Saturday, December 31, 2011

Upstream obstruction affects downstream flow : Tipaimukh dam to hit life, livelihood

Speakers and water  experts  at a discussion camedown heavily on some ministers and officials of   the country  for telling that the Tipaimukh dam would notbe  harmful for Bangladesh.

They have  urged theconcerned  ministers of Bangladesh andIndia  to arrange a joint meeting wherethey will prove  how disastrous  and detrimental would be the impact of thiscostly dam on the economy  andbio-diversity of  Bangladesh.

Only for generating 400MW of electricity, India would notimplement this kind of expensive and risky project defying international lawand ignoring objections of water specialists. There must a hidden agenda behindthis controversial project against Bangladesh, they maintained.

They were speaking at a discussion on " Downteameffects of  headstream intervantion onrivers and Tipaimukh Dam" held at the Jatiya Press Club on Friday.

A keynote paper was presented on the occasion by professorof Arakans University of USA Adel Mia while former vice-chacellor ofJahangirnagar University and president of Bangladesh Farakka Committee (BFC) prof Jasim Uddin Ahmed  was in thechair.

Former United Nation's specialist on water Dr S I Khan,senior vic-president  of ( BFC) AwladHossain, Shamsuzzaman Milon and Mostofa Anowar Khan, among others,  spoke at the function. Editor of The NewNation and co-ordinater of International Farakka Committee ( IFC) Mostafa KamalMajumder moderated the  discussion.

The function was arranged jointly by International FarakkaCommittee (IFC) and Bangladesh Farakka Commity (BFC). 

Dr S I Khan said India has constructed dam over 42 of  the 52 rivers  flowing through Bangladesh. India alone is not  the owner ofthese international rivers  and it  has been accepted by all international laws,heopined.

" Rivers arethe main resources of our country. If they die,there will be no cultivation of crops in Bangladesh andconsequently lack of food  security willpose a serious threat to our country, he warned. 

Dr.Khan called for building national unity sinking pettydifferences to safeguard the interest of the country.

Prof. Adel Mia said Bangladesh would be crippled on theeconomic front and fish production  willdecline heavily  for lack of water inthe aftermath of the Tipaimukh dam.Consequently, the people of the countrywould be deprived of the source of nutrition, he noted.

Dr.Adel further said the world's biggest reservoir will bein place with the building of this particular dam.As a result, the control ofthe water flow of the river Meghna would be at the command of the damauthorities.Again, the  normal flow of water in the Meghna would be disrupted during the summer and   excesswater  would be released during therainy season  much to the detrimentof  our country, he pointed out.

Mostafa Kamal said water specialists should beincluded in the discussions on water distribution and theTipaimukh issue forsolving the water sharing problems with India. 

Political Reconciliation Of Myanmar And Its Neighbor Bangladesh

After Hillary Clinton’s Visit, resourceful Myanmar has become a potential investment hub for South and East Asia which can go a long way in fostering relationship between the SAARC and the ASEAN.

Till some days ago, Myanmar was mostly an isolated country. For Bangladesh, it was a neighbor but was not much open to it and the relation was running mostly with some sorts of trading between the two countries. As Myanmar is also a neighbor of India, they had some trade with Indians as well. However, the people of India and Bangladesh were forgetting their historical relation with Myanmar or the then Burma.

We the people of Bangladesh, Myanmar and India, have a long cultural and historical bondage. We fought for our freedom against British and we wear same gems in the occasions. But we were going to forget it, and it is not for the people of these three countries, rather it is for the military ruler of Myanmar. The military ruler of Myanmar did isolate the country from the rest of the world. The people of Myanmar did not accept it through their mind besides they did a long struggle against the military ruler. The students, the Monks and the common people gave more blood for an open Myanmar, a democratic Myanmar. But it was true the people of Myanmar did not get a whole hearted support from its neighboring people or the people of democratic world; on the other hand the autocratic China used to help the Junta of Myanmar for their trade facilities.

All of it is now the history of past. The present Myanmar is a country which has started walking on the way to democracy. The political reconciliation of Myanmar is now being recognized by all over the world. Foreign minister of United State of America Ms. Hilary Clinton has visited Myanmar last month. Hilary’s visit was very much significant. Her visit gives recognition that Myanmar is walking on the way to democracy. On the other hand, her visit established that Myanmar is open to the world; that now it is not a country which is only a friend of China. It is proven immediately because after the visit of Hilary, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh has visited Myanmar within a week. During the visit in Myanmar foreign minister of USA said that they are concerned about the oil, gas and the timber of Myanmar. The world knows that Myanmar is a resourceful country. Its main three resources are oil, gas and timber. Besides that, Myanmar is a huge rice producing country and they have another resource that is gems.

Myanmar has huge oil, gas and timer but the country is considered as an agricultural economic based country. Only ten percent of its population is working in the industrial sector, rest ninety percent is working in the agricultural sector. At the time of Hilary’s visit she had told that USA is concerned about the natural resource of Myanmar. It indicates that they want a proper use of the natural resource of Myanmar. So now, it could be thought that, World Bank and other monetary organization will think about investment in the natural resource of Myanmar; besides that world renowned company would be interested in Myanmar for investment.

We know that India has an arms trade relation with Myanmar. China is the number one arms exporter in Myanmar and India is second one. Besides that, India is trying to buy gas and oil through pipe line from Myanmar. They will do it now. The present government of Bangladesh is very much cautious about regional economical cooperation. This government of Bangladesh has another quality that, it responds quickly. Having taken power, this government has done many things promptly with Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, The Maldives, and India is in favor of regional peace and economical cooperation. In fact Bangladesh responds promptly to build up an economical and peaceful relation with the new Myanmar.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh has visited Myanmar from 5- 7 December. It was totally an economical and regional peace cooperation visit. There is a long unsettled issue with Bangladesh and Myanmar. A large number of minority citizen of Myanmar have taken shelter in Bangladesh more than decades. They complained that they are tortured by the military ruler. We know that any type of minority community is not safe in under any type of autocratic government. Only a liberal democratic government can give a confidence and a safe and secured life to the minority community. Myanmar has taken political reconciliation and so with a due respect and expressed happiness the Prime Minister of Bangladesh has discussed with the president of Myanmar about that issue and the president of Myanmar Mr. U Thein has given assurance also to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh that they will cooperate with Bangladesh to resolve this issue. In the MoU the two countries said that, Both the Heads of Government noted that, Bangladesh and Myanmar are going to enter into a new phase in bilateral relations with pragmatic and practical approach based on sovereignty, equality, friendship, trust and understanding for the mutual benefit of their people and collective prosperity of the region.

Myanmar has huge oil and gas resources and on the other hand Bangladesh has deficiency of oil and gas; but Bangladesh needs a lot of energy for the future. The trend of economy is expressing that, within a very short time Bangladesh will be a hub of small industries. That is the way Bangladesh has a need for huge energy. Bangladesh is already going to make an agreement with Bhutan for hydroelectric power. On the other hand Bangladesh is trying to make same joint venture with north east India. Bangladesh is also seeking power from Nepal. So it is obvious that, Bangladesh will try to import oil and gas from its neighbor Myanmar.

President of Myanmar has also conceptually agreed that they will export oil and gas to Bangladesh in future. Besides that, Prime Minister of Bangladesh has given a vital proposal to Myanmar for setting up an Asian Clearing Union (ACU). If ACU is set up then Bangladesh and Myanmar will be able to establish direct banking arrangement and LCs can be opened between two countries directly. This system will be increased the trade between two countries hundred times. Besides oil and gas Bangladesh can import from Myanmar rice, onion, garlic and others agricultural product and different kinds of gems. There is a large Myanmar’s gems market in Bangladesh. On the other hand Bangladesh can export to Myanmar readymade garments, pharmaceutical products, Knitwear, jute and jute goods, ceramics etc.

