Category Archives: Bangladesh
A few BB-ites in Pakistan have set up a Beyond Borders Pakistan Blog, to reactivate Beyond Borders in Pakistan.
Here’s a few key paragraphs from the Sunniya’s post outlining why she started the blog:
Beyond Borders Pakistan started under British Council in 2003. Several projects were conducted for the welfare of the society and to create awareness about issues like education, health, drug abuse, child welfare, child education, child molestation etc. A group of about 60 individuals from all 4 provinces of Pakistan got together to make a difference. Sadly, beyond borders group disintegrated once funding and support from British Council came to a halt. This happened in May 2006 and slowly all members of BB Pakistan moved on to do individual tasks. However, the spirit of Beyond Borders stayed with each one of us. Some of us managed to stay in touch over the course of the past 2 years and some even tried meeting up and catching up with what was going on with life in general.
[..] we have decided to revive Beyond Borders Pakistan independently without British Council’s support. We have no funding, all of us are in different parts of the world, there is loads to do and somehow we don’t know where to start. So through several talks and suggestions over the last 2 years, we have decided to raise our voices once again. This time we will start by projecting ourselves through the internet and other medias. This blog will be a platform for raising our concerns, debating issues and getting our voices heard.
And inshaAllah we believe that one day Beyond Borders Pakistan would be in full action again and together we will be able to make a difference. [link]
As of now Beyond Borders functions in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh as youth-led voluntary organizations working on issues related to the themes of Identity and Diversity and Active Global Citizenship. Beyond Borders was set up as a learning and networking project by the British Council. Find more about us here. If you like what we do, join us!. Changing the world can be fun.
So what’s this fuss about young people trying to change the world? Is it my sense of social responsibility? Or am I caring for it because I’m going to live in it? Or is it a guilt I’m catering to? Why would I step out of my room, my comfort zone? Willing to come out in the cold and willing to face the fact that if I haven’t worsened things, I haven’t helped either. (From footprints)
What drives us to do what we do? What makes us want to dedicate part of our time, effort on changing things. Are we just naïve, idealistic and just wasting our time? Or do little things matter? Footprints traces through this compulsion we have to “Do something”, why we want to change things and how Beyond Borders fits in this process. The documentary, based on BB Delhi, is now available on Youtube (see below) and Google Video.
Footprints (Part 1)
Footprints (Part 2)
All eight members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) participated in the group’s first youth camp being held in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed inaugurated the four-day camp on the 10th of December exhorting the participants to exchange ideas and experiences that would help push the region towards greater and faster progress.
He reiterated Bangladesh’s commitment to “building partnerships in activities relevant for our (Saarc countries’) progress”.
Dhaka is holding the first regional youth fest, with the theme ’Connecting South Asian Youths’, in keeping with its promise made at the 14th Saarc Summit in April this year in New Delhi, The Daily Star reported Tuesday.
Ahmed was quoted as saying the Saarc Youth Camp would bring “young minds from Mazar-e-Sharif to Male, Quetta to Kathmandu, Colombo to Kolkata, and Thimphu to Dhaka for meeting annually in institutionalised but informal settings”.
Story adapted from AussieIndoLanka
Beyond Borders Bangladesh (Now known as NationPulse) helped organize the event and ran a few sessions at the camp on themes related to leadership. BBites from India went in as participants for the camp. Pictures are at NationPulse site and our Flickr.
After fighting out a copyright battle, Beyond Borders in Bangladesh have finally decide to rename themselves as “NationPulse” They have a website up an running on the work that they do, and what they did earlier.
On 15th of August of this year, India celebrated its 60th year of Independence. Celebrations of independence, as residents of many South Asian countries would know, come with the usual ‘expert’ analysis of ‘how really free we are’; what are the triumphs, what are our failures. The Indian media was full of it.
On the same day, I and a friend of mine (also a BBite) happened to travel to Mumbai from Pune to meet up with Mumbai BBites and to see a city which has a population roughly equal to that of Sri Lanka.
We arrived in Mumbai, to what was a marathon-film screening organized by Beyond Borders Mumbai and managed to catch the latter part of a documentary titled, ‘India’s third Sex’ (or gender, I forget) the film is about eunuchs (or hijra as they are referred to in the sub-continent) and was quite a insightful take on the life and practices of the hijra community in India and my first real exposure to their lives and issues, although I was ignorantly aware of their existence.
