Page 1

Metro rail 6

Rokeya Foundation 18


vol 1 Issu e 31

Lee Harvey Oswald 27


CONTENTS 2 This Week in Pictures 4 Bottled Up 5 Whose Line Is It Anyway? The grass is greener over there 10 Post-Riposte Fat tax

A Weekly Pro du cti o n o f


11 Top 10 Political solutions

Vo lume 1, Issu e 31 NOVEMB ER 2 9, 2 0 13

12 Big Mouth Strikes Again A match made in heaven

Editor Zafar Sobhan Magazine Editor Faruq Hasan

13 Photo Story Lalbagh Fort

6 Pick of the Week Metro rail

17 Crime File When community turns criminal

Weekend Tribune Team Sumaiya Shams Faisal Mahmud Yusuf Banna Joseph Allchin Shah Nahian Phil Humphreys Adil Sakhawat Rohini Alamgir

20 Legal Eagle 21 Interview Pankaj Mishra 22 Tough Love 23 WT | Leisure

Art Direction/Photography Syed Latif Hossain

24 Travelogue Darjeeling

Cartoon Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy Rio Shuvo Contributors Syed Samiul Basher Naheed Kamal Jennifer Ashraf Dina Sobhan Syed Zakir Hossain Khalid Muntasir Dipto Shekhar Mondal Design Mohammad Mahbub Alam Production Masum Billah Advertising Shahidan Khurshed Circulation Wahid Murad Email: Web: Cover Dhaka Metro 2030 by Khalid Muntasir Dipto

25 The Way Dhaka Was Harding Bridge 26 Culture Vulture Book releases 27 Obituary Lee Harvey Oswald 18 Feature Rokeya Foundation

28 Last Word


Life in the fast lane D

haka will keep on growing, both in size, and in terms of numbers of residents, for the foreseeable future. This reality has seldom been seen in our national urban transport policy till very recently. In the last five years or so, we have had a few alternate modes of public transport publicly debated, a subway system, and an extended bus coverage being interesting candidates. But Faisal Mahmud reports on the metro rail project which seems to be a long-term solution to Dhaka traffic woes. Our feature story this week gives you a behind the scene look at how this Tk219.85bn will change the way we travel in the not too distant future.

Elsewhere, our Crime Reporter Adil Sakhawat continues to explore parts of Rangpur that seem to be completely outside the purview of national law, Joseph Allchin interviews writer and journalist Pankaj Mishra about politics, literature, and secularism, Phil Humphreys recalls his time in Darjeeling in this week’s Travelogue, and Yusuf Banna reviews some of the best books published in this year’s Hay Festival. As you start your weekend, be sure to check out our Dhaka Tribune Facebook page as well (https://www.facebook. com/DhakaTribune) where we keep you updated on the latest news and analysis. Have a safe and informed weekend! n W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 29, 20 1 3




In this November 24 photo, Mount Sinabung spews volcanic ash into the air as seen from Ujung, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Authorities raised the alert status for one of the country’s most active volcanoes to the highest level after the mountain repeatedly sent hot clouds of gas down its slope following a series of eruptions in recent days   AP/Binsar Bakkara

Russian deputy Foreign Ministers Mikhail Bogdanov, centre, arrives for a meeting with UN Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, to find a politic solution to the crisis in Syria, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland on November 25   AP/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi

Men sit atop a structure and watch the sunrise in a devastated area at Tacloban City on November 25. Haiyan, the biggest storm ever to make landfall, struck the central Visayan islands on November 8, killing more than 5,200 people, displacing 4.4 million and destroying about 12bn pesos in crops, property and infrastructure  Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

A Libyan woman waves a Libyan flag to support the new national army and the police corps during a protest in Tripoli, Libya on November 22. Thousands of protesters have gathered in Libya’s capital to call on unlawful armed groups to leave the city, a week after militiamen killed more than 40 people. The head of Tripoli’s local council, Al-Sadat al-Badri, told the crowd on Friday that the city would remain on strike until the capital and its surroundings were free of militias  AP/Manu Brabo

The surviving members of the Monty Python comedy group, from left, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, and John Cleese pick up their co-star Carol Cleveland whilst posing for photographers during a photocall to promote a reunion stage show they are going to perform together, at a hotel in London on November 21. The group had its first big success with the Monty Python’s Flying Circus TV show, which ran from 1969 until 1974, winning fans around the world with its bizarre sketches  AP/Matt Dunham




Bangladesh Garment Sramik Sanghati bring out a procession and hold a rally in front of the site of the collapsed Rana Plaza on November 24, the first anniversary of Tazrin fire  Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir, hoist placards containing pictures of 10 war crimes convict who are top Jamaat leaders, demanding their unconditional release at the 18-party protest rally in Suhrawardy Udyan on November 22  Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

Officials of the Narcotics Control Department arrest a man from the capital’s Rampura with a weapon and bottle of phensedyl along with other drugs on November 25  Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Chief Election Commissioner Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmad briefs the press before the announcement of the election schedule on November 25  Nashirul Islam/Dhaka Tribune

In this photo taken on November 26, deadly injured Anowara Begum, 50, is seen undergoing treatment at the DMCH as a crude bomb, hurled by blockade supporters, hit on her head in the city’s Khilgaon area. She succumbed to her injury on early hours of November 27  Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 29, 20 1 3



letters to the editor


of the week

I see the light

Dhaka is a very insensitive place to people with disabilities in general, but it was refreshing to read Faisal Mahmud’s Digital Bangladesh on computers—both software and hardware—that are being made to cater to the needs of the blind and visually challenged. Now only if the magazine came in Braille as well! Zubair Ahmed Tejkunipara, Dhaka

Enough of Sachin I

Bring back Tough(er) Love

Rubel Aziz Mirpur, Dhaka

Alisha Zaman Banani, Dhaka

am a cricket fan through and through, but am somewhat puzzled by the treatment handed out to Sachin Tendulkar during his retirement. He may have been a great batsman, but to deify him and compare Sachin with the likes of Viv Richards and Don Bradman is a bit silly. I wish your magazine had taken a step back and been a bit more sceptical about his credentials. n

I love reading Dina Sobhan’s cynical but realistic advice to our problems. She is usually spot on with her solutions, and also provide a sense of comic relief. But I must say that her last two columns have been somewhat staid and low profile. Could we please have the original, scathing Dina back please?

Cross with puzzle

Was there a mistake in last week’s crossword puzzle? The clues did not seem to match the grid. Or maybe I was simply not smart enough this time to solve it? Samir Shaker Mohammadpur, Dhaka

Send us your feedback at:




The grass is greener over there Bangladesh Bank’s foreign currency reserves have crossed a record $17bn mark for the second time in two months, thanks to buoyant remittance flow and export income. Dr Atiur Rahman, governor of Bangladesh Bank

It’s funny how the harder I work, the less money I have in my pocket. Mr Mango

Rio Shuvo/Dhaka Tribune

Over the last several months, the reserve broke one record after another, which has both negative and positive aspects. Rising foreign exchange reserve will help keep the exchange rate stabilised; however, falling import of capital machineries and raw materials over the same period is not good news for the economy as it will impede industrialisation, making the economy slow down.”

This is because of strong remittance flow and declines in import payments. The upward trend of the forex reserve might continue in the coming days as BB has earlier taken some steps to encourage expatriates to remit through banking channel. AFM Asaduzzaman, a spokesperson of Bangladesh Bank

Foreign exchanges are usually used in trade, but the country’s businesses are passing hard time and not taking loans to expand their businesses. So, breaking records of foreign exchange reserve will not bring any positive impact on macro economic situation. Salehuddin Ahmed, former central bank governor

Reserve boosts are a positive sign for the economy, now the challenge for the central bank would be proper management of excess reserve and its utilisation. The rising reserve should be invested in productive sectors for the sake of actual economic growth. Abul Barkat, professor and chair, Economics Dept, DU

Mirza Azizul Islam, ex finance adviser to the caretaker government W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 29, 20 1 3


Faisal Mahmud is a staff reporter at Weekend Tribune who specialises in writing IT and telecom articles with depth and analysis


Metro Rail

On the fast track

Faisal Mahmud writes about the coveted project to end Dhaka’s traffic woes


ave you ever travelled from Motijheel to Uttara on a hartal day, or during Eid? If so, you will know that the unbearable slog of a normal working day can only take as little as 25 minutes on clear roads. People have almost stopped complaining about Dhaka’s unbearable traffic; it’s now a “regular” part of our lives. The good news is, commuting between Uttara from Motijheel within half an hour is going to be possible in the near future.

After much uncertainty and dillydallying, the government finally signed a deal with Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) on February 20 this year to finance the first metro rail project in Bangladesh. Known as the Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development (DMRTD) Phase 1, the project will see the construction of 20.1km-long overhead rail tracks covering the Uttara-Pallabi-Mirpur 10-Khamarbari-Farmgate-Hotel SonargaonShahbagh-Doel Chattar-Topkhana Road-

Bangladesh Bank route. According to sources at the Dhaka Transport Coordination Agency (DTCA), the total estimated cost of the DMRTD Phase 1 project is Tk219.85bn, of which Jica will provide Tk165.95bn, aiming to finish the project by 2024. Under this loan package from Official Development Assistance (ODA), which is coordinated by Jica, consulting service will be provided.