Apart from the two countries relation, Bangladesh and Myanmar can play a vital role in this South and East Asia. Myanmar is the chairman of ASEAN now. On the other hands, between SAARC and ASEAN the geographical position of Bangladesh is very much strategically important. So Bangladesh and Myanmar can play a key role to make closer to ASEAN and SAARC and that will be great achievement for the future peace and economy of the Asia.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Accelerated Media and 1971 Genocide

Conflicts without a media-friendly visual are neglected by the world stage, observes.

1971. Journalists accompanied a post-Chappaquidick Edward Kennedy into refugee camps. Lear Levin's camera followed a singing troupe across the border, capturing footage that would be rediscovered by Tareque Masud. Bill Moyer designed a media-attuned blockade of US ships. Joan Baez and George Harrison both had chart-topping singles with the name of this new country (with an extra space in between). Finally, the Concert for Bangladesh became the blueprint for future mega-events like Live Aid. 

Already mobilised by the Vietnam war, the zeitgeist of the global peace movement shifted logically to supporting new causes, including the Bengali movement. In Europe and North America, people were already on the streets -- angry, energised and distrustful of governments. This evolved into concern for other troubled spots, and potential superpower involvement focused people's interest further. Whether universal analyses exactly fit each situation was somewhat beside the point, the urge was to move into action.

Underpinning this increasing awareness of new countries and conflicts was the expanding role of photography and film -- as witness and advocate. Television had already embraced a more primary role during the Vietnam war. When America's most trusted television newsreader Walter Cronkite journeyed into the war zone, everything shifted. On his return to America, Cronkite presented the report "Who, What, When, Where, Why" on CBS Evening News (February 27, 1968) -- a devastating critique of the war effort. The impact of this one television broadcast was seismic. A few weeks later, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced he would not seek re-election. 

The stories of Vietnam that decisively demonstrated to the country that it was an unwinnable war were often broken through graphic images: from the My Lai massacre to the over-run Marine base at Khe Sanh. Slowly there also emerged film, alongside each photo sequence. The brutal execution of a captured Vietcong soldier was captured by both photographer Eddie Adams (AP) and cameraman Vo Su (NBC)1. Adams' photographs, minus the crucial moment of the blood-spurting head, had an eerie film strip look. Back in the US, the press ran his entire sequence of photographs, further eroding support for the war. 

The 1971 genocide in Bangladesh, as well as other conflicts in that period, played out in a Vietnam war context of increased availability of the image to accompany text, and even text in a hyper-visualised form (starting to mimic the photo that was sometimes its companion, sometimes competition).

Reporters as advocates
George Washington Williams, a freed American slave, was the first investigator to expose King Leopold's Congo. Williams' 1890 Open Letter was a comprehensive, documented charge that the Belgian colonial regime was engaged in torture, “wholesale and retail” slavery, kidnapping and concubinage.2 This was followed by an open letter to the US President urging American action. But when newspapers like the New York Herald ran the story, they gave equal weight to the Belgian denials. Leopold's advisers were very concerned by "un vrai scandale" of "le pamphlet Williams." But they found it easy to insinuate that Williams could not be trusted because, as a Black man writing about Africa, he had inherent sympathies. Congo administrators were able to repeatedly caricature him as "an unbalanced negro." The issue did not fully catch the world's attention, because the messenger was easy to dismiss due to racial coding.

A decade after Williams, E. D. Morel, an employee of an English shipping line doing business in Congo, stumbled onto the mechanics of Leopold's empire. A quiet shipping clerk who paid attention to bookkeeping records, Morel discovered massive amounts of arms being shipped to the Congo off the record. He also analysed the discrepancy between imported goods and exported rubber and ivory and realised the Belgian state was not paying anyone for these materials. This led him to the conclusion that, hidden from the public eye, King Leopold was running the colonial state with thousands of natives working as slaves to extract raw materials and plunder the nation, while pretending to the outside world that Belgium and the Congo were engaged in a mutually beneficial trading partnership. Describing this discovery, Adam Hochschild wrote, "It was as if, in 1942 or 1943, somebody who began to wonder what was happening to the Jews had taken a job inside the headquarters of the Nazi railway system."3

Morel was a very different witness from Williams. With access to the sympathy of white readers, he could not as easily be debunked. He resigned his commission and began writing for British newspapers. Finding his Congo articles censored, he resigned and started his own publication in 1903, The West African Mail. Besides editing the newspaper, and writing under his own name, he also took on an African identity and wrote as "Africanus." He went on to write three full books and segments of two others, hundreds of articles for British newspapers, articles in French for Belgian and French newspapers, hundreds of letters and dozens of pamphlets. This reporting ultimately forced passage of the Congo protest resolution in British Parliament in 1903. This was the beginning of the stirring of a global campaign, which would ultimately force an end to Leopold's rule over Congo. As a white employee of British shipping, Morel eased into a racial context that gave his testimony “weight,” altering the history of the Congo.

In 1971, the factors deciding impact and audience were not necessarily the race, but rather the position of the reporter within the context of other proxy battles being fought on their home turf. There were Indian journalists covering this story, who did not receive global or unitary attention. Among Pakistani journalists, Anthony Mascarenhas was the first to charge that the Pakistan army was engaged in ethnic and religious cleansing. As a Christian from Pakistan, he knew that the West Pakistani institutions would find many reasons to question his loyalty and would arrest him (as happened with other dissenting Pakistanis). Therefore, he escaped to London, and then ran his front-page article for the London Sunday Times, which carried the first use of the term “genocide” to describe the war. Speaking of how Asian journalists were frozen out of the inner circles, Mascarenhas commented: "I had been too long a journalist not to know that a relative "outsider" such as I was, even with the biggest story in the world, could be indefinitely knocking on the doors of Fleet Street."4 

Among the reporters covering Bangladesh from the west, especially prominent were Amold Zeitlin (Associated Press), Peter Kann (Wall Street Journal, Pulitzer winner in 1972 for his war reporting), Sidney Schanberg (New York Times), Tad Szulc (New York Times), John Chancellor (NBC News), and Jack Anderson (Washington Post, Pulitzer winner in 1972 for his war reporting) among others. The leaking of Vietnam archives (known as The Pentagon Papers) to the New York Times had created a confrontational dynamic between journalists and the Nixon White House. Anderson followed this by divulging official secrets regarding Bangladesh, in what was later called The Anderson Papers. In December 1971, Anderson discovered a disconnect between public White House statements and private meetings. On December 6, President Nixon informed leaders of Congressional groups that the Administration planned to be "even handed"5 in the dispute. But according to secret memos obtained by Anderson, in a meeting on December 3rd, Henry Kissinger said the opposite.6 

In another memo obtained by Anderson, Kissinger said, "When is the next turn of the screw against India?" He also asked if the United States could ship arms to Pakistan via Saudi Arabia or Jordan. More damaging for Nixon was the revelation that he had secretly ordered the nuclear-operated Enterprise into the Bay of Bengal to confront Indian forces. The Enterprise was headed off by a Russian frigate and, after a tense standoff, both sides retreated, leaving the Indians and Pakistanis to fight out the war. Anderson publicly blasted Nixon over his handling of the Bangladesh crisis: "It was deliberate and it was in violation of the US Constitution."7 He ended up winning a 1972 Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the secret meetings.

Through public battles between Nixon and the Fourth Estate, we saw the emergence of crusading American journalists like Anderson -- people who had the power to decisively alter the attention being paid to a far-away conflict, specifically by linking it to domestic debates about Presidential power that were already at peak inside the United States.

