A Dr. Partha Banerjee and his Missions!

By Jahed Ahmed 

About two years ago- I suppose- it happened. I saved a paper cutting from a New York based Bangla weekly ("Ekhoni Somoy") thinking- I'd scan and e-mail the article to Mukto-Mona moderator Avijit Roy since the style and essence of the article impressed me so much. At that time, I didn't have bornosoft. So typing the original article in Bangla was not possible. The very article dealt with communal riot and its root. The writer's picture appeared in small size at the center of the article. A beaming and smiling face as if, it was glowing. Lately- in a discussion on Dr. Ali Riaz's recently released book entitled "God Willing: The Politics of Islamism in Bangladesh." I was invited as a listener. Among four keynote speakers one figure seemed to be familiar. That same trimmed beard, same smiling face, but a bit aged now although complexion seemed fairer than I saw on paper. Moderator's announcement of speakers' names removed doubt from my mind. He is Mr. Partha Banerjee- the author of the article I mentioned. Still I remember the content of the article that intrigued me quite profoundly; in a nutshell- it was: politicians create communal tensions and riots for their own advantage. It's a game of interest; not an interesting game in itself. Citing example of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, Partha Banerjee showed- hardly, if ever, communal riots have done damages to elite minorities. Mostly victims are poor class in both communities: poor Muslims of India and poor Hindus of Bangladesh; but not always rich Muslims of India and rich Hindus of Bangladesh.


Dr.Partha Banerjee

Wow! What a brilliant analysis! I said to myself. Mukto-Mona readers must not be deprived of it. I beg apology to readers for I couldn't finally send the article to Mukto-Mona. Few days ago, Shahriar Kabir, a secular and internationally well-known journalist/author from Bangladesh came over New York. During a chat with drama-director and actor Syed Hasan Imam and others, he was enquiring about Partha Banerjee. It took me a while to understand why Partha Banerjee is such a popular face among NY-based Bengali community. Now I understand why and very well so.
Partha Banerjee, although holds a Ph.D. from Cornell in Journalism and Mass Communication is top-to-bottom a human rights activist. He is the new executive director of Immigration Policy Network based in Newark, NJ, which deals with issues that South Asian Immigrants face in their daily lives: hate crimes, discriminations at work place and beyond.
By virtue of attending that book discussion, I had a privilege to come closer to Dr. Banerjee. We exchanged e mail IDs. First- I e mailed him and it was reciprocated by a prompt reply.

His latest e mail to me reads, amongst, other things:

".If there's any way you can organize my talk on human and immigrant rights, war, secularism, terrorism, etc. (i.e., the subjects of my writing and work), I think people in New York and New Jersey would be highly benefited. Let me know if that's possible. I can be available on weekends.
Keep up the good work at Mukto Mona. .People need to know what off-mainstream work can be for us immigrants and how important and rewarding it is.
Shubhecchha roilo.
Partha da "

Partha Banerjee has been a vocal voice against human rights violations of religious minorities in India, his country of origin. His counterpart in Bangladesh, in my opinion, is Mr. Shahriar Kabir, who was imprisoned by current four party alliance government for having reported tortures and indiscriminate harassments of Hindu, other minorities and opposition activists to international community followed by October 2001 general elections in Bangladesh. No wonder- Amnesty International had honored Kabir with the title "prisoner of the conscience".

Reverting to Partha Banerjee, below is his websites for interested readers. http://www.geocities.com/chokmoki  And what he wrote to me may apply to many more people, I believe. So If you are a south Asian living in USA and want to hold some talk on immigrations and human rights issues, it'd be a good idea not to forget Partha Banerjee.

Lastly - a piece of article by Partha Banerjee. He regularly writes a column in NY based Bangla weekly Ekhon-i-Somoy . Mr. Banerjee has given me words to write an article exclusively for Mukto-Mona readers. Until we receive that, readers may enjoy the one below that I have collected from his site.

"Terrorism and Its Real Face: Fake Democracy and the Trade Monster's True Colors," July 2003. By Partha Banerjee, Akhon Samoy Weekly. Translated from Bangla by Partha Banerjee.

With the demise of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban regime, two staunchly anti-American forces are now gone. It would not be any surprise if the U.S. now attempts to destroy other such powers in Syria, Iran or North Korea.

Ever since the days of Hafez al-Assad, Syria has been resolutely anti-American. Then, since the fall of the Shah and the return of the Ayatollah, Iran has become one of the strongest anti-U.S. nations in the Middle East. During the decade-long war between Iran and Iraq, the U.S. and some Western countries were instigators behind the bloodshed. At that time, Saddam Hussein was our "good guy" who received generous financial and political endorsement from the Ronald Reagan government. Reagan's National Security Advisor Colin Powell and his Middle East Envoy Donald Rumsfeld both played important roles in aiding Iraq during the war. Moreover, then-CIA director William Casey used a Chilean firm to send to Iraq cluster bombs to use against Iran's "human wave" attacks. The point is, Powell, Rumsfeld and the U.S. government have long known the war strategies of Saddam Hussein. Mr. Rumsfeld, in his drumbeat to bomb Iraq, said that he had "cautioned" the Iraqi leader against using weapons of mass destruction. But there was no mention of such a warning in state department notes of his meeting with Saddam in the eighties.

