Part I: Who Benefited from the Violence?

Does Hamas-Like Surprise Await Bangladesh?

Dr. Richard L. Benkin writes from USA

 

 

Our US Correspondent, Dr. Richard L. Benkin is an eminent political analyst. On recent months, he has done an extensive work on analyzing the future of Bangladeshi politics, domestic conflicts, uncertainty in holding general election in 2007 and rise of Islamist radicals. Although majority of Bangladeshi media is busy is fishing conspiracy theory centering recent attacks on industrial establishments, or broad-day-light rampage of hundreds of private and public vehicles by some unruly youth on Dhaka’s street; no one has the guts to raise fingers to the real culprits. This is the first of three investigative and analytical articles by our USA Correspondent Dr. Richard L. Benkin on the potential threat of an Islamist takeover in Bangladesh. We welcome comments and opinion from our valued readers.

 

Foreigners attempting to get good, objective information about last week’s rioting in Bangladesh did not have an easy time of it.  Each Dhaka daily reported the unrest from its own perspective such that it sometimes seemed as if they were reporting different events.  One paper, for instance, immediately took the workers’ side, stating flatly that the factory owners were oppressing them, and that was why they revolted.   On the other side, one daily headlined the property damage suffered by owners and only mentioned the casualties in passing.  Newspapers loyal to the political opposition suggested that government inaction or design was the real culprit.  Then as the government gained control of the situation, a plethora of conspiracy theories came to dominate public discussion about the matter; and that was far more interesting not only for what they said but for what they omitted, as well.

 

Within hours of the calm, suspicions fell on forces outside of the country, and fingers pointed at China and India.  Their supposed motive was to capture a significant share of the international textile market at Bangladesh’s expense; that is, destruction, work stoppages, and concerns by foreign buyers about Bangladeshi reliability would force them to seek other sources of product.  No less a prominent figure than Home Minister Lutfozzaman Babar promoted that belief when he said, "It is a conspiracy by our competitors to destroy the garment sector in our country...We will protect our country as well as our industry at any cost."  Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman also blamed “foreign competitors” out to put a serious crimp in Bangladesh’s textile industry.


That explanation, however, fails to hold up even after a little thought.  To begin with, it could not have been lost on most people that foreign interests were the first to be targeted during the violence.   Beyond that, India and China like all modern nation-states have a vested interest in maintaining the international system of commerce, diplomacy, and dispute resolution.  As such, they do not benefit from an unstable Bangladesh.  Both countries have become extremely successful players in that system and would suffer more than they would gain from upsetting it—which is exactly what an anarchic Bangladesh would do.  It is not unlike the US-USSR conflict during the Cold War.  As the decades passed, it became clear that while both sides had the ability to destroy the other, they each had too much at stake to risk losing what they had.  Thus, there was a continuous inertia, punctuated only at times by action; and they never pulled the nuclear trigger.  Today, however, there is another force whose hallmark has been upsetting that international system.

 

There were other random theories, such as the one promoted by a garment owner who blamed unnamed non-government organizations, which he said were “involved in the recent vandalism and arson in garment factories,” but no one ever offered anything more than that.  There were, of course, the expected partisan political explanations.  Some members of the opposition Awami League (AL) advance what Americans call a “wag the dog” explanation.  The reference is that the tail is wagging the dog instead of the other way around, and that things are not really as they seem.  This specific theory stated that the government abetted the crisis in order to deflect attention from the extensive problems it seems unable to resolve.  Elements loyal to the ruling Bangladesh National Party (BNP) pointed to AL silence in the face of the unrest and its failure to condemn the rioting workers. These actions only fueled speculation of an AL conspiracy, based on the 14 party coalition ties to labor unions and leftist groups that back them.