Who's it between?
"Oh those unspeakable Serbs! And then there are the envious Hutus and the arrogant Tutsis, not to mention the aggressive Dinka. Consider how many groups of people and cultures about whom -- until they were recently engaged in bloody civil wars -- you knew little -- but of whom you now have a clear, despairing, view."8 -- Jean Seaton

As television came to dominate news reporting, the hyper visual changed the rules of conflict journalism. Complex situations, with multiple causes, linkages to colonial structures and hazy outcomes were flattened (even more than in the print-only era) to what David Keen ironically describes as, "Who's it between?"9 There is a desire to reduce conflicts between ethnic groups to "ancient barbarism", or the infamous "from time immemorial" explanation for the Bosnian conflict. This is explained by a theory of primordialism, as reflected in British coverage of Bosnia: "They were driven by that atavistic fury that goes back to the times when human beings moved in packs and ate raw meat."10

This primordialism hypothesis plays out especially in media coverage of African conflicts, infected by a streak of "afropessimism" -- where the continent is a “savage land” that descends to bestiality at the slightest provocation, with no agency assigned to its colonial history. African political cliques also play into this, because these theories help them to escape censure. The Rwandan conflict is an example where complex political machinations laid the groundwork for ethnic cleansing. But all this was deleted in favour of the story of "ancient hatred" between Tutus and Hutsis. The use of machetes ("Although the killing was low tech -- performed largely by machete -- it was carried out at dazzling speed")11 played into the notion of pre-technology people.

Similar simplifying structures were used to paint a clear narrative of the 1971 conflict and mobilise international support for the victims. Lost in this process were the complexities of the struggle, including the conflicting political strands within the Bengali liberation movement. The democracy movement, as it erupted in Pakistan in the 1960s, had several overlapping aspects. First, there was the strongly class antagonistic, workers vs. business overtone of the struggle. Second, there was the potential for the movement to become a pan-Pakistan struggle, as the West Pakistani students and unions were equally dissatisfied as was East Pakistan with the newly industrialising economy (although for very different structural reasons). These trajectories were radically shifted by the landslide victory of the Awami League (AL) in the 1970 Pakistan elections. The AL was led by a rising Bengali middle class and emerging business elite. 

This leadership had an unstable relationship with the ultra-left ideology of some sectors of student, which accelerated after 1971. When the war broke out, these tensions manifested themselves, especially as the Bengali guerilla army set up headquarters in India. The Indian government was continuously concerned about any militant left tendencies (broadly defined) within the Bengali movement, and the possibility of linkages with the Naxalites in India. This anxiety was projected into the League's leadership as well. But in the media treatment of 1971, these complexities were erased. In its place, there was the story of the bucolic Bengali people, pitted against an urbanised Pakistani state and military. Anthony Mascarenhas played into this: "In West Pakistan, nature has fostered energetic, aggressive people -- hardy hill men and tribal farmers who have constantly to strive for a livelihood in relatively harsh conditions. They are a world apart from the gentle, dignified Bengalis who are accustomed to the easy abundance of their delta homeland in the east."12 Much of this framing, including the specific language Mascarenhas used, was rooted in colonial history, especially the British Raj's decision to raise “native” army battalions along racial lines, with a focus on the “martial races”13 and benign neglect of the “clerical” class and rural forces.

Salman Rushdie replayed these constructs in his novel Shame, satirising the Pakistani attitude towards Bengalis: "Savages, breeding endlessly, jungle-bunnies good for nothing but growing jute and rice, knifing each other, cultivating traitors in their paddies." Later, in 1971, there arrived "the appalling notion of surrendering the government to a party of swamp aborigines, little dark men with their unpronounceable language of distorted vowels and slurred consonants; perhaps not foreigners exactly, but aliens without a doubt."14

The concept of "gentle" people came in spite of a long history of revolutionary movements. During the anti-British movement, a segment of the Bengali peoples preferred to arm themselves with western weapons and carry out a militant struggle. This included the 1930 Chittagong armory raid (inspired by the Dublin Easter Uprising) and Subhas Bose's Indian National Army. In fact, the technology-rejecting programme of Gandhi offered some comfort to the British, while Bose, who believed in fighting the British with modern weapons, was a more unsettling, radical force. 

Therefore, the Bengalis in 1971 could also have been framed as carrying on that lineage of armed struggle. As we have seen often, a provable direct linkage is not necessary for journalists to construct a headline. But instead, the western media preferred to portray Bengalis as helpless masses with little recourse to self-defense, except toward the end when there was more concerted press coverage of the Mukti Bahini. Although the Bengali liberation forces were clearly outgunned by a well-armed, state-supported Pakistani army, the portrait of "gentle, rice-eating people" obscured some of the complexities. 

For the purposes of a television-friendly story, the narrative structure had to be reduced to striking visual images. The photo of a Bengali woman being carried by her husband, and the crippled refugee hobbling through mud toward India, represented the Bengali crisis in totality. The nature of photography and film also added a prism of artificiality. The shirtless peasant walking wearily to refugee camps was often captured in verite moments, but the images of soldiers preparing for battle, or in battle, were invariably in a safe zone (more for the photographer's safety) and therefore had a visible element of staging. There is no doubt that there were thousands of moments of intense fighting, whether by the Bengali peasant who became cannon fodder, or the middle class revolutionary who carried out urban sorties, but the camera was often not there in that moment.

News cycle
By 1970, a proliferation of American TV channels, competing broadcasts and industry pressure, led to the pursuit of news calibrated to appeal to a mass audience tuning in for event viewing at 8 or 9 pm each night. Therefore, in order to appeal to an increasingly mechanised news gathering process, it was necessary to pursue big media events.

A group of American activists called Friends of East Bengal (FEB) found this changed news media increasingly blasé about normal street protests. In response, they implemented street theatre about Bangladesh to get camera attention. Richard Taylor, who had worked with Martin Luther King, adopted this model of theatre from the civil rights movement. Bill Moyer of FEB led the decision to mount blockades of ships carrying US arms to Pakistan, using little boats and canoes: "Like civil rights sit-ins, it was dramatic, direct and nonviolent."15 Starting in July 1971, this team began a sustained campaign of tracking down the Pakistani ships Padma, Al Ahmadi, Al Hasan and Rangamati. As each of these ships would try to dock at Philadelphia or Baltimore, the FEB would head out with their flotilla of small boats to block entry. Each trip was taken after first contacting TV, radio and newspapers and ensuring their timely arrival. The results were measured by whether newspaper reports carried photos, and whether the TV news carried film of the event. Bill Moyer particularly focused on TV news, sometimes delaying actions until reporters arrived.

As this action spread out across weeks, a cat and mouse game ensued between the shipping lines and protesters. Increasingly the ships would change course and not arrive. Soon, the authorities started getting orders not to reveal docking information. A Philadelphia Maritime Exchange officer confessed to one of the activists: "We've been instructed not to make public any information on ships to Pakistan. We're not supposed to put them on the big board or to list them in the Journal of Commerce." The pursuit of the ships became the news item itself. Each time the blockade would show up at a dock and not find the ship, the news media would be told the ships were afraid to dock. In these matters, the protesters showed themselves adept at managing media impatience. The changing dynamic of direct action was reflected in this confrontation: "One reporter angrily confronted Bill Moyer: 'You got us here on a wild goose chase. The boat's not here.' Bill smiled: 'I guess you don't know a successful blockade when you see one. The ship is afraid to come in. We're claiming success and we're going to continue.'"

Many of the activists of FEB were white. The few Bengalis in visible positions were sometimes stand-ins for romanticised conceits. Monayem Chowdhury, the Bengali male in the group, was described as "short, soft-spoken, Gandhi-like" and Sultana Krippendorf was in "flowing sari, petite figure, long black hair, lovely dark skin, and large brown eyes". Elsewhere she was a "lovely woman with foreign accent." Television cameras also picked up these visual cues in their filming. Richard Taylor was the unofficial biographer of the blockade movement, and in his descriptions we also see a desire to counter the reputation in the US mainstream of anti-war protesters as “unAmerican”. In his book, he talks of the "all-American" makeup of the participants. In Taylor's description, Alex Cox was a " red haired Texan," Jack Patterson a "tall, slim, mustached, thirty-two year-old," and Wayne Lauser was "tall, with a head band," On the other side, Patrolman Walter Roberts, who showed sympathy to the demonstrators, was described as "friendly, open face, with hazel eyes and close cropped blond hair." 

