Beyond Tazreen – Dec 5, 2015

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia

invites you to a Commemorative Meeting

Beyond Tazreen

Saturday 3 pm – December 5, 2015

Presentations by

Saydia Gulrukh, Nafisa Tanjeem, Paul Malachi and Tarif Rahman

followed by an open discussion

MIT Room 56-167

On November 24, 2012, a fire broke out in a garments factory “Tazreen” in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Over 120 workers were burnt alive and more than twice as many injured.

Tazreen is neither the first nor the last tragedy to fall upon garment workers in South Asia. Punishing “fast-fashion” deadlines of multinational buyers, below poverty wages, gender violence, and subverted unionization attempts sum the life of over four million garment workers in Bangladesh. The rivalry between political parties are put aside in common accord of the state and factory owners against workers.

Is a better world possible? What role does a garments industry have in the path to development and the alleviation of poverty? How does the neglect of rural needs factor in mass unemployment and rock-bottom urban worker wages? Are countries such as Bangladesh locked in low wage employment and transfer of profits overseas? How can solidarity help workers in their day to day struggle?

Please join us for a meeting “Beyond Tazreen”. Briefs by local and Bangladesh based labor activists will be followed by audience participation.

The World Before Her – Oct 24, 2015

Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia

The World Before Her

A film
Nisha Pahuja

Saturday October 24, 2015 4pm

Encuentro Cinco

9A Hamilton Place, near Park St “T” Station

In Mumbai, a group of young women undergoes an intense month-long Bootcamp for the Miss India Pageant, winning which will mean lucrative stardom and, for some, freedom from domineering patriarchy. At the other end of the country, an annual camp for young girls is being run by the Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the militant Hindutva fundamentalist movement. Through lectures and physical training, the girls learn what it means to be a good Hindu woman and how to fight Islam and other “foreign” influences. Moving between the transformative actions at both camps and the characters’ private journeys, The World Before Her weaves a lively, provocative portrait of the world’s largest democracy at a critical transitional moment when young women attempting to assert their individuality find themselves caught in the countercurrents of tradition and modernity.

Caste and Gender in Dalit Feminist Writing

Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia presents

Caste and Gender in Dalit Feminist Writing
A conversation with Prof. Vimal Thorat

Thu. May 21 | 7 pm
MIT Building 3, Room 133
77 Mass Ave Cambridge

The last few decades have been witness to an eruption of Dalit women writing to tell their stories from their unique standpoint in the intersection of caste, gender, and class. Prof. Vimal Thorat is a Professor of Hindi at Indira Gandhi National Open University and specializes in modern Indian Literature, Dalit, and women’s literature. She is an activist, human rights defender, and Convener of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights. Prof. Thorat will present her analysis of the elements of resistance, power, and truth in Dalit women’s writing.

Condemnation of the murder of Avijit Roy on Feb 26, 2015

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia unequivocally condemns the murder of Avijit Roy on February 26, 2015, on the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Dr. Avijit Roy was a naturalized American citizen of Bangladeshi origin. An engineer by profession, he wrote on themes related to science, philosophy, religion, and society. More than a decade ago he founded a popular internet forum Mukto-Mona (Open Mind) that has been a strong voice against religious intolerance.

His last two books (written in Bangla) are on cosmology (titled “Universe out of Nothing”) and on the friendship between Rabindranath Tagore and the Argentinian writer Victoria Ocampo. “The Philosophy of Atheists” and “The Virus of Faith”, also written in Bangla, focused on science, religion, and rationalism. For the thoughts that were espoused in these books and in Mukto-Mona, Avijit Roy received several death threats last year, including the warning that he would be killed upon his return to Bangladesh.

In accordance with the threat, Avijit Roy was killed ten days after his arrival in February 2015, on a public street with knives and machetes in full view of onlookers. His wife Rafida Ahmed Banna was also attacked. Currently, she is in critical condition in a Dhaka hospital.

The murder of Abhijit follows the same pattern as in the earlier killings of blogger Rajib Haider (February 2013), Prof. Shafiul Islam of Rajshahi University (November 2014), Prof. Yunus (also of Rajshahi University) (December 2004), and the attack on Prof. Humayun Azad of Dhaka University (February 2004).

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia is alarmed by the killing of free-thinking intellectuals, clearly aimed at stifling secular and creative thinking, and call upon all to condemn these crimes. We implore citizens of Bangladesh, organizations, and political parties, in power or in opposition, to work together and fight against extreme religious orthodoxy that has resulted in the heinous killing of Dr. Avijit Roy.

