UWC Education – A catalyst for social change

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I come from the ‘Rangei hoza’ (Rangei clan) and ‘bhuter gusthi’ (ghost group) of Chakmas, which means my paternal side of the family is a descendant of a ghost. This must sound quite exotic to people who do not belong to the Chakma community. Chakmas comprise of less than 0.3% of Bangladeshi population and mostly live in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). My identity struggle as an ethnic minority began at an early age. Unlike many other indigenous kids of CHT, I went to schools in different parts of the country due to the nature of my father’s job. I ended up being the only Chakma kid in my class in every school I went to. I figured I was somewhat different from other children. Usually it was not my behaviour, rather my flat nose and slanted eyes that gave it away. It was easy to stereotype me. Kids would often chant “Chakma! Chakma!” if they saw me pass by. Sometimes I would be asked whether my people (Chakmas) ate frogs and snakes, lived naked in the jungle and spoke Chinese language. These things upset me back then. It felt awful to be different and I did not exactly embrace my Chakma identity with a sense of pride or happiness. Continue reading

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Ramu attack – Secular democracy in Bangladesh, a failure or a sham?

“We, the people of Bangladesh, having proclaimed our independence on the 26th day of March, 1971 and through a historic struggle for national liberation, established the independent, sovereign People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Pledging that the high ideals of nationalism, socialism, democracy and secularism, which inspired our heroic people to dedicate themselves to, and our brave martyrs to sacrifice their lives in, the national liberation struggle, shall be the fundamental principles of the Constitution.” (1) – The Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

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Although secularism is one of the four founding pillars of the constitution of Bangladesh, the recent attacks on the Buddhist and Hindu minorities make us question its practice in reality. As I write this piece, reportedly 19 Buddhist and Hindu temples and more than 100 houses have been looted, vandalized and torched in Ramu, Patia, Teknaf and Ukhia of Chittagong over the last two days by religious fanatics, allegedly because a Buddhist man was ‘tagged’ in an Islam-insulting Facebook photo by an unidentified person. Following the rampage, Section 144 was imposed in Cox’s Bazaar’s Ramu Upazila, prohibiting assemblies of more than five people in the concerned areas. (2) Continue reading