Experts urged to ratify Minamata Convention to phase out mercury-added products পারদযুক্ত পণ্যের ব্যবহার বন্ধে মিনামাতা কনভেনশন অনুমোদনের আহ্বান সেন্টমার্টিন সৈকতে প্লাস্টিকের আগ্রাসন 72 birds die eating pesticide-treated masakalai Educate girls to save the planet শিশুর সর্দি-কাশি সারানোর ঘরোয়া উপায় 50 Books All Kids Should Read Before They’re 12 24 thousand under 5 children die of pneumonia in Bangladesh annually গ্রিনহাউস গ্যাস কমানোর লক্ষ্যে নানা উদ্যোগ Maldives: Eco-friendly product export destination for Bangladesh

Sundarban doesn’t belong to Bangladesh It belongs to the planet and its peoples

I too have thought of posting a profile picture on Facebook, of me saluting the Bangladesh cricket team on its splendid Test match victory over England. But, I surmised that my salute has to stand for something more substantial. When can I put a picture saluting the victories over oppressions against minorities – the Chittagong Hill Tracts people, or the Kashmiri people, or the Dalit people, or the stoppage of environmentally disastrous projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline, or the thermal power project smack inside Sundarban?  This article, as the title suggests, is about the Rampal project.  Let me start with the most unlikely of quotes, one from Zadie Smith, from her article “Dance lessons for writers”, and this is what she writes: 

“…the aristocrat and the proletariat have different relations to the ground beneath their feet, the first moving fluidly across the surface of the world, the second specifically tethered to a certain spot: a city block, a village, a factory, a stretch of fields.”

When we talk about activists and activism in the context of Rampal, or any such protests, a similar dynamic is at play, to my mind. I shall talk about two things – the importance of staking out a space at ground zero, and internalisation of the environmental justice movement. But first, a premise needs to be set. This green and brown earth of ours predates the advent of humans, tribes, kingdoms, empires, and, indeed, nation states. Thus, this planet's ecology, which is gravely threatened by the Anthropocene age we live in, belongs not to any nation -state, or its peoples exclusively – it belongs to the planet and all its people, because we, whether we like it or not, are connected organically under the superficial national and political boundaries that we have etched over its cartographic surface. Irrespective of our political motives, this planet has its own rhythm, its own celestial beats to dance to. For many this idea might ring naïve, but inhered within this premise is a very post-national argument which allows us to transcend the limits that the discourses of nationalism impinges on us – going round and round the mulberry bush of “national growth and development” parley and its banal logic.

Picketing at ground zero

Typically, the central part of the activism around Rampal is what some might call bourgeois activism, which must also be problematised. The narratives that such activism produces tend to be confined within the narrow corridors of nationalism, patriotism, where the regime and the protestors both claim to be “defending the nation and its people.” It then becomes easier for national governments, especially authoritarian ones, to trip these discourses by producing contentious arguments that challenge the very nationalism of the protestors, and any contrarian arguments are flagged as anti-national, even seditious.  But, more importantly, when bourgeois activists take centre stage, they push away the real faces of the displaced people who are directly affected by such a project. It is, then, easier for those with vested interests to derail them by issuing veiled threats, or arresting them on some trumped up charges, or in extreme cases, through “disappearances.” Most of these kinds of targeting happen to individuals who are deemed to be the central voices of dissent. It has happened in the context of Rampal too. Such manoeuvres throw off the activists in two ways — one, they become embroiled in a new fight for their fellow-activist thus threatened, ergo derailing the main discourse. And, two, they inject an aura of fear resulting in self-censorship. The language of dissent is affected. This affectation weakens the whole movement.

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Posted by on Nov 9 2016. Filed under Bangladesh Exclusive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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