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Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

It’s been almost a week since the Tuba garments workers have gone on an indefinite hunger strike but it doesn’t seem to have bothered us at all. We are not silent about global events and legitimate concern about Gaza is high but while we express outrage at such events we seem to be silent about matters happening to our own people.

* * *

There are literally hundreds of appeals sent to all of us via Facebook by people insisting that we express support for the Palestinians and those in Gaza. But I have not a single appeal in my inbox for the Tuba garments strike where our own citizens are on a strike without any headway in sight.  I would have been happy with just one appeal or maybe a few posts on the issue but while our media world explodes with anger at what is happening in distant Palestine, we are quite silent at what is happening in our own backyard. All injustices are not the same and some are more significant than others. Is that it? Gaza protest yes but why nothing on what happens on our soil ?

* * *

The horror of Gaza is open for the world to see and condemnation is universal except by the West. The only people not actively protesting are the Arabs although it’s happening in their own backyard. What is it that makes Arabs our brothers is our ability to ignore what is happening next to us while getting disturbed by events that don’t really affect us. We can be outraged but only when it’s not of our own making and we are not responsible for it. The Arab world has basically abandoned the Palestinians and that is why they don’t want to think about them while we have done the same with the RMG workers and don’t want to know what is happening to them. In our denial, the Arabs and the Bangladeshis have become brothers.

* * *

Palestine is a product of global injustice that was supported by the superpowers. After a long period of refuge-hood, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed in the mid 60s. They caught global attention through a series of spectacular acts which the West dubbed “terrorist’ and the PLO supporters didn’t. Subsequently, in 1967, the Arab countries jointly attacked Israel in which they were completely routed.  Gamal Abdul Naser, the pan-Arab nationalist leader never recovered from the humiliation and soon died. His lieutenant Anwar Sadat took over and in 1973 again launched another war and was humiliated again. It was obvious that the entire Arab military was unable to fight Israel. So Sadat saw this and entered a US sponsored “peace deal’ which recognised Israel and ended support to the Palestinian cause. After two defeats, the Arabs were convinced that Israel was beyond their ability to defeat and once their collective ego was deflated they let the Palestinians be their punching bag. It’s the Arabs who have let down the Palestinian status.

* * *

The Jordanians first attacked the Palestinians who not only expelled them from their territory but killed many of them. After that, many of them took refuge in Lebanon but they were expelled from there as well. So in a sequence Israel, Jordan and Lebanon have all expelled Palestinians. They don’t have an ally and if Israel is an enemy the Arabs are no less an enemy for  them.

But if Palestinians have to face the brunt of Israeli brutality, the Arab courage is deeply suspect and has become the most glorified spent force in the world in refusing to face Israel. The PLO, undermined by factionalism, extremism and lack of vision, have also failed to deliver the goods allowing a situation to grow which causes constant sapping of their cause. Although they once had a chance to get a much better deal on the two state formula, they ignored that, as stated by the Palestinian scholar Edward Said. So in the end, defeat after defeat has whittled away at their movement till they have no one to turn to and are objects of global pity and rage. PLO lost so much credibility that they were replaced in Gaza by Hamas, and the Islamist force created by Israel to counter the PLO in which they were successful. It’s a sad story of incompetent leadership, betrayal by their allies and the impossibility today of finding a meaningful solution when Israel knows it’s unstoppable. No number of Facebook posts and appeals can make a difference.

* * *

But what stops us from caring about the hunger striking Tuba garments workers and displaying a show of solidarity and putting pressure on the authorities? While Dhaka was crazy this Eid with Pakhi dress and other forms of absurd spending, people had not been paid for months at Tuba garments. Hardly anyone bothered about them except the Communist Party of Bangladesh but then they don’t matter. So essentially, we chose to ignore them and focus on a distant conflict which makes our life safe for us and makes us feel good.

* * *

Equally absurd has been the fact that we don’t ever show our outrage when it comes to attacks on our own people. We are silent when Hindu, Buddhist, Bihari  and Adivasi homes and temples are attacked. Nobody takes to making mass appeals and nobody takes to the streets. As if our conscience is moved only by foreign conflicts and injustice but when it comes to our own, we have no way of saying we need to protest. Perhaps we don’t because we know in some ways for many, there is complicity to the atrocities that happen in our own land.

* * *

Killings in Gaza must stop. While everyone protests what is happening there, our blindness to the events that happen amidst us and often is caused by us should also get attention. By refusing to accept what we do is wrong,  or by ignoring  them, we became a party to the crime of selective conscience.

That makes our Gaza protests far less legitimate too.

Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist, activist and writer.

Afsan Chowdhuryis a bdnews24.com columnist.

10 Responses to “Why do we care about Gaza but not our Tuba victims?”

  1. Golam Arshad

    Muslims will be protected in India and Hindus will be protected in Bangladesh.Me sounding gibberish and HARD to translate in Bangla.

