Bangladesh Mutiny: The Aftermath

In the aftermath of last Wednesday’s shocking Border Patrol (BDR) mutiny, Bangladeshi police, rescue teams and firefighters are faced with the grisly task of uncovering and burying the dead. Numbering around 70,000, the BDR’s main role is to secure Bangladesh’s long, porous borders with India and Myanmar.

The truth of the situation still remains unclear, but so far, this is what we know:

  • The 33-hour standoff ended Thursday night
  • 72 officers are missing (link)
  • A total of 76 bodies have been found
  • 48 bodies were discovered buried in two graves that each measured about 20 feet by 10
  • Bodies being unearthed in manholes, sewers and shallow mass graves show signs of being shot and badly mutilated with bayonets
  • PM Hasina promised amnesty on Thursday, but on Friday rescinded amnesty for killers. 200 BDR members have been arrested (link)
  • Maj. Gen. Shakil Ahmed, commander of the Bangladesh Rifles border force, and a woman that authorities believed was his wife are among the dead (link)
  • The government has ordered a 10-member committee to investigate the mutiny link

The weather, hovering around 30 degrees celsius, is not helping matters:

Bangladesh firefighter Arif Ullah reaches for a handkerchief and retches, overcome by a thick stench of bodies, as he combs a sprawling military compound for victims of a deadly mutiny by border guards…

“It’s hot and it stinks,” Ullah said, as flies buzzed around the flaps of green khaki tents erected over two mass graves into which many bodies had been hurled by the mutineers.

“But we’ve got to keep going. It’s been three days since these guys were buried. They’re badly decomposed.”

Sheikh Mohammad Shahjalal, a hardened veteran of rescue operations…says he is at a loss to explain the savagery of the killings. “It’s beyond comprehension how one human being could have done this to another. They not only shot them dead but some of the bodies were badly mutilated with bayonets.” link

Commenter dudeDAC lives in Dhaka and has been updating us on the situation in the previous post. He also took a series of stunning pics of tanks rolling through a busy downtown intersection.

Picture 2.jpg

February 25-26: we were discussing the security threat and the situation when the intersection went into turmoil, people running and simply standing gawking….We heard a rumble, growing, shaking the ground, and when the first tank (one of 10-12) rolled past, we knew the jig was up, it would either end in massive casualties, or quick diffusion.

Have you seen a tank up close? No matter how old or run by whom, it is a frightening sight. Only the naive and stupid think it is fun, or something to laugh about. The tanks can cause severe damage without ever shooting a round. Army is/should be the last resort, and heavy artillery the end of even that option.

More photos, with dudeDAC’s captions and on-the-ground sense of the situation, are below. Continue reading

Slumlovin’ Fusion

I’ve been away in Delhi for the past month where Slumdog Mania has hit with a frenzy, and stories of Frieda’s engagement/marriage or missing Slumdog kids were often the headline story. Oddly enough, soon after touching down stateside I realized that Slumdog Mania has taken the U.S. by storm too.

There were two signs that signaled to me this storm (besides of course the prolific amount of posts I had to catch up on here at SM). The first was when watching my nightly secret addiction, TMZ, I saw the infamous Anil Kapoor getting interviewed by paparazzi. Not Dev, not Frieda, but Anil. Kapoor. And not just once but a few times.

The second happened while flipping through the car radio, I heard what sounded like ‘Jai Ho’ but mangled. Because the girl was singing “Jai” pronounced as “Jay.” I was thrown off. It sounded like an evening of karaoke with the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack gone girl band.

Okay, so maybe the song isn’t that bad but I prefer the wholesome A.R. Rahman version. Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls (who I saw once at a secret M.I.A. show in Silverlake) apparently is a fan of Bollywood.