The U.S. establishment, with help from mainstream media, is now working hard to distort that history, sink the "unlikable" parts into oblivion. But the fact is, in spite of all the campaigns, one cannot really warp history, however hard he tries to do it.

Let us discuss some other historical facts.

Carlos Mauricio and Martin Almada, two ex-prisoners from El Salvador, recently published their real-life stories in various international newspapers. In 1983, during the civil war in El Salvador, U.S. military consultants infiltrated this tiny Latin American nation. The more they went in, the more the government-sponsored militia of El Salvador became violent and bled the innocent. Mauricio was a professor of biochemistry at El Salvador University. One morning, plainclothes police officers dragged him out of his classroom. He was branded as an enemy of the government and a guerilla commander. It was purely fear mongering, a tactic the then-Salvador government used to scare off the students and intellectuals. This is one of the many tactics the infamous School of the Americas (SOA) teaches its students, many of whom are known tyrants in Latin America.

Thugs of the militia then handcuffed Mauricio, blindfolded him and beat him mercilessly right in front of his students. For more than 10 days, they tortured him in a secret chamber. Mauricio is lucky that he is still alive to tell his story; many of his colleagues, students and compatriots have disappeared from the face of the earth courtesy those SOA graduates.

Mauricio, Alamada and a few of their victim friends have recently brought a lawsuit against the two Salvadoran military generals who were responsible for their torture and humiliation. These two perpetrators now live in Florida: the U.S. government gave these human rights violators a safe haven.

On the contrary, another such criminal, Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia, received a different kind of treatment. The U.S. in fact actively pursued the trial of Milosevic at the International Court. The reason behind the different treatment is that this man, just like Saddam Hussein, had turned into an "enemy" for his anti-American activities and rhetoric.

At the same time, many other such despots and dictators all over the world received direct or indirect political and economic support from the U.S. governments via active lobbying of Henry Kissinger, Zbignew Brzezinsky, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, Sr. or Dick Cheney. Kissinger and the CIA took part in staging a bloody coup against Chile's popular, democratically elected leader Allende in the seventies. The same was done against Indonesia's leader Sukarno in the sixties. In these countries, the post-coup years saw extreme violence, killing and anti-people, anti-union activities led by two notorious dictators Pinochet and Suharto. Both these tyrants still escape international law and justice, in the same way Henry Kissinger keeps fleeing justice throughout the world.

Pinochet's victims included laborers, farmers, intellectuals, students, teachers, artists, singers and activists. One such victim was singer Victor Jara-the Bob Dylan of Chile. Jara was tortured, blinded and murdered by Pinochet's militia.

I didn't meet Jara. But I met Jafar Hamzah Siddique. We were roommates in Sunnyside, Queens. Jafar was a law student at the New School University and he was from Aceh, a small island off Indonesia. The Indonesian militia under Suharto and then under post-Suharto rulers brutalized East Timor and Aceh. In August, 2000, Jafar decided to travel to Banda Aceh to visit his parents; a few days after he had arrived there, he disappeared. His tortured and mangled body was found on the riverbanks of Medan in September.

I had the opportunity to have a long interview with Jafar in April, just a few months before he was killed. Jafar spoke fondly of his motherland-about the tiny island Aceh. He spoke about its history and its bloody tale of ongoing colonization. Jafar had described how the multinational oil corporation Mobil kept occupying and exploiting the land with help from the militia defying the wills and protests of thousands of Acehnese men and women.

Ibrahim, Sulaiman and other Achenese friends had implored Jafar not to go back to Aceh. They warned him that the militia might kill him. Jafar said he must go to pay a last visit to his ailing parents. He never came back.

There was a time when Britain, France, Spain, Holland, Portugal and Belgium invaded and captured Asian and African countries. After plundering the colonized land for centuries, they went back to Europe leaving the country bereft of its riches and with feudalistic people put on as its new leaders. The new "leaders" of the "independent" country kept serving the interests of the colonialists.

This old version of political colonialism has now given way to a new version, something that we can term capital colonialism. The U.S. and European governments, with help from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organizations have imposed severe sanctions against poor and underdeveloped countries and imposed the strictest possible undemocratic, anti-labor economic conditions. In the name of globalization, the rich countries under the stewardship of U.S. are wielding their fierce capital sticks worldwide. However, with the unilateral, unprecedented aggression and occupation of Iraq, it seems the primitive, centuries-old brute-force colonization era has returned.

Are we then going back to those dark, ancient era of monstrous aggression? Often these days, I tend to think that in a way, that is actually good for all of us. The sooner the trade monsters shed off their masks of civilization and democracy and the sooner their true colors come out, the better for us.


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