The following day, we were invited to a walk organized by Humsafar, a trust which works on rights for sexual minorities and partners with BB Mumbai. Mostly out of curiosity, we agreed. The ‘silent walk’ was supposed to be a demand for their rights as citizens of India on the 60th year of ‘freedom’.
The experience was quite intriguing; there I made a mental note that I should blog about the experience, and about the hijra community. I never got around to it until yesterday when I discovered a blogpost by someone who has.
Following is an extract from the blog which relates to not of the same event, but of the same people and places.
We climb up to the fourth floor of the meat market in Vakola, Santa Cruz East, on wooden stairs that are surprisingly sturdy. Upon entering the drop-in center (DIC) of The Hamsafar (“companion”) Trust, which caters to the hijra (the third sex) and MSM (Males having Sex with Males) communities, the first thing you see on the reception desk is a basket of condoms. Then you notice the pink curtains.
The mission statement above the desk read: Mission: A holistic approach to the rights and health of sexual minorities and promoting rational attitudes to sexuality
Today is a special “Transgender Mondays”- it is the day before the hijra festival, and many of the hijra and transgender clients are dressed up in their finest saris and jewelry. Fragrant flowers adorn their hair, some of which are made into buns with hair extensions. Most of the hijra are too, too thin – their falsies slipping out of their bras and sari blouses; a few have decent breasts and round bottoms, the result of hormones…
In conjunction with India’s 60th anniversary of Independence Youth4Change movement attached to the Centre for Youth Development Activities (CYDA) organized a conference for youth and democracy in South Asia. The five day conference held from the 11th – 15th of August in Pune, India saw the participation of delegates from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India.The conference kicked off with a colorful opening celebration welcomed the guests with music, dance and speeches from few distinguished guests including Mohan Dhariya, a freedom fighter in India’s freedom struggle.
The following 4 days consisted of plenary sessions and panel discussions on a range of topics in which young people presented their papers and their views.
The plenary topics included,
“Role of Young parliamentarians in democracy” with the key note address by Ms. Supriya Sule, MP and chaired by Mr. John Samuel of ActionAid international.
“Role of youth in shaping democracies” chaired by Dr. Amitabh Behar of NCAS Pune with the key note address by Mr.Gopi Menon of Unicef.
“Cultures and values shaping democracies” chaired by Mr. Josantony Joseph, with the key note address by prof. Ram Puniyani, IIT, Mumbai.
“Role of Media in democracy” chaired by Prof. Ujjwal Kumar Chowdhury, director, Symbiosis Institute of Mass Communication (SIMC) with the key note address by CP Surendran, chief editor for Times of India in Mumbai.
“Youth Policies: situations and challenges in South Asia” key note address by Dr. Rajan Welunkar, Vice Chancellor, Yashwantrao Open University, Nashik.
The panel discussions gave the opportunity for the delegates to present their opinions and papers on several themes which included topics such as Women’s participation in South Asian countries, Globalization and democracy and the role of youth in sustaining democracy.
The conference ended with the freedom concert and the official celebration of India’s 60th year of Independence.
The Sri Lankan delegation consisted of representatives from Beyond Borders, Sri Lanka Youth Parliament and the Lions District of Sri Lanka. [pics]
Salman Rushdie, the well-known author of the controversial book ‘The Satanic Verses’ has recently been knighted, which has again sparked some controversy with both the Iranian and Pakistani governments issuing statements condemning his knighthood.
Disturbing religious sentiments, as the Danish cartoonists found out, is tricky business. Simply because for most people, whole of their spiritual existence is derived from religion and any upset to those sentiments can result in aggressive reaction, which can effectively be harnessed by extremist elements for agendas of their own.
As historical evidence would suggest, the type of religion, in this situation doesn’t really matter. In fact even an Atheist – a believer in the absence of god – would react aggressively if his or her fundamental beliefs are challenged. It is therefore very human and very natural for a Muslim to react strongly against ‘Satanic Verses’ or the Danish Cartoons, and for a catholic to resent the ‘ the Da Vinci Code’ or for a Buddhist to take offense at the movie ‘Hollywood Buddha.’
So far the simple solution to these types of situations seems to be simply banning the book or the offensive material. But greater analysis of the economics of prohibitions would suggest that banning things is a poor solution.