Nicole Scherzinger stated in a past interview with Desi Hits! that she wanted to go Bollywood, and now she has, and according to her the reward is plentiful. “It’s an honor to be able to collaborate with A.R. Rahman and be a part of the Slumdog Millionaire project in any way. The movie, the story, and the music was a gift and very spiritually uplifting for me. I can only hope and pray Slumdog Millionaire, and my version of ‘Jai Ho (You are my Destiny)’ touches and connects people all around the world”. [DesiHits!]

It is weird to see something that I saw as personal and desi go mainstream. It was just like the first time I heard M.I.A.’s Galang on a car commercial when she first hit the U.S. and I had this little pleasureful tummy flip. As if someone discovered my yummy little secret. But then when M.I.A.’s Paper Plane was picked up by the Pineapple Express trailer, my tummy just started feeling queasy. Seeing Slumdog Millionaire going through this process is giving me similar tummy flips – from when I watched the movie in an independent theatre back in the fall to sitting here watching Dev and Freida on the Tyra Banks show teaching Bollywood dances as I type this blog.

Abhi touched upon this effect earlier, but I wanted to know what all this Slumlovin’ fusion is doing to your tummy. Does it make you feel as uneasy as I do? Or does all the SM love reflect something more? Continue reading

25 Random Things…About Sepia Mutiny

Earlier this month, the “25 Random Things About Me”-meme was so omnipresent on Facebook, even major papers like the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune discussed it. What, you haven’t heard of it? Wow. No wonder newspapers are going out of business! Well, here’s some background info from the grey lady, then:

…the latest digital fad — a chain-letter-cum-literary exercise called “25 Random Things About Me” — is threatening to consume what little remaining free time and privacy we have.
Here’s how it works: friends send you an e-mail message (or, on Facebook, “tag” you in a note posted to their profile) with 25 heartfelt observations about themselves — like “I named my son after a man I’ve never met” or “I once paid good money to see Whitesnake in concert” — along with instructions for you to follow suit. You are then expected to gin up your own clever list and foist it upon 25 people, including the friend who asked for it in the first place. [NYT]

The 25 things can be habits, goals, quirky facts– whatever. Everyone on Facebook seemed to be doing it, so much so that a backlash started. People used their status messages to denounce the meme and warn others from including them. Groups like “Stop Tagging Me in 25 Random Things Posts You Tards” were formed. But the lists weren’t really THAT bad. No one was forcing anyone to read them. Often, if you did, you’d end up learning fascinating things about the people whom you allegedly “know”.

That’s the thing about “25 Random Things About Me”: Once you stop being annoyed you realize that, at its best, it’s one of the more compelling — and, yes, even oddly inspiring — wastes of time to hit the Web in years. And let’s cut to the chase. Should we really be complaining about the inanity of this new trend? We’re a nation entertained by lolcats. [salon]

Word. Besides, it’s not like this is anything new:

“It’s a brainstorming exercise,” said Anne Trubek, an associate professor at Oberlin College who said she used to give nearly identical assignments 15 years ago to beginning writing students. “It’s used to get people to think about ideas without the pressure of developing a thesis or an argument.” [NYT]

Continue reading

Is “Slumdog” the new “Macaca?”

For the last few years, every time I hang out with my crew its like “what’s up Macaca?” Or “Macaca puleez.” If one of them is acting ignorant I have to bust out with this derogatory term that we have appropriated from the Man and made our own. The distinction is clear: I love me my South Asian people. But I hate macacas.

Ok ok, I’m just kidding…and ripping off Chris Rock’s material a bit.

