon, Vidyasagar, Bankim Chandra, Lalon Fakir, Rabindranath Tagore, Michael Madhusudan, Mir Mosharraf, Vivekananda, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Aswani Kumar, Sri Aurobindo, Atul Prasad, Rajani Kanto, Sarat Chandra, D. L. Roy, Swami Pranavananda, Rev. Lal Behari Dey, Begum Rokeya, Mukunda Das, Syruo Sen, Mohammad Shahidullah, Hasan Raja and Pritilata Waddedar;

E. Whereas Colonial British Administration devised a novel divide-and-rule policy testing in culturally homogeneous Bengal to create a schism among their colonized subjects which in later years will be tried from Ireland to Africa, and Asia to the Americas;

F. Whereas after an intense struggle from the citizens of Bengal and rest of India stretching from the Bay of Bengal to Baluchistan, the province was reunited in 1912, but Muslim-Hindu (non-Muslim) communal conflict became a part of life in Bengal (and in rest of the Subcontinent) while the Colonial Police and British Army remained in the sidelines;

G. Whereas the Muslim-Hindu (non-Muslim) fratricide and demands for Muslim-non-Muslim partition of India by then energized Muslim League Party intensified after a major riot that was organized in Calcutta, the capital of united Bengal, on August 16, 1946, then ruled by the Muslim League Premier Suhrawardy and Calcutta’s (Muslim) Mayor Osman, while the British Police remained a spectator;

H. Whereas 41 years later in 1946 on that exact same date, October 16, on the auspicious Hindu Lakhsmi Puja Day an intense anti-Hindu pogrom was organized by a Bengal Legislator Golam Sarwar with the Muslim League Premier Suhrawardy in the helm of the Province in the eastern Noakhali district taking thousands of lives and abduction of thousands of girls and wives, only stopped by a walking tour of unarmed ‘one-man army’ of Gandhi, while the British Police and Army remained in the sidelines;

I. Whereas 1905 led to 1946 and finally to August 15 of 1947 when Britain partitioned India into Muslim Pakistan (and East Bengal/Bangladesh), and non-Muslim India with loss of over 1½ million lives and displacement of tens of millions of people which continues to this day;
J. Whereas no one in the British Administration was punished for the 1905 forced communal partition of Bengal causing hundreds of thousands of lives lost, and no British Administrator, no Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi elite was held accountable for the loss of life and ethnic cleansing of minorities after 1947 partition of India which is still continuing;

K. Whereas the first two (Islamic) partitions — 1905 and 1947 — led to a third partition and independence of  
Bangladesh in 1971 when over 3 million people, including Muslims, were murdered by the Army of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and its Islamist Al-Badr and Razakar killer gangs; yet no one involved in that genocide mutating from the previous killings were reprimanded;

L. Whereas the result of the 1905 Bengal Partition has been the transformation of a tolerant composite Bengali culture in East Bengal/Bangladesh into one where millions of Hindu along with Buddhist and Christian minorities have lost their lives because of the uncalled for British action, and tens of millions non-Muslims have been forced to flee their homeland, while the rest of the world looks on. This divisive policy has made life of Muslim minorities in West Bengal vulnerable as well;
Thus, we the signatories of this appeal call upon:
The leaders of Bangladesh, Paschim Bangla (West Bengal), India, Great Britain, and rest of the world that no such action of religious, linguistic, ethnic divisive politics is acted upon;

The leaders of Bangladesh, West Bengal and India, to recognize the right of the displaced families and their descendants to return to their homeland and create a composite culture that Bengalis/Indians are known for;
The current leaders of Great Britain to offer an apology to the people and their families who have lost their loved ones or were victims of ethnic cleansing because of actions they initiated in 1905;

The leaders and peoples of Bangladesh and West Bengal to create Banga-Vanga museums highlighting the lives lost, futures destroyed, families displaced due to that deliberate British communal action, and actions of Bengalis themselves, so that our children and grandchildren would learn from that preserved lessons of history and introduce study of subject in the educational curriculum for all;

Bangladeshis, Indians, Americans and rest of the world to observe October 16 as Shuvo Sampriti Community Unity Day by reading stories of courage and sorrow of their families to act as guides of our past mistakes and for a brighter future;

The leaders of the Subcontinent (South Asia) to follow a path of peaceful resolution to solve future societal problems and to accept all faiths as their own, and guarantee freedom of religion for all;

All to condemn the July 2005 acts of terrorism in London — a consequence of the seed planted one hundred years ago in Bengal, India — and similar acts in partitioned India including West Bengal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and in other parts of the world;

Leaders, intellectuals and the common man to encourage victims and survivors of pogroms, riots, genocide and ethnic cleansing in former Bengal Province not to forget the past but to revisit their ancestral lands and share their families’ experiences with their new neighbors.

This petition will be delivered to:

Prime Minister of Bangladesh
Chief Minister of the State of Paschim Bangla (West Bengal)
Prime Minister of India
Prime Minister of Great Britain
Secretary General of the United Nations
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Yours truly,

(
Signatures of hundreds of individuals from around the world )



The O'Briens of India and Pakistan

Derek O'Brien, M.P.

