Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Saudi-isation of Pakistan

The Saudi-isation of Pakistan:

A stern, unyielding version of Islam is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the Sufis in Pakistan.

By Pervez Hoodbhoy


The common belief in Pakistan is that Islamic radicalism is a problem only in FATA, and that madrassas are the only institutions serving as jihad factories. This is a serious misconception. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this education will produce a generation incapable of co-existing with anyone except strictly their own kind. The mindset it creates may eventually lead to Pakistan’s demise as a nation state.

For 20 years or more, a few of us have been desperately sending out SOS messages, warning of terrible times to come. In fact, I am surprised at how rapidly these dire predictions have come true.

A full-scale war is being fought in FATA, Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, resulting in thousands of deaths. It is only a matter of time before this fighting shifts to Peshawar and Islamabad (which has already been a witness to the Lal Masjid episode) and engulfs Lahore and Karachi as well. The suicide bomber and the masked abductor have crippled Pakistan’s urban life and shattered its national economy.

Soldiers, policemen, factory and hospital workers, mourners at funerals and ordinary people praying in mosques have all been reduced to globs of flesh and fragments of bones. But, perhaps paradoxically, in spite of the fact that the dead bodies and shattered lives are almost all Muslim ones, few Pakistanis speak out against these atrocities. Nor do they approve of the army operation against the cruel perpetrators of these acts because they believe that they are Islamic warriors fighting for Islam and against American occupation. Political leaders like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan have no words of solace for those who have suffered at the hands of Islamic extremists. Their tears are reserved exclusively for the victims of Predator drones, even if they are those who committed grave crimes against their own people. Terrorism, by definition, is an act only the Americans can commit.

What explains Pakistan’s collective masochism? To understand this, one needs to study the drastic social and cultural transformations that have rendered this country so completely different from what it was in earlier times.

For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Indian subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian peninsula. This continental drift is not physical but cultural, driven by a belief that Pakistan must exchange its South Asian identity for an Arab-Muslim one. Grain by grain, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are replacing the rich soil that had nurtured a magnificent Muslim culture in India for a thousand years. This culture produced Mughul architecture, the Taj Mahal, the poetry of Asadullah Khan Ghalib, and much more. Now a stern, unyielding version of Islam (Wahhabism) is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the Sufis and saints who had walked on this land for hundreds of years.

This change is by design. Twenty-five years ago, the Pakistani state used Islam as an instrument of state policy. Prayers in government departments were deemed compulsory, floggings were carried out publicly, punishments were meted out to those who did not fast in Ramadan, selection for academic posts in universities required that the candidate demonstrate a knowledge of Islamic teachings and jihad was declared essential for every Muslim. Today, government intervention is no longer needed because of a spontaneous groundswell of Islamic zeal. The notion of an Islamic state – still in an amorphous and diffused form – is more popular now than ever before as people look desperately for miracles to rescue a failing state.

Villages have changed drastically; this transformation has been driven, in part, by Pakistani workers returning from Arab countries. Many village mosques are now giant madrassas that propagate hard-line Salafi and Deobandi beliefs through oversized loudspeakers. They are bitterly opposed to Barelvis, Shias and other sects, who they do not regard as Muslims. The Punjabis, who were far more liberal towards women than the Pukhtuns, are now beginning to take a line resembling that of the Taliban. Hanafi law has begun to prevail over tradition and civil law, as is evident from the recent decisions of the Lahore High Court.

In Pakistan’s lower-middle and middle classes lurks a grim and humourless Saudi-inspired revivalist movement that frowns on any and every expression of joy and pleasure. Lacking any positive connection to culture and knowledge, it seeks to eliminate “corruption” by regulating cultural life and seizing control of the education system.

“Classical music is on its last legs in Pakistan; the sarangi and vichitraveena are completely dead,” laments Mohammad Shehzad, a music aficionado. Indeed, teaching music in public universities is violently opposed by students of the Islami Jamaat-e-Talaba at Punjab University. So the university has been forced to hold its music classes elsewhere. Religious fundamentalists consider music haram or un-Islamic. Kathak dancing, once popular with the Muslim elite of India, has few teachers left. Pakistan produces no feature films of any consequence. Nevertheless, the Pakistani elite, disconnected from the rest of the population, live their lives in comfort through their vicarious proximity to the West. Alcoholism is a chronic problem of the super rich of Lahore – a curious irony for this deeply religious country.