 

The political conspiracy theories also fail to convince.  It is hardly in the interests of any elected government to preside over a nation plagued by violence. Any lingering doubts about that should have been put to rest when Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia returned home and did not take the opportunity to declare a state of emergency—another underlying motive suggested by the opposition which, if true, would explain why the BNP would secretly abet the violence; but it did not happen.  And thus far, nothing more than speculation has been advanced to support an AL conspiracy.  But the violence does cast enough doubt on both parties to benefit another force.

 

While the various theories fall apart in whom they identify as the culprits, they do yield important insight in refusing to accept the riots as some sort of spontaneous uprising or an event that occurred without planning.  Whether they point to India, China, the AL or BNP, the majority of the country seems to agree with one official who, as reported in Weekly Blitz said, “A vested quarter at home and abroad planned the ransacking of garment industries to create an anarchic situation.”  Exactly which “vested quarter” with bases both in Bangladesh and abroad might that be?  No one seems ready to utter that name, although all logic points to only one group:  radical Islamists.

 

No one is pointing to the most obvious culprits and the only power sector with a track of de-stabilizing places like Bangladesh.  In Iran, extensive social unrest preceded the Islamist victory.  Islamist elements destroyed the centuries-old power sharing arrangements that made Lebanon a model of a stable and successful bi-religious state and gave Beirut the moniker, “Paris of the Middle East.”  There might be little international agreement how to solve the Middle East conflict, but there is near unanimity that the chaos in Gaza enabled Islamist Hamas to build its power base there.  The Muslim Brotherhood has been behind de-stabilizing efforts in Egypt, Jordan, and elsewhere.  And today Islamist Iran proudly exports terror, as does its Lebanese lapdog, Hizbullah.  On the other hand, India and China have been cooperating to maintain stability in South Asia, specifically in Nepal where both countries have been helping to fight Maoist rebels there.

 

So politically, who gains from Bangladesh’s recent labor unrest?  Certainly, the AL does not, for they remain identified with labor unions and leftist coalitions that participated in the rioting.  Neither does the violence help the BNP since it seems to reflect the ruling party’s inability to maintain the social order.  But a third political force does gain when the two major parties are weakened.  Moreover, when social unrest prevails, a party promising a “new order” and claiming to be an untainted alternative can catch the attention of voters who might fail to focus on that party’s darker intentions.  Weimar Germany’s collapse paved the way for Hitler and the Nazis, but one need not go back that far.  The same thing happened earlier this year in the Palestinian Authority elections.  Voters chose to ignore Hamas’s anti-peace platform, choosing instead to grasp at what they hoped was a lifeline to save them from a corrupt and chaotic regime.  Now that Islamist platform has impoverished those voters.

 

Bangladeshi Islamists—and neither of the major parties—satisfy those who point to domestic and foreign elements conspiring together.  They are also the only political force in Bangladesh with a history of initiating violence among the people in support of their political goals.  They proclaimed last year’s terror bombings to be undertaken to implement Sharia as the law of the land.  If social unrest and violence erupts periodically from now until the January elections—the bombings of 2005, the recent labor violence, and one or two more episodes before the voting—they might achieve that goal with a showing strong enough for them to demand the Law Ministry and rule that no law can be implemented unless it conforms with Sharia.

 

The Islamists who murdered Bangladeshi jurists and others throughout Bangladesh last fall promised that the violence would continue if it suited their objectives.  History has shown that it is best to take them at their word.   For in country after country and now in Bangladesh, they have not scrupled about sacrificing innocent victims to advance their nefarious platform.  It would be foolhardy not to consider first an Islamist conspiracy behind this month’s and any future social unrest between now and the election.

 

Subsequent articles in this series will provide further evidence of the Islamist threat to Bangladesh.

 

 
 

Captured Islamist radicals to die in 3 months

Blitz Exclusive        

 

The death penalty verdict, given by the additional district judge court of Jhalakathi in Bangladesh against the captured kingpins of Jagrata Muslim Janata (JMB), will possibly be executed by July this year. Government will also form special bench in the Supreme Court for hearing and quick disposal of the death reference of this verdict. This was disclosed by a highly placed source of the government.

