A new year came upon us, so is the 3rd year of the government of Sheikh Hasina- HM Ershad- Hasanul Inu – Maolana Misbah-Ul-Islam- Comrade Moinuddin Khan Badal. Under siege by police and neo-gestapo RAB; the new years eve was fairly uneventful. At least there was no public display of sexual harassment in the form of a torn clothe student at Dhaka University Student center premises.
There were some upheavals though. The long line for the upcoming World Cup Cricket tickets were lead news/ talking point in the news media. The world cup ticket hoopla was duly followed by nearly 24/7 news coverage of the roller coaster ride of the stock market. TV news as well as the talk shows were all filled with footage of angry investors, bleeding from RAB baton Charge, rallying and pelting stones at nearby cars and government offices. The Government took the challenge politically and made sure that the following day the stock index rebound with a two fold vigor.
Other than all these discussable and forgettable stuff, the new year as well as the second year anniversary of Hasina Ershad brother sister Government was supposed to be a happy and holy event. Well… except for the unhappy and ugly scene of a bright red deep blue spot hanging fifteen feet above the ground on our horizon.
It is irony that her name was Felani. Like Kurani, Felani is Generic name in Bangla literature. While Kurani is the name of a little girl living on the street, Felani usually describes an orphan or poor girl who serves her master’s household 24/7 only two get abused and deprived. Felani was a born in a very poor family in Northern Bangladesh. It is that region of Bangladesh where ‘Monga’ — seasonal shortage of work and food is endemic. In quest of the most basic of basic human needs, at least once or twice a day food to meet hunger, five year old Felani, her parents, along with many others like them, crossed international political border and managed the lowest wage job in a far away land, in Southwest India. They would do the hardest and lowest paid jobs which even the locals would pass. At least there was a job for little Felani and her family and that ensured food to eat. While politicians can have political borders, basic need like hunger does not care for any border.
While working as a child laborer carrying and washing brick in a far away land, Felani grew up and reached marriageable age per the standards of rural poor sections of Bangladesh. She was returning home after ten years to get married. All were set up.
Poor folks cross the border for meeting basic living needs. They don’t read newspapers or blogs. They don’t understand India’s growing stature and accompanying security concern. They only heard that there are jobs in this and that far away land. The procession is rather big. Some will stop in nearby Calcutta, some will travel to Delhi, Bombay and half of them will cross another fearsome border to land in Karachi, Pakistan.
Nahari’s mother used to help run errands in my grandmothers rural home in Chittagong. Two of her sons work in Pakistan. I met them during one of my trips. Many of them don’t have passport, visa — some don’t bother spending all the airfare money. For them getting into India costs more money and there are higher chances of getting arrested. Crossing border into Bangladesh costs much less, no chance of getting arrested but there are chances of getting killed.
Indiscriminate killing of Bangladeshis in Indian border started soon after independence. But over the last few years the killings have become a near daily event. In a blog post Rezwan compiles different write ups on this issue and quotes Bangladeshi Human Rights organization Odhikar this way,
Bangladeshi human rights organization Odhikar says in a report that BSF kills one Bangladeshi in every four days. It also says that BSF killed 74 innocent Bangladeshi citizens in 2010, injured seventy-two and kidnapped 43. In the past decade more than 1000 Bangladeshis were killed in the border regions by BSF.
Like 13 year old Parul who was shot by Indian security, Felani was shot as she her traditional clothes got stuck high up in the barbed wire fence. Felani was alive reportedly at least 4 hours after being shot. Local villagers report hearing her screaming and asking for water.
Felani bled to death. In the photos we see, blood could not be distinguished from her bright red and deep blue dress.Local people protested. Bangla blogosphere erupted. Some newspapers ( especially those cunning-smart ones who can read peoples pulse way in advance) published the news.
And yet some folks saw Jamaati conspiracy to hamper “war Crimes trial” in Felani’s hanging dead body. Like the comment on a facebook page where image of Felani’s hanging body was posted. As one soul, in that facebook page, rather getting upset at the photo, questioned the source of the photo, other replies, ” It must be an act of the Jamaatis”.
The Government kept quite quite. Not a single word about Felani could be heard from the mouth of our ever talking prime Minister or her men-women.Felani means disposable. Felani is really disposable to our Government. Felani’s death is not important enough to seek justice for or start a trial process.
We want connectivity. We are enclosed with 15 feet high barbed wire from all sides to prevent connecting, yet we are for connectivity.Our folks are being shot and killed indiscriminately. Shoot at sight if caught in the process of connecting. Hell Yeah. We are for connectivity.
India’s truck, 18 wheeler lorries will drive through Bangladesh via special road built for them with our peoples’ money. But Parul or Felani or many Shafiq, Rafiq, Karim, Habib will be shot to death if seen crossing India-Bangladesh border.
If we talk more connectivity, more regional cooperation, like EU, why can’t we have EU style open border? Let’s open our borders. Let’s real economic cooperation begin. Let our Felani’s and their parents travel fearlessly providing cheap labor to the growing economies in this region.