Islamisation of the state and the polity was supposed to have been in the interest of the ruling class – a classic strategy for preserving it from the wrath of the working class. But the amazing success of the state is turning out to be its own undoing. Today, it is under attack from religious militants, and rival Islamic groups battle each other with heavy weapons. Ironically, the same army – whose men were recruited under the banner of jihad, and which saw itself as the fighting arm of Islam – today stands accused of betrayal and is almost daily targeted by Islamist suicide bombers.

Pakistan’s self-inflicted suffering comes from an education system that, like Saudi Arabia’s system, provides an ideological foundation for violence and future jihadists. It demands that Islam be understood as a complete code of life, and creates in the mind of a school-going child a sense of siege and embattlement by stressing that Islam is under threat everywhere.

On the previous page, the reader can view the government-approved curriculum. This is the basic road map for transmitting values and knowledge to the young. By an act of parliament passed in 1976, all government and private schools (except for O-level schools) are required to follow this curriculum. It was prepared by the curriculum wing of the federal ministry of education, government of Pakistan. It sounds like a blueprint for a religious fascist state.
Alongside are scanned pictures from an illustrated primer for the Urdu alphabet. The masthead states that it has been prepared by Iqra Publishers, Rawalpindi, along “Islamic lines.” Although not an officially approved textbook, it is being used currently by some regular schools, as well as madrassas associated with the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), an Islamic political party that had allied itself with General Musharraf. These picture scans have been taken from a child’s book, hence the scribbles.

The world of the Pakistani schoolchild remained largely unchanged, even after September 11, 2001, the event that led to Pakistan’s timely desertion of the Taliban and the slackening of the Kashmir jihad. Indeed, for all his hypocritical talk of “enlightened moderation,” General Musharraf’s educational curriculum was far from enlightening. It was a slightly toned down version of the curriculum that existed under Nawaz Sharif which, in turn, was identical to that under Benazir Bhutto who had inherited it from General Zia-ul-Haq. Fearful of taking on the powerful religious forces, every incumbent government has refused to take a position on the curriculum and thus quietly allowed young minds to be moulded by fanatics. What may happen a generation later has always been a secondary issue for a government challenged on so many fronts.

The promotion of militarism in Pakistan’s so-called “secular” public schools, colleges and universities had a profound effect upon young minds. Militant jihad became part of the culture on college and university campuses. Armed groups flourished, they invited students for jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan, set up offices throughout the country, collected funds at Friday prayers and declared a war which knew no borders. Pre-9/11, my university was ablaze with posters inviting students to participate in the Kashmir jihad. Post-2001, this ceased to be done openly.

Still, the primary vehicle for Saudi-ising Pakistan’s education has been the madrassa. In earlier times, these had turned out the occasional Islamic scholar, using a curriculum that essentially dates back to the 11th century, with only minor subsequent revisions. But their principal function had been to produce imams and muezzins for mosques, and those who eked out an existence as ‘maulvi sahibs’ teaching children to read the Quran.

The Afghan jihad changed everything. During the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, madrassas provided the US-Saudi-Pakistani alliance the cannon fodder they needed to fight a holy war. The Americans and Saudis, helped by a more-than-willing General Zia, funded new madrassas across the length and breadth of Pakistan. A detailed picture of the current situation is not available. But according to the national education census, which the ministry of education released in 2006, Punjab has 5,459 madrassas followed by the NWFP with 2,843; Sindh has 1,935; the Federally Administrated Northern Areas (FANA), 1,193; Balochistan, 769; Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), 586; the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), 135; and the Islamabad capital territory, 77. The ministry estimates that 1.5 million students are acquiring religious education in the 13,000 madrassas.

These figures appear to be way off the mark. Commonly quoted figures range between 18,000 and 22,000 madrassas. The number of students could be correspondingly larger. The free boarding and lodging plus provision of books to the students, is a key part of their appeal. Additionally, parents across the country desire that their children be “disciplined” and given a thorough Islamic education. The madrassas serve this purpose, too, exceedingly well.

Madrassas have deeply impacted the urban environment. Until a few years ago, Islamabad was a quiet, orderly, modern city different from the rest of Pakistan. Also, it had largely been the abode of Pakistan’s elite and foreign diplomats. But the rapid transformation of its demography brought with it hundreds of mosques with multi-barrelled audio-cannons mounted on minarets, as well as scores of madrassas illegally constructed in what used to be public parks and green areas. Now, tens of thousands of their students, sporting little prayer caps, dutifully chant the Quran all day. In the evenings they swarm the city, making women minus the hijab increasingly nervous.