Publication: Quizderek.blogspot.in
Date: August 14, 2012
URL: http://quizderek.blogspot.in/2012/08/the-obriens-of-india-and-pakistan_13.html
Thoughts on Independence Day

 Each year, on August 15, I find myself thinking of my great-grandmother – my father’s paternal grand-mother. Nellie Bella Biswas, as she was named when born to a Bengali-Christian family with homes in Jalpaiguri and Manicktala, formed part of my earliest memories. She died in 1969, when I was a small schoolboy. Yet even by then she had come to represent an influential figure for me – the familiar matriarch, caring but firm, who taught the three of us, my brothers and me, to speak Bengali.

 To my young mind, Nellie Bella O’Brien, as she became on marrying an Irish settler in India – symbolised history. She was a walking, talking monument of history. To my innocent eyes, she seemed to stand for Mother India: a venerable and iconic figure who shed a silent tear in August 1947 as one country became two nations, and a composite society was split forever.

 Nellie Bella cried in August 1947, she cried every day from 1947 to 1969. She cried for the line in the sand that Partition drew. She cried for Patrick, her first-born, her beloved son, who stayed on in Lahore.
 The narrative of Partition has been written in terms of the subcontinent’s Hindus and Muslims. Christians have had only a small role. Anglo-Indians – the community I belong to and which makes up a minuscule section of India’s Christians – have had just a walk-on part.
 Yet Partition had a dramatic impact on my extended family. My paternal grandfather – Nellie’s son – was one of three brothers. The eldest of them, Patrick, was a civil servant who worked in Lahore and Peshawar, and served as private secretary to Sir Olaf Caroe, governor of the Northwest Frontier Province. Much of the rest of the family was in Kolkata.
 One day, without quite realising its implications, these wings of the O’Brien family became citizens of separate countries. Within months India and Pakistan were at war. Patrick, the son who had stayed on in Pakistan, had two daughters. Their husbands were fighter pilots. As it happened, one of these men ended up in the Indian Air Force and the other in the Pakistan Air Force.

 II
 Imagine Nellie’s plight, and that of her granddaughter – my father’s cousin. Night after night she stayed up, I’ve been told, wondering if her husband would come home or if her brother in-law, her sister’s husband, was safe – or if these two men, comrades and brothers in the same air force till only a few weeks earlier, would aim for each other in the eerie anonymity of the skies.
 Thankfully neither died in that war, but a distance emerged. Father and daughter, sister and sister, cousin and cousin, my Indian grandfather and his Pakistani brother, Nellie and Patrick – they lost touch.
 My brothers and I grew up in a very different environment. We were the only Christian family in a middle-class, predominantly Bengali-Hindu neighbourhood in Kolkata, living, in one of those ironies that make India just so captivating, in a lane named after a Muslim. We lived in the house Nellie had built in 1938. She was widowed early, left with three sons to bring up. Her training as a doctor – she was among the earliest women to enter medical college in Bengal – came in useful and she established a fulfilling practice.
 In the mid-1940s, during the Great Calcutta Killings and the pre-Partition riots, she would walk down by the railway lines, from Sealdah to Ballygunge, tending to the injured. She was never harmed, not by Hindus and not by Muslims. The stethoscope around her neck established her credentials; the determined walk established her purpose. She would not be stopped, she would not be moved.
 Nellie Bella O’Brien died at the ripe old age of 78 in 1969. She was surrounded and mourned by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. All of Jamir Lane, it seemed, turned up for her funeral. She wasn’t just my father’s grandmother, she was everybody’s. The only one missing was Patrick, the son the mother had not seen for 23 years.

 III
 Time passed. In 1984, my brother Andy, then a sports journalist, travelled to Karachi for hockey’s Champions Trophy. He was determined to trace the lost O’Briens of Pakistan. Eventually he found them and renewed contact. My father’s uncle Patrick was dead, but the rest of the family was still there and greeted their Indian cousin very warmly. They continued to refer to the Jamir Lane residence in Kolkata as “home”. Nellie was a legend for her grandchildren there as well.
 Nevertheless there were sobering realities. Most of my father’s generation and all of the next generation – my second cousins – had converted to Islam. The pressure had been too much. Being a minority in Pakistan was tough business.
 Andy came home and told us the strange and sombre story of the Muslim Anglo-Indian clan – or maybe it should be the Muslim Irish-Bengali clan – of Lahore and Karachi. We sat in silence, still digesting it. I thought of our life in India, the freedom to go to church, the freedom to practise my faith, the freedom to be myself, the freedom that my country gave its minorities. I’ve never felt prouder of being an Indian.
 I think about my cousins in Pakistan now and then. Would they be able to join a mainstream political movement, as I was so willingly accepted as part of Mamata Banerjee’s struggle? Would they find opportunity to go to parliament as regular politicians?
 I was fortunate, I guess. I was fortunate Nellie encouraged me to learn Bengali and participate in the para Saraswati Puja – “It’s a celebration of wisdom and learning” – and integrate with my larger community. I was fortunate India, and Bengal, allowed me to do this without making unfair demands from me. I was fortunate to have been nurtured by India’s Nellie – and Nellie’s India.

 Happy Independence Day!