Commutes 5-6 passengers per trip


Commutes 50-60 passengers per trip

Metro Rail

Commutes 50,000-60,000 passengers per trip

Comparison among the commuting mode



Hurdles and tussles along the way

The loan agreement with Jica for the project was put on hold for two years due to the authority’s failure to finalise the route. Experts from both Jica and the Bangladesh government had prepared a detailed route map at the beginning of 2011. Proposed by Jica, it was designed to connect Uttara and Sayedabad via Farmgate, Hotel Sonargaon, TSC of Dhaka University, Central Shaheed Minar, Fulbaria, Gulistan and Tikatuli. However, in February 2011, a major revision of the plan became necessary in order to avoid an overlapping of the rail route and the newly constructed Jatrabari-Gulistan flyover. Now, as per the revised plan, the route between Uttara and TSC will remain unchanged, but from TSC, it diverts towards Curzon Hall, Jatiya Press Club, Bangladesh Bank and Atish Dipankar Road, ending at Sayedabad. Jica, however, expressed discontent over the modification, saying it would take four more months to conduct a fresh study on the modified design. Later, in September 2011, Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) objected to the proposed route of metro rail, saying that its 19-metre elevation would create an obstruction for aviation at the old airport in Tejgaon. The BAF suggested connecting Pallabi with Khamarbari via Farmgate, and then routing it from Khamarbari to Motijheel, thus avoiding Bijoy Sarani altogether. Had that diversion been approved, it would have destroyed 55 metres of the eastern wing of Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban. As expected, many lawmakers as well as experts objected to that route map, hence cancelling the plan. So the experts from both Bangladesh and Jica sat together again to rework the rail route, and finalised it in February 2012. However, during this entire planning stage, Jica did not confirm the promised loan, even though several teams of experts from Japan had visited Bangladesh to assess the progress. Finally, in February this year, the project got the final nod from the two governments.

The much needed substitute


DTCA signed an agreement with a sixmember consortium of consultants on November 19 to supervise the metro rail project. Led by a Japanese firm called Nippon Koei Company, this consortium includes Nippon Koei India Private Ltd, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd, Mott MacDonald Ltd India, Mott MacDonald Private Ltd, UK, and Development Design Consultants Ltd, Bangladesh

There is no doubt that our capital city is in dire need of a substitute mode of transportation to counter its incessant traffic snag, and that is where metro rail comes in. It doesn’t need an expert to realise that a city of 360sq-km, which accommodates around 16 million people, can’t function properly without a mass rapid transit infrastructure, like metro rail (mounted or underground). A 2008 study on Dhaka’s streets, conducted by the DTCA, reveal a horrifying scenario. According to the study, the 3,202km of the Dhaka road network, can currently accommodate a maximum of 150,000 vehicles at a time, but, in reality there are more than one and a half million vehicles plying the streets every day. According to Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), there are 147,283 sedans, 58,608 SUVs/vans, 1,682 taxis, 219,443 motorcycles, and 14,820 auto rickshaws traversing in the capital, accounting for around 6% of all commuters, against 8,210 buses and

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 29, 20 1 3



Metro Rail

MRT Line 6

MRT Line 5

Uttara North (future extension)


Uttara Centre (future extension)




Uttara South (future extension)





unnamed n

n n n









Adamjee Cantonment College






Section 10


Zoo Road








IMT Mirpur-10 Kazipara



Chandrima Udyan





National Museum


Bangla Academy



unnamed Moghbazar Khilgaon Kamalapur unnamed


Bangladesh Bank


unnamed Tejgaon






National Stadium


Army Stadium
















Airport South




Airport Entrance








MRT Line 4



unnamed Sonargaon


Proposed three lines of the MRT project

8,317 minibuses, which carry 28% of the capital’s commuters. About 38% of the people use cycle rickshaws, which are more than 900,000 in number (unofficially). This amalgamation of slow and fast moving vehicles has pulled down the average speed of transportations in the capital from 17.2km/h to 13.4km/h in the last four years, revealed a recent study by BUET. (The benchmark average is 38km/h for a modern metropolitan city.) The BUET study also highlights the

fact that about 69% of the capital’s roads have an average width of 8.7 metres, as opposed to the standard width of 14 metres in a metropolitan city. Considering these circumstances, experts have long been saying that, without sustainable public transport infrastructure, Dhaka’s traffic situation will only worsen over time. The 20year long strategic transport plan, which was approved back in 2008 by the caretaker government, also put emphasis on constructing sustainable

public transport infrastructure. Unfortunately, few steps have been taken in that regard.

Why metro rail is the solution

Referring to a detailed study carried out as part of the strategic transport plan for the capital, Dr Sarwar Jahan, professor at the Department of Urban and Regional Planning in BUET, told the WT that private cars carry a little over 3% of commuters, although cars occupy almost 40% of the total road space. Buses and rickshaws occupy

around 7% and 41% of road space, respectively, making more than 28% and 38% of traffic. “This clearly shows that the increasing number of private cars is the main reason of traffic congestion in Dhaka,” Dr Jahan added. He further said: “Dhaka is not a planned city. Buildings and infrastructures have not been built in a planned way in this city; the same is with the streets.” Referring to his own research, Dr Jahan claimed that Dhaka covers less

Metro rail timeline The project will be implemented in three phases. Phase-1 Route Pallabi to Hotel Sonargaon Length 11km Completion date By 2019 (tentative) Phase-2 Route Hotel Sonargaon to Bangladesh Bank Length 4.4km track Completion date By 2020 (tentative) Phase-3 Route Uttara to Pallabi Length 4.7km Completion date By 2022 (tentative)



Dhaka traffic at a glance Dhaka’s streets constitute a total of 3,202 km.

Unlike mono rail, based on a single rail, which acts as the sole support and guide way for the train, Dhaka’s proposed metro rail will have regular rail track on an overhead platform

Most of the streets are 8.7 metres wide on average, instead of the standard 14 metres.

Privately-owned vehicles occupy 40% of Dhaka’s streets.

Traffic has increased by 134% in the last 10 years.

Metro rail titbits

Estimated cost of construction is around Tk220bn


20.1-km long overhead rail tracks with 16 stoppages


Will be the cheapest mode of public transport


Will be able to carry thousands of commuters at a time


than 1% of the country’s total land, and it supports about 10% of the total and 30% of the urban population. The population and traffic in Dhaka have increased by over 50% and 134%, respectively, in the last 10 years, but in comparison, the roads have increased only by 5%. “In this situation, you can’t build new roads in the city – it is just not possible. One solution is to go underground and construct underground rail or ‘tube.’ But the different utility systems in the capital have been done haphazardly under the ground, so underground rail in Dhaka is not possible,” he added. So, the only feasible option for a mass rapid transit infrastructure in the city is elevated metro rail, or “monorail.” “It can carry 50,00060,000 commuters at a time. If proper

facilities are ensured, then even the upper and upper-middle class people will start using the rail instead of their private mode of transport,” Dr Jahan said. Dr Munaz Ahmed Nur, professor at the Department of Civil Engineering in BUET and a structure expert, supported Dr Jahan’s statement. “Building new flyovers or elevated expressways cannot be a long-term sustainable solution to remove Dhaka’s traffic snarls,” he told the WT. Explaining it a little more, Dr Nur said: “A new flyover or expressway only alleviates traffic congestion for a short period of time. After a few years, any new road fills with new traffic that would not have existed if the road had not been built. This phenomenon is called induced demand. He also said the elevated

expressway or flyovers would not only cause induced demand and worsen traffic congestion, but they would also jeopardise the liveability of the neighbourhoods, which structures like metro rail never would. Dr Nur referred to a comparative analysis on the metro rail fare, saying: “Metro rail is going to be the cheapest among all the public modes of transport in Dhaka, as it would cost a passenger Tk10-25, depending on how far he or she would travel. This is affordable for most of Dhaka’s commuters.” n

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Fat Tax

To eat, or not to eat?