                       

On Monday, Reza Tareq, additional district judge of Jhalakathi district accorded death penalty to JMB leader Shaikh Abdur Rahman, Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, Ataur Rahman Sunny, Abdul Awal, Khaled Saifullah, Asadul Islam Arif and Iftekhar Hassan Mahmood. Amongst the convicts, Asadul Islam Arif is still absconding.

 

Right after the pronouncement of the judgment, alleged criminals, standing at the court dais chanted slogans saying Alhamdulillah and Subhanallah and sang revolutionary songs. They said in unison that they will not go for appeal in any ‘man made court’. The Islamist radicals said, their mission is to establish Islamic shariah law in Bangladesh, and their battle will continue.

 

Meanwhile, commenting on the judgment, a senior lawyer of Bangladesh Supreme Court, Samarendra Nath Goswami said, people of Bangladesh are historically against any religious extremism and Islamist radicals. He said Shaikh Abdur Rahman and his palls got the chance to grow because of certain patronization of several leaders in the country. It is encouraging to witness that finally these elements are accorded the judge of capital punishment. Now, the entire nation will wait to see its execution.


Goswami further said, Islamist militancy has been gaining strength in Bangladesh under the garb of kindergarten and Qaomi madrassas. Government denied these facts when a number of journalists in this country forecasted the rise of Islamist militancy in Bangladesh. The government, instead of paying attention to such forecasts, adopted repressive policies to unnecessarily harass the members of press, who voiced against militancy and radicals. He said, when the local court has given capital punishment of the members of JMB, a shameful case is pending trial with the court of Metropolitan Session Judge Dhaka, against Blitz editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, who was the pioneer to forecast the rise of Islamist militancy in Bangladesh in different madrassas. Bangladesh government arrested, tortured and imprisoned Choudhury and finally bright a false sedition charge against him for his anti Islamist radical stand. Angry Goswami terms it as a double standard of the government. He said, if the government is sincere to punish the culprits belong to JMB or any other extremist and radical force, they should feel ashamed of continuing the false case against a senior journalist of the country.

 

Advocate Goswami said, continuation of the false sedition case against Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury evidently proves that the government is still having softer feelings towards Islamist radicals. The case was not dropped despite repeated international pressure, fearing adverse reaction from the extremist radicals in the country.

 

It may be mentioned here that the trial of the false sedition charge lodged against the editor of Weekly Blitz will begin on 5th June.

 

Commenting on the judgment of capital punishment to the leaders of JMB, a Presidium member of Jatiya Party, Shahidur Rahman Tapa said, it will not be sufficient to hang only a few members of such elements. The government should act sincerely in cleansing the country from the grips of Islamist radicals. They should also bring the members of the ruling alliance, who are openly proclaiming Shariah rule to record. He said, it is encouraging to know about the judgment of Jhalakathi court. But, it is noble duty for the government to bring the patrons and supporters of JMB to trial. Only by hanging several leaders of JMB, might not give an end to the notoriety of these elements.

 

Tapa said, the joyous mood of the JMB kingpins and activists during the judgment, as well their singing of Islamist revolutionary songs at the court dais leaves substantial confusion in the minds of the peace loving people of Bangladesh. The confidence level shows that they have signals from some quarters that finally these death penalties will never be executed, Tapa added.

 

Shaikh Abdur Rahman and his palls staged series bomb blasts in Bangladesh on 17th August last year. From each of the explosion spots, leaflets were recovered, where the JMB leaders demanded establishment of Shariah rule in Bangladesh. Later, in a number of suicide attacks, they killed several innocent people, including two judges at Jhalakathi.

 

Meanwhile, defense experts feel that, arrest of a few leaders of the Islamist militant group should not be taken as a total elimination of such forces from the country. The government and members of law enforcing agencies should remain vigilant.  