O’Brien is a Member of Parliament in India from the State of West Bengal

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Exodus of Hindus and other Minorities from Pakistan and Bangladesh: Indian Predicament and Tragedy of Indian “Secularism” by Dr. Saradindu Mukherji, Professor, Hansraj College, Univ of Delhi, India

  Once again the persecution of Hindus in Pakistan and their flight to India are in the news. This is not something sudden. Only thing new is that certain sections of the Indian media suddenly took note of it as if it had never happened before. Not only the print media, but the electronic media, generally anti-Hindu, also presented few stories on that.  This issue was also raised in the Indian Parliament by various political parties. One may like to know as to why this sudden concern was flaunted when the golden rule is a studied reticence on matters such as these which are considered “sensitive” by the dominant ruling class in India’s “secular” system which systematically works against the interest of the majority community of India and has a known bias in favor of Pan Islamic expansionism and interest. One may suggest that this sudden show of concern was because a lot of corruption cases, called “scams” had been exposed in recent times involving the high functionaries of the government, and probably these highly tragic stories were brought to the notice of the people to divert attention from the mounting charges of corruption in high places. Be that as it may, people of India and the world at large has once again been told about this little known aspect of the contemporary times - a horrendous and tragic story.
  Similarly, hardly a day passes when a Hindu or Buddhist in Bangladesh does not suffer an indignity or worse. Neither is there any end to the flight of Hindus from Bangladesh to India. Somehow, this matter never finds a mention in the Bengali/Kolkata (West Bengal State) based media or in the various “intellectual” discourse/dialogue.  Naturally, the New Delhi press ignores it. Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists or Christians suffer terribly in both these countries and they suffer because of the very nature of these states, where polytheists have no honor and no one guarantees them security of life.,
  At the time of partition of British India in 1947, the Hindus and Sikhs comprised 23% of the population in the areas which became West Pakistan. Now they are reduced to a mere 2% of the population.  In Bangladesh the Hindus, Buddhists were 29 % of the population, and that now stands reduced to about 8%.  In very few regions of the world one finds ethno-religious cleansing on such a gargantuan scale. In both Pakistan and Bangladesh, one of the major causes of serious concern for these hapless non-Muslims is the abduction of their women, their forced conversion to Islam and their forced nikah (marriage) with their Muslim captors. They are blatantly discriminated for admission to educational institutions and their recruitment to the various services are minimal. And mind you, the Hindus of Bangladesh were once upon a time major factor in creating what we call the Bengal Renaissance and the Indian freedom movement, including countless revolutionaries sent to the gallows by the British.
  Even abduction of Hindu businessmen for ransom is quite common in Pakistan. Vested Property Act had played havoc with the landed property of the Hindus of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. They have not yet been restored of their land. Their temples are  also subjected to desecration and destruction and that of course is a hoary tradition of these Islamic tormentors. On the whole, these non Muslim minorities live in a perpetual reign of terror, and for them there are only few options left: Conversion to Islam, live as terrorized 4th class “citizens” prepared for every form of humiliation, discrimination, denial and deprivation or flight to India.
  The Gov. of India (GOI) and the ruling class, irrespective of party affiliation, refuses to act because of its dependence on the Muslim communal vote-bank and the growing importance of petro-dollar.  The tragedy of the situation is that a substantial section of the Indian ruling class happens to be refugees from both the east and the west, including the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh. For example one may cite the example of Prof. Amartya Sen, whose family was originally from Dhaka, and who funds a trust in Dhaka and visits it very often but would never say a word on the horrendous sufferings of the Hindus of Bangladesh.
  The Indian ruling class has to flaunt their subservience to the Islamic ummah as started by Gandhi for the Non-cooperation and Khilafat issues in 1919-21. This tendency of India’s ruling class to ignore, abet, and then smother  this horrendous ethno-religious cleansing is helped by the peculiar nature of India’s theory and practice of secularism, and the nature and composition of the ruling class.   No politician in India, no media person or so-called “intellectuals” would ever take it up. They ignore such humanitarian emergencies in the name of secularism! As I was writing this, more news came regarding on the flight of 150 Hindu refugees from Pakistan while GOI far from putting any pressure on Pakistan was actually helping Pakistani interests by allowing their businessmen from investing in India, providing for hassle free movement of Pakistanis in India and going casual in calling for the punishment of the criminals involved in the Jihadi attack in Mumbai in November 2008. Moreover, the circulation of massive quantity of counterfeit currency produced in Pakistan is being pumped into India both from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  Similarly, the GOI is gearing up to provide the waters from Teesta River to Bangladesh depriving West Bengal of its legitimate share and provide more trading facilities to their business interest without doing anything about the persecution of Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and other non Muslim minorities on the verge of obliteration in Bangladesh. 
  It is time the people and politicians of India wake up and the international community takes interest in one of the biggest and saddest stories of all time. It is time perhaps for a united action to stop the persecution of non Muslim minorities in these countries, and if necessary an internal intervention may be required.   