As new fast food joints spring up in Dhaka every few days, the WT team wonders whether there should be legal intervention in order to keep the ‘obesity epidemic’ from breaking out

It has to be done Faruq Hasan


besity is a growing problem in Bangladesh, pun fully intended. Porky school kids spending more time in KFC than on playing fields, Dad sitting on the couch all day in front of the TV with two bottles of coke, and now Digital Bangladesh making it easier to order fast food from your so-called smart phone all have an effect on your waist line and your ticker. But getting fat is never an isolated problem; health hazards associated with obesity put enormous strains on our already overburdened health system. In fact, in developing countries like the UK and the US, health problems related to obesity cost the economy more than problems related to alcohol and tobacco. So how do we prevent Bangladesh making a presence on the global fat map? Fat tax would have two immediate effects, if introduced: it would make us think twice about buying that overpriced piece of fried chicken, and

more importantly, it would also steer fast food chains to offer healthier and cheaper alternatives to greasy foods that clog up your arteries. A fat tax is ultimately a no-brainer: it is definitely not a ban on buying fatty foods, but will actually be an

incentive for you not to get fat. And in addition, if you do choose to go for a quarter-pounder and double cheese fries, you will also be providing a kind of insurance for our creaking health system that badly needs your greasestained cash. n

make it even worse. If they are forced to switch to even unhealthier alternatives because it’s affordable, we are surely to raise more public health issues than we are solving. Rather than approaching obesity with such a negative stance, whether it’s here in Bangladesh or abroad, the

more prudent thing to do would be to educate and encourage people to have a healthier lifestyle and subsidising healthier food. n

It’s ridiculous Shah Nahian


here is no doubt that obesity is driving up health care costs and proving to be a burden leading to budget deficits and various other issues overseas. However, it is not an epidemic in Bangladesh. Therefore driving up the prices of the already over-priced chicken, burgers, etc makes no sense. We have seen from time and again that taxing certain demerit goods to discourage people from consuming them never works. The prime example for this is smoking. A single Benson cigarette costs Tk1 to produce. Adding taxes to that price hiked it up to Tk9, and we still don’t see a decrease in the number of smokers. If the brand of cigarette gets too expensive, the consumer simply just switches to a different, cheaper brand. The people consuming these “unhealthy” food items in Bangladesh are mostly school and university goers. Most of these students have limited finance to begin with, and fat tax will

Cartoons: Rio Shuvo/Dhaka Tribune


TOP 10


Political Solutions

For the people

Joseph Allchin is a senior reporter at Dhaka Tribune. Follow him on twitter: @J_Allchin

Joseph Allchin puts together a social media generated list on the best way forward for Bangladeshi politics. The list is based on a poll taken on the Dhaka Tribune facebook page. To take part in the next one visit


Enact freedom of speech laws

We have laws that are used to attack critics of the state. Bangladeshi voters however, deserve a constitutional right to voice their opinion and prevent rights being squashed. A constitutional amendment to ensure that freedom of speech is enshrined in the constitution would help to ensure that difficult discourses aren’t covered up: “Cocktails and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”


Ban foreign funding for the parties

A policy enacted in neighbouring Myanmar. While this would be tough to police (foreign powers could fund local entities/third parties), it seems it is a persistent problem in the country. Both sides accuse the other of being funded by either India or Pakistan/ the Middle East. It is obviously very worrying if any political party is acting on the basis of funding or support from a foreign power and is a direct affront on the sovereignty of the country.


Extend reserved seats to minorities

Reflecting the diversity of Bangladesh, reservation of seats would help to combat the tyranny of the majority. In the absence of strong institutions, there is a serious threat in many young democracies that popular chauvinism be used to rally votes from disaffected minority communities. Having representation of minorities be they ethnic or religious would help to combat this.



Limit the number of terms one would serve as a PM

For many democracy is not about choosing a politician as much as removing a politician from power. We suffer from severe dynastic politics and quite frankly it is not healthy that the same two ladies have made the PM’s job their own. It should not be about them or their fathers or their sons. It should be about what a party delivers to the people. We need new leaders. Save the historical sympathy for the biography section of the library.


Full disclosure of how the MPs spend government money

It is essential in a democracy that people know what’s going on so they can judge and therefore vote a politician out of power. If power is supposed to reside with the people in a democracy and knowledge is power, it is absolutely your right to know what and how much our leaders spend. The country has regularly appeared near the bottom of corruption indexes; anything to produce less graft must be welcomed.


Empower regional government (decentralisation)

Bangladesh is a very centralised country; everything runs through Dhaka and by extension the “Begum” or party in power. Decentralising tax collection and or governance would help to lessen this concentration of power and also give Bangladesh’s regions somewhat more power over how they run affairs. This may, however, make more potential levels of corruption.


Ban student wings for the parties

A surprising but prudent high flier at number 3. It should be up to political parties to take responsibility and be cognisant of what is done in their name and for them. The unremitting thuggery of student wings allow parties to abrogate responsibility for the loss of life, property and economic activity that such elements commit in order to gain political power undemocratically.


Make a caretaker govt mandatory during polls

The popular and perhaps most trusted method of keeping the two parties from each other’s (or innocent bystander’s) throats during election time. Problems persist about who should run or whom to appoint in the caretaker government. This is ultimately, however, the simplest and most realistic method of running an election, which is of course the chief call of the opposition at the moment as it has been for previous opposition parties, including the Awami League.

1 Empower judiciary and electoral/anticorruption bodies

This may sound obvious, but in many ways strikes at the heart of the problem: bureaucrats are not powerful enough to do their job in accordance with the law. If bodies such as the judiciary and election commission could act independently and not be cowed by politicians, or parties to arrest or convict whom the parties desire, then the system would be able to arbitrate and smooth over partisan requests. This is the mature priority that WT readers rightly chose. The current government has raised the amount of collected tax substantially, which is essential for empowering government servants, but even if good intentions exist (by no means a given) this will take an increase in capacity and the bravery and hard work of unsung public servants.

Full disclosure of party funding

Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune

If the country is to properly choose which party runs the country, it should only be natural to know who runs the political parties. As with MP’s spending, the vitality of a democracy comes in the form of information. This again would help voters to prioritise attention on the reality of politics, not just the wild accusations of politicians.

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 29, 20 1 3


Big Mouth strikes again

Naheed Kamal

A match made in heaven Diva architect designs lovely lady parts stadium Naheed Kamal is an irreverent and irreligious feminist. An old soul of indeterminate age, with one too many opinions and a very loud voice (for a little person), she laughs a lot, mostly at herself. She lives in Dhaka, against her best judgement. Mostly, Ms Kamal rants, a lot!


aha Hadid, celebrity architect, designer and artist, is not amused – she was bristling with irritation when I saw her on television recently. She is the architect who designed al-Wakrah Stadium, which was in the news for various reasons for months, starting with “slave labour” to its decidedly feminine final form. If you don’t know what I am talking about, do please catch up; it’s already old news as far as the world is concerned. I am talking about the venue where the 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar. If you haven’t had a laugh and a giggle over it already, you will find plenty of examples online. I was mighty pleased to see alWakrah, because just about every architectural wonder unveiled is a priapic skyscraper. So I thought it was lovely for a change to find this infamous stadium located in one of those joyless Emirati kingdoms – looking just like a massive vagina! Who would have thought that such a form could unfold into such a bold and triumphant piece of architecture? Normally, architecture pays homage to the male organ and pays little attention to the female form. Too many books have been written and one too many television programme praises the phallus structures in modern cities. How many do you want, or need? The official description released with the images of al-Wakrah said the sensuous curves enveloping an opening at the top that appears to float on air evoke the sails of a fishing boat –a dhow’s sails. I could only see a vagina – the vulva, the labia, the folds. And I was not alone; from Buzzfeed to The Guardian, everyone

remarked on the likeness to lady bits, and one author called it “an enormous, illuminated vagina.” Hadid said such interpretations would not have been made if a man had designed it, which is disingenuous of her because, just this September, Rowan Moore writing for the Observer called her the “queen of the curve.” Besides, most people were unaware of who the architect was, assuming that a man, or some men were responsible for the stadium’s design. By the time it dawned on the blogosphere that a woman, and not just any woman but the one and only Zaha Hadid, had designed it, I was tickled with delight. Could she have played a little trick on the Qatari emirs, who else but she would have the cojones to do that? One of the leading names in the rarefied world of modern architecture, perhaps even the best-known architect of our times, Zaha Hadid happens to be a woman whose buildings are everywhere now – from London, where she trained, to China, in Baku and across the US. But it wasn’t always so. Even a decade ago, if she was known at all, it was as the architect whose designs didn’t get built. Today, her designs are copied and plagiarised, having radically redefining architecture to “evoke the chaos of modern life.” I fell in love with Zaha Hadid when I caught her on television one Sunday afternoon, completely by chance (I had read and heard of her before, though). It was 2003 and her star was on the rise. Hung over after one too many late nights, the TV was on when I stumbled into the living room, just vacated by

Is Zaha a genius or a diva? We can’t say, but we know Hadid can have a laugh at her own expense. In 2003, at the opening of the first major public building she designed and built, the Rosenthal Centre for Contemporary Art in Cincinnati, her staff wore tee-shirts that said: ‘Would they call me a diva if I were a guy?’