Total segregation of the sexes is a central goal of the Islamists, the consequences of which have been catastrophic. For example, on April 9, 2006, 21 women and eight children were crushed to death and scores injured in a stampede inside a three-storey madrassa in Karachi, where a large number of women were attending a weekly congregation. Male rescuers, who arrived in ambulances, were prevented from moving the injured women to hospitals.

One cannot dismiss this incident as being just one of a kind. In fact, soon after the October 2005 earthquake, as I walked through the destroyed city of Balakot, a student of the Frontier Medical College described to me how he and his male colleagues were stopped by religious elders from digging out injured girl students from under the rubble of their school building. This action was similar to that of Saudi Arabia’s ubiquitous religious ‘mutaween’ (police) who, in March 2002, had stopped school girls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing their abayas – a long robe worn in Saudi Arabia. In a rare departure from the norm, Saudi newspapers had blamed and criticised the mutaween for letting 15 girls burn to death.

The Saudi-isation of a once-vibrant Pakistani culture continues at a relentless pace. The drive to segregate is now also being found among educated women. Vigorous proselytisers carrying this message, such as Mrs Farhat Hashmi, have been catapulted to the heights of fame and fortune. Their success is evident. Two decades back, the fully veiled student was a rarity on Pakistani university and college campuses. The abaya was an unknown word in Urdu. Today, some shops across the country specialise in abayas. At colleges and universities across Pakistan, the female student is seeking the anonymity of the burqa. And in some parts of the country she seems to outnumber her sisters who still “dare” to show their faces.

I have observed the veil profoundly affect habits and attitudes. Many of my veiled female students have largely become silent note-takers, are increasingly timid and seem less inclined to ask questions or take part in discussions. They lack the confidence of a young university student.

While social conservatism does not necessarily lead to violent extremism, it does shorten the distance. The socially conservative are more easily convinced that Muslims are being demonised by the rest of the world. The real problem, they say, is the plight of the Palestinians, the decadent and discriminatory West, the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Kashmir issue, the Bush doctrine – the list runs on. They vehemently deny that those committing terrorist acts are Muslims, and if presented with incontrovertible evidence, say it is a mere reaction to oppression.

The immediate future does not appear hopeful: increasing numbers of mullahs are creating cults around themselves and seizing control of the minds of worshippers. In the tribal areas, a string of new Islamist leaders have suddenly emerged: Baitullah Mehsud, Maulana Fazlullah and Mangal Bagh. Poverty, deprivation, lack of justice and extreme differences of wealth provide the perfect environment for these demagogues to recruit people to their cause. Their gruesome acts of terror are still being perceived by large numbers of Pakistanis merely as a war against imperialist America. This could not be further from the truth.

In the long term, we will have to see how the larger political battle works out between those Pakistanis who want an Islamic theocratic state and those who want a modern Islamic republic. It may yet be possible to roll back those Islamist laws and institutions that have corroded Pakistani society for over 30 years and to defeat its hate-driven holy warriors. There is no chance of instant success; perhaps things may have to get worse before they get better. But, in the long term, I am convinced that the forces of irrationality will cancel themselves out because they act at random whereas reason pulls only in one direction. History leads us to believe that reason will triumph over unreason, and the evolution of the humans into a higher and better species will continue. Using ways that we cannot currently anticipate, they will somehow overcome their primal impulses of territoriality, tribalism, religiosity and nationalism. But, for now, this must be just a matter of faith.

The author teaches physics at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

DhirendraNath Datta: The Father of the Idea of Bangladesh

Children of Comilla Ramakrisha Orphanage Playing in front of Rebuilt Desecrated and Destroyed Memorial of the Father of the Idea of Bangladesh DhirendraNath Datta. Other Rebuilt Memorials are of Hindus and Buddhists going back to Centuries. The adjacent Cremation Ground was aslo Destroyed during Anti-Hindu Pogrom.
DhirendraNath Datta: The Father of the Idea of Bangladesh

Sabyasachi Ghosh Dastidar

While visiting his memorial at the smasan (cremation ground) in Thakurpara of Comilla City, behind the Ramakrishna Ashram Orphanage that our Probini Foundation of New York supports (http://www.probini.org/,) it reminded me again of amnesia that we Bengalis suffer from.[1] Sri DhirendraNath Datta, a Hindu, was the first to propose in Pakistan Parliament in 1948 for Bengali to be made a national language, and that love of language eventually created Bangladesh. With that speech unknowingly DattaBabu became the Father of the Idea of the Bengali nation that the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman made that dream a reality. Datta and his son were dragged by the Army of Islamic Republic from their Comilla home. Their remains were never found. Yet his home and homestead were confiscated, without compensation and notice, through Enemy Property Act in free Bangladesh, comparable to declaring George Washington’s homestead as ‘enemy property’ in the newly independent United States. Let us see what he spoke at Pakistan Parliament.