Endnotes:

Mukherji, Saradindu, “Harassed Minorities of Bangladesh,” The Times of India (New Delhi), 15 Nov 1994
_____, “Kashmir Migrants are Refugees,” The Pioneer, 26 Dec 1994
_____, “The Horror Story of Pakistan’s Minorities,” The Pioneer, 14 March 1995
_____, “Chakma Conflict,” The Pioneer, 24 May 1995
_____, “Exodus from Bangladesh and Indian Response” Paper presented at 4th Refugee Advisory Panel Conference at Oxford, Jan 1994
_____, “Potentialities of Cultural Cooperation between Neighbouring Countries” A Case Study of Indo-Bangladesh Relations” in Jayanta Ray (ed) Indo-Bangladesh Cooperation Broadening Measures (K.P. Bagchi, Calcutta, 1997)
_____, “Subjects, Citizens and Refugees, Tragedy in the Chittagong Hill Tracts 1947-1998,” Indian Centre for the Study of Forced Migration, Voice of India New Delhi, 2000
Chakrabarty, Prafulla, The Marginal Men, (Calcutta, 1990)
Ghosh-Dastidar, Sabyasachi. Empire’s Last Casualty:  Indian Subcontinent’s Vanishing Hindu and other Minorities, (Kolkata 2008)

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Socialist Cuba’s New Private Housing Market