Because television carried nightly broadcasts of the blockade action, newspapers also followed, afraid of being left behind by the newer media. The power dynamic had shifted -- television was the action, and the protesters now calibrated their activities based on which images were ideal for moving film. Bill Moyer told a planning meeting: "I can pass out hundreds of thousands of leaflets and still not reach anything like the audience Walter Cronkite reaches every night." After all, Cronkite had contributed to President's Johnson's collapse. It was time for the full realisation of a television war. 

Syed Arif Yousuf, who is working on Blockade, a documentary about FEB, provides a framing for all this: “We should never think they were single-mindedly looking for media attention. I found them passionately believing in the cause and trying to do something about it. Media was the path to that.”16

Faster media
As tools get smaller and faster, the cycle of news-gathering accelerates. During the Congo genocide, the gap between news gathering and publication was often months. George Washington Williams' open letter to King Leopold, subsequent open letter to the US President, publication as a pamphlet, citation in the New York Herald, translation in French press and eventual rebuttal in Journal de Bruxelles -- each of these milestones occurred with gaps of several months. Between Williams' initial report, and E.D. Morel's next investigation, there is a gap of 10 years. In totality the media coverage of the Congo crisis extended over many decades. In contrast, today there is an incredible velocity in media mechanisms, which would be unthinkable to the slow reporting and advocacy of Morel's time. 

The shifting speed of media can be shown through a simple comparison between two years. In 1994, when an earthquake hit Los Angeles, it took 40 minutes for the news to reach President Clinton, via HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros who was sitting in CBS television studios. In contrast, a year later, when the Kobe earthquake happened, University students -- the earliest users with access to Internet networks -- started spreading word of the earthquake before the tremors had even faded. "The ground was still shaking when university students began firing up their computers to spread word of the disaster."17

As speed takes over, the focus is on "hot news" and viewers also get tired of stories much faster. This pattern of media exhaustion was already starting as far back as 1971. In the rush to move on to the next war zone, the media blanked out on many of the developments inside Bangladesh during and after 1971. By 1975, very few western outlets followed the aftermath of Sheikh Mujib's assassination. It is noticable that news reports of events in the 1970s, including Sheikh Mujib's assassination, were often not accompanied by very many multi-camera moving images. This was not just due to the coup-plotters' media blackout, but also because fewer journalists were covering the country. The hot zone had moved elsewhere. So complete is the departure of interest that 1971 is now described in many reports as the "Third India-Pakistan war." A conflict between the Bengalis and the state of Pakistan is forced into a footnote in the story of Indo-Pak tensions and "enduring enmity over Kashmir".

The Bangladesh war and genocide is both representative and atypical of media-led globalised conflict coverage. It is representative because of the issues regarding elimination of complexity, reliable narrators, news cycles and racial coding. But it is atypical because certain factors converged to keep the media attention focused longer than it would have otherwise. 

The proliferation of the visual has led to a perpetual need for events and media stunts to gain attention. Conflicts without a media-friendly visual are neglected by the world stage. An accelerated media cycle means that "hot news" also becomes cold. Conflicts that last for longer periods (e.g., Sri Lanka) are often left behind.
Even when there is coverage, something, somewhere feels wrong. There can be dozens of cameras, of every imaginable size and capacity, recording the site of new catastrophes. Yet we gaze at images that tell us little, sometimes (not always, of course) fulfilling a voyeuristic desire, without a call to action or responsibility. All our evolved, inexpensive, miniaturised technologies have sometimes led to a dehumanisation of the news cycle and of reporters. It is crucial to find ways to use all of the advanced technologies in media, without losing our original humanity and ability to bear witness in a slow, thoughtful manner.
In memory of Tareque Masud and Mishuk Munier. 

1. A knowing homage to this moment can be seen in the point-blank execution of a Kurdish woman in David O. Russell's film Three Kings, an example of trenchant political analysis disguised as a popcorn blockbuster.
2. Adam Hochschild, King Leopold's Ghost, Mariner Books, 1998, p.\111.
3. Hoschchild, p 177
4. Anthony Mascarenhas, The Rape of Bangla Desh, Vikas, 1971, p. iv
5. Vinod Gupta, Anderson Papers: A Study of Nixon's Blackmail of India, ISSD Publications, 1972
6. Memo to Assistant Secretary of Defense (3 December 1971), quoted by Gupta, p 97
7. Anderson, speaking to Inland Daily Press Association Convention, February 29, 1972, quoted by Gupta, p 44.
8. Jean Seaton, "The New Ethnic Wars and the Media", The Media of Conflict, Tim Allen, Jean Seaton, Ed., Zed Books, 1999.
9. David Keen, "Who's It Between? Ethnic War and Rational Violence", The Media of Conflict, Tim Allen, Jean Seaton, Ed., Zed Books, 1999.
10. Guardian, 25 April, 1998
11. Philip Gourevitch, We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families, Picador, 1998.
12. Mascarenhas, p 10.
13 Rand, Gavin. "Martial Races and Imperial Subjects: Violence and Governance in Colonial India 18571914". European Review of. History (Routledge) 13 (1), March 2006: 120.
14. Salman Rushdie, Shame, Jonathan Cape, 1983, p 195.
15 Richard Taylor, Blockade, Orbis Books, p 7.
16. Author interview, August 16, 2011.
17 John M. Moran, "Internet Becomes Quake-Net," Hartford Courant (January 20, 1995), A1.


Fool’s paradise of weighty Indian assurances

Dr. Gawhar Rizvi, our Prime Minister’s adviser on foreign relations, has preferred to publicly teach the civil society ‘malcontents’ of Bangladesh some lessons in statesmanship and diplomatic good conduct. In an article published in a leading Bengali daily, December 13 issue, Dr. Rizvi said that in international relations, when the Prime Minister (chief executive) of a country gives an assurance, it is to be treated as a firm commitment of that state and one should not underestimate the force of that assurance. He was referring to the assurances given by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh in bilateral meetings in 2009 (Sharm-el-Sheikh), 2010 (Delhi) and 2011 (Dhaka) that in the implementation of Tipaimukh project, India will ensure that no harm is done to Bangladesh.

Interestingly, in all the three meetings referred to by Dr. Rizvi, particularly in the last two, Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh gave specific assurances that steps would be taken by the Government of India to discipline Indian Border Security Forces at Indo-Bangladesh borders, with clear instructions not to shoot at (except in self-defence) Bangladeshi traffic (legal or illegal). To pursue a fugitive, generally non-lethal weapons would be used, and in case firearms were used, the purpose would be to shoot at the fugitive’s legs to render him immobile, not to kill him.

In practice, through 2009, 2010 and 2011, BSF carried on its killing spree at the land borders of Bangladesh as a matter of state policy in a manner that gave the clear message that Bangladesh must bow to Indian power and allow the BSF to freely conduct “security operations” by terrorising the border population, so that no one dares to give “sanctuary” to any “suspect” in Indian eyes. 

Strangely enough, there has been no respite in border killings even during the week of celebrations of Victory Day in Bangladesh (also by the Indian military) when these was so much of ceremonial camaraderie in official and quasi-official events by and between the two neighbours.

The Indian Border Security Force shot four Bangladeshis dead in the frontier districts of Kurigram, Dinajpur and Meherpur on the Victory Day and the day after (16th and 17th December) in a latest spate of killings, despite repeated assurances by New Delhi not to open fire on unarmed civilians at the borders.

BSF personnel at Narayanganj camp in Cochbihar district killed Alamgir Hossain, (25), on Garakmandal border in Phulbari upazila (Kurigram) at about 6:00am, December 17. The victim was shot near the international pillar 930. He died on way to Phulbari upazila health complex. Tension has been prevailing in the area after the incident with both BSF and BGB intensifying patrol along the border.

In Dinajpur, two youths, Matiar Rahman, 20, and Tajul Islam, 26, were killed in BSF firing on the Katla border in Birampur upazila at about 1:00am on December 17.

BSF troops fired four shots targeting a group of Bangladeshi villagers when they allegedly tried to cross the border at Katla, leaving Matiar and Tajul critically injured.

