The State expresses its grief, and Felani is dead


Children, girls and boys, are being killed by Indian soldiers on the India-Bangladeshi border. Each time it happens, the State claims grief and promises never again. The most recent girl to suffer this indignity, last week, was a fifteen-year-old girl named Felani:

“Indian border forces have handed over to Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) the body of ‘Felani’, 15, who was shot dead on Friday as she had gotten entangled in barbed-wire while crossing the border.… In the meeting, BDR condemned the brutal killing of the teenaged girl. BSF had expressed its grief over the incident and assured that such incident will not take place in future.”

What is to done with the grief of States expressed each time border troops kill or maim someone? What is the worth of their repeated assurances? Where is the future in which border guards will not shoot at children caught on barbed wire? And what is the name of the space that separates the dead body of 15 year old Felani, about whom the State is silent, and `the incident’ over which the State expresses its grief?

Apparently Felani and her father left their home in Bangladesh ten years ago and crossed into India. They were on their way home because a marriage to a local boy had been settled. Felani’s father successfully scaled the border fence. Felani got tangled up in the barbed wire and started to scream. The Indian Border Security Forces heard the screams, saw the girl, came, shot her and waited for her to die. Some say she bled and screamed for four hours, others say for less time. Whatever the duration, Felani, a fifteen- year-old girl, hanging upside down from the border fence, riddled with bullets, bleeding and screaming, died. The BSF then waited and finally cut her down and carried her away, hands and feet bound to a pole, like so much animal carcass. A day or so later, they arranged the meeting where they returned the body and expressed grief … over the incident.

Bangladeshis, and Indians, have expressed outrage at the incident and shock and disgust at the photographs. But who expresses grief at the border fence?

According to a Human Rights Watch report issued just last month, the Border Security Forces at that particular border are `trigger happy’. Children, such as 12-year-old Rumi Akhter Nipa, are routinely, randomly and indiscriminately shot. What do girls, like Rumi, want? According to Dr. Abdus Samad who treated her, she simply wants a daily life, to start school. What do children, like Rumi Akhter Nipa, get? “A pattern of grave abuses”. And, as Felani’s story suggests, they are to be considered the lucky ones.

The borderland is a graveyard. As long as the State, any State, is ruled by security first, as long as the borders are considered primary and the crossers, with or without documents, are secondary, the borderland will remain a graveyard. That is the reason that “despite numerous complaints no member of the BSF has been arrested, much less held to account in civilian courts.” Hundreds of Bangladeshis and of Indians have been killed and not a single member of the BSF has been arrested. Felani is not alone.

Grief emerges from graves, not from incidents. Apologies cover incidents, shrouds cover the bodies of the dead. The State of India expresses its grief? And Felani is dead.


(Photo Credit: BDNews24)

Responsibility, in three acts: dead and dying, disappearing, diminishing

Zimbabwe. One looks anywhere for hope, for a change, for something new. FePEP, the Feminist Political Education Project, has been meeting in Pretoria. Here’s part of their press release prior to the meeting: “Today, Zimbabwean feminists caucus with women activists from the SADC region to break through the Zimbabwean political impasse and begin the implementation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA). In their meeting with SADC facilitator Thabo Mbeki, at 4pm, they will hand over their resolutions, with actions to move the current Zimbabwean question forward. During the day long meeting, prominent activists from across Africa including Liberia, Kenya, Swaziland and South Africa will give input on strategies of negotiated settlement and transitional arrangement.” Is there hope in a meeting with Thabo Mbeki?

Is there hope for real and positive change when so much stays the same, or gets worse. IRIN reports that a sense of dread pervades the country; the BBC reports that cholera is so intense that Zimbabweans will not shake hands any more; Open Democracy reports on a new theater of war in Zimbabwe, one consisting of `enforced disappearances’, which seems a curiously genteel phrase:; and the Mail & Guardian reports first that Tsvangirai has yet again said he will leave the talks on forming a government of national unity, and then that Mugabe says that he will “never, never, never surrender”, that Zimbabwe is his. In other words, absolutely nothing new. But wait, it gets better, which is to say, worse. The Mail & Guardian also reports that the bullets and guns that allow the regime to chant, never surrender never never surrender, those come from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They do not come through the DRC, they come from the DRC. And so we have moved from blood diamonds to blood guns.

Could things get worse? They could. In Indonesia, according to today’s New York Times, part of the country is vanishing in a mud bath, a spewing seeping horror movie montage of a mud volcano, that was created by Lapindo Brantas drilling for natural gas and piercing a pressurized aquifer. Oops! And now ordinary people are left destitute, and without much aid from government or from international agencies, and here’s the best part, because it’s a man-made disaster. They say the mud could seep and bubble, boil and trouble, for decades.

In China recycling is an art form. Chinese elders in particular bring this great resource, this art, with them to the United States. New America Media reports that, when they arrive with this art form, they are ridiculed, in good times, and attacked and robbed, in not so good times … like now. This practice of collecting cans strikes me as connected to domestic labor. These elders clean the earth of the detritus of others, and how are they repaid? They are described as being caught between a rock and a hard place. It would be better to see them as seized and placed beneath a heavy rock and a heavier boulder.

Reporting on the Indonesian `disappearances,’ the Times notes that “the debate over responsibility has severely limited the payments.” Who takes responsibility for the dead and dying in Zimbabwe, for the disappeared in Indonesia, for the diminished in the United States? Who takes responsibility for ending debates over responsibility and instead living responsibility? FePEP provides one answer: women talk with and take care of each other. The State built by men must just follow.

(Photo Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS)