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The Way It Is - Emdad Rahman

Meet the Mayor

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EMDAD RAHMAN meets Tower Hamlets new Mayor



Meet the pied piper of Tower Hamlets. Mayor Doros Ullah hates being described as debonair, or suave, or even handsome. Even though he rarely fails to bowl over maidens with that glitter around his hooded eyes, he correctly guessed a long time ago that being pushed into a box would limit his career options.

“I don’t believe I have survived 13 years in politics without offering something positive” he said. “That would be underestimating the people who have supported me unquestioningly for years.”

A health and safety consultant by profession, he entered politics in in the early 90‘s. His passion though is for humanitarian work, and for promoting multilateral solutions to communal problems.

“What has been your most difficult challenge as mayor?” I enquire.

“Prioritising. You want to do everything. You see all sorts of pain and you want to meet that pain.

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Strokes of genius from the gifted one

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EMDAD RAHMAN meets the youngest recipient of a civic award

Recently there was a clever series of commercials that featured celebrities like Larry Bird and Aretha Franklin showing off their respective talents, and the announcer urged us to do the same. "Are you a prodigy?" he wanted to know. Sadly, for most of us the answer is no. Our abilities are too ordinary.

Some children are endowed with such extraordinary talent that there seems to be no accounting for it. Mozart is often cited as a case in point. However, he is not alone in the pantheon of prodigies.

Gifted individuals are discovered young and often seem like well-trained circus animals. Others absolutely amaze us, not so much because of their sheer talent or confidence, but because of their far greater ability to move us with their sensitivity.

It is safe to say that Shakila Khan, a 10-year-old pupil at Smithy Street Primary School in Tower Hamlets fits into the category of a gifted child.

Shakila has always taken a great interest in books and creative writing. Last year she commenced writing a children’s novel, which received rave reviews from the Arts Council UK and potential publishers.

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The liberal art of persuasion

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EMDAD RAHMAN discusses politics with Mahi B Choudhury

We all seem to agree on the matter that the Bangladeshi people are fed up of the two main political parties that dominate current Deshi politics.

I mean we don’t have much to choose from do we? Both parties are corrupt, and misuse their power. They steal people’s money and goods, and do everything but serve the poor residents of Bangladesh. (That’s what they’re paid to do aren’t they?)

Let’s face it, our land is fertile, the people work day and night, so why is my beloved country awash with so many stories of revulsion, inequality, and tragedy?
A year ago this month Dr. B. Choudhury, secretary general of the Bangladesh National Party (Bangladesh Jatiyatabadi Dal) of General Ziaur Rahman during the formative period of the BNP declared after a period of political hibernation that he would float a new political party, an alternative to both party in power and party in opposition. It soon became the talk of the ‘toon’ and very soon ‘Bikalpa dharar rajniti’ translated as the alternative path of politics became a political catchphrase.

Mahi B Choudhury is a Bikolpodhara MP. Politician and mentor to Bangladeshis the world over, Mahi is a man of many talents. I met him recently during a meeting on his 2nd visit to London on the occasion of Bikolpodhara’s first birthday. The purpose of the visit was to meet with expatriates and encourage use of their talents for the welfare of Bangladesh.

Mahi was in an upbeat mood and proceeded to remind all what the tremendous battle for Bangladeshi independence in 1971 stood for.

He spoke of the hardships Bikolpodhara had faced since its inception and angrily directed his full force towards the passivity of party leaders and established politicians in Bangladesh with regards to the terrible onslaught faced by Bikolpodhara members and sympathisers all over Bangladesh.

“I have approached these leaders “ he seethed. “The party is very big and we have no control over so called rogue elements” they have sneered.

“What about the release of BNP members from captivity after being captured at the scene of attacks on our members? What about those captured clearly on cctv camera.

“I have asked this question to respected individuals and have been faced by a gargantuan wall of silence. This has proved that decisions to attack us come from those higher up in the hierarchy.”

Mahi along with Ohid Uddin; Bikolpodhara’s Central President reviewed and analysed the incidents involving hoodlums that tried to destroy the latter’s visit to Beani Bazar and Gulapgonj last year.

“Our offices were set on fire and equipment desecrated” complained Ohid Uddin. “Where is democracy? Ilyas Ali is due in London this week. I urge all Bangladeshis to collar him about the conduct of his party members.”

Despite criticism from his detractors about being the son of a legend, Mahi has a personality as intriguing as his brand of politics. He has fully earned his position as an MP and is intellectual, charismatic and a brilliant role model for all. Mahi has the steel of presence, energy and tenacity to probe and fearlessly ask the right questions in the right places. Bangladeshis would be fortunate to have such a man as a representative in Parliament.

“I agree wholeheartedly, being the son of Dr B Choudhury is not a qualification, but nor is it a disqualification.”

When quizzed about damaging government propaganda against the party Mahi was philosophical; “Some people are using all sorts of arm twisting tactics to make me speak to them in a particular manner. The more filth they speak, spread or write, the more I'm determined to stay away from them.