The BSF personnel took away the bodies. On demand by our Border Guard, the BSF promised to return the bodies after as meeting the same day, but did not do so until late into the evening.

At the Meherpur border, BSF shot dead Naharul Islam, 40, in Shewratala frontier area of Gangni upazila at around 7:30pm on December 16.
They dragged the body into Indian territory and handed it over to Murutia police station in West Bengal. BGB battalion commander in the area wrote to the BSF authorities demanding immediate return of the body.

The BSF killed at least 30 Bangladeshis, injured 58 and abducted 20 in the frontiers this year, according to rights groups. Indian security force killed at least 33 Bangladeshis and injured 67 others last year along the borders. In 2009, the BSF killed 36 Bangladeshis, 47 in 2008, in 2007 the number was 33, in 2006 they killed 62 Bangladeshis and 104 in 2005.

Amongst many abducted persons this year, most were only released after protests and flag meetings demanded by the BGB.

Following up on the Indian Prime Minister’s ‘assurance’, the Indian home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram assured Bangladesh, in a conference in Dhaka on July 30, that their border forces would not shoot any unarmed civilians under any circumstance: “Let me make it very clear…we have issued strict instructions to our border security forces that under no circumstances should they fire upon anyone trying to cross from either Bangladesh to India or India to Bangladesh. The message has gone down to the last jawan,” he said at a joint press conference with his Bangladesh counterpart Shahara Khatun in Dhaka.

After the Victory Day period incidents, Dhaka newspapers quoted our foreign ministry officials saying that Dhaka had lodged a strong protest with the Indian authorities on December 18 condemning the killings of Bangladesh nationals by the Indian Border Security Force, in Dinajpur and Meherpur, and body-snatching in Kurigram. The government had also expressed disappointment that such killings took place despite firm assurances from the highest level of the Indian government against recurrence of such killings of Bangladesh nationals by BSF. The government urged India to conduct an inquiry into the incident and take necessary steps to stop further killings. The Foreign Ministry protest note described the killings incidents as heinous, and demanded actions against the BSF personnel responsible for the killings.

Newspapers also quoted a senior home ministry official who said, “Bangladesh has been pressing India to stop firing at the borders. Dhaka has raised the issue at almost every bilateral meeting and the Indian side has assured us of taking steps in this regard. But nothing really happens in practice as the killing continues.”

Earlier on December 16 at Fulbari border of Kurigram, one Anwar Hossain (27) was killed and another Mohar Ali (25) was wounded by grenade throwing from a BSF post. In cartoon publication, a witty commentator remarked that since the Indian Home Minister’s clear instructions had “gone down to the last jawan” that guns must not be fired to persecute Bangladeshis at the border, the BSF was now throwing hand grenades instead of shooting to kill.

It took four flag meetings at Kurigram to recover the two dead bodies taken away by BSF. In Sylhet border at Jaintapur on December 18, one Badsha Mia (28) was abducted, from inside Bangladesh territory, by armed Khasia groups at the behest of BSF. The victim was tortured, killed, and thrown back at a border spot inside Bangladesh territory. Using armed border gangs to kidnap Bangladeshis seems to be another terrorising tactics employed by BSF to elicit servile “cooperation” of Bangladeshi inhabitants along the 4165 kilometre-long land borders between India and Bangladesh.

So much for “firm commitments” by way of verbal assurance of the Indian Prime Minister and the Indian Home Minister’s “strict instructions.”

 BY :  Sadeq Khan.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Indian minister opposes allowing Bangladeshi TV channels

Despite repeated blank promises by Indian authorities, including the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, government of India has no intension in real of allowing Bangladeshi television channels to enter the national cable network in that country. Two weeks back, when the issue of allowing Bangladeshi TV channels into Indian cable network was raised in the Parliamentary Committee, the proposal was outright rejected as most of the members of the Parliamentary Committee opined that, "Bangladeshi TV channels contain anti-India content and it also contains provocative materials, which would disrupt the internal security of India".

Minister in charge of Ministry of Information and Broadcast, Ambika Soni vehemently opposed the proposal of allowing Bangladeshi television channels within Indian cable network saying, "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a large number of policymakers from Indian National Congress are against the idea of allowing Bangladeshi television channels within Indian cable network."

When the Indian minister for Information and Broadcasts Ambika Soni was reminded that, Dr. Manmohan Singh made personal commitment of allowing of allowing Bangladeshi TV channels in India as well Bangladeshi foreign minister Dr. Dipu Moni told reporters after her Indian trip that authorities in New Delhi have specifically committed to allow Bangladeshi television channels in India, the minister said, "no such commitment was ever made."

It may be mentioned here that, during the recent past Bangladesh tour of Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, it was repeatedly said that Bangladeshi private television channels will be allowed within Indian cable network "soon". But, similar as most of blank promises made by India, this commitment of allowing Bangladeshi TV channels have also become visibly false.

Bangladesh allows most of the Indian television channels including some of regional channels within cable network in the country. Indian pay channels earn millions of dollars every month from Bangladesh and some of the Indian TV channels are even selling "time chunk" to Bangladeshi program producers on a regular basis. Recently Zee TV has also started selling Bangla Program Chunk to local program makers.

Commenting on government's failure in even getting Bangladeshi TV channels allowed in India, a source within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, seeking anonymity told Weekly Blitz, "Dr. Dipu Moni is not working to protect interest of Bangladesh. Her behavior and activities are like a petty Indian deputy minister if not a second ranking officer of the Indian foreign ministry.

"The current government has already allowed import of Indian films, which is a clear attempt of killing the Bangladeshi film industry. It is trying to do anything to ultimately transform Bangladesh into a mere province of India.

"Owners of Bangladeshi TV channels as well as program producers, directors and actors need to raise strong voice on the issue of allowing Bangladeshi TV channels in India, or they should force the government is shutting down all the Indian channels from Bangladeshi cable network."

The foreign ministry source said, "Because of bankrupt diplomacy of Dr. Dipu Moni, we have already given almost everything to India, as per their desire, while in return, we got nothing."

It may be mentioned here that, Bangladeshi drama, Bangladeshi folk music etc have huge public demand amongst Bangla speaking population in India. It is anticipated that the owners of Bangla TV channels in India as well as program producers and actors are continuing to oppose allowing Bangladeshi TV channels within their cable network. Some of the popular Bangladeshi television channels are: Channel i, ATN Bangla, NTV, EKushey TV, Diganta TV, Desh TV, RTV, Bangla Vision, Boishakhi TV, ATN News, Somoy TV, Mohona TV, Bijoy TV and Channel 9 while a large number of television channels such as Ekattur, GTV, SATV etc are expected to commence broadcast soon.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Curious Case of the 195 War Criminals

As soon as the trial of war criminals began, questions were raised from different quarters as to how and why the 195 Pakistani soldiers were released in 1974 without any trial. It has also been argued that those 195 Pakistanis were the main war criminals and their release questions the merit of the current trial process.1 

This article investigates the news reports that were published in international media from December 16, 1971 to April 15, 1974 to understand how and why those 195 Pakistanis were accused and released. It also explores the avenues the post-1971 Bangladesh government pursued to put Pakistani and local war criminals on trial. 

To remain true to the fact, the article mostly cites news reports and avoids opinion pieces. Also, to remain consistent, the article mainly cites the New York Times, though similar news was published in other newspapers.

Relocation of POWs to India
Saving the Pakistani soldiers from the resentment of the Bangladeshis, who endured the most horrific genocide of that time,2 became a major challenge once Pakistan's defeat was imminent. Though it was argued that "given a few more months the Bangladesh guerrillas might well have won on their own,"3 India's direct involvement not only reduced Bangladesh's sufferings, but also came as a saviour for the failing Pakistanis. India being a signatory of the Geneva Convention had an obligation to treat the Pakistani POWs lawfully.