A few days ago one of our commenters made the following observation: “slumdog” is the new “macaca.” Bobby Jindal’s primetime response to Obama was given about 48 hours after Slumdog Millionaire mopped up at the Oscars. The most watched speech ever given by an Indian American occurred only two days after a huge audience watched a large cast of Indians take centerstage at an event embodying American culture. I think the combined effect of the two is greater than many people realize. Over the span of 48 hours desis literally dominated the airways. And, of course, that can be a double edged sword when you are a minority

On many websites and blogs, liberal commenters, who immediately pounced on Jindal’s poor performance to discredit his “rising star” hype, used the term “slumdog” to describe him. It wasn’t limited to liberals though. Conservative commenters and bloggers did the same exact thing. After Allen used it in Virginia, the term “Macaca” was denounced almost immediately, and to the best of my knowledge was never widely used by non-desis again. I get the feeling “slumdog” is going to have some legs, however. See this exchange today between the new Chairman of the RNC and a Guardian Angels founder turned conservative radio host Curtis Sliwa:

Did Steele say “friggin’ awesome?” The Republicans have publicly stated that part of their strategy to come back from the wilderness has to be to aggressively court the urban youth vote:

Newly elected Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele plans an “off the hook” public relations offensive to attract younger voters, especially blacks and Hispanics, by applying the party’s principles to “urban-suburban hip-hop settings.”

The RNC’s first black chairman will “surprise everyone” when updating the party’s image using the Internet and advertisements on radio, on television and in print, he told The Washington Times. [Link]

If this is part of his strategy I think he should fire whoever is advising him. Is it just me or does Steele come across like an old white guy trying to sound like he can speak like a young black guy?

Mainly I would like to hear from our readers. Have any of you been called “Slumdog,” even jokingly, in the past few days? Were you okay with it or did it bother you?

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“Slumdog Thousandaire”

One of the things Slumdog Millionaire does a great job of is implicitly portraying is the economic seachange in India over the past 20 years – a rising tide may not do it equally, but it does eventually lift all boats including Jamal Malik’s. dug into this a bit more & came away with lessons about India’s economy and hopefully ours as well –

“One IT company doesn’t just employ computer professionals,” says Dalmia. “It also needs landscaping services, cleaning services, and restaurants. There was this tremendous spillover effect that allowed people to lift themselves out of poverty.”

With politics & conventional wisdom in the US tipping towards equating deregulation with financial ruin (contrary to the the actual Bush legacy) it’s nice to see the gains from liberalizing markets celebrated elsewhere.

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Breaking: Mutiny in Bangladesh

The Dhaka headquarters of the border guards known as the Bangldesh Rifles (BDR) was under siege yesterday, as renegade soldiers took civilians and army officers hostage.


The violence appeared to stem from the border guards’ longstanding grievances about better pay and treatment from their army commanders…

Around 9 a.m., they took an unknown number of army officers hostage, and a number of women and children were apparently caught inside.
To quell the mutiny, soldiers surrounded the narrow lanes surrounding the building. Two army helicopters hovered nearby, taking fire…

The Bangladesh Rifles has more than 40,000 members. Its rank and file are under the command of the Bangladesh Army. The mutinous guards’ demands included better pay, the ability to participate in lucrative United Nations peacekeeping missions and a change in the command and control structure of the border force. link

In the immediate aftermath, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) paramilitary troops to lay down their arms, offering a general amnesty, but by all accounts the unrest is spreading, with six other towns reporting violence.

At least 50 are reported dead, and now PM Hasina is taking a harder line, warning:

Do not force me to take tough actions or push my patience beyond tolerable limits. link

Details are still sketchy.Q&A about the situation from Reuters here. Readers in Bangladesh, our thoughts are with you. Please update on the situation in the comments. Continue reading

Not ready for prime time?

Last night’s speech was a disaster, and key shares plunged in response this morning, demonstrating that recent declines will prove difficult to reverse.

The speech in question, however, was Jindal’s and the shares in question were “Jindal stock” on the Intrade prediction market.