Zaha Hadid Architects – with partner Patrik Schumacher, another incredibly gifted architect – design buildings that defy everything we know, or thought we knew about architecture. Hadid didn’t become one of the most sought after names in architecture today by chance. She said she has always been determined about what she wants to do, which is reflected in her designs – they are fluid yet fixed my father and brother. As I reached for the remote to switch the abominable thing off, Hadid appeared on screen. Her personality and the shapes on screen held me captive. Mesmerised, I watched those ethereally beautiful buildings with almost cinematic structures that lead the eye over peaks and valleys – much like al-Wakrah’s folds and depths. In photos, we see an enigmatic face, big intelligent eyes wearing a disdainful expression – I recall thinking that she had certainly mastered the look. On screen, she looked tempestuous and spoke forcefully as she talked about structures that “move.” Buildings can’t move, I thought, as it is not a word often associated with architecture. Somehow, Hadid manages to suggest movement even when she is using concrete blocks juxtaposed on top of each other – there is a sense of velocity, for lack of a better word. In 2004, she became the first woman in its 26-year history to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize for Architecture. The citation said her “architectural career has not been traditional or easy.” That is an understatement, because all architects – and everyone struggles – but Hadid struggled more than most because of her unwillingness to compromise, for which she is admired and despised. A bloody mindedness part artistic temperament – no doubt a creative necessity, and part survival technique – to succeed in a profession so completely dominated by men, defines her. There is no denying that men rule architecture. Hadid would have heard

more than her fair share of comments on being a woman, women’s bodies, body parts and vaginas over the years. It is to her credit that she’s not brittle but merely dismissive about the vagina chitter-chatter. Born in Iraq, Hadid grew up in a very different Baghdad from the city we see on television these days. It is hard to envision the modern, liberal and secular country, with a flourishing economy and intellectual culture – that existed until the Ba’ath party came to power in 1963. Her father was an economist and industrialist, and co-founder of the Iraqi National Democratic and leader of the Iraqi Progressive Democratic Parties, so young Zaha did not lack suitable role models – male or female. She said she found none in architecture, anywhere. Her confidence and ambitions must have been incredibly powerful, because she enrolled at the Architectural Association in London in 1972. Her timing was perfect as she joined a precocious new generation. Moving through Hadid’s architecture makes space morph and change, so it’s safe to think that only an architect like her could have designed such an inadvertently bold feminist statement – unintentionally – as al-Wakrah. It’s a good thing when men are all right with watching football while sitting in a stadium that is so very female. You never know, it might add to the overall experience of watching the beautiful game when it is played in a massive and beautiful vagina. n



Lalbagh Fort





Construction of the Lalbagh Fort was started in 1978 by Mughal Prince Muhammad Azam Shah who was the son of Emperor Aurangzeb. It lies incomplete on the Buriganga River in the Southwestern part of the Old Dhaka. The main attractions are the Tomb of Pari Bibi, the Lalbagh mosque, and the Hamman Khana (bathing place) of Nawab Shaista Khan

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 29, 20 1 3


PHOTO STORY Lalbagh Fort



W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 29, 20 1 3


PHOTO STORY Lalbagh Fort

Syed Zakir Hossain is the chief photographer at Dhaka Tribune




When community turns criminal

Throwback to the Middle Ages Part II Adil Sakhawat talks to a family in Badarganj, Rangpur, that has been living in exile for two years


hen Hashem Ali, from Kashiganj village in Madhupur union of Badarganj, breathed his last on June 26, 2011, his wife Hafija Akhter Happy didn’t know what was waiting for her. While she claimed her husband had committed suicide, Hashem’s family accused her of murdering him so that she could continue her “depraved” relationship with her friend and colleague Shahida Begum. A meeting was called by a village mediator, where Ainal Haque, the chairman of Madhupur Union Parisad (UP), ordered their punishment – beaten to death. But they survived the torture, and in the end, Happy’s family was ostracised by the entire village – no one talks to them, they’re not invited anywhere, and they can’t find work in the village.

First police on site

“The UP Chairman Ainal Haque called us and told us that a murder convict had been caught by the villagers. We went immediately to Kashiganj, but when we reached there we found no criminal. That’s when the villager told us about Hashem Ali and how his wife Happy was accused of killing him, and about the village arbitration to judge Happy and her friend. Later, we found out about the punishment from different newspapers.” Razendra, sub-inspector, Taraganj police station, Rangpur (he was previously posted at Badarganj police station)

Lead investigator

“When I was the OC at Badarganj police station, I investigated the case arrested 12 who were involved with the incident, including Ainal Haque. Perhaps they were all bailed out. But this kind of torture in the name of ‘fatwa’ or arbitration is completely prohibited. So I expect the convicted persons to be punished according to the law. I have already presented the charge sheet to the court, and the police will provide protection to

Adil Sakhawat reports on crime for Dhaka Tribune. Any information can be sent to weekend@

Crime timeline June 23

Hashem Ali, Happy’s husband, poisons himself

June 25

Hashem dies in Rangpur Medical College

June 26

Adil Sakhawat/Dhaka Tribune

Happy’s family, following an order from the High Court.” Tobaruk Ali sarker, OC of Rowmari police station, Kurigram (previously OC of Badarganj police station)

Victim and family

“The UP chairman offered me Tk200,000 for withdrawing the cases, but I refused to do that. Because I come from a poor family, they tortured me out in the open, in front of the whole village. If I were from a rich family, they wouldn’t be able to do it. Now the villagers don’t talk to us as they fear the chairman’s wrath. The chairman and his goons have threatened to throw acid at me, hang me from a tree and torture me if BNP comes to power in the next election, as the chairman supports BNP. My family is completely outcast from the village, and I can’t find any work.” Hafija Akhter Happy, victim “The UP chairman does not let us collect the relief fund that is provided by the government to all the poor families in the village. After that incident, many people promised my sister a job, but they’re yet to keep their word. A few days ago, the Thana Nirbahi Officer collected names from

our village to give out job, but the chairman’s followers took my name and my father’s name off that list. Many people with poor eyesight have been provided with proper treatment by the government, by my father’s name was taken off from the list of the candidates.” Abdul Awal, Happy’s brother

Prime suspect

“Those two girls should be beaten some more as they killed Hashem Ali. They are depraved. They have police protection now. Because of them, I had to spend more than two months in jail. In the arbitration meeting, they were proven to be in the wrong, that’s why I gave them punishment.” Ainal Haque, chairman of Madhupur Union Parisad “Those two women had no fault. The chairman ordered the torture as he pleased, violating the law. He is an illiterate person. People like him should be punished, so that no other chairman can dare to do injustice.” A school headmaster, requesting anonymity


“The village arbitrator tortured the two women mercilessly. The UP chairman had ordered his followers to torture them. It seems to me they tortured two animals, and not two human beings. It is a common scenario in this Badarganj area. The arbitrators normally do not endure the persons who do not vote for them at the time of elections. But Happy and Shahida both worked for this Chairman during election time and they are not depraved women, and yet they were tortured in the name of fatwa on that day.” Faisal Sarkar, inhabitant of Kashiganj village of Badarganj “Following the UP chairman’s orders, his followers Mohibul, Babul, Moyajeb Ali, Ilias Member, Sekander Mollik and Rafiqul Kasai beat us from 11.30am to 3.30pm. They did not even let the villagers take me and Happy to hospital afterwards. They beat us with bamboo sticks and tree branches after tying us with ropes.” Shahida Begum, the other victim


8am Arbitration meeting is held by the UP chairman, who charges Happy and Shahida with Hashem’s murder, based on his family’s accusations 11am UP Chairman Ainal Haque orders his followers to beat Happy and Shahida 11:10am-3:30pm The two women are tortured by the chairman’s followers 2:30pm The police come to investigate, but the chairman sends them away

June 29

The police arrest two persons, and Upazila Women Affairs Officer Mahmuda Begum lodges a case against 56 people who were present in the arbitration meeting

July 24

The High Court summons the Badarganj OC and the convicted seven persons to be present at the court on July 31

July 31

Four people are arrested upon the court’s order

August 7

The High Court orders the Badarganj police to present Happy Shahida to the court, and the police arrest four others convicted Now: All the arrested people are out on bail

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 29, 20 1 3



Rokeya Foundation

No (girl) child left behind Rohini Alamgir likes looking into the details of seemingly simple matters. She is constantly working on her autobiography because she thinks her life is worth reading about

Rohini Alamgir discovers a big heart and a future for the multitudes of Bangladeshi women

A strong foundation 1. Rokeya Foundation was started in April 2013, but officially began their operations in August 2013 2. More can be found on their facebook page: https:// RokeyaFoundation 3. They are self-funded and they are currently not open to taking monetary donations from third parties 4. At present they are housing seven girls, but have a capacity for 30 5. Their future plans include reaching out to help acid/rape victims and sex workers 6. They have the capacity to house more girls, and ask anyone interested in helping out to contact Quazi Taif Sadat at 01711-144179



s a child, the most prominent character trait Ayesha Akhter picked up from her parents was a sense of philanthropy. She recognised that hers had been a privileged birth into a family of means, and like her parents, she too wanted to give back to her community, the majority of whom had so little. That’s when Rokeya Foundation was formed, in her mind at least. Years later, Akhter finally found the opportunity and momentum to really give her dreams a shape, when her cousin, Quazi Taif Sadat simply said: “Start. No one can hinder a good deed.” She had needed that positive reinforcement because of her envisioned cause: she wanted to help women, a drive that until recently was a daunting undertaking, given how little work had been done to progress the eternal struggle for equalising rights. Rokeya Foundation, named after Akhter’s mother, and located in Gazipur, is more specifically geared toward helping orphan girls. “I’m in a good

