More than 1.9 million people living in Assam, a state of about 33 million in northeastern India, effectively became stateless recently. Many have never lived anywhere but in India, and yet late last month, the government, claiming to crack down on illegal immigration, announced that it was removing them from the National Register of Citizens. Many of them are ethnic Bengalis, but there is no evidence that they are Bangladeshi.
The process by which the register has been compiled wasn’t just flawed; it was heavily politicized, as well as rife with prejudice. Since the overwhelming majority of the nearly two million people excluded from the registry are thought to be Muslim, the effort looks far more like an ethnic purge than anything like a census.… Seguir leyendo »
Elections in Bangladesh are never tame. There were boycotts during the last parliamentary election in 2014, and voting-day violence killed some 20 people. The one before that, in December 2008, was notable for having taken place at all: Originally scheduled for January 2007, it was postponed after a military-backed coup and street battles that shut down the country.
This year again, in the lead-up to the next parliamentary election on Sunday, violent skirmishes have broken out between supporters of the two main camps, the incumbent Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (B.N.P.). Fatalities remain lower so far than in the past, but the stakes of this race are no less high: At bottom, this election is a contest between two forms of authoritarianism — only one is more dangerous than the other.… Seguir leyendo »
In 1948, a year after the partition of India, my maternal grandparents moved from Calcutta to Dhaka, crossing from West Bengal in India to East Bengal, or East Pakistan — now Bangladesh. There, they built a tin-shed house in the new neighborhood of Dhanmondi, known before only for its paddy fields (dhan). At the time, the area was so desolate that every night my grandfather would fire his double-barreled shotgun to ward off foxes and thieves.
Two years later, he built the first brick and concrete house in the area, which soon enough filled up with one- and two-story bungalows, each with its own lawn.… Seguir leyendo »
Every year on the first day of school, students across Bangladesh wait eagerly for their new textbooks. Many have few extravagances in their lives, and for them that day is as thrilling as Christmas morning in other countries. Distributing over 360 million textbooks for free, on time, to more than 42 million children is no small feat, and it was a signature achievement for the ruling Awami League this year.
But public appreciation was quickly overtaken by outrage over the quiet revisions that appeared in books for classes ranging from primary grades to high school.
The Bengali letter “o” used to stand for “ol,” a yam; now it stands for “orna,” a scarf worn by women for modesty.… Seguir leyendo »