Fund Raising for families of Bangladesh Garment Workers killed by Fires

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia raised $7,000 for the families of garment workers affected by the Tazreen garment factory fire of November 2012.

This effort in no way absolves the Government of Bangladesh and the class it represents their criminal abdication of responsibility towards the workers. Nor does it weaken our commitment to support the workers in the demand for their rights.

The Alliance expresses immense gratitude to all who contributed to the fundraising effort and their support for the ongoing campaign for workers’ rights.

JAI BHIM COMRADE – Mar 2, 2013

The Atrocity of Caste | a Tradition of Reason | A Song that will be Sung

Introduced by Anand Patwardhan

Sat. Mar 2, 2013, 2 – 6pm MIT 32 – 155

Followed by QA with the Director

Co-sponsored by:

MIT Program in Women’s and Gender Studies
MIT History Department
South Asia Forum at MIT

Ambedkar International Center (Boston)
The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia


In 1997, a statue of Ambedkar in a Dalit (Untouchable) colony in Mumbai was desecrated. Ambedkar was a central figure in the Dalit liberation movement in India. As angry residents gathered, police opened fire, killing 10. Vilas Ghogre, a leftist poet, hanged himself in protest.

Jai Bhim Comrade shot over 14 years, follows the poetry and music of a subaltern tradition of the reason that has, from the days of the Buddha, fought superstition and religious bigotry with poetry and art.

With their mix of revolutionary politics and Dalit liberation, the artists’ collective Kabit Kala Manch has been subject to intense state repression. Many of the artists featured in the film are now underground to escape arrest. For more info

Anand Patwardhan has been making investigative documentaries in India for over four decades. His films have often faced state censorship and the wrath of religious fundamentalists.

South Asian Women Panel Discussion – Feb 27, 2013

The Program in Women’s & Gender Studies

The South Asia Forum at MIT

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia

Cordially invite you to a panel discussion

South Asian Women Resist Religious Fundamentalism, Imperialism, and The State in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan

with Nusrat Chowdhury, Modhumita Roy, Afiya Zia

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Bldg 4-231 MIT

Afiya S. Zia is a feminist researcher and activist based in Karachi, Pakistan. She is author of ‘Sex Crime in the Islamic Context’, 1994; ‘Watching Them Watching Us’, 2001 (ASR, Pakistan), and has edited a series of books and contributed to scholarly journals. She is currently working on a book titled ‘Faith and Feminism in Pakistan’. She is an active member of Women’s Action Forum – a secular women’s rights organization in Pakistan and is an advisory board member of the Centre for Secular Space (UK).

Nusrat Chowdhury is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Amherst College. Her research focuses on the protest movement against open-pit coal mining and everyday ethical negotiations in a place called Phulbari in northern Bangladesh. The confrontations between the state and the people, the intimacy of corruption and development, and the nature of democratic thought and practice in a country like Bangladesh make Phulbari a fecund site where discourses of political crisis and energy crisis intersect and shape each other.

Modhumita Roy is Associate Professor of English at Tufts University. She works on Anglophone literature of Africa and the Africa Diaspora, South Asian Literature, Literature of Empire, Post-colonial Theory, Feminist Theory, and Literary Theory. Her article, “Some Like it Hot: Gender, Class, and Empire in the Making of Mulligatawny Soup” was awarded the Sophie Coe Memorial Prize by the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, UK. She is currently working on commercial surrogacy in India.

Event Open to Public

Protest held in Harvard Square for Tazreen Garment Factory fire in Bangladesh – Dec 1, 2012

Press Release post-Vigil YouTube videos:

Activists and community members from various parts of the Boston-area took part in a protest vigil at Harvard Square earlier this month. Roughly 35 people attended. The vigil was called by the Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia and supported by several social justice groups, including the International Labor Rights Forum.

Protesting the Bangladesh Garment Factory Fire at Harvard Square

by Umang Kumar, Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia (Advocate), Dec-09-12

International Op-ed

As a member of the Alliance for Secular and Democratic South Asia (“Alliance”), a Cambridge, MA-based organization that champions issues in South Asia, the news of the November 24th Tazreen garment factory fire in Dhaka Bangladesh in which 112 workers lost their lives was a rude jolt. It was also a reminder that such things seem sickeningly repetitive. Only in October, the Alliance had organized a panel discussion called “Corruption and Capitalism in Bangladesh and Pakistan,” which dealt with the incident of fire this September that claimed the lives of 300 garment workers in Karachi, Pakistan. In the blurb of that event, we had written that “Such an incident is not an anomaly but the inevitable consequence faced by workers with near non-existent negotiation powers in Bangladesh and Pakistan.” On this occasion, faced with another horrific incident, the Alliance decided to come out to the streets, as it were, to hold a candle-light vigil and protest rally at Harvard Square on Dec 1st.

