Tahmima Anam, The New York Times and the Bangladesh Motanarrative

Narratives that make your head bleed

Last week, the ultranationalist bloc in Bangladesh, The Shahbag, was burning effigies of Imran Khan. He had dared to comment on that crown jewel of Bangladesh’s ‘internal affairs’, the dubious trials of those accused of crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh War.  Please note that I have been against these trials since before they existed, as they are based on a false history and a narrative which makes the head go fat (mota), and unable to handle other truths.

It is what I call a motanarrative, a story that possesses you so much it gives you brain damage.

Imran Khan’s speech in his parliament was rare (video), and took place in the context of the aftermath of the judicial murder of Abdul Quader Mollah in Dhaka on 12th December by a judicial system whose credibility is at an extreme low point.

It may be a little late in the day for it, but a growing body of commentators are coming to the consensus that the term fascism can be justly applied to the running situation in Bangladesh.

A letter to America?

Tahmima Anam’s New York Times article was not the best intervention from a Bangladeshi on the subject of Bangladesh-Pakistan relations on 1971. That prize goes to this letter to Imran Khan, as well as people of balanced mind and silenced tongue, which addresses issues of Truth and Reconciliation. However it was a powerful contribution, from an author with a right to audience granted primarily by her inherited symbolic capital, and western academic credentials.

For those who do not know and who should, Tahmima Anam is the daughter of Mahfuz Anam, editor of the Dhaka based and Transcom associated Daily Star. She has a masters in Creative Writing and wrote an anthropology PhD at Harvard University on the intriguingly titles Fixing the Past: War, Violence, and Habitations of Memory in Post-Independence Bangladesh. She is also responsible for the Hay Festival Dhaka, critiqued this year as the end of the line eyewash for an elite covering up a massacre.

My comments on the piece are in [square brackets], although the title sounds agreeable, I have several problems with it.

As I would expect, it misreads Anthony Masceranas, the Christian Pakistani journalist who blew a whistle on the deeds of the Pakistan Army; and Hamoodur Rahman, the Bengali-Pakistani judge whose commission report on the matter was only declassified nearly 30 years after the War.