Prof. Jill Hamberg, Empire State College, SUNY

  The mortgage meltdown in the United States has spurred renewed calls for a more rational financing system that prioritizes the right to housing over the profits of the banking and real estate sector. Meanwhile socialist Cuba has started expanding legalizing market mechanisms in housing. For 50 years the great majority of Cuban households have legally owned their homes as a form of “personal property,” but with some limitations. In November 2011, the Cuban government legalized free-market sales and other measures aimed at bringing to the surface an underground market that had been largely unregulated. But will this lead to widespread speculation, a full fledged real estate market and eventual foreclosures?
  The measures to legalize free-market sales of housing are part of a broad package of “guidelines” adopted by the Sixth Communist Party Congress in spring 2011 to “update” Cuba’s socialist system. These include a broad expansion of self-employment and the start of urban worker cooperatives, in part to absorb steep layoffs in state employment. Rather than heavily subsidizing certain goods and services, government has started providing needy households with assistance. The economy continues to be based on socialist ownership of the basic means of production and planning rather than market forces. But the model also includes cooperatives, small farms and a range of options for self-employment. While the new laws institutionalize many existing practices, they also create new problems and expand inequalities.
Fifty Years of Home ownership: After the Cuban revolution in 1959, evictions were halted, most rents were reduced and urban land speculation was largely controlled. Through the 1960 Urban Reform Law, tenants became homeowners by amortizing the purchase price of their units through rents. Landlords and other property holders were allowed to keep their own home as well as a second vacation home. State-built housing was offered as long-term “leaseholding,” with rents set at 10 percent of family income. Private renting was prohibited. In addition, vacant units confiscated from emigrants were distributed to people in need, and the Cuban lottery was transformed into a short-lived vehicle for financing new housing. Homeowners could buy and sell dwellings and land, but only at low government-set prices, and the state had first option to buy. Although little legal buying and selling of land and dwellings occurred for the next two decades, informal sales of land for self-building were common. Housing exchanges were the way most households moved to another dwelling, but the values of the properties – as determined by very low official prices – had to be certified as equivalent. Homeowners’ heirs were entitled to receive their share of a dwelling’s official price, however, the right to remain in and acquire the property – by amortizing the share due other heirs – was restricted to people who lived in a unit at the time of the owner’s death. Similarly, when a leaseholder passed away, existing residents could remain.
  The 1984 (and 1988) General Housing Laws converted most leaseholders into homeowners, legalized most illegal and ambiguous tenure situations of tens of thousands of self-builders and others, permitted free-market private rentals and sales of roof-rights, and fostered self-building by both individuals and newly permitted housing cooperatives (which never got off the ground). The 1984 law also allowed free-market buying and selling of land and housing, but it was restricted within a few years. Few households saw the need to sell, but pent up demand and low supply led to high prices and some speculation.
By the early 1990s, more than 85 percent of Cuban households were homeowners, paying little or nothing for their units except for maintenance, repair and utilities. There were no mortgages or land and property taxes. Financing for purchases of units or repair was considered a loan, not a mortgage, and therefore dwellings were not used as collateral. After a decade of stricter regulations, in 2010, restrictions on building permits and the purchase of building materials were substantially relaxed, resulting in more construction and re pair.
Why Allow Free-Market Sales Now? Disguised sales of units and “disproportionate” house swaps were illegal, but they became common in the last two decades, along with bribes to local housing officials. The requirement that the units in house swaps be equivalent in value made it difficult to move. Cash poor but property rich families couldn’t downsize and obtain money to live on, while households seeking more space couldn’t legally use their savings or remittances to expand. The new measures are intended to address such discrepancies.
The New System: Provisions of the new law include:
Instead of having to go through local housing officials, the buyer and seller complete the necessary paperwork before a specialized lawyer.
Payment is made through a bank so the buyer must have a bank account.
Sellers pay 4 percent personal income tax on the sales price and buyers pay a 4 percent property transfer tax.
Residents are still allowed to own only one residence and a second home in a vacation area.
People trading homes can pay for the difference in value.
Cubans who emigrate can transfer or sell homes before leaving the country. Transfers and donations as well as property disposition in divorce settlements and inheritance have also been revised.
Issues and Concerns: The most important issues relate to affordability, prices, speculation, and the source of funds for purchases. For years, Cubans living abroad have funneled cash to relatives to purchase, exchange or upgrade their dwellings, and this has swelled with legalization. Many are helping out relatives, but others are purchasing homes for themselves, despite the fact that legal sales are generally limited to Cubans and foreigners permanently living in Cuba. Other potential buyers are those with substantial earnings – whether gained legitimately or not – or convertible currency through remittances and jobs related to sectors such as tourism and joint ventures. Indeed, between November 2011 and the end of March 2012, there were nearly 3,900 sales, 14,700 donations and 2,500 house swaps.  An indication of what may be to come is that in the first quarter of this year, 56,500 homes were added to Cuba’s property registry, a requirement for property transfers. Another 18,000 were added in April. It is striking that there were more than three times the number of donations as sales. For the majority of the population without access to substantial funds, acquiring a dwelling depends on whether credit is available and on what terms. In December 2011, Cuba expanded access to loans for private self-employed workers, small private farmers, and households to pay for building materials and labor for home repair, rehabilitation and construction. Also allowed are loans to purchase “durable goods,” such as vehicles, homes and other buildings, as well as other items, such as electric appliances. But according to the law, “these will be phased in as the country’s economic and financial conditions improve.”
Banks issuing credit perform a risk assessment to assure repayment. They usually demand collateral from borrowers and any co-signers. A new form of collateral is a “real estate mortgage,” but only on vacation homes and vacant lots and for no more than the low legal price. Items that cannot be used as collateral include the borrower’s primary residence and necessary furnishings and appliances, land owned by small farmers, social security pensions, child support, and two-thirds of borrowers’ incomes.
In January 2012, a new subsidy for low-income residents to build and repair housing was launched. Priority is going to households where homes were damaged or destroyed in hurricanes and other natural disasters or who have other special needs.
So far, the only taxation in effect regarding real estate is the property transfer tax paid by the buyer and income tax for the seller. Ongoing property taxes based on tax assessments were added as part of a tax overhaul law passed during the summer 2012 meeting of Cuba’s legislature. But they will be postponed until economic conditions improve and the property registry is updated. The new tax law has not yet been published, so details on how the property tax will work are not yet known. Depending on the terms of the tax, it may force some households who had not intended to sell to downsize, crowd in with relatives or move to low-cost areas. However, tax rates may be low and based on the low official property values; exemptions may be granted for low-income families.
All these proposed measures are likely to accelerate the trend toward greater geographic differentiation by race and class. Neighborhoods became more socially heterogeneous after the revolution, but black-market sales and house swaps in the last two decades have started to reverse this pattern. However, restrictions on sales or house swaps in special areas – for instance, those slated for tourism – continue from the past.
Some fear that market forces may lead not just to gentrification but also to homelessness and the continued growth of shantytowns. Not only could foreclosure (should there eventually be mortgages on primary residences) and tax assessments (if and when they are instituted) pressure people to leave, but some homeowners may find some offers so attractive that they will sell the house out from under other household members, which occasionally occurred during the brief period of free-market sales in the mid-1980s. The new law contains provisions to assure that occupants of the house being sold will have a place to live, but it is unclear how well it will be enforced.
Some planners and architects argue that families now have an incentive to spruce up their dwellings for sale or can fund building maintenance from proceeds of house swaps. This is certainly occurring but may also reflect easier access to building permits and materials. But a new real estate boom could deal a blow to Havana’s crumbling architectural legacy. The Cuban curator and art critic Gerardo Mosquera noted that “if things don’t change, Havana will collapse. And if things do change, they’ll tear it down.”
Also of concern is the small, separate system created in the mid-1990s for joint venture real estate investment for foreigners. Thousands of units were built for sale to foreign business people, diplomats and snowbirds. After several hundred condominiums were sold, sales were ended and the rest of the units rented. The proposed law regulating this parallel housing system has gone through numerous drafts over many years, but has not yet been approved. The Cuban government recently agreed to permit a joint-venture developer of golf course real estate to sell luxury condominiums free and clear, but it’s unclear when this project will proceed. And some have questioned why, if foreigners can buy property through these special deals, they can’t buy regular dwellings.
Housing is a Right, not a Commodity
In Cuba, housing is seen as a right and not a commodity. Experience has shown the difficulty of eliminating the real estate market but leaving it completely free won’t work either. The challenge will be to establish an enforceable legal framework that regulates the market to prevent speculation and artificial price hikes. Prime areas in Havana, beach resorts and elsewhere are experiencing strong speculative pressure, but other areas may have a more “normal” market, influenced by access to convertible currency or other substantial income. Although some sources of corruption have been eliminated, others will continue, since incentives to evade taxes or the need to justify the source of funds to purchase will deter some participants from completely going through the intended legal channels. Some house swaps continue because families want to be assured they have a place to live, and it is more affordable to pay the difference in value in a swap than purchase a dwelling unit.
As the United States and Europe go through an extraordinary period of austerity where public assets are being sold into the market, Cuba continues its enduring commitment to social control of both public and private property. Cuba’s willingness to experiment with the introduction of market mechanisms in their economy provides a compelling contrast to the industrialized North where social control of capital seems to be increasingly out of reach.