 

 
 

Fake Deposits in Indian Cricketers’ Names!

Amit Kumar Bhowmik reports from India

 

Ever since he left his first wife, Naureen, and their two children, to marry film actor, Sangeeta Bijlani, Mohammed Azharuddin, former Indian cricket team captain’s ship of fortunes, has sailed through stormy weather and is marooned in the doldrums!  Bijlani was once romantically linked to Bollywood’s favorite whipping boy and  enfant terrible, Salman Khan, who  was recently  imprisoned  in Jodhpur in Rajasthan for killing black buck deer; a protected species. Azharuddin has had to field innumerable brick-bats flung at him, when he was dragged through the muck, in a match-fixing scandal that shook the sports world.  But, misfortune and doubt seems to be following him like a shadow.

 

Now, a local businessman, Babulal Srimal, in a complaint filed on May 16 2006 with Commissioner of Police, Dhananjay N. Jadhav, has revealed that, following an income tax raid on family members of Dr. Suresh Chandanmal Sanghavi at Islampur (about 200 kms from Pune),   huge stashes of unaccounted money were found to have been kept in Fixed Deposit Receipts of Indian Rupees. 2 to 5 million each “in the names of members of the Indian Cricket team, including that of Sachin Tendulkar, Mhd. Azharuddhin and others”!  According to sources, unaccounted or “black” money, which is a parallel economy in India, are often kept in the names of prominent persons in banks, to avoid detection by the Income Tax and Revenue sleuths – or in tacit arrangement with them, for a fee!

 

Dr. Suresh Sanghavi, is a prominent physician of the city. His father, Chandanmal, was Director of the Ratnakar Co-operative Bank at Islampur.  According to Srimal, who wrote to the Weekly Blitz, the Income Tax Department’s recent raid at the Ratnakar Co-operative Bank at Islampur unearthed over Ind. Rs. 10 million from these deposits alone, made in the names of “Master Blaster”, Sachin Tendulkar and Mhd. Azharuddin . 

 

Srimal’s saga, like most big head-lines events, began as a small trickle, but now threatens to become a tsunami. Srimal had bought a flat from Sanghavi, which was constructed by MHADA (Maharashtra Housing and Development Authority) at New Common Wealth Co-operative Society. Sanghavi had, in turn, purchased the premises from Rajiv Pardeshi, owner of a thriving country liquor bar.  Although the records at MHADA showed the flat to be measuring 600 sq. ft, by forging the subsequent Sale Deed, in connivance with the MHADA officials, the area was doctored to show as being 720 sq. ft. because Sanghavi sought to get a larger loan amount sanctioned from the Ratnakar Co-operative Bank Branch at Pune.  Sanghavi further altered the documents, to show the flat as being 800 sq. ft, when he drew up the agreement with Srimal. “Even at Rs. 1000/- per sq. ft if there is enhancement in this illegal manner of just 15 percent of the floor place, it would come to over Rs. 750 million, if it is deemed that 5 million sq. ft. (5 million) of constructed area has been built by MHADA in the last year itself”, Srimal has informed the Economic Offences Wing (CID, Mumbai). With an unparallel real-estate boom all over India, the amounts siphoned out, will be much larger. 

 

According to Srimal (52), he had also been sadistically beaten up by Police Inspector, Chander, in the presence of his wife and children, at Sanghavi’s behest, who wanted him to withdraw his complaints against MHADA big-wigs, his wife and himself, as well as hand back the keys to his flat purchased from Sanghavi!  Srimal met Director General of Police (Maharashtra) Dr. P. S. Pasricha in Mumbai, who has directed that he meet with the Commissioner of Police of Pune, in this regard.  On May 24, 2006, Srimal sent a letter to C.P. Mr. D. N. Jadhav dripping with vitriolic comments, reminding him that a year had passed since he lodged the complaint and the police were contend to take an ostrich-like stance.  Police Commissioner, Jadhav’s reaction was swifter than a rattle-snake’s strike.  The very next day, two cops were at Srimal’s house with directions from the Police Commissioner to have his statements recorded afresh, sent to him for his personal perusal through the Asst. Commissioner of Police, and then registered as the First Information Report! 

