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Linking Young Minds Together
      Volume 6 | Issue 42 | October 21, 2012 |


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Courtesy: Anurup Kanti Das



Elita Karim

While we read, over early morning coffee, about cities being torched down by fellow neighbours and watch visuals of young students vandalising their own campus in the name of 'protecting' their political identity, groups of young people emerge elsewhere, as flickers of hope, in many parts of the country. These little stories become little dew drops of inspiration, growing bigger and brighter inside our hearts, after all, what else do we have to look forward to in a country where surviving every day is a Herculean task.

Last week, while looking for inspiring stories online, I found a few which, I, along with my young colleagues at the Star Campus, could directly relate to.

Gunfight at Rajshahi University: between students belonging to Chatra League and Chatra Shibir.
Photo: Star File

Chatra League attack Chatra Dal, while the latter welcomes new students into Jahangirnagar University.

One of the stories were of a facebook group called Red Blood. As Ramu burned and collapsed in the heart of Rangamati, shock and disgust spread over the people of the country, mainly the young, who could not relate the horrors and hatred the fellow brothers and sisters had to go through in Ramu, to the culture and values that they learnt from their elders; of one people and of one love in Bangladesh. While many expressed their woes on facebook and elsewhere, a group of young people in Dhaka created a group on the social networking site, asking their friends, acquaintances and even strangers, to contribute whatever they could to help the people in Ramu. Red Blood, a group initiated on facebook by Masudul Amin Rintu, a young professional, living and working in the capital, appealed to Bangladeshis living in and outside Bangladesh. Rintu and his friends visited Ramu and brought with them 30 sacks of clothes, 100 blankets, 100 plastic plates, 100 plastic glasses, a carton of medicine, a few boxes of books and stationary and two paintings of the statues that were demolished by the mob. In addition to all that, Red Blood also collected a total of 8, 12,000 takas to help the homeless in Ramu.

Photo: Internet

Today, a global icon, 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai is not an ordinary every day girl you see on the streets of Pakistan, or any other country located in the subcontinent. One look at her, and you might dismiss her as yet another teenaged girl, with a long orna draped around her body, covering more than half of her head, showing mostly her hairline, would speak when asked to, otherwise would remain expressionless. But this little girl had so much more going for her. Over the years, while the Taliban terrorists in Pakistan were destroying at least 200 schools for girls, Malala, refusing to back down, started to blog under a pseudonym at the age of 11. She wrote about her dreams of growing up and one day becoming a doctor or a politician. Last year, she was nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize. She won Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize. She became a potent symbol of defiance against the Taliban. “I have the right of education,” she said. “I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.”

14-year-old Malala Yousufzai becomes a global icon, after she was shot by the Talibans.
All she wanted for herself was to go to school. Photo: Internet

A couple of weeks ago, a Taliban gunman boarded a school bus in Pakistan's Swat Valley last week and shot 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai in the head. Malala had committed the crime of going against the Talibans, she said that she wanted to go to school, an idea banned and forbidden by the Taliban. As this feature is written, Malala is in a hospital bed in England, where the doctors are preparing her for a surgery to repair or replace the damaged bones in her skull.

Students of Gausul Azam Kamil madrasah in Chapainawabganj, swoop on their teachers with sticks.
Photo: Star File

Going out into the streets and demanding the right to go to school was not uncommon for Malala. She has been doing it from a very young age and would often accompany her elders out in to the streets and join protests in her home town. In fact, this little girl would often request to speak to the people while on platform with her father and his compatriots. She has been unofficially given the title of Joan of Arc by the west, compared to Jhansi ki Rani (Queen Warrior of Jhansi) in India and has recently been the recipient of a song dedication by Madonna on stage. “I want my right to go to school,” that is all she would banter about, much to the irritation of the Talibans.

A silent protest brought out by the teachers at Begum Rokeya University in Rangpur,
against students who attacked the teachers on campus. Photo: Star File

Coming back to Ramu, amidst all the madness, a few heroes were born too. When hundreds of people were attacking the Buddhist homes, temples, our age-old architecture and statues, a few young men tried to maintain sanity amidst all the mindless mayhem. Masud Rana, Harun, Osman, Mosharraf, Helal and Kamal risked their lives to stop the Muslim mob from attacking the monasteries and Buddhists' homes. Julfikar Ali Manik writes in his Daily Star report -- as Ramu turned volatile with militant processions moving in every direction, as infuriating slogans flew in the air, as flames leaped all around, these few young men came out of their houses and took up sticks to defend the Buddhists. Strangely enough, most of the attackers were teenaged boys and young men themselves. Nevertheless, the six men tried their best to keep the village safe from the mob, but eventually, could not fight the hundreds of angry fanatics chanting hatred, swirling sticks and fire balls.

The ancient religious books and records of the Buddhists, burned by the mob in Ramu.
Photo: Anurup Kanti Das

There will always be some around you, who will make you feel unworthy and stop you from loving back the earth that nature has bestowed upon you. There will always be some, who in the name of religion, will always hurt you and snatch away what is yours. There will always be a gang of bullies, standing by the corner, waiting to pounce on you as you turn the corner. It is time for you to revolt and become the hero. It is now time for a revolution. This is a call out, to all the young hearts and souls in Bangladesh. It is time for you to gear up and fight for your rights. It is time for you to save our country, once again.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2012