This article is adapted from those that appeared in Progressive Planning No. 189, Fall 2011 and Race, Poverty & the Environment, Vol. 19 No. 1, 2012.




Opinion: Post Partition cultural transformation in East Pakistan and Bangladesh 


by Bimal Pramanik, Director, Center for Research in Indo-Bangladesh Relations, India and a Sector Deputy Commander, Bangladesh Freedom Fighting Liberation Movement

  There is an identity crisis among the Bengali Muslims since its cultural roots originated from greater Indian civilization and cultural heritage, which we can say is an arterial connection. In spite of partition of the country twice and getting independence, they are still not assured about their identity.  “They are suffering from a suspicion regarding India; they get really afraid that if they fail to demarcate themselves from India and Hinduism they will sink in greater Hindu Indian cultural environment. In spite of 90% Muslims in Bangladesh, a minority phobia on the background of Indian subcontinent is working in their mind. From this fear psychosis, they tried to introduce of Urdu language in East Pakistan, banned songs of Rabindra-nath, incorporated State Religion in Bangladesh constitution, introduced Arabic language in schools, religious education, increased madrassas and moktabs (Islamic schools) in large number, revived Bangladesh Jamat-e-Islam (Islamic party), protected Golam Azam (1) and other pro-Pakistani leaders, attached too much importance to Kazi Nazrul Islam among all other litterateurs including (Bengali Nobel Laureate) Rabindra-nath.  Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and other airports were named after religious leaders, hatred or want of passion for Indian education etc. were visible in the Bangladesh society. From the birth of Pakistan to the present time, all the governments tried to bring up carefully these ideas. As a result, they took oppressive measures in the field of politics and culture. It has created several obstructions towards national unity; created illusion, debate and perversions in the field of politics and culture. As a result, proper national development was stalled. Decrepitude in the society means nothing but perversion, corruption and decadence.” (2)
  Two major contradictions have emerged in the society, one, struggle for establishing pro Middle East Islamic states on the basis of strong fundamentalist Islamic fervor; and the other, an endeavor to establish secular democratic Bengali state with Muslim majority under greater Indian civilization. Tendency of the nation, naturally was towards later proposition, so Islamic lobby always took advantage of fanatic Islam, communal (anti-Hindu) riots even genocide, were encouraged. From this sub-continental minority phobia they have always tried to keep state power in their grip. Bangladesh was born breaking Pakistan in 1971. But, still this issue is unsolved. Because there has been no qualitative change of concept and understanding including sensibility of history of Bengali Muslims, there was no focus of light of reforms even during (1971) Liberation War. Most of the time, emotion and excitement of war cannot enter deep in mind. Even political movement alone cannot enlighten a man as regards life and world, as much as it can by socio-cultural reforms movement. It is unfortunate; there was no influence of it directly on the main stream of Bangladeshi society. It needs proper socio-cultural movement and awakening initiative.  If it does not work or fails, no development will be seen in the field of politics, and some temporary measures that followed could not be consolidated--- it is our experiences.  Political movements flourished number of times in 1952, 1954, 1969, 1971 and at last in 1990 against Gen. H.M. Ershad against this trend. These were mass upsurge. But in absence of cultural awakening in the society or failure to stir closely with mainstream population, no freedom was tested by the people in spite of a victory in liberation war.
 It is clearly understood when we see a fanatical issue raised with emotion according to convenience of any political party which is not resisted by the politicians in spite of democratic politics. Religious fanaticism and its extreme form terrorism is the main obstruction to develop liberal cultural ideas and democracy. A lot of movements on the streets, even a liberation war fought by the people could not gather necessary resources for human development and actually, they have failed to organize important social movements. Exploitation circle in the society is still intact, even it is strengthening.  Religious fundamentalism is also raising its head which government appeasing   continues in the name of democracy.
BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) and pro-Pakistani forces rejected AL’s (Awami League) Bengali nationalism. Ultimately BNP termed this ‘nationalism’ nothing but a cultural aggression and extension of influence of imperialist Indo-Soviet axis in south Asia. Mujib and Zia came of the same class of society. Zia considered majority Muslim’s Islamic psyche and introduced Bangladeshi nationalism on the basis of Islamic religiosity which was prohibited in the era of Sheikh Mujib, the founding father and president. Zia became the leader of Muslim Bengalis with the help of Pakistan and other Islamic countries who were the main enemy of freedom movement ignoring the flavor and all achievements of liberation war.
In the era before Liberation War, India was the enemy country not only for West Pakistanis but for some Bengali Muslims who thought India as an enemy country. Not only in politics but this mentality still dominates in their daily lives. Bengali Muslims supported Partition of Bengal Act in 1905, but when it was repealed in 1911, they were disheartened. It was amply cleared in 1947, when Pakistan was created dividing Bengal.
It can be said that the genesis of Bengali nationalism was hidden in the partition of Bengal in 1947. When AL introduced 1972 constitution basically depending on nationalistic movements during 1969—1971 including Liberation War, foundation of Bengali nationalism was weak in the society, because it was considerably hollow. As a result, after the assassination of Sheikh Mujib in 1975 Bangladeshi nationalism gripped the society within a short time. It was negative for AL, because people did not want it. It was one of the major reasons for AL to be isolated from the people.