Speech by Mr. DhirendraNath Datta, Member of Pakistan National Assembly,
Held at Karachi, Sind Province of West Pakistan, On February 25, 1948
Seeking Bengali to be a National Language of Pakistan[2]
(This is contained in Pakistan Gazetteer, February 25, 1948)

Note: At the time of birth of Pakistan in 1947 her territory included East Bengal, then called East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, and four West Pakistan provinces: Baluchistan, Northwest Frontier Province, Punjab and Sind. East Bengal then contained 55% of Pakistani population.

Mr. Datta, a Hindu of Comilla, introduced an amendment to a discussion to include Bengali as a language for debate in the National Assembly. Discussion followed that motion.

Mr. DhirendraNath Datta (East Bengal: General)
Mr. President, Sir, I move: “That in sub-rule 29, after the word ‘English’ in line 2, the words ‘or Bengalee’ be inserted.”
May I move the other notion as that can be considered together because that relates to the same rule?
Mr. President: I think you take them separately and not together. You may take item No.2 on the agenda — your first amendment.
Mr. DhirendraNath Datta: May I speak, Sir?
Mr. President: Yes, speak.
Sir, in moving this — the notion that stands in my name — I can assure the House that I do so not in a spirit of narrow Provincialism, but, Sir, in the spirit that this motion receives the fullest consideration at the hands of the members. I know, Sir, that Bengalee is a provincial language, but, so far our state is concerned, it is the language of the majority of the people of the state. So although it is a provincial language, but as it is a language of the majority of the people of the state and it stands on a different footing therefore. Out of six crores and ninety lakhs of people (69,000,000) inhabiting this State, 4 crore and 40 lakhs of people (44,000,000) speak the Bengalee language. So, Sir, what should be the State language of the state? The State language of the state should be the language which is used by the majority of the people of the State, and for that, Sir, I consider that Bengalee language is a lingua franca of our State. It may be contended with a certain amount of force that even in our sister dominion the provincial language has not got the status of a lingua franca because in her sister dominion of India the proceedings of the constituent Assembly is conducted in Hindustani, Hindi or Urdu or English. It is not conducted in the Bengalee language but so far as the Bengalee is concerned out of 30 crores of people (300,000,000) inhabiting that sister dominion two and half crores (25,000,000) speak Bengalee language. Hindustani, Hindi or Urdu has been given an honoured place in the sister dominion because the majority of the people of the Indian Dominion speak that language. So we are to consider that in our state it is found that the majority of the people of the state do speak the Bengalee language then Bengalee should have an honoured place even in the Central Government.

I know, Sir, I voice the sentiments of the vast millions of our State. In the meantime I want to let the House know the feelings of the vastest millions of our State. Even, Sir, in the Eastern Pakistan where the people numbering four crores and forty lakhs speak the Bengalee language the common man even if he goes to a Post Office and wants to have a money order form finds that the money order is printed in Urdu language and is not printed in Bengalee language or it is printed in English. A poor cultivator, who has got his son, Sir, as a student in Dhaka University and who wants to send money to him, goes to a village Post Office and he asks for a money order, finds that money order form printed in Urdu language. He can not send the money order but shall have to rush to a distant town and have the money order form translated for him and then the money order, Sir, that is necessary for that boy can be sent. The poor cultivator, Sir, sells a certain plot of land or a poor cultivator purchases a plot of land and goes to the Stamp vendor and pays him money but cannot say whether he has received the value of the money in Stamps. The value of the Stamp, Sir, is written not in Bengalee but is written in Urdu and English. But he cannot say, Sir, whether he has got the real value of the Stamp. These are the difficulties experienced by the Common man of our State. The language of the State should be such which can be understood by the common man of the State. The common man of the State numbering four crores and forty millions find that the proceedings of this Assembly which is their mother of parliaments in being conducted in a language, Sir, which is unknown to them. Then, Sir, English has got an honoured place, Sir, in Rule 29. I know, Sir, English has got an honoured place because of the International Character.