 

But, Srimal is apprehensive. He has many times tasted the bitterness of such false starts.  In his letter of May 24 to the Police Commissioner he has lashed out:  “You will certainly appreciate that the incidents at Islampur ought to be of a National concern, but your cadre have chosen to turn the Nelson’s eye for reasons best known to themselves – or can be presumed. Unfortunately for us, not only has corruption become a tradition, but to fight against it is truly an up-hill and thankless task, despite your efforts to try and white-wash the tarnished image of the police!’ he chided.

 

“Given the dubious track-record of our police; their brutality; the bottomless cesspool of unrestrained corruption which rules the day, and the abject lack of political will by the powers-that- be to remedy this sordid state affairs, I doubt if anything will materialize. But I keep struggling for justice!”, Srimal emoted when contacted.  

 

The moot question here is, whether the Indian Test Cricketers named do indeed have links with Sanghavi; the top echelon at MHADA; Ministers in the State Government of Maharashtra or even the Union Government of India? Two years ago, a huge sum in foreign currency was found locker of another prominent Indian Test cricketer at the Bombay Gymkhana. But, the matter was reportedly hushed-up. While, on the other hand, Azhauddin and some others were hounded mercilessly, rues Srimal!  

 

The Fixed Deposit Receipts detected, be they fake or otherwise,  are  obviously only the tip of a colossal  iceberg, with of billions of rupees, hoarded clandestinely from right under the noses of the Income Tax and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence departments – or, more likely, in collusion with them.  Will the Board of Control for Cricket in India, now headed by political strong-man, Sharad Pawar, the Central Bureau of Investigation or the police   remove their horse-blinkers and stump out the culprits?  Srimal, who has been knocking on all doors, only to be shooed away, knows for certain that the answer, in spite of the Police Commissioner waking up from hibernation after a year’s sloth, is anyone’s guess.

 

An  emphatic “No!”

 

 
 

Bengali society in England treat single mothers worse than dog – Saira

           

 

Remember Saira? The courageous Bangladesh born female who married Britain’s notorious criminal Charles Bronson? Recently, she has divorced Bronson and now living single life with her only daughter.  Weekly Blitz executive editor Sohail Choudhury interviewed her where she gave replies and very openly discussed a number of important issues. In future, we shall also serialize another write up from Saira titled ‘Untold stories of Bangladee virgins’. Here we publish the interview:

 

Q: How did you first come to know about Charles Bronson?

 

A: Charles was born and brought up in Luton and lived here before he went to prison, that’s how I heard of him. But mainly I learnt about him from the local media and was attracted towards him. Then finally I got to know more about him through a charity work I was involved with in year 1998. 

 

Q: Why did you fall in love with this notorious man and why did you propose to him?

 

A: I fell in love with him because of his huge moustache!!! Dude, you don’t choose who you fall in love with. But now I know it wasn’t true love. And no I didn’t propose to Charles, he proposed to me over the phone before he even met me.

 

Q: What did you find special in him?

 

A: When I saw his photo I saw a glimpse of the more kind, loving and child-like Charles Bronson in his eyes, rather than the image created by people. I also thought at that time that who would understand my pain and love me and my daughter more then a man who has been through a lot of pain. But obviously I was wrong. 

 

Q: Which are the main reasons, which attracted you towards him?

 

A: In him I saw a father for my daughter, and I almost thought I found my soul mate.

 

Q: How would you evaluate Charles Bronson as a man and a lover?

 

A: I remember once Charles wrote in a letter to me that my daughter’s and my love had made him feel human in first time in his 48 years of life. As a lover, I nearly allowed him to touch the deepest parts of my soul, but now I’m glad he didn’t, because it would have been harder to let go…

 

Q: How did you feel when you went to media’s attention after marrying?