Liberal democratic views of AL before 1970 were accepted by the people of East Pakistan as against Muslim League-Jamat politics. AL’s admiration to all religions was also mentionable. They were able to pervade in all walks of life because of their positive characteristics. But they failed to assess thoroughly the historical phenomena and social transformations during liberation and post liberation era. Anti-liberation pro-Pakistani forces got advantage to revive old anti-Indian malicious campaign, raising the issues of Indian influence upon Bangladesh, and a part of administration and AL supporters also encouraged that campaign. During this time the crisis of secular and socialist politics of AL were evident. A negative qualitative transformation surfaced in the newly independent country according to the perception of Bangladeshi Muslims--- which were analyzed threadbare by the several learned people of Bangladesh.
  In post 1971, AL was initiated to separate religion from politics. Through promulgation of 1972 constitution, state and politics were separated from religion and it encouraged public to use religion as an individual and social subject. AL also emphasized on fundamental principles like democracy, secularism, socialism etc. in politics. After change-over of the canvas in 1975, BNP opened the flood-gate of religion-based politics. Jamat and other fundamentalist forces took this advantage to spread their roots in Bangladeshi politics and society. BNP formed with heterogeneous elements, not only rightists, leftists, pro-Pakistanis or fundamentalists gathered here but also many Awami Leaguers and freedom fighters joined in the main stream of BNP. Actually, capital of BNP was the achievement of Ziaur Rahman in liberation war which collectively advanced the politics of BNP.
  Bangladeshi nationalism was built up mainly on the basis of Indian enmity. This type of politics is not always effective, but in that extant circumstances majority Muslim population did not condemn BNP—JIB politics rather they gladly accepted them. It can be said that the seed of these politics were hidden in the liberation war. On this question all secular pro Indo-Soviet forces including AL did not clearly delve. They had failed to realize the reality of post independent politics in Bangladeshi society---which were utilized by pro-Pakistani and pro-Islamic political forces.
  Founding Father Sheikh Mujib himself proved by sacrificing his life, that many political and administrative decisions were not proper during 1972—1975. Even it was a great mistake to consider people and Awami League ‘taken for granted’. After assassination of Sheikh Mujib it was hardly realized. Induction of secularism in the 1972 constitution, formation of BAKSAL and introduction of one party rule had created so many contradictions among the pro-liberation parties, even in also the AL. But not only AL leaders, other party leaders also had failed to raise their opinion to towering personality like Sheikh Mujib. It was a great weakness of Bangladesh politics at that time. There was hardly any route left to assess public opinion for Sheikh Mujib. Mujib encircled by sycophants and so called “appreciators;” wind of open and unrestricted politics hardly reached him. And even Mujib was not much aware about these palace conspiracies of Islamic countries as well as Muslim rulers in (Muslim-ruled) India. It clearly surfaced through the assassination of Sheikh Mujib in 1975.
  When Sheikh Hasina took charges of AL, the party was passing through a severe crisis of factionalism and repeated splits. Someone termed this phase ‘miserable’. Killing of liberation war leadership and desertion of a large number of rank and file with leaders in one hand, and party disarray due to factionalism and struggle for capturing of top posts on the other, when Sheikh Hasina was in the helm.
  It is a mindset of people in Bangladesh that they always think foreign conspiracy working in most of their internal crisis. In most of the cases, party, personal or political interests worked behind it. Basically, political parties are responsible for it. They use this tactics to defeat others. As a result, peoples suffer by condition reflex to think alike. The propaganda of foreign conspiracy or foreign hand behind all major incidents since 1971 is flying in the air of Bangladesh. People are confused. It is always trying to prove that Sheikh Hasina and AL are Indian agents. AL has been facing this situation since independence. In this context, sometimes, AL has given some concessions to people, such as, to keep ‘Bismillah and state religion’ in the constitution; or promise not to enact law against Koran and Sunna, moreover, sometimes to raise extreme anti-Indian propaganda on some issues like capturing Indian territory or killing of BSF contingent in the border. To please the Muslim people it declared Dhaka as the cultural capital of Islam. Sk. Hasina herself performed Hajj number of times and wore Hijab after returning from Mecca. What transformation has taken place in the Bangladeshi society and politics during last four decades has been harmonized with them. Now the party workers are not like pre-liberation era. Most of the cadres, supporters have grown after post 1971 and they are now in helm of affairs from thana (police station) to central level. They were not involved in liberation war, their education and politics were in post Mujib Bangladesh. Is it possible to revive 1972 constitution taking with them?  Sheikh Hasina did not take any risk about her party in spite of massive support from judiciary, civil society and media. Since AL is a mass party, it will not bring any better result by ignoring rank and file opinion. It may be a lesson from post liberation Mujib era.
  It is not an easy task to eliminate fanaticism from society and politics. The people have been transformed towards Pakistani mentality and religious fundamentalism through the act of reading distorted history and political culture during the last four decades. Now it is near to impossible to bring back them into liberal thinking. There had been no initiative seen after Sheikh Mujib from any government or major political parties to cultivate people in favor of liberal Bengali culture. Fanatic Muslims have been unified in the society and state in Bangladesh and Pakistan. For this reason, a clear division has emerged in the field of culture in Bangladesh. A section of people think that Rabindranath Tagore is the cultural bridge among the people of Bangladesh and India. But cultural influence of Rabindranath is very limited within urban elites. There has been insignificant practice of Rabindra-culture in rural Bangladesh. Bilateral cooperation policies should be made on the basis of ground realities between the two neighboring countries. But culture is also a factor. Indian television channels i.e., sky culture has already been rooted in the Bangladeshi society—which is not Rabindra-culture. Some prominent columnists of Bangladesh have already started campaign against Hindi aggression. It is nothing but a part of India-hate campaign.