But, Sir, if English can have an honoured place in Rule 29 that the proceedings of the Assembly should be conducted in Urdu or English why Bengalee, which is spoken by four crores forty lakhs of people should not have an honoured place, Sir, in Rule 29 of the procedure Rules. So, Sir, I know I am voicing the sentiments of the vast millions of our State and therefore Bengalee should not be treated as a Provincial Language. It should be treated as the language of the State. And therefore, Sir, I suggest that after the word ‘English,’ the word ‘Bengalee’ be inserted in Rule 29. I do not want to detain the House but I wish that the Members present here should give a consideration to the sentiments of the vast millions of over State, Sir, and should accept the amendment that has been moved by me.

Mr. President: I may read out the amendment again as some Members might not have it.
Amendment moved: “that in sub-rule (1) of Rule 29, after the word ‘English’ in line 2, the words ‘or Bengalee’ be inserted.”

I have had many conversations with DattaBabu’s granddaughter Srimati Aroma Datta in Bangladesh and in New York about her struggle to save the memory of her grandfather and her uncle. It may not be out of place to mention how the person who can be considered as the Father of the Idea of Bangladesh was treated by his nation. Mr. DhirendraNath Datta, a Hindu, was a Member of Parliament in the first Pakistan Assembly after Pakistan was created in 1947, as mentioned in previous paragraph. Mr. Datta chose to live in his Muslim-majority homeland after partition instead of migrating to Hindu-majority partitioned India. Most of the atheist and secularist Bengali Hindus of Congress Party and Communist Party chose to migrate to India abandoning their Muslim-majority homeland of their ancestors. Actually Datta returned back to his Comilla homeland from western Bengal that became part of India. On February 25, 1948 he was the first to propose in Pakistan Parliament then held in Karachi in southern Pakistan, that Bengali be given the status of national language of Pakistan as majority of Pakistanis spoke that language as mentioned earlier. Although the idea was rejected by the Parliament, attempts to establish Bengali as the official language would lead to eventual independence of the Bengalis. In 1971, an elderly Datta at age 87 was arrested by the Pakistan Army for being Hindu and accused him of supporting Bangladesh’s independence. Datta was dragged along with his teenage son Dilip from their home in Comilla in front of his daughter-in-law Pratiti Debi and grandkids Aroma and Rahul. Datta and his son Dilip were both murdered by the Army of Islamic Republic after gruesome torture. Their body bodies were never found, and no one was prosecuted for that cold-blooded murder, and for the targeted attack on rest of the family.[3] Yet, in the newly liberated secular Bangladesh, his homestead and rest of the property were confiscated through Enemy Property Act, a law that allows confiscation of (only indigenous) Hindu property by declaring Hindus as ‘enemies of state.’ A man who produced the idea of Bangladesh and gave his life for independence of the nation was made ‘enemy of the state’ for being Hindu! In American context it will be comparable to declaring George Washington homestead as ‘enemy property.’ One of his young granddaughters, Aroma, seeing this injustice promised herself to fight the unjust law. In 2000 a publication house she is associated with, PRIP, published a historic book: An Inquiry into Causes and Consequences of Deprivation of Hindu Minorities in Bangladesh through the Vested Property Act. Bangladesh Government had earlier changed the name from ‘Enemy’ to ‘Vested’ keeping rest of the law as before. The book was edited by Professor Abul Barkat, a Muslim of Dhaka University Economics Department, at considerable personal risk, while co-edited by Shafique uz Zaman, Azizur Rahman, Avijit Poddar and Subhas SenGupta. Zaman and Rahman are Muslim, while Poddar and SenGupta are Hindu. Sensing her imminent arrest for publishing the book, Ms. Aroma Datta had to bring a court injunction on December 24, 2002 preventing her arrest. Her research found that in the 1990s through this Act “2 million acres of land, property and other resources (tens of thousands of homes, shops, businesses, ponds, and the likes — author) were confiscated.….. The total loss of assets by Hindus ….would be Taka 1,505,204 million which equals to 88 percent of current GDP of Bangladesh” the book highlights.

Mr. Dhiren Dutta holds a special place in the hearts of pro-tolerant Bangladeshis. One of many tributes paid to that missing man was S. M. Ali, a Muslim, the founder-editor of The Daily Star, a Dhaka daily on May 21, 1993 and again on November 2, 2003.[4]

Sadly during the 1992 anti-Hindu pogrom in Bangladesh his memorial was vandalized and desecrated along with scores of other Hindu memorials – some dating back centuries – for no reason other than being indigenous Hindu of the land.
Let us hope as the nation prepares for the trial of war criminals that no stone remain unturned to catch the criminals who murdered DattaBabu, The Father of the Nation Mujibur Rahman, and 3 million brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, neighbors and friends of our towns and villages. In his memory let us hope that we can build an institute devoted to preserve the indigenous cultures, an academic institution and/or a human rights center.

