Of all the symbolic scenes we could hope to see, the fire at the Korail slum on December 4 was the most appropriate. The war of 1971 was fought by all, but victory belongs to a small band of the ruling rich.
The scene of desperate men, women, and children, fleeing the flames first and then returning to the inferno to save whatever they could says it all. This is what Bangladesh has become.
Gulshan had to be saved by all means after the terror attack but, in this campaign, Korail, abode of the urban poor, had to be done away with as part of the wider anti-poor plan of the municipality.
The slum was victimised and livelihood made extremely difficult. Fires, the second time in a year, are too frequent to be accidental.
The poor must be cleaned from prime land, the poor must be cleared from the footpaths, the poor must be driven out from their derelict homes so that the rich run Bangladesh can party without a sense of disgust that Gulshan and Korail share such horrific proximity
This accusation may not be true, but the trend is difficult for many to ignore.
Yes, an IT Park is also planned for the area so Korail has to be cleared. The government has floated several plans but, like all GOB plans, it serves the rich and when it comes to the poor, they generally fail.
The impotence of the national political cluster can be best understood by the continuous existence of the BGMEA building, endorsed by both our PMs.
It’s illegal, stands in the flood plain, and the Supreme Court Appellate Division has ordered its demise, but it stands with the insolence that comes from money and power.
The rich have the power to defy the Supreme Court but the slums must go in a series of inexplicable fires.
The Korail fire is a symbol of the betrayal of the spirit of the 1971 war. The poor had the largest role in it, and it’s the poor who are now being evicted and expelled.
The poor must be cleaned from prime land, the poor must be cleared from the footpaths, the poor must be driven out from their derelict homes so that the rich run Bangladesh can party without a sense of disgust that Gulshan and Korail share such horrific proximity.
This may not have been what a tall man from Gopalganj had imagined a free Bangladesh to be.
But the tall man now above should clean his glasses and see the cinders of his dream hidden by the shadows of the skyscrapers of the hyper rich who encroach, not just on land, but on a collective but dead dream called Bangladesh.
It’s only fitting that Korail go up in flames as December, the month of victory comes, to remind us all whose victory December 16 really was.
Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist and researcher.