 

A: Well, it all began by a reporter from the Daily Mail turning in my office and trying to interview me, while pretending to be one of my clients! When that didn’t work later on that day she chased me down my road along with her photographer, and managed to get a photo of me without my consent, while I was covered in snow, a lot of people had difficulty recognizing me! The following day another reporter was going through my dustbin, only God knows what he found there! But seriously speaking, both my daughter’s and my enter life was taken over by media, it was very frightening, since I was all-alone. I even lost my job because of media attention, and the Bengali community’s people didn’t loose the single opportunity to throw abuse at my daughter and me, and that happened every time I stepped out of my house. I do not understand why that everything I believe and all I do are severely judged in the Bengali community, especially in Britain, which considered a multicultural country. At least I did what I believed without being a hypocrite.        

 

Q: What was the reason behind your divorce?

 

A: Well, Charles shaved his moustache off, and that’s why I divorced him! Only joking, Sohail. After being married for four and half years suddenly Charles began to change, he started to hate Bengali culture, religion, clothes, the way of life. And demanded me to give up all of that and live my life as an English woman, because he was sick and tired of Muslim fanatics trying to take over his country, (though he converted to Islam when we got married). Another reason of course was that there were always people trying to interfere in our marriage. However, I tried to make him see sense but it was no use. Eventually Charles stared to become very racially abusive in his letters and over the phone, and ordered me that if I didn’t transformed myself completely as an English woman; our marriage was over. And when I stood up for myself he went one step further and put a racially abusive statement against my culture and me on his website. That was enough for me, I lost all the love and respect I had for him, the sadness I felt had no bounds. After four months of abuse I decided to walk away from him with my self-respect and divorce Charles on the grounds of unreasonable behavior. The emotional wounds given by Charles cut so deep into my being, that my spirit was completely violated. It was unimaginable emotional pain, while I was going through divorce process. My daughter and I were alone, again, without any friends and family’s support. As they didn’t want anything to do with me for marrying Charles in first place. My heart ached every moment of the day and night, to be in comfort of my ‘family and friends’. It was so bad that any tiny gesture of kindness from a stranger made me want to cry, but I held on, somehow. Every morning I opened my eyes, my chest felt like it was being crushed by the despair. It seemed that no matter where I turned, there was nothing, no hope and no joy. Only my daughter kept me sane. I personally believe the real reason behind Charles’s behavior was the fact that he wanted to be in control, since his life has been controlled by the prison service for many years. And I was his wife and a woman, so naturally he felt that he had the right to control me. But I’m not a doll that can be switch on and off by people, I’m a human being with feelings, I smile when I’m happy, and cry too when I’m sad. 

 

Q: Are you planning to marry again or are you in any romantic relationship?

 

A: Yes, I would love to fall in love and marry again, and have a house full of children, have you got anyone in mind! He should be tall and well built, and should have stubble on his face and shoulder length long hair, and he has to have hairy chest. I don’t care if he’s not rich; in fact I’d prefer a poor man, who has nothing but a heart of gold. Someone who’d love my daughter and me more then anything with his soul, In return for life I’d be his slave in love. But I know whoever he is and wherever he is, he would be shadow of divine Shiva, I believe that. I’ll find him one day…

 

Q: What attracted you to Shiva?

 

A: As I was going through divorce process and days passed, weeks turned in to months and every part of my soul was searching and yearning to be whole. I was completely filled with a deep longing and restlessness for something or someone I couldn’t quite name. You know Sohail every life had turning points. My spiritual connection with the greatest ecstatic-yogi Shiva was the turning point of my life, and I haven’t been the same since then. Divine Shiva entered into my soul even when the loneliness was crying on me. His presence felt so soft, kind and loving in heart, I was healing, humming with reverence. I’ve never experienced anything as wonderful as this in my last 35 years of life. Divine Shiva pulled me into His embrace when I was burdened with deep sorrow and assured me that I wasn’t alone, and my daughter and I were loved by Him.  As I longed for Him, He began to appear in my dreams, to illuminate my soul, to encourage me, and to say, “I’m here”. I can smell His sweet fragrance every time the soft breeze touches my face; I listen to the silence of the darkness and sense His gentle presence around me. I suddenly understood that most of what I didn’t understand in my life was what I couldn’t see.