[1] Sabyasachi Ghosh Dastidar “bangalir amnesia – smritilop byadhir protikar darker” (Bengali amnesia - need a medicine for the memory-loss disease) in Ai Bangla Oi Bangla, Tulat Publishers, Calcutta, 1991; 86-91
[2] Sachi G. Dastidar, “Appendix F” in Empire’s Last Casualty: Indian Subcontinent’s Vanishing Hindu and Other Minorities, Frima KLM, Kolkata, 2008; 296-298; quoted from Pakistan Parliament Gazetteer.
[3] Pratiti Debi, ‘Jaydikey takai shey deekei beebhishikar chinho’ (Wherever we look we find signs of horror), Prachi, Puja journal of Bangladesh Hindu Mandir, New York, October 2003; 35-37. Her article mentions attack on Hindus and pro-independence Muslim leaders on the first days of Hindu and secularist Awami League Party members’ extermination campaign by Pakistan Army
[4] Op cit, Empires Last… 169-171
See Stuti 2009: New York Puja Udjapan Parishad, New York, USA
I very much like the article on “Dhirendra Natha Datta: The Father of Begali Nationhood and Bangladesh." I was in tears. I am very grateful to you for establishing the original history, but the history has been diverted towards a wrong direction, and intentionally has been distorted, which pains me very much. The entire Nation should remain grateful to “Shaheed (Martyr) Dhirendra Nath Datta,” but hardly they remember him, neither recognize his contribution, instead systematically erasing his contribution from history. Anyhow, Sachi Da, I am very grateful to you for acknowledging Dhirendra Nath Datta’s contribution in creating Bangladesh. My pronam and love to you and Boudi. I will be looking forward to hear from you at your convenience. With warm regards.
Sincerely yours,
Aroma Dutta
October 11, 2009
Sent: Saturday, October 24, 2009 7:37 PM

Very belated Bijoya greetings - pronam neben!
But, it was heartening to learn about Probini's effort to restore Mr. Dutta's memorial.regards,

Sent: Sunday, October 25, 2009 5:37 AM

Thank you sir. This is nice and I have a collection of copy of his whole speech.

Sent: Sunday, October 25, 2009 1:12 PM

Thanks, it was enlightening to read.
Sent: Monday, October 26, 2009 3:22 AM

Thank you very much for sending the great D. Dutta's speech in the parliament. I will send it to all my friends.

Sent: Monday, October 26, 2009 10:57 AM
FW: DhirendraNath Datta


Thank you for writing such an historic article honoring our Dadu and his eventual casualty.

Best wishes,
Mrinal C
October 27, 2009

Dear Dr. Sabyasachi Ghosh Dastidar:

Please allow me to extend my hearty thanks and gratitude for your Article in memory of the most respected late Dhirendra Nath Datta. It is a great opportunity for me to pay my respect and honor to this great undisputed leader of the then Pakistan (East Pakistan) now Bangladesh. Through you, I send my respect and heartfelt prayers to the family members of Late Dhirendra Nath Datta especially his grandson and granddaughter, Aroma. I feel for them this social injustice and non-recognition, and inhuman land grabbing of his homestead and hold property.

Undoubtedly, Dhirendra Nath Datta is the “Adi-Pita / Father” like the ancient Biblical Father “Abraham” of the Jews, the Christians and the Muslims. Mr. Datta was only the member of the Parliament who raised the voice, argued, and proposed for amendment as Bangla one of the state language of Pakistan.
He was sharp, devoted and keen parliamentarian, and he even caught the playing type recorder which was by passing, and he requested to play the type recorder. He is the symbolic secular leader for the then Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Due to him, the Minorities of Bangladesh have raised their head as their symbolic leader, and the minority leader of Bangladesh are not basically nimok haram, alBadar, Munafek or Be-iman. He is proud of us and our new generation has to respect him.

It is my personal view that we have a great responsibility to put him in the right place of our history. Since after Partition of India, and subsequently, Bangladesh, the minority communities of Bangladesh have been segregated and treated as the second or the third class citizens. It seems to me that a little change of mind is being signaled into the minds in place of Arabic way of approach. As a humanitarian worker you are doing your best which is a great effort for humanity.
Thank you for your valuable efforts and works.