The Blog IndianMuslims explains further:
It is a famous saying in marketing that there is no such thing as bad PR. By The Satanic Verses banning a book, the government is unintentionally providing a big fillip to what might have been a totally worthless piece of literature. Taslima Nasreen is a case in point. I have asked many of my Bengali friends about their opinion of Nasreen as a writer and most of them have been pretty disappointed by her literary skills. By banning her books, the Bangladeshi government made her a martyr to the cause of freedom of expression. Her books have now been read by millions of people world-wide and are now available in over 20 languages. Nothing guides a man like curiosity does. Not many people would have cared for The Satanic Verses but for the reactionary fatwa of Khomeini. When I couldn’t find the book in India, I looked for it in Korea just to figure out what the whole fuss was about. To be very true, I found it to be profoundly boring and couldn’t get beyond a few pages. May be it would have remained such but the whole controversy gave it a cult status. [link]
Respect for religious sentiment is of course good, but spirit of tolerance cannot be enforced by an authority. It’s a personal trait, not something which can be regulated.
I realize that the circumstances are such that often, governments find it pragmatic to make this sort of decision to pacify a potentially explosive situation. But when one such situation occurs certain people expect the practice to repeat itself, and before you know it freedom to express ourselves is slowly eroded to the extent that it would be all too natural to prohibit anything the minute someone claims to be ‘offended’ by it.
The Blog web-alochana in a post titled “Baroda, Kelaniya and fundamentalism around world” (in Sinhalese) relates a story in the University of Kelaniya in Sri Lanka where an ‘installation art’ based on commonly used items by a Buddhist monk was ordered to be removed from an art exhibition because a special-interest group from the Kelaniya campus thought it was incompatible with ‘Buddhist culture’.
One of the reasons which lead to these types of pathetic incidents is that those who defend such things as ‘Freedom of Expression’ have been selective in their defense. Voltaire once said that ‘I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend with my life your right to say it’. That should be the abiding principle. The same people who, very rightly, defend the Boroda student, or M.F Hussein for their right to paint whatever they want should also come to the defense of the Salman Rushdie’s right to publish satanic verses regardless of whether or not they agree with the content of the work.
But of course it’s easy to be idealistic, but what does one expect a government or an authority to do when faced with for example a situation like the ‘Danish cartoons incident’? I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. I’d vote for pragmatism, but people have to just stop tolerating suppression of expression as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. That’s a weird type of tolerance, not of differences of opinion but of authority and the ‘moral police’ who tells us what’s good and what’s not.
That type of ‘tolerance’ should not be tolerated.
Deane is a Core Group member of Beyond Borders Sri Lanka, and an undergraduate student of computing (and many other things) who rarely attends his lectures. He maintains an oddly named blog which he updates with varying frequency.
Disclaimer : opinions expressed here are those of the writer and may not necessarily coincide with the opinions of Beyond Borders or its partner organisations.
The Documentary for Beyond Borders Bangladesh. focusing on the action projects for street kids, Urdu-speaking people of the Geneva Camp and the campaign for ‘active citizenship. See Video [embedded below]
Timeline : Early 2006.
It’s been a year since the last Bangladesh festival – a fantastic exchange of ideas, a celebration of culture & Diversity and foundations of a few eternal friendships.
All things in the experience are worth a revisit, the dance, the fun, the music and the serious issues we managed to discuss and act on in-between. The song and dance will perhaps be consumed by the moment, but the issues linger. Of all the things we experienced in the festival, I’d like to touch on just two. Not because they were more important than others, but just because I as a person found them most thought-provoking.
Language Movement Day (Martyrs’ Day) walk
On the 21st of February we along with tens of thousands of Bangladeshis took to the streets of Dhaka to celebrate the language movement day, about 30 or 40 of BB members walked behind a specially crafted banner, taking turns to hold it, right up to and beyond the Shaheed Minar.
The Shaheed Minar, is the monument built to honor the martyrs of the Bangladeshi language movement. This monument, that day and those events commemorated, has a lot of history behind it and not all of it is entirely positive.
At the time though, I didn’t quite realize the significance of what we have done. But looking back now – that was quite a statement we made. Among the participants in the walk, there were of course Bangladeshis, Indians, Sri Lankans and more importantly – Pakistanis. Given the history this act symbolizes, that’s quite some statement. A statement, perhaps only a group like beyond borders could have delivered.
I do not want to get into the politics of the Bangladeshi Liberation movement, as I fully well know; living in Sri Lanka, unbiased information on these things is a rare commodity. But this is one of the things in the festival that got me thinking, especially given the similarities to the situation back home, the importance of language for people, among other things which I’m not comfortable discussing here. But being in Dhaka at that time, Bangladeshi nationalism was impossible to escape, and I know some of the events of particularly that day, made some of the Pakistani participants a tad bit uncomfortable.
