Sunday, June 16, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Blurred lines

Update : 15 May 2017, 07:03 PM

Last year, after the Holey Artisan incident, and after Tahmid had been arrested, this newspaper published a piece highlighting what people’s perceptions of Tahmid were.

Having heard that Tahmid was inside the café during the attack, and that he had been in custody for so long, many of us, no doubt, wondered what the cause for this was. Had Tahmid, respected son, brother, man, really been involved?

Perceptions of Tahmid

Of course, a certain group knew that he was innocent. This group, in which everyone knows everyone, was one in which Tahmid had quite comfortably existed for years. It made perfect sense: English-speaking, educated, affluent family. Where else in Dhaka would a boy like him find himself?

However, there were people within our society who weren’t convinced, and these people made up a significant portion of our society. People with these opinions existed, even though they lived in the same city, a stone throw’s away in many cases.

Coming back to the article, it seemed that, depending on the language they spoke, people reacted differently to when Tahmid had been arrested.

While DT’s readers spoke of his innocence, and how relieved they were that he had finally been released, Bangla Tribune’s readers weren’t as kind.

Some mentioned his money, his connections; they believed he was actually involved in the attack.

Where did this stem from? Could it be that, based on language, which is indicative of class and social status, there was a separation, a seclusion, a bubbling segregation: A divide?

Two guys, two girls, and a party place

Fast forward 10 months to the present. Two men, with the help of others, lure two young women to the Raintree Hotel.

Details of the rape are horrendous: They are held at gunpoint, they are gang-raped, all the while they are recorded, and once the deed is done, are threatened with blackmail.

The incident sparked massive dialogue. What is wrong with some of the men in Bangladesh? Why are women treated so poorly? Why do they find it so difficult to come forward in cases of sexual assault? Is there a sickness within our society?

When you speak of inequality, of gender-based of violence, of homophobia, of human rights in general, of rape, the rest of the country may not agree with you unfortunately

However, these kinds of questions were mostly asked by, again, a specific kind of people. These kinds of questions are maybe being asked by the layman you consider yourself to be, but aren’t being asked by the layman on the street.

Though online news portals do much to keep their platforms open for discussion, they do, however, regulate their comments. But some slip through the cracks. Below the stories, there are certain narratives.

Some ask why the women had gone to a party like this in the first place? Why had they worn “Western” clothes (whether or not the Raintree incident involved such clothes is besides the point)? Why had they imbibed alcohol, why had they taken drugs?

Why are they surprised that they were raped?

Jumping across the ideological divide

This is the kind of narrative that is bred out of veritable differences in opinion. Certain segments of the Bangladeshi elite make excuses for how this is not the Bangladeshi way, as if the unified belief system that they invented for themselves was one that was shared by the rest of the country.

When I wrote last week of the very evident ideological divide that exists within our culture, between the Gulshan-Dhanmondi dichotomy, this is the fallout of that divide.

When I suggested that there needs to be dialogue, not knee-jerk reactions to differences in opinion, it was the bubble in which certain parts of our society receded into itself.

Certain people took issue with the recognition that this ideological divide was provided, speaking of how such an ideological divide is not as important, when there are more important things to worry about.

They asked me to check my privilege, waxing poetic about how much our generation has done (the inanity of including which had no bearing as a response, and was a self-patting tour de force).

Do these people presume, from their positions of so-called privilege, to dictate what is important or not, what is a problem or not?

Are they blind to the growing chasm that exists between their imported views and the homegrown beliefs of their fellow countrymen?

Do they really have the audacity to claim this as a non-problem?

When you speak of inequality, of gender-based of violence, of homophobia, of racism, of human rights in general, of rape, the rest of the country may not agree with you unfortunately. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but to not recognise the divide, and its importance, that’s silencing of a different sort, is it not?

One can see clearly why such viewpoints exist within the Gulshan crowd and its liberal elite bubble.

They will read pieces they agree with, they will pat each other on the back, they will say thank god someone said something I have been saying, someone who validates our self-worth and lifestyle, who makes us see the truth through the bubbles of our champagne glasses.

God forbid someone writes something that we disagree with.

SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.

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