Michael B. Malo


Mr Dastidar: I am 100 percent with you. Dhirendra Nath Datta is the father of the idea of independent Bangladesh which was implemented by Smt. Indira Gandhi.

Mohammad N. Islam
February 20, 2017

Colonization of Non-Muslim Indigenous Tribal Land

Bangladesh Chittagong Hill Tracts Indigenous Non-Muslim Tribal Area
Deputy Commission of Bandarban issued unlawful letter to Headmen

On 23 September 2009 Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Bandarban district Mr. Mizanur Rahman issued a letter to all Headmen of Bohmong circle ordering not to issue any land deed to any person without permission from him. Issuance of this letter is contradictory to the rights of indigenous Jumma peoples in CHT. He also threatened that Headman would be removed from his headmanship if any Headman handed over such deed.

It is mentionable that according to Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation of 1990, Headmen of CHT region have the rights to give settlement of 0.30 acre of land to any mouza resident and accordingly to issue land deed to him.
It is also worth mentioning that the land lands under the jurisdiction of mouza are regarded as common property of mouza residents. The common lands are those which belong to the indigenous community with shared rights of access. The indigenous people have right to these lands and its resources, by virtue of their common ownership of these areas, and traditional economic activities such as fishing, hunting and gathering are carried out in these areas. Jum lands fall within this category, as do the lands used for orchards, grazing and for growing sun grass (used to make thatched roofs). The forests are also included within this category of mouza commons, and are the common property pf the indigenous community with equal rights of access, use and extraction.
However, Deputy Commissioner of Bandarban issued this letter violating the rights of indigenous Jumma peoples and rights & responsibilities of Headmen. He one-sidedly claimed these lands as state-owned. He also indiscriminately alleged against the Headmen to have involved with corruption.
DC also issued a letter to Mr. Loyal Devid Bawm, a member of CHT Regional Council to stop construction of building for tribal museum at Shita Pahar (Chimbuk-Thanchi road) of Pantala mouza under Ruma upazila in Bandarban district. He claimed that construction of building on government land without permission is illegal. However, Mr. Bawm got permission/ recommendation from Mr. Lumlai Mro, Headman of Pantala mouza & local Jumma villagers and accordingly applied for registration for this land.
Local residents believed that DC of Bandarban district starts these activities when the possibility of functioning of land commission for resolution of land disputes in CHT is seen.

Please find the two letters of DC of Bandarban district.

-- Kapaeeng Foundation House # 13/14, Babar Road, Block # B, Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207E-mail: kapaeeng.watch@gmail.com, kapaeeng.foundation@micico.ch
October 04, 2009


Hindu Minority Right Declining in Bangladesh even in Secularist Rule

October 2-8, 2009

The right to religion
by Khamin

Khamin writes about the dwindling rights and freedoms of the minority Hindu population of the country, from the failure of secularism to prevail in its true essence