Hence, in the second week of December, Lt. Gen. A.A.K. Niazi sent a request to the Indian high command for ceasefire. On December 15, 1971 Gen. Sam Manekshaw, Indian chief of staff, rejected Niazi's call and asked him to surrender by the next day. He however assured that safety of Pakistan's military and para-military forces would be guaranteed.4

When the Pakistani force made the rare public surrender to the Joint Command of India and Bangladesh on December 16, 1971, the "Instrument of Surrender" particularly highlighted this issue:

Lieutenant-General Jagjit Singh Aurora gives a solemn assurance that personnel who surrender will be treated with dignity and respect that soldiers are entitled to in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention and guarantees the safety and well-being of all Pakistan military and para-military forces who surrender.5

Hence, when sporadic post-war clashes erupted in different parts of Bangladesh, India became concerned about the safety of the 90,000 POWs. Indian Maj. Gen. Dalbir Singh, who accepted the surrender of some 8,000 Pakistanis in Khulna, mentioned that their main concern at that time was to move the POWs to Indian camps and withdrawal of Indian troops. He also added that, since the collaborators were not covered by the Geneva Convention on POWs, "they will be the responsibility of the Bangladesh government."6

Trial of War Criminals
On December 24, 1971, Bangladesh's Home Minister A.H.M. Kamaruzzaman announced that Bengali authorities had already arrested 30 top Pakistani civilian officials and would soon put them on trial for genocide. 

On December 26, widows of seven Bangladeshi officers killed by the Pakistanis asked India to help Bangladesh try the Pakistani soldiers for their crimes. In response, Indian envoy Durga Prasad Dhar, with an apparent reluctance, said: "India is examining its responsibilities [towards the POWs] under international law."7

The leader of the liberation movement Sheikh Mujibur Rahman -- soon after his return from captivity -- initiated a formal process of war crimes trial. 

On March 29, 1972, Bangladesh government announced a formal plan to try some 1,100 Pakistani military prisoners -- including A.A.K. Niazi and Rao Forman Ali Khan -- for war crimes.8 

The government offered a two-tier trial process -- national and international jurists for some major war criminals (probably for the high command of Pakistan army); and all-Bangladeshi court for the rest of the war criminals.9

Initially, India agreed to hand over all military prisoners against whom Bangladesh presented "prima facie cases" (essentially, presenting evidence) of atrocities.10 

On June 14, 1972, India agreed to initially deliver 150 POWs, including Niazi against whom Bangladesh gathered evidence of atrocities, to Bangladesh for the trial.11 

On June 19, 1972 -- ten days before the meeting between Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Indira Gandhi -- Sheikh Mujibur Rahman reaffirmed his commitment to try the Pakistanis. 

It is important to note here that, contrary to popular belief, the India-Pakistan Simla Agreement signed on July 2, 1972 had nothing to do with the Pakistani POWs that Bangladesh wanted to prosecute.12 

Pakistan Takes Bangladeshis Hostage
Many of the 400,000 Bangladeshis who lived in West Pakistan essentially became hostages at the hands of Pakistan government, who wanted to use them as bargaining chips to free the accused Pakistani war criminals. 16,000 Bangladeshi civil servants were discharged from Pakistan and were barred from leaving the country. Bangladesh alleged that many of its army officers were put in "concentration camps."13 

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) also reported that many Bangladeshis were arrested in Pakistan just for their "alleged intent to leave Pakistan," and thousands were jailed without any charge. It also reported that the civilian Bangladeshis in Pakistan were facing serious discrimination and harassment and were being treated as "niggers."14 

Facing widespread torture, hundreds of Bangladeshis began to escape Pakistan through the inaccessible "lawless tribal territory of Afghanistan."15 However, Pakistan government even placed a bounty of 1,000 rupees on each Bangladeshi seized while trying to leave Pakistan.16 

The China Card
In a press conference on August 10, 1972, Bhutto said that Bangladesh believed "it had a kind of veto over the release of our prisoners," but "there is a veto in our hands also."17 Later on he confirmed that Pakistan had formally requested China to use its veto power to bar Bangladesh from becoming a member of the United Nations.18 

Bhutto knew how critical it was for the war-torn Bangladesh to get the membership of United Nations and he used his friendship with China over this. When Bangladesh applied to the United Nations, China cast its veto on August 25, 1972 for the first time in the Security Council to bar Bangladesh's membership.19 Bangladesh was refused United Nations membership for wanting to try the war criminals.

The Trial-Repatriation Deadlock

Bhutto kept on insisting that Pakistan would only recognise Bangladesh after its prisoners were released. In November 1972, Bangladesh and India decided to repatriate some 6,000 family members of Pakistani POWs and, in response, Pakistan agreed to release some 10,000 Bangladeshi women and children held in Pakistan.20 However, the fate of most Bangladeshis trapped in Pakistan remained uncertain. 

On April 17, 1973, after four days of bilateral talks Bangladesh and India announced a "simultaneous repatriation" initiative to end the prisoner-deadlock. Under this proposal, India would repatriate most of the 90,000 Pakistani POWs. In return, Pakistan would release the 175,000-200,000 stranded Bangladeshis and take back 260,000 non-Bangalis (Biharis) from Bangladesh.21

Bangladesh, however, made it clear that India would not release 195 of the initially accused Pakistani POWs and Bangladesh would try them, along with its local collaborators, for war crimes. 

Pakistan accepted the proposal in principle, but agreed to take back only 50,000 Biharis. Bhutto however furiously refused Bangladesh's position to try the accused Pakistanis in Bangladesh. He threatened that if Bangladesh carried out the trial of the 195 Pakistanis, Pakistan would also hold similar tribunals against the Bangladeshis trapped in Pakistan. In an interview on May 27, 1973, Bhutto said:

"Public opinion will demand trials [of Bangladeshis] here … We know that Bangalis passed on information during the war. There will be specific charges. How many will be tried, I cannot say."22 

To prove that it was not just an empty threat, Pakistan government quickly seized 203 Bengalis as "virtual hostages" for the 195 soldiers.23 Bhutto also argued that, if Bangladesh tried its POWs, Pakistanis who were already "terribly upset" would topple Pakistan's political leadership, and he claimed that his government had already arrested some top-ranking military officials for such conspiracy.24 

Meanwhile, on August 28, 1973, India and Pakistan signed the Delhi Accord, which followed the Bangladesh-India "simultaneous repatriation" proposal. This allowed the release of most of the stranded Bangalis and Pakistanis held in Pakistan and India respectively for almost two years. 

The tripartite repatriation began on September 18, 1973 and some 1,468 Bangalis and 1,308 Pakistanis were repatriated within the first week.26 Pakistan and India agreed that the issue of 195 accused Pakistanis would be settled between Bangladesh and Pakistan.27 Pakistan kept the 203 Bangladeshis out of this repatriation process.

Legal Preparations
Though a tripartite diplomatic impasse clouded the trial of the Pakistani POWs, the Bangladesh Collaborators (Special Tribunals) Order 1972 was announced to try the local war criminals. Bangladesh also continued to amend its legal system in preparation for the trials of both Pakistanis and local collaborators.

On July 15, 1973 Bangladesh amended its constitution for the first time to ease the process of the war crimes trials. Article 47 (3) of our national constitution, added under the first amendment, states that:
47 (3) [N]o law nor any provision thereof providing for detention, prosecution or punishment of any person, who is a member of any armed or defence or auxiliary forces or who is a prisoner of war, for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes and other crimes under international law shall be deemed void or unlawful."28

On July 20, 1973, the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 was announced "to provide for the detention, prosecution and punishment of persons for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under international law."29

Interestingly, though the trials of the collaborators were abandoned, Article 47(3) and the International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 -- which offers the trial of war criminals including the "auxiliary" forces for their crimes against humanity -- were not cancelled by any government and are still applicable.
Simultaneous trial and Pakistan's apology

In response to Bangladesh's desire to keep the 195 Pakistanis out of the simultaneous repartition process, Pakistan government in the last week of April 1973 issued a statement saying:

Pakistani government rejects the right of the authorities in Dacca to try any among the prisoners of war on criminal charges, because the alleged criminal acts were committed in a part of Pakistan by citizens of Pakistan. But Pakistan expresses its readiness to constitute a judicial tribunal of such character and composition as will inspire international confidence to try the persons charged with offenses.30

After about one year, Bangladesh finally accepted Pakistan's proposal, fearing for the fate of 400,000 Bangalis trapped in Pakistan and to gain the much-needed access to the United Nations. With faith that Pakistan would hold the trial of the 195 Pakistanis involved in the wartime atrocities, Bangladesh withdrew its demand for trying the Pakistanis in Dhaka. Upon the formal understanding, the last group of 206 detained Bangladeshis was allowed to return home on March 24, 1974.31 It is clear that the 195 Pakistanis were not freed without charges, rather they were handed over to Pakistan so they could be prosecuted by the Pakistani authorities.