“Many people ask me, ‘there must be something fundamentally wrong with Bikolpodhara. Why are you always the bridesmaids? Why are you attacked?’

“I think that this question is best answered by the BNP.”

Mahee has promised a “pleasant surprise” as opposed to a “shocking surprise” in the next Bangladeshi general elections.

“We don’t expect to win 151 seats, but will continue our tremendous progress in our mission to establish a balance of power.

“This is no idle boast, as these assumptions are based on astute study of data and political analysis.

“The only boast I can make is that Bikolpodhara will work for the people like no other previous government.

“The Bangladeshi people are tired of this government. This is not rule, it is tyranny.

Bikolpodhara are engaging with Bangladeshis like no other party. Next year will see a series of conventions in Dhaka for resident and non-resident Bangladeshis. 5000 Members from the UK, Australia, Japan, the USA and the Middle East, amongst others will travel to these meetings, through which it is hoped the focus of the world will turn to the aims and objectives of Bikolpodhara.

“Bikolpodhara can be likened to a mango tree, whilst the other parties are like the bodh ghas (tree), fruitless and much tainted.

“We produce exquisite, ripe and sweet fruit wherever we go. Can the others make such boasts.

“What exactly do the political parties of Bangladesh have to offer?”

Mahi smiles. “ At present nothing apart from ‘Joi Bangla and Joi Khaleda?’

“Where are the philosophies and political mechanisms” I ask. We are permanently stuck in 1971, we need to fast forward to the present day and move forward” he stressed.

“Politics has to be difficult. You want to be Bangladeshi Prime Minister and expect an easy ride. The difficult process would separate the brilliant from the has beens and ensure that the welfare of the good people of Bangladesh is in the hands of the best.”

I firmly believe that you don’t take power, you accept responsibility.”

Through the years Mahi has not only remained a popular talent, surviving the vicissitudes of the political arena - but has also always managed to maintain a certain dignity both as a human being and a poltician. Yes, many believe you need to be more than human to survive in politics. There has never been the fake hair, the excessive body scent, or affected speech that others require. There has always been just Mahi-real, warm, basic-a natural star still rising, headed for that stratosphere called legend.

At the end of the interview a video was screened broadcasting the highlights of a tremendous year of progress for Bikolpodhara. Next year 25,000 Fanush (Hot air ballons I think) will be released in Dhaka to raise awareness of Bikolpodhara.

There is a need for an alternative to the ‘big two’ and Dr B Chowdhury, ably backed up by Mahi may be the chosen one. His formidable star power now seems to be stuff that legends are made of. But the smiling official knows politics too well to get carried away by imminent success.

"I've seen enough of what I thought were wonderful individuals take a fall. I may fall again. And there will be talk about how I'm slipping.”

It should be mentioned that their peaceful approach to protest and retaliation towards the government’s repression is noteworthy. After visiting their website: www.bikolpodhara.com and reading the declaration of the party, it seems that they know what exactly the problem is in Bangladesh and why the situation in Bangladesh is becoming so corrupt and unsafe. This might be a new dawn and we may in Mahi be witnessing the development of a political phenomenon.

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A glimpse into the making of an activist

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A conversation with Moulana Khalilur Rahman


"It's a myth that I was always at the right place at the right time. I haven't taken the escalator. Like the rest, I too have climbed the stairs."

By EMDAD RAHMAN

Moulana Khalilur Rahman, a man not well known to Western audiences, but a greatly respected figure in Sylhet’s political circles sits in his very busy library business, Shibbiria Library in Sylhet’s trendy Haji Kudrotullah library. He is casual and relaxed, no fancy clothes, no pretensions. He is, rather, a thinker, a countryman who proudly displays his patriotism and sighs with relief each night as he catches a rickshaw back to his residence in Sylhet.

Absent, for the moment at least, are stress and tension. The reason being that he “is taking time off from anything that creates stress.”

That doesn't mean he's hiding out and studying the ways of a hermit. This hiatus is far from that, for during the present period he is spending quality time with his wife and family.

“My son recently taught me how to get my priorities right”, he reminisces with a wistful smile. “ I regularly go home after 10 pm and leave early each morning, leaving precious little time to spend time at home.

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My friend Quddus Ali: 12 Years on

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‘ Quddus Ali saw no justice or peace, too many people still waiting for release ‘.
Asian Dub foundation: Hackney Empire 1994


Quddus Ali is the subject matter behind Asian Dub Foundation’s ‘TH9’. I grew up with Quddus Ali. Living a stones throw away from him, we spent approximately 10 years together in primary and secondary school. A slight, quick witted and sharp lad, Quddus was always the one who was sleek and thin enough to squeeze through the school gates to retrieve the ball from the road behind each time one of our flat footed mates decided to hoof the ball through the posts rugby style.
One week before the BNP's first and last councillor, Derek Beackon, was elected on the Isle of Dogs, Quddus Ali was the subject of a brutal racist attack that left him in a coma. In September, 1993 the 17 year old student from Tower Hamlets college was viciously beaten by a gang of eight racists on Commercial Road in Whitechapal Road. They clearly intended to kill him. The attack was overtly racist.

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