Endnotes:

(1) Accused of mass murder of Muslim secularists and minority Hindus in 1971
(2) Abul Momen, Sanskritir Sankat –o- Samprodayikata, (Crisis of culture and communalism)  Sandesh, Dhaka, 1996; pp 12-13

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 US Court Forces Boston College Oral History Project to Turn Over Recordings


By Prof. Dr. Thomas J. Lilly, Jr., Old Westbury

             Last July the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that Boston College would have to turn over recordings that it had collected as part of its oral history project concerning conflict in Northern Ireland. The court rejected arguments from the project’s director, journalist Ed Moloney, that forcing production of the recordings would violate a First Amendment right to academic freedom.
Boston College started its oral history project, called the Belfast Project, in 2001. The purpose of the Belfast Project was to document the recollections of members of paramilitary and political groups involved in Anglo-Irish conflict in Northern Ireland from 1969 forward. Some people who gave statements signed agreements stating that their information would remain confidential “to the extent American law allows” until after their deaths. They also signed documents donating their recordings to Boston College on the condition that the recordings be kept confidential until after the donor’s death.
At the request of the United Kingdom, the United States subpoenaed some of the transcripts and recordings. Boston College resisted turning over recordings of project participants who are still alive. Project Director Moloney, joined by the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that in order for academics to be able to work effectively they should be able to assure interview subjects that the academics’ work will not be turned over to governmental authorities.
The Court of Appeals ruled that Boston College would have to turn over the subpoenaed recordings pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Branzburg v. Hayes. In Branzburg, the Supreme Court ruled that journalists have no First Amendment privilege to excuse them from revealing confidential sources as part of a grand jury investigation. The Court of Appeals said that the same analysis applies to the academic researchers at Boston College.
The three judges who decided the case were unanimous as to result. One of the judges, however, wrote a separate opinion noting that he concurred “reluctantly” that the result was compelled by the Supreme Court’s decision in Branzburg v. Hayes.



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To our friends and well wishers: United We Stand and Divided We Fall. Please stand against Mass Murders (Holocaust) and looting of properties of Hindus. It is a shame that the Indian Government and Indian Media are silent about this.

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Indian Subcontinent Partition
Documentation Project Inc. : ISPaD
A 501-C3 Tax-Exempt Not-for-profit Organization
ISPaD      Needs     Help    from    Y O U
  Several Bengali-Americans in New York, individuals whose families were victims of partition of the Indian Subcontinent – especially of former British-Indian Bengal – formed a partition documentation project called ISPaD or Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Project Inc. to save the history and experiences of lost and displaced individuals and families, their villages, their life, and of survivors and that of protectors.

The Project has received not-for-profit status from the Departments of Education and State of New York State and a 503-C tax-exempt status from the I.R.S. (of the U.S. Government). ISPaD is open to all.

The purposes of the project are:

  a) Document information from the people affected by the partition;
  b) Collect historical records;
  c) Study and document demographic and social changes caused by the partition;
  d) Create a center to disseminate and share the information with the public and civic groups and rights organizations engaged globally in such activities;
  e) Interact with the concerned governments and international bodies to raise awareness about the plight of the victims of ethnic cleansing and support the needy;
  f) Organize meetings, seminars, conduct scholarly research, and publish journals and books.
  g) Solicit funds to support the above activities.
Ispad is looking for individual and family stories, documents, pictures, narratives, deeds, artifacts, books, family history, stories of refugees, survivors, protectors and that of the lost ones, tapes, films, videos of Bengal and Indian partitions – from 1947 through the present.

 I’m pleased to help Partition Documentation! Here’s my gift!
Please make checks payable to ISPaD: The Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Project Inc.

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Mail to: ISPaD, c/o Politics, Economics and Law Department, State University of New York, Old Westbury, NY 11568; Attn: Dr. Sachi G. Dastidar; Phone: 516-876-3118; Fax: 516-876-9677; www.bengalpartitionvictim.org;  ISPaD: Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Project Inc. and Check on YouTube Ispad1947, Channel
 Board of DirectorsDr. Sachi G. Dastidar, Chair and Co-Founder (Distinguished Professor, State University of NY, Old Westbury);  Mr. Pratip Dasgupta, Social Advocate (City of New York); Mr. Ramen Nandi, Engineer, (New Jersey);  Dr. Samir Sarkar, Physician (Long Island); Dr. Tom Lilly, Attorney & Professor (Old Westbury); Dr. Shefali S. Dastidar, Co-Founder (City Planner, NYC); Dr. Rudranath Talukdar, Physician, Texas; Project Director — Shuvo G. Dastidar
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