place, and I realise that I have a social responsibility toward my countrymen,” Akhter said, trying to explain her drive to start the foundation. As Bangladesh moves forward in the drive for women empowerment, Akhter noticed that the focus remained primarily on grown or adult women. What about the children then? This, she understood, could be her niche. She started Rokeya Foundation in April this year as a boarding school for orphan girls, and girls with single parents, who were worse off. The organisation currently provides free living and food as well as standarised primary education (they have one teacher, Jakia), but Akhter has bigger plans. “We’re giving these girls a home and the freedom to choose where to go from here. Some want to join the work force early, so we will provide them with the required vocational training, and some want higher education, and I fully intend to fund them personally all the way. We’re not just giving them a nudge in the right direction, we’re holding

their hands till they’re ready to let go of ours,” she explained. As of now the school has a capacity of housing 30 girls, but they currently have only seven: Sonali (5), Eti (6), Shriti (10), Riya (8), Rina (6), Aklima (6) and Reshma (9). Akhter asks that anyone who knows of girls who desperately need help, they should approach Rokeya Foundation. The criterian that thry try to maintain in screening the girls they take in (to ensure that they are the most in need of help) are few: the children need to be girls who are orphans and need shelter, or have parents who can’t afford to send them to school, or have a parent/ parents who have money to educate their daughters, but simply do not care to really provide for their children. And herein lies the best feature of the foundation: Akhter is personally financing the monthly Tk60,000 per child, as well as the extraneous costs, and does not seek donations. Akhter explains her views saying, “I’ll do what I can, as long as I can. I don’t need people to donate. They can join the cause by doing things for the other girls whom I


One of the many Name : Sonali Akhter Age : 7 years From: Kamarjuri Village , Gazipur Father : Liton Hossain Occupation : RMG Worker Mother : Rita Akter Occupation : RMG Worker

Sonali’s father used to verbally and physically abuse her mother a lot. When Sonali was only three months old, they got separated. When they subsequently remarried, they, and their respective spouses, all refused to take on the responsibility of raising Sonali. She was relegated to the care of her 70-year-old grandmother, who was a cook at different mess halls around Dhaka. Two years back, her grandmother tried to enroll Sonali at the Sun

Moon Kindergarten School, but was unable to financially support her education for more than three months. From the age of three, Sonali had no one who really loved her, and certainly no parent or stepparent with a vested interest in her future. At Rokeya Foundation, they are providing her with support, education, friendship, and love. She has made fast friends with the other girls at the shelter, and even considers some to be her own sisters. Sonali can now dream big, with the assurance of a bright future. And she does. She wants to be a doctor and Rokeya Foundation intends to make her dream come true.

haven’t reached yet, but this is my part and I want to do it on my own. At the end of every year the Foundation will produce an annual report with complete cost breakdowns and details about the work we have been doing thus far, but that is only for the transparency of the organisation, so people understand what we do and how.” Within the next two months, Rokeya Foundation plans to have effective, free community clinics for girls and women set up not only within Dhaka, but outside the city as well, perhaps reaching as far as Ghono

Shampur, Rajshahi. Future plans also include a potential old age home, and more work toward supporting RMG workers, acid and rape victims, and hopefully sex workers as well. Ayesha Akhter, a mother of three, but a mother to many more, doesn’t just promote awareness. She wants to break the patriarchal hold on our society, because it saddens her to see a country where “we have two women in power, and yet no one really cares to respect and uphold rights for our women.” n

Photos: Courtesy

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 29, 20 1 3

20 Jennifer Ashraf is a barrister and solicitor of England and Wales. She is currently Senior Partner at Legacy Legal Corporate. When she is not solving complicated legal problems, Jennifer is usually found travelling to exotic locations sampling the indigenous cuisine


I am a musician about to sign my first record contract. However, I am apprehensive about the state of music piracy in Bangladesh. Even if I do sign with a major studio, won’t music piracy steal my income? Is there anything legal I can do to protect my musical talents?

Got a problem? Write to Jennifer at weekend@

Jennifer Ashraf Dear Reader, Firstly, congratulations! This is excellent news and you need to be celebrating. There is a lot of hard work, soul searching and passion that goes behind the scenes to finally allow a song or an album to take shape. Unfortunately, the proverbial thorn in the rose remains: the dirty business of music piracy. As Courtney Love stated in her dissection of piracy in today’s context: “It’s incredibly easy not to be a musician. It’s always a struggle and a dangerous career choice. We are motivated by passion and by money. That’s not a dirty little secret. It’s a fact.” Now, let’s look at how this affects you in the Bangladeshi legal context. Music piracy falls under the framework of intellectual property law. A copyright protects your original work. The original Copyright Act 2000 and the supporting Copyright Rules 2005 provide protection against

piracy. Infringement of a copyright, if proven, is an offence punishable with imprisonment from four months to six years, or with a fine ranging from Tk50,000-200,000, or both. There is also provision for seizure and confiscation of all the counterfeited copies and the machinery used to produce them. That’ good news, isn’t it? Bangladesh has good provisions relating to copyright infringement, but general lack of awareness is the contributing factor to the massive scale of piracy, bootlegging and counterfeiting. It is also for this reason that the genuine musicians are not duly reaping the fruits of their labour. Other countries have equal legal provisions relating to copyright, but it is the strong awareness and strict implementation in those countries, which makes the true difference. It is high time to stop turning a blind eye to this issue as the music industry will

Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune


I live in Katabon, and every day I pass by stores that sell hundreds of wild animals, birds, and even reptiles in their stores, often in very inhuman condition. It really makes me want to cry. I often wonder whether these stores are actually legally allowed to do business. What are the laws in Bangladesh about selling such animals in confined spaces? Is there any organisation or body I could inform about taking action against these stores? W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, NOVE M B E R 29, 201 3

Dear Reader, As a devoted bunny lover myself, I feel your pain. The stores you refer to in Katabon blatantly display their disregard for the adequate maintenance of these poor animals. Regular checks on their health are out of the question; there are times when I wonder whether the animals are even provided with the necessary nutrition. Hygiene conditions are at an all-time low. And, the worst bit of all this, is the fact that most people have

accepted this as the norm. Traders usually just need their trade licences, their TIN and VAT registrations and then they are good to go. The issue of these unfortunate animals – that’s an entirely different ballgame. The good news is that, legally, Bangladesh has provisions in place to prevent cruelty to animals, by both owners and traders. Unfortunately, the supporting legislation was enacted in 1920, roughly a hundred years ago, and fails to apprehend the seriousness of

soon be heading towards inevitable decline if this continues. The good news is that you are not alone in this fight against piracy. Your recording label executives are probably more freaked out about the piracy and bootlegging issue than you are, owing to the fact that they will also be contemplating recouping their initial costs. However, even if you are not signed up with any recording labels, you can still report piracy on your own and reclaim your economic rights. I also recommend that you sign up with BAMBA (Bangladesh Musical Bands Association) and the BCIPF (Bangladesh Copyright and IP Forum), or, at the very least, speak to a few other experienced artists who will be able to share their personal experiences with you. Once again, congratulations and I look forward to picking up your (unpirated) album soon. n

the issue today. For instance, the law states that anyone found guilty of the crime of cruelty would be either subjected to a fine of Tk100, or with a term of imprisonment of up to three months, or both. The sum of Tk100 may have been a massive amount in 1920, but today it is doubtful whether you could purchase a half plate of biriyani with that money. Regardless to say, the law is severely antiquated and in serious need of reform. Another massive drawback is the fact that almost no one, starting from the general population to the numerous police officers, seem to have any in-depth awareness of this existing law. You can’t blame them – over the last one year, the tragedies and drama we have endured as a nation has even put those soaps on Star Plus and Zee Bangla to shame. Yet, in the midst of it all, it’s always a candle in the dark when a concerned humanitarian citizen such as you expresses dissatisfaction and wants to make a change. You can always take the first step by making an official complain again a trader at a police station; the resulting recrimination may be only a Tk100 fine or a threemonth prison sentence, but at least it may prod these traders to make an attempt to improve the animals’ living conditions. And, who knows? With enough candles gradually lighting up, it may not be long before the darkness is completely eradicated. n



Pankaj Mishra

A believer amidst the agnostics

Joseph Allchin talks to celebrated Indian raconteur, author and journalist Pankaj Mishra about literature, politics, the historical routes to current problems, and secularism’s discontents

Joseph Allchin is a senior reporter at Dhaka Tribune. Follow him on twitter: @J_Allchin