We were joined in our efforts by representatives from several organizations, notably the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) and the Association for India’s Development (AID). We felt it was important to highlight issues of the voicelessness of the garment workers and their exploitation. It was important to protest against the exploitation of the actual creators of the product who, at the bottom of the value chain, make a pittance while the middlemen and the owners skim off the obscene profits.

It was also important to be able to raise our voices against the obscuration that the modern processes of capitalism and supply-chain manufacturing entail which are designed towards obscuration, obfuscation, and shirking and dilution of responsibilities. We, who are from South Asia, cannot forget the case of the Bhopal gas leak in 1984 where even when the Indian-owners of a US multinational was involved and later that corporation was taken over by another US-based corporation, Dow Chemical, the issue of liability has been fractious and has more recently been dragging on in courts for 28 years now, with Dow Chemicals refusing to accept the liabilities of Union Carbide. With the off-shoring of the manufacturing jobs to the lowest bidder, major multinational corporations like Walmart, the GAP and H&M could care less about pay structures and safety measures in the outfits they contract to. So the vigil was a way to articulate and reiterate such forms of deliberate negligence that have fatal consequences for the human beings who are ensnared in such an exploitative system.

We felt it was important to highlight the fact, especially in this holiday season, that the clothes and dresses that we buy from stores that seem to be offering cheap prices – all have very high human costs associated with them. To that end, we had actual items of clothing during the vigil which had messages such as, “Walmart Is Cheap? Ask Bangladeshi Workers,” pinned on them. For us, it was crucial to emphasize the “Cheap=Deadly” equivalence as the more than 1000 deaths in the garment industry in Bangladesh, according to a report by ILRF, bears out – not to mention comparable numbers in other such manufacturing hells in other countries in South Asia and also the world. Marx, of course, elucidated the concept of commodity fetishism which was a fundamental fact of the modern capitalist mode of production, but the transnational nature of outsourcing takes the abstraction of relations between the capitalists and the workers to another level of obscuration, such that the drops of blood after every tragedy never seem to stain the clean shirts of executives in their boardrooms.

Umang Kumar is an activist with the Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia.

The Color of Water – June 16, 2012

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia
and Boston-Chhalphal (Nepal)

invites you to a screening with the director and producer Andrew Majewski of
The Color of Water

The facts about Nepal’s Himalayan water resources, and the case against big dams

Produced by Andrew Majewski, an independent documentary producer, in partnership with Nepali filmmaker Gopal Koirala

Saturday, June 16, 2012
4-231 MIT

This documentary examines the plans to build big dams in Nepal to export hydroelectricity to India It finds that the hidden long term cost is potentially disastrous for both countries. The 45-minute screening will be followed by a discussion on greater regional cooperation for water management throughout South Asia, including the recently revived River Linking Project by India.

Sponsors: Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia
and Boston-Chhalphal ( Nepal )

Stop the Indian River Linking Project!

Join the protest rally at United Nations Headquarters in New York

Supported by Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia

Bangladesh Environment Network

বাংলাদেশ পরিবেশ নেটওয়ার্ক (বেন)

A global network to help Bangladesh protect her environment

Stop Indian River Linking Project!

Join the protest rally at United Nations Headquarter in New York

Venue: Ralph Bunche Park, 1st Avenue, between 42nd and 44th Street

Time: May 25, Friday, 3-4 pm

(Memo to UN Secretary General, Ambassador of India)

On February 27, the Indian Supreme Court directed the Indian Government to start implementing the Indian River Linking Project (IRLP) within 30 days and to complete this estimated $150 billion dollar project by 2016. The Court has even formed an implementation committee for the project. This court directive is similar to a death warrant for Bangladesh.

The Indian River Linking Project’s main purpose is to transfer water from the Brahmaputra and the Ganges Rivers to western and southern India. Since 1974, following the diversion of water from the Ganges River, the Brahmaputra River has been supplying about 70 percent of dry season river water flow in Bangladesh. If now through IRLP India starts diverting Brahmaputra River water and more of the Ganges River water, the remaining rivers of Bangladesh will be pushed towards death.

Both the Ganges and the Brahmaputra are international rivers so that India has no right to divert their water unilaterally. IRLP, therefore, violates the 1997 United Nations Convention on Non-navigational Use of International Watercourses.

In order to build international opinion against IRLP, Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN), together with Bangladesh Society, New York, and other Bangladeshi community organizations, is holding a protest rally at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on May 25, Friday at 3-4 pm. Please join this rally and ask others to join it too. Resist IRLP and save Bangladesh rivers and the environment!

Contact: Sayed Fazlur Rahman (347-842-8527); Dr. Ziauddin Ahmed (610-203-9695); AKM Nurul Haque (917-916-3133); Semonty Wahed (718-729-0582); Faiza Fatema (347-586-4612); Urbi Dev (214-497-3201); Mahbubur Rahman (973-689-4164); Ahsanul I. Chowdhury (347-513-8348); Izazul Haque (917-916-3133).

Map of the Indian River Linking Project