While Obama got a 17% bump in response to his speech, critics were less kind to Jindal, comparing him to Steve Urkel, Kenneth from 30 Rock, and Mr. Rogers. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and most other conservative commentators (1, 2, 3) panned his performance, leaving people wondering whether he has done serious harm to his chance of running for President some day:

“it’s difficult to imagine him now as Obama’s 2012 opponent. Jindal not only didn’t live up to his advance billing, he proved that he needs a lot more seasoning before he gets a prime time slot.” [link]

I agree that Jindal did poorly (who doesn’t?) but I’m not yet ready to say he has ruined his shot at becoming the GOP candidate. While Krauthammer compares Obama to Reagan as a communicator, it is easy to forget how much Obama stumbled in finding his voice even a few years ago, and how hard he had to work to find a style that worked well for him.

Jindal is young, and, as Abhi pointed out, has plenty of time ahead of him. Plus, the GOP field is so weak right now that it gives him time to grow and develop. Jindal may be down, but I wouldn’t count him out.

Continue reading

The Peace That Almost Was in Kashmir

In this week’s print issue of the New Yorker, there’s a long, satisfying piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll on India and Pakistan’s attempts to resolve the status of Kashmir over the past few years. The big surprise is just how close the two countries were to permanently resolving the seemingly insoluble problem. The agreement, which was in its final stages in the spring of 2007, was never put into effect or publicly revealed because it was being finalized just when Pervez Musharraf’s government began to unravel. Musharraf had hoped to simply postpone the public summit where the deal would have been announced, but instead the whole thing had to be shelved.

The article isn’t online at the New Yorker‘s web site, but you can read it here, at the New America Foundation:

By early 2007, the back-channel talks on Kashmir had become “so advanced that we’d come to semicolons,” Kasuri recalled. A senior Indian official who was involved agreed. “It was huge–I think it would have changed the basic nature of the problem,” he told me. “You would have then had the freedom to remake Indo-Pakistani relations.” Aziz and Lambah were negotiating the details for a visit to Pakistan by the Indian Prime Minister during which, they hoped, the principles underlying the Kashmir agreement would be announced and talks aimed at implementation would be inaugurated. One quarrel, over a waterway known as Sir Creek, would be formally settled.

Neither government, however, had done much to prepare its public for a breakthrough. In the spring of 2007, a military aide in Musharraf’s office contacted a senior civilian official to ask how politicians, the media, and the public might react. “We think we’re close to a deal,” Musharraf ’s aide said, as this official recalled it. “Do you think we can sell it?”

Regrettably, the time did not look ripe, this official recalled answering. In early March, Musharraf had invoked his near-dictatorial powers to fire the chief justice of the country’s highest court. That decision set off rock-tossing protests by lawyers and political activists. (link)

And from there that it just went downhill for General Musharraf. Now, with weak and unstable new leadership in Asif Zardari, and a possible change in leadership coming in India as well this spring, it’s unclear whether anything can be done anytime soon.

The actual details of the almost-agreement aren’t spelled out entirely in the article, but we do get some promising inklings: Continue reading

Live Blogging Jindal’s Rebuttal (and the SOTU) at 9p.m. EST

Ok folks, tonight we will try a second attempt at “Cover it Live” which Anna debuted on SM to cover the Oscars on Sunday night. I have had zero practice at this and am totally winging it so I aplogize if it doesn’t work out. If it fails then you can revert to leaving comments in the comments section as usual.

Also I was think about a drinking game. How about every time Jindal says “Let me be clear” or “stimulus” or “Louisiana” in a good-ol’-boy accent you have to take a shot? Continue reading

Will Jindal’s strategy succeed or backfire?

It has been all Jindal all the time since this past weekend no matter where you turn. First, check out his appearance on Meet the Press where he explains why he is going to refuse (some of) Obama’s stimulus money that was bound for his peeps in Louisiana:

Later tonight he will be giving the official Republican rebuttal to Obama’s unofficial State of the Union speech. The Republican party is clearly positioning him as the face of the opposition going in to 2012. The question I want to examine in this post is very narrow. “Is Jindal’s early visible opposition to a popular President and his rejection of money for his state going to help or hurt his presidential ambitions?” I say it will ultimately hurt him and below are the reasons why. Continue reading