Like any other day, Rikta Devi arrives at the Dhakeshwary Mandir – perceived as the most symbolic and significant Hindu temples in the country – with her two young daughters. However, the zest and enthusiasm with which she usually approaches her religious rituals seem to have waned considerably in recent times, especially when she recalls the vile sexual harassment her daughters are routinely subjected by loafers, en route to the temple. The particular issue has turned into something of a commonplace as many Hindu women attest to walking, with their heads held low, past such distasteful taunts which seemingly condemn them for their religious affiliations, especially during the time of Durga puja. Even as the ceremonial rites are being performed at temples, there have been instances where insults and abuse have been hurled at Hindus from fanatics which have even resulted in bloody fights. There have also been conflicts of interest in terms of religious practices, especially in areas where mosques and temples stand in close proximity. ‘Sometimes, the timing of the azaan and the start of a puja coincide and whenever this happens, we always stop all our activities in respect of the other faith but there has been no reciprocity on their part. There have been various examples of peaceful coexistence between followers of both these religions from years gone by and that had continued for a long time. However, it seems that a high level of negligence and intolerance towards other religious practices have developed in the Muslim community and the prospect of facing more troubles while performing our rituals will only increase during this month,’ says Rina Bhattacharya, a caretaker of Joy Kali Mandir in Wari. ‘Such unsavoury issues are occurring quite frequently and this is due to the lack of respect some misguided people are showing towards other religions,’ says Pradip Kumer Chakrabarty, chief executive of Dhakeshwari temple. ‘The mandir is a holy place where people come for worship and this kind of behaviour only points to the intolerant and fundamentalist approach certain people have started to adopt,’ he adds. Such circumstances would justifiably warrant the need for order and security to be ensured, however, there is a visibly distinct lack of any law enforcer patrolling the premises of the temple. ‘First of all, we need to consider the threats that are being posed to the large number of female devotees that frequent the temple but moreover, valuables such as gold ornaments are also being carried and served as offerings by various devotees to decorate the deities. This also poses the threat of robberies,’ explains Chakrabarty. According to a census in 2001, Hindus account for nearly 9.2 per cent of the religious population in the country and there are around 150 temples in Dhaka city. While the numbers may not seem too significant, they undeniably represent and contribute largely to our heritage and culture. However, hundreds of temples urgently require reconstruction and renovation, including the historic Kalibari Mandir in Ramna, the Shanir Mandir in Shanir Akhra, the Shiva Mandir in Dhaka University and the Dhakeshwari Mandir are more or less in the same state as they were when built. While mosques receive government funding via the Islamic foundation for maintenance, there is only the Hindu Kalyan Trust to look after temples. ‘The government must take initiatives to preserve mandirs through renovations and reconstruction even if it is only done for the conservation of heritage,’ says Pranabesh Dash, a student of Dhaka University. Instead, there have been various allegations levelled at ruling parties in the past, of its musclemen grabbing land and properties, including robberies of idols from mandirs. There have also been allegations against henchmen belonging to the ruling Awami League government, of trying to occupy a temple as well as damaging the deity inside, at the RM Das Road, Sutrapur in old Dhaka on September 11. ‘In previous years, the government accorded proper protection to temples around the country. However, for the first time it seems that this year it has failed to do so as temples are being attacked while deities are being demolished weeks before festivals, when it should be, and this does not reflect well on the present government,’ says Lokkhon Chandra, a member of the puja committee in Sutrapur. ‘The minority population of Hindus are looking to the Awami League again to restore their freedoms which they had lost during the tenure of the previous BNP government. We have not had any evidence of the government doing so as yet,’ says Delip Roy, a secretary of Hindu parisad at Shakahari Bazaar. Delip believes that the situation will not change for Hindus in Bangladesh until the preambles of the 1972 constitution - which had been altered following the eighth amendment - based on the four principles of nationalism, secularism, democracy and socialism, are not reinstated. ‘We feel that we are treated as second class citizens of Bangladesh following the declaration of Islam as the country’s state religion. We feel discriminated. The failure to implement secularism in political and social life is a matter of great regret,’ concludes Noresh Kumer, the president of Joy Kali Mandir committee.

Durga Puja in Bangladesh: 2009

Over 21,900 Durga Puja Pandals come up across Bangladesh: Aswin 1416 - October 2009

Over 21,900 `mandops' (marquees) have come up across Bangladesh as Hindus Thursday began Durga Puja celebrations. The number of marquees was higher than last year, a media report said.
President Mohammed Zillur Rahman of the Muslim majority nation described Bangladesh as 'a bright example of communal harmony' and in a message on the occasion urged that all must work together to 'uphold the tradition'.
Separated from India in 1947 and from Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh has had a chequered history of harmony between the majority Muslims and the Hindus, who form roughly 11.2 percent of the population.
A message from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, currently at the UN, harked back to the 'spirit of the Liberation War' - a reference to the 1971 freedom movement against Pakistan.
Hasina said: 'The government is pledge-bound to uphold the spirit and values of the war of liberation. We are aware of our constitutional obligation to protect rights of people of all religions.'
Opposition leader Khaleda Zia also issued a message wishing the Hindu community.
Durga Puja is the biggest annual religious festival of the Hindu community in which devotees worship the Hindu goddess Durga.
The origin of public celebrations of grand Durga Puja, also known as Durgotsab, can be traced back to the 15th century.
'With the ascent of the Mughals, Durga Puja became more of a status symbol those days,' The Daily Star newspaper said Thursday.
As a festival, Durga Puja was first organised by Raja Kangshanarayan of Taherpur in Rajshahi in the month of Aswin in the Bengali year 887 and then by Bhabananda Mazumdar of Nadiya in 1606, by the Gregorian calendar.
According to one version of the Hindu mythology, goddess Durga appeared in the midst of the commoners following the prayer of King Kansa.
Marking the occasion, the first Durga worship was held at Taherpur king's palace. The Puja this year has come soon after Ramzan and Eid-ul-Fitr of the Muslims.

-- Mouli Ghosh Bengal Voice Communications http://www.bengalvoice.com/