 

Q: Are you embracing Hinduism?

 

A: I’d like to clear the point that it’s not about choosing Hindu faith over Muslim faith, I feel an intimate attachment towards Divine Shiva. I don’t worship Him, I don’t need to, because He is in my every breath I inhale and exhale. Loosing Charles doesn’t even begin to compare with what I’ve gained. I don’t know why I didn’t have this experience since I was born? How did I survive without His profound love all those years?  I simply would not have any existence without Him now, and I hope He stays with me for eternity…  

 

Q: How does the England based Bengali society treat single mothers?

 

A: Worse then a dog. I know this from the experience, as I used to work in a women’s organization, supporting a lot of single mothers. Plus most of my friends are single mothers. I know the moment I became a single mother the Bengali (Sylhety) men began to believe that I was some sort of curse on the society’s forehead. Then again, some of these people don’t even have any respect for their own mothers, so how would they respect another woman? Sohail, your question should have been how do the England based Sylhety society treat single mothers?! Why should I only talk about other people? When my ‘own brother and his wife’ who live in England used to feel ashamed of me being a divorcee-single-mother, and asked me to stay in the kitchen when they had guest in the house! Because my ‘own’ brother felt too embarrassed to tell people the fact that I didn’t have a husband. How do you think that made me feel? I felt dehumanized, like I’m not a human. Since I married Charles him and his wife wants nothing to do with me. And to think that I gave my brother this luxuries of life, by bringing him in England in first place! Stood by him, every step of the way of his life. But I swear by God Sohail, I’m not angry with my brother and his wife, I pray to God that they get all they desired for, without me.   

Recently my Uncle; my mother’s older brother who lives in Dhaka, I haven’t seen him since I left Bangladesh, came to England to visit his daughter (my brother’s wife), but didn’t even come to see my daughter or me! I got used to it all now.

 

Q: How much liberty or freedom the wives in Bengali society enjoy in England?

 

A: What freedom? They need to be taught the meaning of freedom first.

 

Q: How would you define the Bengali community in Brick Lane or East London?

 

A: I haven’t lived in that part of England, and never visited either. Though I heard that Brick Lane is like a small Sylhet, I’ll let you use your imagination. But I promise if you ever come to England, I’ll take you out for dinner in Brick Lane!   

 

Q: Do the Bengali girls have pre-marital physical relations, if yes, how much of the total percentages are inclined towards?

 

A: Of course they have! Everyone’s aware of it, even the parents. But they probably are unable to do much, as they don’t share friendly understanding relationship with their young daughters. So the only thing they do end up doing, is, to take the girl back to Bangladesh and get her married off, when the girl gets caught. I’m proud to say that I treat my daughter like a friend, and she shares everything with me as a friend, she doesn’t hide, that’s the point I’m trying to make. The area where I live, there are a lot of Bengali here, in the morning when I walk my daughter to school I see young Bengali girls leaving the house wearing Hijab/head scarf, going to college. Then as soon as they reach the bus stop they take the Hijab/scarf off, put it in their bag and quickly apply some makeup, and off they go. Again, speaking from the experience when I used to work in a women’s organization, my main duties were to provide all sorts of support relating women’s issues, and one of them was to provide women’s health related support and information. I’ve lost counts how many unmarried Bengali young girls came to us for advice and information on secret abortions or contraception.   See, me being me, this pre-marital physical relationship don’t make sense to me, I’m a complete romantic person (I’ve been told), so to me, physical side of relationship plays very little part. Of course it is part of the relationship; one should make love with soul to soul first. I’m also bringing up my daughter with the same value on this subject. I don’t think my daughter or I can ever forget my Bengali roots, we shouldn’t. Pre-marital physical relationships are part of western culture, but being a modern person doesn’t mean that one has to become western person.  After all, it’s our values and principles which give us the recognition of our individuality.   