Does colonialism still play a role in contemporary politics in the subcontinent? There is not a direct causal link between the era of colonialism and the political situation today. But many of the political forces in play in places like, Bangladesh or India for that matter or Pakistan, were first unleashed during the time of British colonialism, partly as a response to western colonialism. They were essentially at first liberationist movements, with a particular idea as to how liberation should proceed, and what forms the country’s political or economic functions should assume. So there were many disparate factions right in the beginning; secularists, liberals, moderates, Islamists, and more radical Islamists as time progressed. So I think in many ways we are still living with the kind of social, political, economic forces that were unleashed by the whole process of colonialism and the long period of foreign rule. What inspired you to write that and what were your motivations? I think that there were several motivations. Most important was the desire to imagine a different set of possible realities, political spiritual, ideological, than the ones that we are faced with today. I think the experience of being alive today is also the experience of knowing that there are not that many alternatives to the political and the economic systems that we have today. So if I were to be very brief, I became a writer because I wanted to enrich our contemporary conversation about who we are, where we are going, and where do we want to go. I especially wanted to reach out to young people and give them a sense of history and context that I think a lot of them are missing. The Awami League in Bangladesh has been having a tough time selling secularism. Would you say that secularism has lost its appeal? Secularism, in the context of many aspiring democracies in the subcontinent, was inseparable from a larger project of political emancipation. And it had to do with ideas of justice, of dignity of freedom. Once you separate it from these issues then it becomes a guise for elite domination. It becomes a way to assert your superiority over the unwashed masses, who are superstitious, far too devout for their own good. Those are

Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribune

“Pankaj Mishra is an Indian writer, essayist and journalist. Born in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh in 1969, he is the author of both fiction and non-fiction books. However, it is and has been his learned yet at times searing political and social commentary that have earned him a reputation, and kept him roving the world chronicling and analysing the world for publications such as the London Review of Books (LRB), The New York Review of Books, Bloomberg and others. One of his best known works is ‘From the Ruins of Empire,’ which tells the story of 19th century Asian thinkers struggling against colonialism. His re-imagining of the world from an Asian perspective, lead The Economist magazine to not only list the book in its best books of 2012, but also to declare him the “heir to Edward Said,” the great Palestinian thinker and writer. His debate and what most people considered his victory over right-wing Harvard historian, Niall Ferguson, in the LRB, earned him further plaudits as an intellectual heavy weight. He lives in the Himalayas.”

kinds of patronising attitudes that a secular elite can adopt. In a place like Turkey, secularism was enforced by the army, and that’s

the contradiction we saw there because secularism was completely detached from notions of social justice or dignity. So I think you have to be careful of just endorsing secularism without any qualification. We have to see who’s deploying this sort of discourse and in what context. India does very well in the Anglophone cannon of literature, but seemingly Pakistan and Bangladesh have lagged behind. Why do you think that is? Well for one, India is a larger country, with a bigger cultural infrastructure bigger market, so it has had all these advantages. Pakistan is catching up. It has produced some remarkable writers in the last 10 to 15 years, in English, and now we see Bangladesh with some really impressive writers, So I think the question is, is there a mature enough local market, is there a mature enough publishing industry. You know when I was growing up in India, and starting to write, even as late as the 1980s, there wasn’t much of a publishing scene in English. Penguin came in in the late 1980s and that was the first publisher who would actually publish you properly. Otherwise you wouldn’t really know how many copies you sold, or what the royalties were, most people never saw a royalty cheque in their entire lives. So now it’s a much more professional set up and people can feel confident that when they write that they will be properly published, properly reviewed.

How important is class to the politics of class to the region? Hugely important. The popular descriptions of India, for instance, have been concerned with caste, popular descriptions of Pakistan or Bangladesh have been concerned with religion. But I dint think we have really looked at how class forms attitudes in all these countries. So in a place like Pakistan the ruling classes there, their whole attitude towards religion and the poor and the devout has always manifested a fear of the un-politicised of people who haven’t really entered politics at that point-but they might, and they might use their clout to threaten the continued dominance of the older elites. That’s always been a fear. You see that in a place like India with the middle classes, the affluent classes gathering, circling the wagons choosing Modi as their leader, its really something we have neglected, apart from classic Marxists who have expressed this in a slightly unimaginative way talking about the proletariat or class formations that don’t really exist in these countries. But I think class is, I wouldn’t say it’s a master key, but it is one that unlocks many political puzzles in this part of the world. n

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 29, 20 1 3

22 Dina Sobhan is a freelance writer and cautions readers not to take her “advice” here too seriously! Got a problem? Write to Dina at weekend@


My wife and I constantly fight about money. Although we are comfortably off, I am trying to prepare a nest egg for us in case of future emergencies. My wife, on the other hand, accuses me of being a skinflint, and constantly complains that life is passing us by while we live like an old retired couple. Could you please tell me how to explain the value of money to her?

DINA SOBHAN I think a compromise can be made between your caution and her desires. People often mistakenly regard the pursuit for acquisition as the ultimate goal when it is merely the means to an end. While it’s smart to plan for the future, it shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying the present. So, throw a little caution to the wind and loosen your grip

on those purse-strings a little. Nobody’s telling you to go all Daddy Warbucks on the old broad, but buy her a dress, or – what the hell – buy her two! Go on a cruise and have a glass or two of bubbly. In all your over-thinking, you seem to have forgotten that life is for living. Best enjoy it while you’ve got it! n


I recently found out I am adopted. I managed to track down my biological mother, who turned out to be an alcoholic and a drug-abuser. Now I feel ashamed of my heritage. I love my parents who adopted me, but deep inside, I feel that I am going to turn out exactly like my biological mother. Is this fear justified? While it is sad to discover that the reality of your origins is not as pleasant as you may have imagined, consider yourself fortunate to have been spared the kind of life you might have had if you’d been raised by her. Your heritage is not determined by your mother’s habits and she only accounts for a fraction of your genetic make-up; a large share can be attributed to your father and your grandparents. While you should be aware of a predisposition towards addictive behaviour, you were brought up in an environment that did not foster it. Focus on the fact that you have parents who love you and raised you well, not the one parent who was unable to raise you but had the good sense to allow you to have a better life. n

Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy/Dhaka Tribune

I really want to be a member of either Dhaka Club or Gulshan Club. All the glitzy socialites and successful people I know belong to either or both clubs. I know with my middle-class family background, I’ll never get in. Should I just lie and cheat my way through? Or do you have any other tips?



Here’s a tip: have greater aspirations. While membership at DC and/or GC might seem a covetous position, I can assure you that it is not. It is filled with the same limited facilities, sweaty people and bad food as any other establishment. While the city’s hoi polloi may rub shoulders at the old watering hole on any given day, they

are usually too inebriated to either remember, or care, that you were there as well. The sad truth is you can buy your way in if you have enough money, but status is something you earn. If you want to be one of the “successful” people who frequent those clubs, become one and start your own. n




Across 1 4 6 7

Squirm uncomfortably about a blue blood (7) Milk product spoiled after endless tantric exercise (7) Keys, to begin with (7) Probe unravels Northern Ireland query (7)

Down 1 Local election perhaps? Something to make a song and dance about (7) 2 Villain lament surrounding own goal (5) 3 Stays if moved around to please (7) 5 Female organs, but Eric has them too (5)

Solution and clues for last week’s crossword

Across 1 6 7 8

Achieved gouges? (6) Circle girl before capture (5) Rowing crew devoured, we hear (5) Cat sees ELO in unmade bed (6)

Down 2 3 4 5

Business left and gone crazy in German city (7) Rice dish made German knight arise (7) Lazy sketch of nothing doled out (6) Look and peep for summer house (6)

Note: Last week’s clues did not match the published crossword grid. We apologise for the error.

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 29, 20 1 3




The Queen of the Hills

Phil Humphreys discovers how Darjeeling is tempering tea and tourists with a territorial tussle with India Phil Humphreys is a British former journalist who worked as a management adviser to an NGO in Rangpur, before joining the Dhaka Tribune as a consultant

In Darjeeling during the monsoon there is no concept of north, east, south or west, but while the first-time visitor has no appreciation of near neighbours, a movement for greater autonomy from India is gaining momentum


Photos: Phil Humphreys/Dhaka Tribune

arjeeling in the mist is a wondrously disorienting place. With the sun hidden behind thick cloud on most days during the annual monsoon, there is no concept of north, east, south or west. Therefore the first-time visitor has no appreciation of borders or near neighbours, or of lines on a map. This liberating sense of detachment is enhanced by the town within: it is bustling, self-contained and selfsufficient. The rest of the world does not matter here.


Nationalism does not appear to prevail around these parts, but regionalism is evident. A permit is needed to enter Sikkim, a reclusive kingdom sandwiched between the very north of West Bengal and southwest China, and located so close to Darjeeling it can be viewed from the vast Ging Tea Estate on the northeast side of town. India and China have long disputed Sikkim; a 1971 documentary on the territory directed by Satyajit Ray was immediately banned by India for fear of stoking secessionist demands, though the Ministry of External Affairs belatedly consented to its release in 2010. Every country must sate demands for regional autonomy from within its borders, and in this respect India is more troubled than most. The people of the Darjeeling hills are predominantly Gorkha (or Gurkha) in ethnic origin, and they are demanding W E E K E N D TRIBUNE F R I DAY, NOVE M B E R 29, 201 3

a level of independence similar to that won by Sikkim. I had already noticed the horizontal green, white and yellow tricolour flag of Gorkhaland, defiantly displayed above front doors and in shop windows. The region crosses over into the eastern Nepal highlands, and generations of men on both sides of the border have been conscripted into specific brigades of the British and Indian armies, and roundly commended for their incredible courage. Now the Gorkhas are fighting on the home front, and asking India for something back in return. The latest round of protests in August was triggered by the Indian government’s decision to grant limited statehood to Telangana in the restive

south of the country. As I write this, the Gorkhaland Joint Action Committee has suspended all further action in deference to an appeal by the home minister in Delhi for talks. Nobody can say for sure where the movement will end. The Gorkhas are passionate about their cause, and now some are prepared to pay the ultimate price; like their oppressed neighbours in Tibet, self-immolation is becoming a protest of last resort. To a casual visitor, there was little sense of impending insurgency. I spent several peaceful afternoons sitting on my guesthouse balcony overlooking the valley, while tuned into the first Ashes Test match from Nottingham and waiting more in hope than expectation for the clouds to part and the sun to break through. Between the commentary, children’s singing drifted up the hillside from the school below. Townsfolk passed by underneath on their way to market, or the temple. Above me, the tea houses and souvenir shops facing off around Chowrasta – the main square – did a brisk trade, despite the inclement conditions. Guided donkeys led excited children back and forth.

