Monday, April 15, 2013

The rise, fall ... and rise of bangladesh bloggers

This is my second blog on Bangladesh.

The first one was on the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh and provides detailed accounts and analysis of the prosecutions of those alleged to have committed international crimes during the 1971 war of Bangladesh. To read about the tribunal do look at the website

This blog will be much wider in its content and will provide an opportunity for me to write on wider Bangladesh political issues - when space or time or subject matter does not allow me to publish in the newspaper for which I work, New Age.

There are already some excellent blogs on Bangladesh in the English language - in particular Alal-o-Dulal - but I hope that this one will add to the variety of analysis that already exists in the blogosphere.

Of course, these days in Bangladesh, to be a 'blogger' comes with some very particular baggage. 

It was 'bloggers' who were said to have initiated the Shahbag movement (with its demand for the death penalty of 1971 war criminals), and whilst the bloggers were initially lauded, they soon became the object of derision as Amar Desh and other papers came to describe them as 'atheists' as a way to attack the shahbag movement. 

Soon, rather bizarrely, the concept of 'atheist bloggers' became a term of art in Bangladesh journalism as well as in political analysis as the Islamic right captured the new discourse, placing the Shahbag movement on the defensive and facilitating the rise of relatively new movements like Hefazet Islam and their 13 point demands for an Islamic Bangladesh. This resulted in the government deciding to arrest a number of bloggers who they alleged had written material that 'hurt religious sentiment.'

Shahbag's  discourse about 1971 war crimes has now been eclipsed by a dangerous discourse on the role of religion in the country - with every political leader falling over themselves to prove how religious they really are. 

And yes, this all happened in a few short months in Bangladesh. It has been a roller coaster ride.

It goes without saying, of course, that there will be nothing in this blog that will touch on religion!


1 comment:

  1. I am curious - are you aware that opposition blogs, such as SonarBangladesh (which while allowing JI write ups, certainly also promoted a lot more than just JI writings), have been shut down and their editors arrested? The editor of SonarBangladesh blog was arrested in Feb and is now languishing in prison indefinitely. The police have repeatedly demanded money to the tune of quite a few lacs - way beyond his family's capacity - in return for releasing him. He was genuinely not politically active, besides being a blog editor. (Not that being politically active is a logical reason to arrest someone, but I know that is the accepted logic these days!)

    This is noteworthy because SonarBangladesh was the largest opposition blog in the country. This doesn't mean it didn't have proGovt writings, it did. When I say opposition blog what I mean is - in some other blogs, such as Shachalayatan, if you are pro-JI, you are absolutely banned from writing, their entry structures control it. SonarBangladesh on the other hand was largely populated by pro-JI, pro-Opp people because entry structures were not restrictive. (To add a bit of context, many of those involved in the sometimes-vicious twitter 'attack' against you are well known Shachals.)

    I ask because when blogs come up in the context of Bangladesh, it always seems to be about Shahbag-religion, etc. But the clamp down on blogs and bloggers started *at least* two months before the 3 Shahbag-blogger arrests. Why is it that in the popular discourse Shahbag-bloggers are 'bloggers', and SonarBangladesh-bloggers are not 'bloggers'?

    I deeply admire your courage and eagerly looking forward to reading your new blog :)