This perhaps is one of the central challenges of multiculturalism, which stresses the need for space for individual and collective identities while also being able to appreciate diversity as well as being tolerant of differences.
Now, ‘Tolerance’ is something that we as members of BB have discussed at multitude of international forums and the general feeling tends to be that ‘tolerance’ is something negative and we should instead move on to true understanding. Principally I’d agree, but I guess there is still space for healthy tolerance to exist, especially when it comes to situations where you do not agree with what’s going on, instead of adopting a divergent approach, tolerating especially differences of opinions has its place.
Geneva Camp is the name given to a small area in Dhaka which is home to the Urdu-speaking community of Bangladesh, stranded during the separation of Bangladesh from Pakistan. While scores of Urdu-speaking people have been transferred to Pakistan after the independence, many of these people didn’t get the opportunity, and now find themselves not accepted as citizens of Pakistan nor Bangladesh. To put it bluntly – they are stateless.
The small camp, (which more accurately can be described as a slum) is home to about 250,000 people who lead a deprived life, with 10 or 12 people living in spaces as small as 10 feet by 8. The electricity and some minimal services are provided by the government but for the most part the people in the community do not have access to public services such as education, they do not have the right to vote or contest for elections and basically do not have the right to institution. The residents cannot get jobs if they give their addresses as being from this camp; it’s the same with education thus restricting these people to an eternal cycle of poverty.
The majority of these people want to go to Pakistan; the central office of the camp had wall-paintings of General Musharaf, the president of Pakistan. But as they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining, and some welcome news is on the horizon. While most of the old generation still wants to go to Pakistan, the new generation has been born in Bangladesh and a recent court ruling has re-instituted their right to Bangladeshi citizenship.
The Association of Young Generation of Urdu Speaking Community, the youth organisation BB Bangladesh works with, is a major proponent of the idea that the community should try and make a decent living within Bangladesh instead of seeking to go to Pakistan. The organisation is headed by few spirited individual who were lucky enough to be educated well and now they are running programs to uplift the lives of young people in the community. Beyond Borders group in Dhaka is part of this initiative.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to keep tabs on the development of the situation but I was heartened to note that few young people from Geneva camp is now part of the Beyond Borders Core Group.
The plight of the Urdu-speaking people may have had Parallels back home, especially with the up-country Tamil people in Sri Lanka, but that’s not something that I can relate as easily, for when I was born, that wrong was put to right.
These are the things that have recently let me to believe that almost all conflicts everywhere in the world have similar roots. It could be fundamental issues of negligence of identities or feeling of alienation from reservoirs of power, among other things which aggravates and fuels conflict.
The festival, (as documented here in an earlier post) had lot more than these two events, but I’d hold these two experiences the most special.
Beyond Borders Sri Lanka have always taken great pride in the achievements of our extended family and we would like to share this news from the Bangladesh Core Group sent in to us by Naimur Rahman (kushal), Joint Publication Secretary of Beyond Borders Bangladesh, who comes with encouraging news of restarting the project after it has been decommissioned by the British Council.
“IT’S my immense pleasure to let you know that Beyond Borders Bangladesh (BBB) has started again with its rejuvenated vigor and zeal. As British Council Bangladesh is officially no more with us, we the BB members have decided to run Beyond Border by ourselves.
In our new phase of journey, we have Democracy Watch, a leading NGO in Bangladesh and partner organization of BB, who has extended its support that will ensure all kinds of logistical assistance for BBB.
We have (created an) executive committee (overlooking the activities of the group).
Advisor : Mr Minhaj
President : Saima
V. President : Rishad
General Secretary : Shukrana
BBB with its newly elected committee is organizing a ‘Youth Leadership Training Program’ for the young people aged 18-23. This training program is a two-month long program where there will be theoretical sessions on different topics like Democracy and Good Governance, Leadership,
Reproductive and Sexual Health, Culture and Heritage etc which will be followed by related field tours in different important places in Bangladesh.
After the training session and an interview process finally 30 were selected. The trainees had their orientation program on 11th August at the Democracy Watch premises. That Friday was a gala day for all the BBB members and the participants for the training program.
The enthusiasm we saw in each and every one’s face, gave our confidence a boost. We realized that we really can start AGAIN.
I, on behalf of Beyond Borders Bangladesh, am happy to share this good news with all of you
as we still believe that Beyond Borders is a family.