Bangladesh's position was then formalised on April 10, 1974 through a tripartite agreement among Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. It was reported internationally that Pakistan government offered apology to Bangladesh on the same day.32

Article 14 of the tripartite agreement noted that the prime minister of Pakistan would visit Bangladesh in response to the invitation of the prime minister of Bangladesh and "appealed to the people of Bangladesh to forgive and forget the mistakes of the past in order to promote reconciliation."

At that time, Bangladesh continued the trial of local collaborators and hoped that Pakistan would keep its promise and try those soldiers for the horrific crimes they committed against humanity. 

1 Pro-BNP, Jamaat lawyers threaten to resist trial of war criminals, The Daily Star, April 17, 2010
2 For details on genocide and atrocities committed by the anti-liberation forces, see
3 Yohn, T. (2001) Letters to the Editor: Who Cares About the Bengali People? The New York Times, Dec 31, 1971; pg. 18
4 Text of Indian Message, The New York Times, Dec 16, 1971; pg. 16

5 Reuters, (1971), “The Surrender Document” published in the New York Times, Dec 17, 1971, pg. 1
6 Rangan, K. (1971). “Bengalis Hunt Down Biharis, Who Aided Foe”, The New York Times, Dec 22, 1971, pg. 14
7 India Weighs Bengali Plea To Try Pakistani Officials, The New York Times; Dec 27, 1971; pg. 1
8 Bangladesh Will Try 1,100 Pakistanis, The New York Times, Mar 30, 1972; pg. 3
9 ibid
10 India opens way for Dacca trials. The New York Times; Mar 18, 1972; pg. 1
11 India to Deliver 150 P.O.W.'s To Bangladesh to Face Trial, The New York Times, Jun 15, 1972, pg. 11
12 For Text of the Agreement, see
13 Pakistan Denies Charge, The New York Times, Apr 17, 1972; pg. 6
14 Official Reports 2,000 Bengalis Held in Pakistani Jails, The New York Times, Dec 13, 1972, pg. 3
15 Wave of Bengalis fleeing Pakistan, The New York Times, Nov 12, 1972, pg. 10
16 Official Reports 2,000 Bengalis Held in Pakistani Jails, The New York Times, Dec 13, 1972, pg. 3
17 Transcript of President Bhutto's Press Conference on Aug 10, 1972. cited in Burke, S.M. (1971). “The Postwar Diplomacy of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971”. Asian Survey, Vol. 13, No. 11 (Nov., 1973), pp. 1039
18 Weekly Commentary and Pakistan News Digest, Nov. 24, 1972. cited in Burke (1971). ibid
19 A Veto By Peking, The New York Times, Aug 27, 1972; pg. E3
20 Pakistan to Allow 10,000 to Return to Bangladesh, The New York Times, Nov 23, 1972; pg. 15
21 India and Bangladesh Offer Plan For End of Deadlock on Prisoners, The New York Times, Apr 18, 1973, pg. 97
22 Bhutto Threatens to Try Bengalis Held in Pakistan, The New York Times, May 29, 1973; pg. 3
23 India-Pakistan Talks Reach Impasse, The New York Times, Aug 26, 1973; pg. 3
24 Bhutto Threatens to Try Bengalis Held in Pakistan, ibid
25 Bengalis and Pakistanis Begin Exchange Today, The New York Times, Sep 19, 1973; pg. 6
26 600 Bengalis, Pakistanis Freed and Flown Home; The New York Times, Sep 24, 1973; pg. 9
27 India to release 90,000 Pakistanis in peace accord. The New York Times, Aug 29, 1973; pg. 1
28 The Constitution of the People's Republic Of Bangladesh. See
29 The International Crimes (Tribunals) Act, 1973 (ACT NO. XIX OF 1973). 20th July , 1973. Government of Bangladesh.
30 Pakistan Affairs, May 1, 1973. cited in Burke (1971) ibid pp. 1040
31 Repatriation Is Completed For Bangladesh Nationals. The New York Times, Mar 25, 1974; pg. 8
32 Pakistan Offers Apology to Bangladesh, The New York Times, Apr 11, 1974; pg 3.  

BY : Syeed Ahamed.

Impacts of Tipaimukh projects on rivers and economy of Bangladesh

BANGLADESH is the largest delta of the world, created and shaped by the Himalayan orogeny initiated during the Cretaceous Age and the sediments carried and deposited by the numerous river systems. Among the river systems, the Ganges (also known as Padma), the Brahmaputra-Teesta, the Surma-Meghna, and the Karnaphuli are the most notable. These rivers and other numerous small rivers originate from India, China, and Myanmar and, unfortunately, the people of Bangladesh have no control over the river systems. The socio-cultural, economic, and political history of Bangladesh and greater Bengal are actually the history and geomorphology of these rivers. The rivers have been providing the people with food, shelter, transportation, trade, and prosperity by bringing new nutrition-rich sediments and sheltering a myriad of wildlife including fish, birds, aquatic plants, and fruits. The rivers have also cursed the lives of the people of Bangladesh by bringing sudden and catastrophic floods. Floods displaced people, washed away crops, and affected lives in every aspect. Floods also brought new nutrition-rich sediments, and washed away the toxic chemicals accumulated in the land during drier times, which renewed life and society.

The water flow of the Padma at Hardinge Bridge is 2,000,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). The flow of the Brahmaputra at Sirajganj is 2,500,000cfs while flow of the Meghna at Bhairab Bazaar is 420,000cfs. A combined flow of 4,900,000 cubic feet per second of water flows to the Bay of Bengal via these river systems. These rivers carry approximately 1,200,000,000 tonnes of sediments via the delta of Bangladesh. These flow of water and sediments shaped the physiographic, geomorphology of the country and as such influence the societal development and the economic activities. The landscape developed into the largest delta in the world with almost flat slope with a gradient of one centimetre per kilometre. A slight variation is discernable near the bank of the rivers due to the formation of natural levee and the land called Barind Track. The combined flow of Ganges (also known as Padma) and the Brahmaputra at Goalando Ghat is 4,200,000cfs and flow to the south-easterly direction towards Chandpur to cause widespread scour and erosion to the land on the eastern bank of the river. The flow of the Meghna upstream of Chandpur is 720,000cfs and flows south towards the Bay of Bengal. These two flow vectors meet at Chandpur in an angular way and the flow of Meghna diffuse the erosive force of the flow of the Padma to reduce the scour and river shifting. From the diagram presented in Figure 2, it is obvious that south-eastern flow of the Padma is impeded by the landmass east of Chandpur to continue flow towards Comilla-Noakhali. In addition, the flow momentum of the Meghna deflects the trajectory and forces the combined flow to go to the south. Due to their out of synch peak flow, some erosion and significant scour occur at Chandpur. This angular trajectory of the flow momentum has created a quasi-equilibrium condition. Any imbalance in this quasi-equilibrium will cause significant scour to the town of Chandpur and the river course may change its direction.

The rivers and the overall climate of the area have created a society which is bonded together like a family. They are used to farming together, fishing at the same time in same areas, harvesting the crops as a unit mass during harvesting time. Activities such as unique societal bond are as strong as the ionic bonds of metals and chemical compounds and the strong bonds among the people are a gift from the floods of the rivers. This unity swivels the political and morale flow of the country to the right direction like competent navigators pilot his vehicles during endless storms.