Tourist town

The beauty of Darjeeling is not all that can be seen and experienced; a chief attraction is also its raison d’etre. The Queen of the Hills has always been a tourist town, a magnet to the rich folk of Kolkata who need an escape from the overbearing mid-summer heat

of the West Bengal plains. For them for decades, a retreat to the cooling mountain air of the Lesser Himalaya has been an irresistible draw. For the foreign tourists, this means they need not feel conscious of commercialism, development or exploitation. The Bangalis have done all this already. Consequently, the hill station is overrun with hotels, restaurants, souvenir stalls and tour operators, but these are an integral part of the townscape, rather than a distasteful addition to it. They pile up on top of each other as “Darj” drops from an altitude of over 7,500 feet to under 6,900 feet in the space of a few streets. Distinctly out of step with its surroundings, yet a home away from home for more than mere outsiders, is Joey’s Pub. Tucked away at the bottom end of town, it is as close to a traditional English inn as I have experienced since leaving home; more authentic, certainly, than The Big Ben bar concealed inside the Kenilworth Hotel in Kolkata. Joey himself is unquestionably local, but his spiritual home must have been London’s Carnaby Street during the swinging 60s, such is the state of his music taste, haircut and attire. A flatscreen TV in the corner was playing a “Best of the Sixties” music DVD on a loop, featuring The Beatles, Kinks, Rolling Stones, Yardbirds and others. Joey never seemed to tire of it, or his punters of him. I left after only two pints. I might have stayed longer, but the one kilometre walk back to my guesthouse was all uphill, and I wanted to be sure of making it in the straightest possible line. Outside the evening monsoon rain was torrential; water was cascading down the street and lashing into my face. I broke into a brisk jog but doubled up in exhaustion after only 30 yards, palms placed on knees, lungs gasping for air like an over-filled vacuum cleaner. It was then that I remembered I was attempting to run uphill, fuelled only by alcohol, at 7,000 feet. In Darjeeling, it is not only the sweeping views that can take your breath away. n



Harding Bridge Harding Bridge, 1954

Bangladesh Old Photo Archive


Chanchal Kamal

Crossing the Padma over the Harding Bridge used to be a weekly event for me as I was from Khulna to Paksey all the time during the early 1970s. Right after the Liberation War, the Harding Bridge used to be one of the few pieces of infrastructure that gave us a lot of pride

as a new nation. There are trains that still run over Harding all the time, but now it serves more as a piece of national history than a means to travel. Ziaul Kader, New Elephant Road, Dhaka

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 29, 20 1 3


Culture Vulture

Book Releases

Hot off the press Yusuf Banna reviews the three local marvels launched by Bengal Publications this year at the Hay Festival Immortal politics

Yusuf Banna is a staff writer at Weekend Tribune. He would be happier if he could be a poet. He also dreams of being a painter and is envious of those who are

It is the ancient city where Khalifa Harun-ur-Rashid used to stroll at the dead of the night to see if his sovereign kingdom was in order. It is the city where the mysterious, magical, witty and whimsical stories of Arabian nights took place. It is Baghdad, the city of glorious orient, of which we had a mental picture encrypted in our minds because hardly any of us have escaped “Arabian Nights” in our childhood. Today, it is the scene of the dramatic massacres of September 9 ,2002. “Baghdad Immortals” is a modern day fantasy by Saad Z Hossain, which, while Arabian nights-like in approach, is shown in its true form: the brutally invaded city, and a genocide that has now become common occurrences that are overlooked by us. The consequences of this invasion,

Photos: Syed Latif Hossain

Through the rosecoloured lens

With “Hope in Technicolor”, Srabonti Narmeen Ali approaches the dogmas that correlate life and our expectations from it. Her deeprooted realisation, though biased with too much subjectivity, is worth appreciating as she executes her story well. It is a pleasant read with


cohesive facts that are straight yet complex enough to assure you of an enjoyable read. Placed in Dhaka, Aliya Khan and her friends, Naeem, Arnaz, Abid and Sareeta are the pivotal characters on which Srabonti’s story spins. These friends live adolescent and relatively simple lives. Aliya gives an elite portrayal, which is a fun read, we get to know the party and club culture that exists in Dhaka, but is experienced only by a selected few, and get a glimpse of the city’s darker and disturbing side. Srabonti, with her acquired mastery in fiction, cohesively reveals the twist that derails life from its technicoloroured “hope.” Srabonti’s narrative style is deceivably simple, clean and easy to go through. The rendition of a common story though, seems a bit mundane compared to her age, maturity and the fast paced generation she belongs to. It would have been far more interesting if the personas and setting were wrapped in a metaphor or stated in a rhetorical manner.

Poetic mosaic

Munize Manzur’s “Voices” is a collection of poetry and prose of genuine stories of the layperson. Among the 27 stories she experimented with varied voices and personas - from the streets of Dhaka to a metaphorical dream, we find description in narrative detail of scenes, senses and the sanctity of life. Munize has a tendency to break herself into pieces and reconstruct herself each time in a different story, with different circumstances. Her witty conjecture is bold and robust. There is no doubt about Munize’s mastery of language, her talent at spinning characters and situations out of thin air.

according to Hossain, raised racial feuds between Kurds and Sunnis, where the American marines acted as a catalyst to make Baghdad an orderly disordered debris. Hossain is comfortable writing in the niche of fantasy and dark humour and has mastered the telling of linear narratives in English. Having graduated from USA , and experienced the racism towards Muslims, he felt the need to speak up and speak out. In the pandemonium of post Saddam hunting era, two downon-their-luck arms dealers, Dagr and Kinza got hold of an important captive whose hostage delivery will be rewarded with a huge sum of money. The story starts with a tense conversation between Dagr, Kinza and another protagonist of the story, a crooked American private, Hoffman, who is an equal partner in their crimes. Hoffman is a fine example of Hossain’s dark humour, showing that not all the Americans deployed to Iraq were honest to their nation. This adventurous fiction is a pleasant read and a treat for the readers. It gives hope when we see that young writers are consciously making choice to write in English.

What are fictions for? To be read for pleasure or to fill up our leisurely hours in a meaningful way? Sometimes we identify ourselves with the story or a circumstance, sometimes the story hits us with its narrative that makes our thought halt for a moment. It is either about lives of people from remote places or the neighbor next door. The powers writers’ possess is therapeutic to them as well as addictive to the reader on the same scale. Kudos to these writers for effectively fulfilling that need, and here’s hoping for much more. n



Lee Harvey Oswald

The man who (may have) killed a president

Joseph Allchin is a senior reporter at Dhaka Tribune. Follow him on twitter: @J_Allchin

Implicated of the killing of John Fitzgerald Kennedy by five official investigations looking into the death of the 35th US President, Oswald’s case is however far from being a shut book. On the eve of the 50th anniversary of Oswald’s death, Joseph Allchin opens the case file once again various telling comments, most of which are uncorroborated. The conspiracies regarding Oswald’s short life are unique. No other individual has inspired such murky notoriety and mystery. His name will continue to echo on the lips of historians and conspiracy nuts with frequency belittling his status as a failed solider a bored communist and perpetual outsider. n

The day JFK died Nov 22, 1963

A natural sharpshooter

Born on October 18, 1939 in New Orleans, Louisiana, his father died two months prior to his birth. In 1944 his mother Maguerite moved the young family to Dallas, Texas and again on to New York in 1952. Young Oswald was said to be bright, but troubled. In 1956 he enlisted, aged only 17, in the US Marine Corps. He learnt to be a specialist radar operator and made it to rank of private first class. He was also a good shot, which for a time earned him the designation of sharpshooter. However, his time in the Marines was characterised by misdemeanour shooting himself in the arm on one occasion and fighting with a sergeant. It was here that he started to learn basic Russian.

Red Lee

Oswald’s life entered a whole new stage of bizarreness when he defected to the Soviet Union. Travelling via Finland, the young marine travelled to Moscow as a tourist from where he refused to leave. Declaring his support for communism and his training in military radar he was given a job in an

electronics factory in Minsk, Belarus. In Belarus, by most accounts, life was comfortable but boring. At a trade union dance in 1961, he met his wife Marina, and six weeks later the two were married. Before long, they headed back to Dallas, Texas.

