12/16/2021, 11.24
BANGLADESH
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Anupam Debashis Roy: 'We young Bangladeshis and our country wounded for 50 years'.

by Chiara Zappa

On the anniversary of the end of the 1971 liberation war, Dhaka is still coming to terms with the serious contradictions that characterized the separation from Pakistan. "But many members of the new generation want to turn the page and create a pluralist and truly democratic system," says the well-known 24-year-old activist who founded Muktiforum in Dhaka

 

 

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Fifty years after its birth, Bangladesh must start again from young people, giving space to their desire to overcome the old patterns of the past and to shape a "liberal, pluralist and truly democratic" country. This is the conviction of Anupam Debashis Roy, born in 1997, one of the best-known activists of the new generation and living proof of a wave of change that is trying to build momentum in Bangladesh  despite a climate that is not very favorable to freedom of expression.

The history of this Asian nation, which began with the victory, on December 16, 1971, of the bloody war to separate itself from Pakistan, which caused three million victims, has never ceased to haunt its political and social life. This is demonstrated by the fact that the same protagonists of the current public scene are the direct heirs of that history: Premier Sheikh Hasina, in her third term, is the daughter of the father of the country Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founder of the Awami League that she leads today, while the leader of the opposition Bengali Nationalist Party (BNP), Khaleda Zia, is the wife of that Ziaur Rahman who had ruled the country with an iron fist - and the support of Islamic fundamentalists - from '76 until his assassination in '81.

"My generation grew up breathing a polarized narrative of the liberation war, opposing secularists and Islamists," Anupam Debashis Roy explains in the special edition that Mondo e Missione is dedicating to the anniversary of independence. Even the waves of popular protests that periodically inflame the squares are rooted in this division, as are the attacks on bloggers and liberal intellectuals and the periodic Islamist-driven attacks (in July 2016, a terrorist attack in a Dhaka nightclub killed twenty people, including nine Italians).

"Instead, we want a 'second war of liberation,' which will enfranchise us from the authoritarianism and corruption of the ruling class and guarantee us social justice and freedom of expression," Roy says.

Born in Syedpur in a Hindu family, as soon as he was sixteen years old the young man, in the wake of the popular demonstrations linked to the secular movement Shahbag flared up in 2013, decided to give himself to activism in the first person: his satirical videos published on the web in which he openly addressed some burning issues, such as the turbulent relations with the great Indian neighbor, quickly became viral.

In 2017, the decision to go beyond the dated national public debate with the creation of a platform for civil mobilization: the Muktiforum, whose Facebook page has almost 75 thousand followers, brings together young writers, intellectuals and activists who want to "propose a third way in the political scenario of the country".

"In Bangladesh in recent years, students have shown a strong propensity to be heard, as evidenced by the university protest in 2018 for the reform of the quota system in the public service and that of high school students against the lack of safety on the streets," explains the activist, whose very direct stances even towards the Hasina executive cost him his job as a journalist at the Dhaka Tribune newspaper.

"Unfortunately, the old political parties try every time to infiltrate these mobilizations to manipulate them, while the ruling party, often through its violent youth wing, always finds a way to wipe out the protesters." Roy also interprets the recurring attacks against Hindus - the last one last October on the occasion of the Durga Puja holiday - as "yet another failure of the government to protect all citizens". Yet, he says, "the desire for change is widespread and this makes me confident.

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