The perenial flow of the rivers together with the sediment provided the land with not only with water but also energy in the form of temperature and speed of water and sediments. The nutrients including phosporous, nitrates, microbes, fungus are generally gathered in the sediments, espcially in the finer sediments, are coated due to their electrical charge deficiency created by isomorphous substitution during the heavy and turbulent flow in the upstream. These micronutrients and trace metals are released by the decomposing leaf litters, detritus and dead animals including animal wastes in the upper watersheds of the rivers. During the receding floods and as the flow enters the flat slopes, the velocity of the water decrease to result in these nutrient coated sediments settle in the flood plain providing naturally rich soils for crops to thrive. This particular phenomenon plays significant part in the rivers of Bangladesh, especially the Meghna, as the Barak river flow through dense forests of the Tipara and Naga Hills. The kinematic thrust of the river flow also keep the intrusion of the sea water from getting inland and the groundwater is recharged continuousely.

The lean period, or low flow, provides a higher temperature to accelerate growth of algae, phytoplankton, periphytons and other microbial organisms that provide the basis of nutrients for fish, mammals, and plants. The bank full discharge is the most efficient flow within the river channel which flushes and cleanses the river bed to provide shelter for fish and lay their egg to hatch. The overflow discharge or flood discharge provide nutrient rich sediment to the flood plain. Periodic large flood replenish the entire river basin. Therefore, for the river basin to act as beneficial to society, all these flow events including pulsating floods are essential.

As the population increases in this part of the world, including within the watersheds of our rivers and in our country, stress on the rivers, their productive nature, and their mending power also are affected negatively. This gives more frequent floods, environmental degradation, and ecological downtrends. Unregulated, greedy, and profiteering industries have been discharging pollutants to the rivers starting from the sources, either knowingly or unknowingly. As such, the water quality, and aesthetics of the rivers are plunging downward while sediment toxicity is rising. The massive use of unplanned agro-chemicals, discharge from municipal solid wastes, human and animal remains, and erratic construction within active river channels (including unplanned dredging) have taken and are taking their toll. In this desperate situation a healthy year-round flow of rivers, including flood flow, has been playing a significant role in diluting and re-mediating the contaminants and flushing them out of the country to the Bay of Bengal. Any upstream control that will affect this sensitive situation of the flow of the rivers will have a tendency to affect the society’s culture, economics, emotions, and ecological aspects.

Background of Surma trough/haor basin

BENGAL Basin started to devolve during the late Jurassic to early Cretaceous period. The basin is a half graben Gondwana and moved to its present position after splitting from the Australia-Antarctica mass. As the Indian shield moved to its present position, it started colliding with the Euro-Asian Plate to create the Himalayas. It also interfered with the Burmese plate in the east. While in the north the collision gave rise to the Himalayas by thrust, in the eastern side, the Indian plate started subducting beneath the Burmese Plate. The thrust of Euro-Asian Plate created numerous thrust block faults and the east-west oriented mountain system in India and Tibetan Plateau. In the eastern portion, it created series of folded mountain system that are oriented north-south. The two complex movements together with the presence of Shilling Massif that started its ease-west orientation from northeast Naga Hills to continue to west had also created a series of complex faults, oriented mainly east-west in the north and north-south in the eastern portion. Arakan Youma, Desang and Dauki Faults in the transitional location of Burmese and Indian Plate are a few but very active faults that have produced catastrophic earthquakes in the past. Yarlong or Indus-Tsangpo Suture, Himalayan Main Thrust are a few but very active and dangerous east-west fault systems including Jianji Fault near the Namchi-Barwa area in eastern Himalaya. They are very active and determining their causative earthquake is also complex. In addition, no credible studies including collection of data on fault movement, or seismicity data are known. The subduction also created a fore-bay type depression in the north-eastern Bangladesh known as Surma trough which came to its present forms by receiving sediments from the Barak and other smaller rivers. As this land is locked in its present position due to the movement of the plate tectonics, the graben started filling with sediments shed from these mountain systems by the fluvial process.

One of the most important rivers that played and is playing the most significant economic, social and cultural shaping of the country is the Meghna. The Meghna is created by the joining of the Surma and the Kushiyara in greater Sylhet. These two rivers are the result of the bifurcation of the Barak at the Bangladesh-India border near a place called Amalshid. The Barak originated from the Lusai Hills of eastern Tripura and Manipur states of India and passes through the folded hills and densely-vegetated, long, narrow valleys within this area. The Barak receives other smaller rivers that originated from the Naga Hills and the hills of Assam. The upper watershed of the Barak receives more than 2,000 millimetres of rainfall in an average year with some areas receiving more than 6,000mm a year. The landscape consisted of dense tropical rainforest and scattered villages or communities of the original inhabitants. However, since World War II and since the British left the subcontinent, encroachment by the people of plain land have been migrating and settling in this area resulting in isolated urban sprawls and denudation of the forest to destroy the existing climax community to establish agricultural lands. This has created another unwanted concern that the sediment yields from this portion of the catchment area increased with increased runoff. However, as the leaf litters and the dead trees release essential nutrients to the runoff water and the forest floor, the destruction of the forests decreased the nutrient supply to the sediments to a minimum level only to generate sterile sediments. From some areas pollutants are also discharged from point and non-point sources such as agricultural practices, raw sewage, industries, manufacturing plants and cremations into the waters of the rivers.

The quality of water within the Barak-Meghna used to be one of the cleanest in the world. Natural cleaning of water would occur due to the presence of the Surma trough created by the plate tectonic of the area. The Surma trough, a fore-bay depression of the subduction zone of the Indian Plate into the Burmese Plate, houses a myriad of small and medium sized natural lakes locally known as haors. These haors allow varieties of phreatic plants, floating vegetation, periphytons, algal mats, fungi, bacteria and other micro-organism to grow which ultimately clean the river water. The haors also provide habitat for more than 53 resident water fowls with 160 species of migratory and resident birds, 260 species of fish. In addition, during lean months, as the haors start drying, the dried portions are utilised to grow boro rice. The topography of the lands in and around the haors is such that they have less than 0.001 per cent slope. The slopes are usually towards the deeper portions of haors and the banks of the rivers are slightly higher than the surrounding lands due to the formation of natural levee. This typical topography allows vast areas around the haors to be utilised to grow boro rice during winter season. Due to its almost flat slope, it is easy to irrigate the boro crops continuously by lifting water from the haors or the rivers without using massive lift. In fact, the irrigation used to be done manually by lifting water from the channels of the Surma, the Kushiyara, the Manu and other rivers that cross through these haors.

The entire haor basin and most of the Surma trough is inundated every year during the monsoon and flooding seasons. As such, people have built their homes in artificially filled higher ground along the natural levees and natural higher ground known as kandas. The haor system also united the people to a cohesive cultural society to utilise the resources. They face the natural calamities such as high floods, erosion of their villages as a one unit and do farming as a unit giving rise to especial social order which is very unique for this area.

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, in 2008-2009, approximately 17 million tonnes of boro rice was grown in Bangladesh. Out of this 30 per cent of the boro rice was grown in Surma trough and along the floodplain of the Meghna which equates to about 5 million tonnes. A loss of 25 per cent of the boro crops due to inundation of the haor basins will cause loss of more than 1.25 million tonnes of rice in Bangladesh. In present-day market price of $500 per ton, total direct economic impact on food could be as high as $625 million. With increasing population or more mouths to feed coupled with loss of arable land due to increase in population will devastate the country. It may require a few billion dollars to be allocated to import rice to feed future projected population. In addition, the existing economic condition of the world, floods in Thailand, draught in Africa, and the unyielding mentality of rice exporting countries have created a volatile market of food grain. Anything but price of commodities are stable in international market. Surma Trough also grows winter crop such as mastered, beats, cabbages, and other crops.