The day the President died

It was here that on November 22, 1963 that John F Kennedy was assassinated as he was driving through the city in a convertible 1961 Lincoln. The official verdict is that three shots were fired at the moving vehicle: one missed entirely, one hit Kennedy in the shoulder and went on to hit John Connaly, the governor of Texas. The final one hit Kennedy in the head. Within two hours, Oswald had been arrested. A rifle was found on the sixth floor of Texas book depository building on the south-eastern corner of Dealy Plaza, through which Kennedy was driving.

Birth of conspiracy

The notion that in some way the killing of JFK has been a conspiracy has entered the American imagination

in almost unique fashion, spawning no end of theories, fictions and conspiracies. A cynicism was born on the day JFK died that has never left American culture, politics and psyche. Many have pointed to the bizarre explanation given that the second bullet entered through his back and came out through his neck, when the bullet was supposedly fired from above. There are various other theories that Kennedy was killed by the CIA, whom he had said he wanted to dissolve. Even the mafia was held responsible for the killing, another accusation which is otherwise largely bereft of rational motives.

The answers died with Oswald

In any case, Oswald was arrested within hours of the assassination. However, within two days on the November 24, 1963, Jack Ruby, a nightclub owner who had alleged connections to the mob, killed Oswald as he was being transferred between the county jail and police station. His killer, Jack Ruby died several years later in jail of cancer. He had spawned further intrigue with

11:10am After staying overnight in Fort Worth, Kennedy leaves Carswell AFB onboard Air Force One to fly to Love Field in Dallas 11:30am The presidential motorcade leaves Love Field 11:30am-12:30pm The motorcade follows a route through Dallas, during which the president stops the car several times to talk to citizens who approach his limousine 12:30pm President Kennedy is shot and taken to Parkland Hospital in Dallas 1pm President Kennedy is pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital 1:08pm Officer JD Tippit calls in to the police dispatch. By 1:16pm, he is dead 1:22pm A rifle is found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building 1:55pm Lee Harvey Oswald is arrested at the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff for the murder of Officer Tippit 2:04pm John F Kennedy’s body leaves Parkland Hospital and is taken to Love Field to be carried to Washington, DC on board Air Force One 2:25pm Lee Harvey Oswald is interrogated for more than an hour and a half, taken to a lineup, interrogated for another hour and forty-five minutes, taken to another lineup, then a third lineup, then interrogated again. At 11pm, there is a fourth interrogation by an FBI agent 7:05pm Oswald is charged with the murder of Officer Tippit

W E E K E N D TR IBUN E FR I DAY, N OVE MB E R 29, 20 1 3


LAST WORD Phil Humphreys

The survival of the slowest A chronic failure to evolve must spell the beginning of the end for the humble cycle rickshaw

Phil Humphreys is a British former journalist who worked as a management adviser to an NGO in Rangpur, before joining the Dhaka Tribune as a consultant


t is time for a mass culling of the rickshaws. They may be among the most colourful of all the creatures in the forest, but a vehicular interpretation of Darwin’s principle of natural selection would have rendered these rickety old rust buckets extinct decades ago. As Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” The origin of this particular species can be traced to the mid-to-late 19th century. The word “rickshaw” is derived from the Japanese jinrikisha, which literally translates as ‘personpowered car’. In 1877 a New York Times correspondent visiting Tokyo wrote of the growing popularity of the ‘jinrikisha’, which he claimed had been pioneered by an American expatriate in 1869 or 1870. Around a decade later, rickshaws were plying the hills of Himachal Pradesh in India and by the turn of the century, they had reached Bengal. In Calcutta (now Kolkata), they were initially used by Chinese traders to transport goods, but the cargo soon became people. Despite a relatively late introduction to Dhaka (c.1938), the city now boasts of being the Rickshaw Capital of the World. In Bengal, however, the basic design of the common or garden rickshaw has not evolved. An innate aversion to innovation or development means they still pick their way through the concrete jungle at a barely pedestrian pace, like a three-toed sloth moving towards its next meal. Behind them, the more advanced species must bide their time. In Dhaka, hours amounting to days are wasted while sat stationary in long lines of traffic headed by rickshaws. At such times, it is usually a case of ‘two legs good, three wheels bad’.

Minimum efficiency gains

Competition drives innovation, exemplified by the space and arms races, or Apple Inc. Here in Bangladesh, however, the prevailing mantra is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Or even if it is, still don’t”. On the streets of Dhaka, this equates to 19th century museum pieces creating roadblocks for 21st century technology. With good reason, the humble rickshaw wallah has a special place in the collective mindset of this nation. But so does the dodo in Mauritius, long after it failed to fly for the final time. If the ultimate aspiration of this country is development, there can be no room for sentiment. People, places, products all have to evolve. If they can or do not, they become obsolete. Belatedly, there are signs of progress. Two years ago, BUET engineers presented a paper for the design and development of an electric hybrid rickshaw, which it was claimed could provide “a relatively comfortable, non-polluting and silent transport system for urban and rural areas of Bangladesh”. The primary focus of the research was to develop a motor-assisted battery-driven hybrid variety without requiring significant changes to the structure of existing rickshaws. The first of the new hybrids are already circulating on the city’s streets. But without withdrawing two of the old for each one of the new, they will only be adding to the current congestion. The pick of this week’s Weekend Tribune focuses on the proposed Metro Rail project for Dhaka. Faisal Mahmoud notes how in the capital, “people have almost stopped complaining about unbearable traffic”. Such collective mass resignation is true of the residents of other big global cities I have worked in or visited. Londoners, especially, obsess with the length of their commute like a Sydneysider might ponder the timing of his walk to the beach. The mere thought of an office colleague lazing in bed for longer than them, or a next door neighbour catching a later train to their own place of work, can induce dizzying fits of jealousy.

commute here in Bangladesh. As a basis for comparison, I ask them to consider the streets of central London during the evening rush hour, before imagining double the number of city-dwellers and no urban railway or underground metro system. “Then,” I say, “Picture each bus at any time of day or night like a tube carriage at 6pm. Throw 400,000 fixed gear rickshaws into the mix. Paint out the cycle lanes. Stop believing in traffic lights and consider that the majority of roads resemble the surface of the moon. Lock yourself in a metal cage with a canvas roof for two hours, or lean unerringly forward on a wooden shelf for 10 minutes. Face repeated crises of conscience as one street urchin after another approaches the side of your vehicle asking for money or food. Finally, double the outside air temperature. You are now in Dhaka.” Aside from confirming Bangladesh’s love of an unwieldy initialism, the Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development (DMRTD) should make some future sense out of the present chaos. But Metro Rail must be phased in as part of the solution, not viewed as the final solution. It would be folly of the city planners to simply sit back and wait for the goose to lay the golden egg. Clearly, there can be no miracles cures. In our Pick of the Week, BUET civil engineering professor Dr Munaz Ahmed Nur explains how a new expressway – like the recently-opened Mayor Hanif flyover - will only alleviate traffic congestion for a short period due to the phenomenon of induced demand. The Metro Rail system, however, is sure to have the same effect. By providing a viable alternative to buses, cars, and CNGs, you should necessarily need less of them. This extra road capacity will soon be filled by cars according to the same behavioural laws.

The title Rickshaw Capital of the World’s viewed as a Unique Selling Point in Ever increasing circles Dhaka when really it should be seen There is, of course, one other determinant factor at work here: as a millstone round the neck of every population growth. There are very upwardly-mobile resident who wants to few urban areas in the world that reach the office in less than two hours. are expanding as fast as Dhaka. The population of the world’s newest For shorter journeys, the message should Inhuman traffic megacity has been increasing at a be simple: scale back on the rickshaws, Consequently, I am often asked by rate of 4% annually over the last stretch out the legs, and walk friends in the UK to describe my daily decade as economic migrants arrive


The Metro Rail project will induce demand in precisely the same way as the building of more flyovers. More road capacity will result in more cars. A more radical approach is needed to keep the city moving in search of work. Even if this rate is only maintained - and does not follow its current trajectory - through to the expected completion of the Metro Rail project in 2022, it will still mean an extra eight million people rubbing shoulders with the 16 million who already live here. Metro Rail is forecast to carry 50,000-60,000 commuters at a time. In the congestion paradigm, it won’t even maintain the status quo. It should be assumed, therefore, that Dhaka’s roads will always be logjammed. The key is to keep the traffic moving. For a city of so many, the urban area is tiny: only five to seven miles wide and 15 to 20 miles long. Indicative of the haphazard way the metropolis has evolved, there is only one north to south thoroughfare that traverses its entire length. For this built-up body to keep functioning, then, the oxygen and nutrients of city life need to be continually pumped around it. The aorta cannot be clogged. All of which returns the focus of attention to cycle rickshaws. BUET figures show they occupy 41% of road space and comprise 38% of all traffic in Dhaka. Over 140 years after their invention and with no significant advancement in their design until now, they remain the mass transit system of choice, only they are anything but rapid. To improve the life-flow of the city, therefore, they must be scaled back in number, and speeded up in operation. n

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