   

 

Q: Do you think Islam gives equal right to women?

 

A: NO! Only Sufism, part of Islam, I believe anyway, because that is the only way to connect to Allah and the true essence of Islam. 

 

Q: Are you writing your own biography?

 

A: I wrote my autobiography over a year ago. It’s called Breaking free, and has been published by Metro publishing. It’s about my last thirty years of struggle against religious and cultural prejudice, domestic violence, how I’ve survived in England as a single parent, and of course my relationship with Charles. I’m also trying to publish it in Bangladesh in Bengali. At the moment I’m also writing my first novel, and hoping to publish it soon, it’s about Reincarnation. My aim is to break many prejudices and discriminations that we hold consciously and unconsciously.  

 

Q: What is your personal opinion about Muslim Shariah law?

 

A: Any law that violates women’s, children’s and human rights should be banned.

 

Q: Do you plan to Visit Bangladesh?

 

A: Sohail, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Bangladesh. After all, I was born and brought up there until the age of 19 year. But most of all I miss my beloved tea-gardens, where I spent my childhood. Sohail I miss the tea-gardens so much that I have dreams about them or go crazy if I see them in a film or photos. I feel as if the tea-plantations, mountains and the jungles are calling me out from Bangladesh! Soon, very soon, I’ll come to Bangladesh in couple of years time, when my daughter Sami is little bit older. I’m unable to come there at the moment, because my first husband’s family threatened to take my daughter away from me. In couple of year’s time, my daughter will be old enough to protect herself and “kick ass” if my first husband’s family even tries to speak to her.  Sami is brown belt in karate and kick-boxing at the moment and wants to be a human-rights Barrister when she grows up. 

 

Q: Would you kindly share with our readers your most memorable good and bad incident in your life?

 

A: I only have three most good memorable incidents, 1st one is when my baby Sami was born, 2nd one is when I first saw divine Shiva in my dream. And the 3rd one is a long story, but I’ll cut it short, (you are the first person I’m sharing this with!) When I first saw Aakashdeep Saigal, he is a television actor from India, who worked in serials called keyki and time bomb. The moment I saw him, my eyes lit up; I was instantly drawn towards him, as if he was someone very close to me, like a family member. I’m not his fan nor we’ve ever met, yet in a very unusual way, without being aware, he gave me mind to mind healing and saved me from death the night before I decided to divorce Charles. God works in mysterious ways. Aakashdeep is my main and only reason and inspiration behind my novel that I’m writing at the moment, and will be dedicated to him, and he doesn’t even know that I exist! Before you ask me, no I’m not in love with him romantically; I would never try to reach up and touch the sky Sohail, because I know I’d never achieve that. I don’t like politically correcting myself when it comes to love, but love is love, I don’t have to love Aakashdeep romantically to be in love with him. I don’t know why he is so special to me, or why I feel profound love and connectedness about him.  When I look at Aakashdeep; I see my own soul looking back at me, perhaps I’ve known him from another life…another time… 

 

Now let me tell you my two most bad memorable incidents, 1st one were when I went to the hospital to give birth to my daughter Sami. I was in terrible pain for two days, all alone, couldn’t speak one word English. All I wanted was a loving man to hold me in his arms and tell me that he was there and everything was going to be alright. The 2nd one is that after my daughter was born one of the hospital workers gave my new born baby some old second-hand clothes, as I didn’t have any money.  My first husband’s family did buy some new clothes for my baby, but eight days later. I’ll never forget that as long as I live.