The Murky Politics of an Identification Project (UID)

We cordially invite you to a lecture/discussion on

Surveillance, Profiling, and Exclusion: The Murky Politics of an Identification Project (UID)

by Usha Ramanathan
Thursday, November 20
6:30PM, MIT Room 4-145

Usha Ramanathan works on the jurisprudence of poverty. She writes and speaks on issues such as the Bhopal gas disaster, mass displacement, and eminent domain. She has been monitoring the Unique Identification project in India has written extensively on the subject. In July-September 2013, she wrote a 19-part series on the UID project that was published in The Statesman, a national daily.

Sponsored by:

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia
The South Asia Forum at MIT



Room 3-333, MIT

About the Speaker: Gautam Navlakha is a civil liberties activist working for the non-funded People’s Union for Democratic Rights (Delhi) and was associated with the Economic and Political Weekly for more than three decades. He lives in Delhi and has written extensively on issues of democratic rights and civil liberties in India. His recent book, Days and Nights in the Heartland of Rebellion, was published by Penguin India in 2012.

The event is co-sponsored by South Asia Forum, MIT; Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia; and Sanhati.

Statement on Gaza – July 30, 2014

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia

July 30, 2014

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia condemns in the strongest possible terms the State of Israel’s war on the Palestinian population in Gaza.

In a campaign of territorial expansion on the pretext of self-defense, Israel rains artillery fire and bombs on children, women, and men in Gaza, an area the size of Manhattan with 1.8 million inhabitants.

The people of Gaza have no army, air defense, navy, heavy weapons or artillery units. Over 80% live below the poverty line. The population is held in permanent, collective detention, with vital medical and aid supplies withheld on a routine basis.

Israel wages its war against such a captive population. In violation of all norms of humanity and international laws, Israel has destroyed Gaza’s only power plant, hospitals, apartment complexes, and shelled UN schools where more than 200,000 people have been forced to take shelter.

This onslaught on the Palestinians is the most recent phase of the decades-long campaign to ethnically cleanse Palestine.

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia calls upon the South Asian diaspora to undertake actions in solidarity with the Palestinian people – to take part in the international campaign to boycott Israel, in demonstrations condemning the attack on Gaza and to work towards the long term goal of securing for the Palestinian people their right to live in peace and dignity.

Our Pledge – April 2014

Our Pledge
April 2014

India goes to polls this year. Amnesia about Gujarat 2002 and a media BJP hype with Narendra Modi as the candidate for prime minister who “get things done” makes immediate once again the threat of resurgent communalism in India. This is not to be taken lightly in the view of recent history.

With Narendra Modi as chief minister, Gujarat in 2002 underwent a well-planned pogrom that took the lives of 2000 people and made homeless over 100,000. Savagery unleashed upon the minority Muslim population saw kerosene-soaked people set on fire, women raped and mutilated on the streets, children tossed into fires. The authorities were complicit.

Modi’s party, the BJP, aided and abetted by the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), mobilized people in the name of Hinduism. Gujarat 2002 is consistent with the statement of the founder of the RSS, the patron group of the BJP. Their ideology as stated by their founding father incorporates divisiveness that bodes ill for any society: The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and languages, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture… in a word they must cease to be foreigners; Or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment— not even citizens’ rights”

Only two election cycles later, both of which the BJP lost, we are asked to “forgive-and-forget” the pogrom of 2002. People are in return promised that an economic success engineered in Gujarat by Modi will be applied nation-wide. Gujarat is to be a model for growth in India’s economy. Never mind that this much-touted “Gujarat Success” is marginally better than the average in other states of the country and is no departure from the current national paradigm of growth for India as a whole: growth for the few at the cost of many. Modi’s party, the BJP, rules in other states in India as well and the reports from those states are no more encouraging. BJP propaganda persists in deluding people with the promise of a bright economic future by a PM whose ideology and politics are imbued with hate-mongering and is certain to wreak havoc.

As in prior elections, the people of India may well see through the ‘Gujarat Shining’ motif once again, and the poll-seers in India proved wrong again.

Regardless, the prospect of a BJP victory in the elections is of grave concern to all who see secularism as an integral part of democracy worldwide. By the same token that we as US resident immigrants and minorities would not wish for the formation of a Christian state here, we are alarmed at the prospect of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in India that would further marginalize and threaten minorities there.

Our pledge to uphold secularism is therefore not only for the year’s election. It is for all time.