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Showing posts from January, 2012

Living between the two worlds - 2

My port city of Chittagong, situated on the coast of the Bay of Bengal, in Bangladesh is no longer the town that I grew up with or the city that I left some 34 years ago when I came to North America to pursue higher studies. Chittagong was a sleepy little beautiful town on the edges of vast hilly terrain that stretched throughout the entire district. There were enough roads to commute easily anywhere. The air was fresh and clean. The people were nice, warmhearted and helping, watching out for each other.

I remember that in some of the weekends, which usually meant Friday, my parents would take us all in our family car for picnics in the nearby Chittagong Hill Tracts, or the beautiful Patenga Beach, or the Fauzdarhat Beach, or to some other scenic picnic spots on the hills in and around the town. Those scenic spots were sparsely crowded to enjoy a family outing.

Back in the late 1970s, the city population was below a million. Today, Chittagong cannot be recognized by anyone who had bee…

More on the Demography of Arakan in the pre-colonial period

What was the proportion of the Rohingya people (the so-called Bengalis, mostly brought forcibly as slaves by the Mugs or Maghs) before the 1784 invasion of Arakan by the Burmans? Here is a link from Major Roberts' account of Arakan from 1777, some 7 years before the invasion, and nearly half a century before the Anglo-Burman war of 1824-26, which clearly shows that roughly three-quarters, or 75%, of the inhabitants of Arakan were the ancestors of Rohingya.

The piece by Major Roberts also show that the Mugs were really a savage people.

Living between the two worlds - 1

Like many citizens of our world these days, I live between the two worlds. The last month I was away from my adopted country visiting my native home in Bangladesh in South Asia. I still have my parents and siblings living there, and many school-day friends. The journey from Philadelphia takes almost two days to go and another two days to return. I, therefore, found it more appropriate to take this trip, usually a month-long, around December. With the western holidays like the Christmas and New Year’s Eve falling in the last week of December, my vacation time actually becomes five weeks long. It is a dry season with no rainfalls there, and having lived in the West for more than three decades, the winter in Bangladesh is not supposed to be brutal for me. So, every year I visit my native country and last December was no different.

After arriving in the capital city of Dhaka, a megacity of some 16 million people, I decided to take a train ride to reach Chittagong, the second largest city …

Comments on the new regime in Myanmar

I recently came across Rimond Htoo's piece - Ceasefires won't bring piece. He is absolutely right for a befitting title to his piece. I am also in agreement that "Since Burma is a multi-ethnic country, mere democracy won’t do. Burma needs a system that guarantees the rights and self-determination of every ethnic group." I shall extend this definition to include every minority group - religious and otherwise, which includes the Rohingyas of Arakan.

As I mentioned in some of my earlier articles, Burma or today's Myanmar has been a hopeless case of lies and deception leading to frustration on the part of minorities since its founding after the British colonial masters had left. Promises made by those in power never translated into tangible gains on the ground that could gravitate people towards a federal formula for unity shunning disunity and racism that had always defined race relations inside Burma. So, Rimond Htoo's piece may be what is in store for the Kare…

Is the change in Myanmar for real?

In its latest gesture of amnesties, the military-backed regime of Thein Sein in Myanmar has released many political prisoners. Those freed included veterans of the 1988 student protest movement, monks involved in the 2007 demonstrations and ethnic-minority activists like U Kyaw Min (a member of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi). Truly, the names of those released read like a who's who of Burma's most prominent political detainees. In a statement broadcast on the TV, President Thein Sein said those released were people who could "play a constructive role in the political process".

The releases came a day after the government had signed a landmark ceasefire with the rebel Karen National Union in Hpa-an, capital of eastern Karen state. The release of all political prisoners has been a long-standing demand of the international community. As a human rights activist who for years has demanded reform inside Burma, I warmly welcom…

More on Rick Santorum

In the latest debate in NH, Congressman Ron Paul called Rick Santorum one of the "top corrupt individuals because he took so much money from the lobbyists.” Many of us, who are Pennsylvania residents should not be surprised by such unkind and yet true assessment on Santorum. So disappointed were his constituents that they made sure that he did not represent them on the Senate floor any longer. Consequently, in 2006, he was defeated in a re-election bid by one of the widest margins in national history against Bob Casey, Jr.

Ron Paul said, "He’s a big government, big spending individual. Because, you know, he preached to the fact he wanted a balanced budget amendment but voted to raise the debt [limit] five times. So he is a big government person... And also where did he get — make his living afterwards? I mean, he became a high-powered lobbyist on — in Washington, D.C. And he has done quite well.”

Ron Paul's campaign has come out with a new ad in South Carolina, which hits…

Letter of a former Guanatanamo Bay prisoner - a must read

Mr. Lakhdar Boumediene was the lead plaintiff in Boumediene v. Bush. He was in military custody at Guantánamo Bay from 2002 to 2009. The New York Times has recently posted Mr. BOUMEDIENE's letter. You can read this here.

Bachmann is out, Who’s next?

The USA is in the early stage of its primary elections to narrow down the number of Republican presidential hopefuls to just one. Michelle Bachmann, the congresswoman from the state of Minnesota, suffered a hard blow with a last-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. Wisely, she has ended her campaign, but has not yet endorsed any of her former rivals.

It is good to see that the Republicans in Iowa had dumped Bachmann, a highly polarizing politician since becoming a congresswoman in 2006. Her biting condemnations of Democrats — and of tax increases, big government, the health care law and government spending — and hawkish and pro-Israeli remarks on international affairs show that she would have been a very poor choice for the White House, let alone a dangerous one, if she was ever elected to the highest office in the country.

The field of (serious) Republican candidates now includes only six candidates. They are Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry and Newt Gingr…