Our Unliveable City
I read with interest your cover story “Sights and Smells of the City” (March 12).Once upon a time our Dhaka was a very remarkable city of the world. Dhaka was a prosperous city not only for its wealth and trade but also famous for its beautiful gardens and magnificent minarets. With its colourful history and rich cultural traditions, Dhaka was known the world over as the city of mosques and muslin. Its fame attracted travellers from far and near throughout the ages. But those wonderful days are gone. Now Dhaka is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Our environment is polluted in many ways. And the worst thing is that this pollution is increasing day by day and nobody seems to take any initiative to stop this curse. So, we urge our government please do something about this problem and save our beloved Dhaka from this curse.
Kaniz Fatima Somaiya
Eden Girls' College
A Roman Column
I notice that Neeman Sobhan is back writing for The Star magazine. As a regular reader of The Star, I used to enjoy her writing a few years ago. One would think that when someone takes a break from writing he/she would come back with lots of interesting topics and new things to write about. It is sad to see that she is always poking fun at our Dhaka people for not knowing stuff. A Dhaka bookseller may be excused for not knowing the difference between Karl Marx and George Bush. His agenda is to make a sale. I also think it is not advisable when any writer writes Bangla phrases in English. It doesn't read well at all.
Besides, the constant romanticising about "Rome" is such a cliché! I hope The Star magazine will concentrate on topics of general and human interest.
Santa Monica, CA, USA
Unrest in the Hills
Your cover story about the unrest in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (Peace on Hold, April 2) does not present the whole picture. The portrayal of the Chakma people as helpless victims of the state-military-Bengali machine is almost a cliche, but is it true? I was surprised to note that although the writer interviewed several Pahari, including some ex-Shanti Bahini people, the viewpoint of the Bengalis in the CHT was totally ignored in the article.
Your story fails to point out that a large section of the so-called Shanti Bahini remains armed till today. Therefore, it is both unjust and unreasonable to portray the Bengalis living in the hill tracts as aggressors and the Paharis as victims when so many weapons remain in the hands of the Pahari insurgents, blamed for past atrocities.
Like so many other reports, your story blames the army, but forgets that the army was sent there by the state to put down an armed separatist movement and protect the territorial integrity of Bangladesh. Even a partial withdrawal of the army from the CHT could lead to a deterioration of law and order, and could leave the country's porous and strategically important border with India and Myanmar unprotected.
Your report correctly points out that there are problems within the peace treaty itself that are unfair. The accord has a provision for a separate electoral roll for the CHT and different eligibility criteria for voter registration. Both contradict the constitutional dictum that 'no special electoral roll shall be prepared so as to classify electors according to religion, race, caste or sex'. The accord also has no provisions that would protect the interests of millions of Bengalis who were born in the hills, and who have as much right to remain there as the Chakma.
It is the constitutional right of any Bangladeshi person to live where they want in the country. A Chakma, Tripura, Santal, Marma, Bengali, anyone can settle anywhere in Bangladesh. So any rule that a Bengali cannot buy land in the hills runs counter to the constitution. What if oil or gas is discovered in the CHT? Will the Chakma control it? Ultimately it is a question of state sovereignty.
There is much talk of development for the indigenous people, and important steps have been taken regarding this. There are quotas for Paharis everywhere from the educational institutions to the civil service. For Bangladesh, it is not merely an issue of cultural diversity, as the writer suggests in the conclusion of the story. No one is forcing the Pahari people to give up their culture. It is naïve not to recognise that there are armed groups within the Pahari tribes who will settle for nothing less than territorial control. I am all for social justice and ensuring that the cultural, economic and political rights of the hill people of all ethnic groups are protected. But it must not come at the cost of sacrificing the interests of Bangladesh as a whole. We do not want another East Timor here.
School of Business
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