  2. Hasan

    we will start caring enough when it comes to our doorsteps and when it starts getting violent! i hope that it starts getting violent soon otherwise we as a nation of hypocrites will ignore it in favour of our “brothers and sisters” of gaza!!! the same arabs who call us “miskin” and treat us no better than the dark age of slavery! the same arabs who have shied away so far from protecting their own! the same arabs who take labour from the subcontinent and later on return their bodies in caskets in the name of development! the same arabs who will not stop trading with the USA and Israel!! the same arabs who will not stop turning eastern european girls into prostitutes for their royal princes!!! we know what the truth is and now it’s laid bare to all. let those who care so much for gaza go there and do something instead of being keyboard warriors! walk the talk you muslim soldier!!!

  3. Shantoneel

    I beg to differ with your opinion as a Bangladeshi Hindu born after 1971 and raised in the US. Question to you, have you seen genocide of such magnitude in your life time as this? I haven’t. Yes, Hindus have been persecuted and a temple was burnt in front of my eyes in the backlash of the 1992 Babri mosque demolition attempt . Its also true that Hindu’s and other religious/ethnic minorities face shameless atrocities after each election in Bangladesh, but one can never quote an example of such ethnic cleansing for the the last 70 years as Gaza. What makes it worse is its happening with direct financial and military support from the US, a country that considers itself to be the leader in preserving human rights. I understand that we cannot turn a blind eye against the garment workers, but I feel that you are implying that nothing will change in Gaza so we should all stop talking about it and because its a geo political struggle, somehow it legitimizes your point that we are more concerned about Arabs than our own country. I do agree with your point that a huge number of Muslim population categorizes it as a jihad, but I feel that you are trying to over compensate for their lack of awareness. But this is not the time to divide people. No issues in the world can come close to or even be compared against the genocide that’s unfolding right in front of our eyes. Its the worst genocide the world has ever seen since our war of indepence in 1971. Lets call it like it is.

  4. J.N.

    Thank you, Mr. Afsan Chowdhury, for this meaningful and very important writing. It is indeed a really needing reminder for the government, political parties, social organizations and everyone in the country.

  5. anti_blog

    Thanks could not have articulated better. I have been saying something very similar to a few of my friends who are hell bent on saving Gaza. Their tribal mentality is beyond absurd. Somehow they have made themselves believe that they are arabs and bangladesh and arabs share a common ancestral heritage.

    I think what you have alluded expertly is the influence of Islam that has given rise to this kind of attitude. This is specially true for some of my Sri Lankan muslim friends who never said a word during the tamil civil war ehere civilians were summarily executed and there was video evidence of that. But no one said anything, however now they have all become Gaza activists on fb.
    No one says anything about ISIS whose brutality might rival any barbarian armies. However since this brings a bad name to Islam, one friend even went as far as saying, they are not muslims. I mean how can you say that, when they are following the Quran word for word?
    A friend said that the Gaza conflict touched her humanitarian psyche and reminded her of 1971 conflict of innocents being oppressed. If that is so, why do you stay quiet when minorities are being driven out of Bangladesh. Answer to this is same thing happens in India? I mean how does that make sense? Muslims are always tortured in India therefore that justifies pushing minorities specially hindus out of their ancestral lands?
    Another even went as far as saying hindus should feel safe in Bangladesh as unlike India there are no riots in Bangladesh?

    Anyways I can talk about christians been thrown out of Mosul by ISIS, FGM, oppression of women in Afghanistan and the list will go on. Humanitarian needs and in Bangla what we say “Dorod” only exists when muslims are being targeted by non-muslims, but when non-muslims suffer due to muslim wrong-doings or even when muslims suffer due to muslims’ wrong-doings, these FB Gaza activists will be silent and turn a blind eye to it.

    Unfortunately logic and conscientiousness is lacking in a lot of these online activists.

    • Sumit Mazumdar

      “Muslims are always tortured in India..”!

      PLEASE – read some Indian newspapers. Preferably some from Kolkata, since we have cultural overlaps. This is what you will find:

      (1) Percentage of population that is Muslim in West Bengal – 30. Percentage of population that is Hindu in Bangladesh – 7. Percentage of Muslims in W. Bengal ca 1972 – 25. Percentage of Hindus in Bangladesh ca. 1972 – 20. What happened to the Hindus in B’desh – AFTER liberation?

      (2) Number of times a Muslim is mentioned in a West Bengal newspaper on an aribitrary day – a Muslim politician or an intellectual, a thief or a policeman, a rapist or a judge – about 30% (don’t believe it? just check it out). Number of times Hindus are mentioned in B’desh newspapers on an average day (excluding the ONE prominent politician from AL) – close to zero.

      (3) Violence against minority in West Bengal (not India) – zero. Violence against Hindus in B’desh, before and after elections – hard to keep track of the number it is so large.

      (4) Violence in rest of India against Muslims – sadly they flare up every now and then. But these are RIOTS, which means two sides are fighting against each other. In B’desh there are NEVER any riots – WHY?

      (5) Violence against Ahmedis in India – Zero!

      ALL of the above can be checked against Indian newsmedia, which is no better or worse that Bangladesh’s. Lots of problems in India – but let’s not get carrier away by claiming Muslims are always tortured in India.

      • Rashid

        The main reason for the decreasing number of Hindus in Bangladesh is Hindu migration to India. And the main reason behind migration is religious. Believe it or not, most of the elderly Hindus here have an aspiration, a dream to live in India, someday. To them, India is the holy land, going and living where is kind of religious duty. I believe if there is any sociological investigation this fact of Hindu migration would be revealed. Apart from that, yes, there is communal persecution too and it happens mostly by the politically influential people who want to grab Hindu land and property. This factor, certainly, contributes in Hindu migration. But this type of oppression are very common against the Muslims in India too. But they are not able to go anywhere. The partition of India affected them most. They don’t have any sacred place to go in their neighborhood. They decided to stay in India during partition and to face all the odds there boldly. They are severely persecuted in many cases but at the same time they fought back too, which perfectly suits with your definition and understanding of riot. On the other hand, the Hindus in Bangladesh in most of the cases give in to the communal Muslims bearing in mind that they are supposed to be in India. However, the number of Hindus here is still not less than 10% and it has never been even near 30% after liberation. It’s a clear exaggeration.
        Your second and third points are really naive, to say the least!
        And the 5th one! Who will do violence against the Ahmadis? The Muslims there are fighting for their own survival and dignity. Logically speaking, even the ultra-conservative ones aren’t supposed to pick it up as an issue, let alone doing violence. On the good side, the Muslims in India are more tolerant than the Muslims in Pakistan and Bangladesh. One may argue that it’s because they are the minority there. But, history says, they are the Muslims who decided not to leave India despite knowing that they would have to live as a minority population among the Hindus!

      • Golam Arshad

        Be it as it May… Muslim in India are Indian. Hindus in Bangladesh are Bangladeshi.True! For and to Religiosity: Muslim and Hindus are separate and distinct in the Religious sense. But socially and politically they (Both Hindus and Muslims ) are Indian or Bangladeshis or in that case Pakistani. To Hindus for India, To Muslim for Pakistan;Indian or be precised Indian National Congress, for expediency in political sense supported and accepted Two Nation Theory that culminated two separate Nation : India and Pakistan. Without the tacit approval of support by the Indian National CONGRESS of Mr.Jinnah’s Two Nation Theory WOULD not HAVE SURVIVED.The seed of the Two nation Theory fermented in Bengal. Shera Bangla A K Fazlul Huq and Hussain Shahid Suhrwardy these two Great Leaders of Muslim Bengal were the foremost practitioners and architect of Two Nation Theory in Bengal. Huq Shama Prasad Ministry garnered the nonchalant idea of cohesion in Two Nation Theory practiced and idealized in Bengal.Mr. Jinnah as All India Muslim league President adopted TWO NATION THEORY as political AGENDA for the Muslims of India. After 1947 India annexed : Hyderabad, Kashmir, Jun agar negating the principle of Two Nation Theory. Making it a One Nation Theory : On the principle of Hindus for Hindustan purely on Religious basis. Muslims in India are the official Minority population demographically, but they are rooted to the cause of Right for Two in One Nation: India. Muslims in India are united in One India; devolving Right in Two for One. Muslims in India: Pakistan and Bangladesh will be the standing beacon of unity for two religion with separate and distinctive stand in India: Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Call for Unity for a greater cause lies how Hindus in India garner their Unity for Peace and United Progress with Muslims of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The current leadership under the stewardship of Modiji being very much aware and be noted for peaceful action plan in this Region of South Asia. Extremism in all Religion in its mutative connotation must be parried and adjusted for a new beginning of peaceful coexistence in our Region. Time is Now; for this Moment of Peace to be achieved! Democracy cannot be all and end all for Liberals/secularists ONLY…the magnetic cohesion of UNITY must be harnessed without back pulling from outside or inside! Playing the Annihilation of Extremists in Islam must be done for; pleasing West or advancing any political agenda attuned in the task of annihilating extremists in one particular Religion will NOT help either. Eradicating Extremists in Islam has NOW being played over and over; it has weakened without any forthright RESULT. Zero plus Zero over and over turns up as ZERO! Two Nation Theory have been lambasted since 1947, but the Protagonists Against has used it to their advantage at many a time for political convenience and self aggrandizement. Let NOT that be… Unity lies in Diversity, Peace prevails in compromise (Give and take) Arrogance lights up momentarily BUT dies Quickly leaving in its trail: Bad precedents, misdeeds and infallible flaws for ill intent is NOT conducive for Peace and progress! Good Days lies ahead as South Asian Nations are gaining more traction in Education and financial Freedom! Time is Right for a New Beginning!!

  6. Farid Wakeel

    There has always been sympathy for the garments workers among the public. It is so evident that it need not be advertised, or appealed to. We all feel it. The Gaza slaughter on the other hand is such a shock, with 1700 people killed by bombs and missiles, that it brings forth an outcry. Mr Chowdhury’s article is an exercise in false headlines and misperception. Sometimes it pays to keep one’s mouth shut.

  7. HEMAL

    America helps them in many ways,they never though about humanity..As a powerful country of america everyone got fear…And we care GAZA because we have mind…

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