Kashmir, a paradise lost?

Midnight is remarkably intertwined with the fate of India. It was the wee hours of midnight when India overthrew its colonisers of 200 years and won its freedom almost 72 years ago. It was the past midnight on 5th of August, 2019 when India unforgivingly discarded everything its founding fathers believed in and decided to tear down Jammu-Kashmir. 72 years later, complete darkness has now engulfed the paradise on earth.

Kashmir’s struggle

Before 1947, Kashmir was a princely state called Jammu and Kashmir. The lush green mountains with the backdrop of the Himalayan range and forever blessed with clear blue skies had rightfully earned its name of Paradise on Earth. But Kashmir was troubled. It has always been.

During partition, thanks to Kashmir’s then-ruling King Hari Singh, Kashmir had joined India instead of Pakistan under few special conditions, all of which were met. According to these conditions, Kashmir remained the only specialised state in India, complete with its own flag, constitution and prime minister. Kashmir had the freedom to make its own laws and decisions, except for foreign affairs, military moves and communications which remained under the central’s control.

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Thanks to this certain degree of autonomy, Kashmir could make rules regarding property ownership and fundamental rights, even bar Indian residents of other states to buy properties in Kashmir, a law which protected the locals from being outnumbered by their own countrymen from different states.  

Many aspects of this autonomous facility of Kashmir became a futile gesture under the Indian state in the years to follow.

Prime Minister became Rajyapal. Its constitution became merely a booklet in the corner shelf.

But Article 370 still protected the residents of Kashmir. It protected the ownership rights and the constitutional autonomy of the only Muslim majority state in India, at least formally in papers.

Revoking Article 370 was in the 2019 election manifesto of BJP. But few had thought it would actually get implemented. Few had assumed that BJP would have the audacity to tear down the only string that still kept the troubled Kashmir bound together with India and risk riots, communal turbulence and to speak of the worst, outright war with Pakistan.

The fall of Kashmir

But it happened. The sign was clear from the first few days of August. Thousands of additional troops were deployed. An emergency was declared. Tourism, schools, pilgrimages were called off. And when everyone was assuming that only section 35A of the constitution, which allowed special rights to Kashmir, would be scrapped, Modi’s Government revoked almost the entire Article 370, stripping Kashmir completely of its autonomy.

Kashmir will also be divided into two federally governed regions. One will combine Muslim majority Kashmir and Hindu majority Jammu. The other will be the Buddhist majority and Tibet influenced Ladakh.

Kashmir lost its flag, its constitution. Kashmir’s leaders were put under house arrest. Its people are now susceptible to general Indian laws and rules. Any Indian national can now buy property in Kashmir and Kashmiris no longer hold the right to decide their own fate.

BJP’s complex relationship with Hindu right-wing

REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Hindu nationalist and right-wing groups are welcoming it while protests are breaking out in Kashmir. Amit Shah says the move amends “mistakes in the past” and that will pave the path for development in Kashmir. But in reality, it’s a catastrophic decision. Especially considering the fact that Kashmir has had a troublesome history with Indian ruling since the last 30 years. Separatists sentiment had been growing steadily with movements and unrest breaking out every now and then.

Many fear that the new move will allow Hindu right-wing majority to take over native Kashmiri land and turn the locals into a minority group. Some go even further assuming an ethnic cleansing on the plate, given BJP’s extremist sentiments in the past.

Midnight’s children no more

Kashmiris had long been dreaming of and fighting for an “Azaad Kashmir”. With this new move in place, that dream is long gone. With populism quickly rising in world politics, India has sealed its fate for the foreseeable future. First with the landslide victory of BJP in the 2019 elections and now with the stripping of Kashmir’s autonomous status. India has put the final nail in the coffin and is on its way to becoming the monster it defeated 72 years ago.

Marvel reveals its Phase four. Includes Loki, Blade and more!

MCU fans assemble! Earlier today at SDCC, Marvel Studios announced its phase four of films and tv shows. Phase four deals with the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame and several prequels that we surely are excited for. Some of these include the reprisal of fan favourite Blade and the possible reprisal of Fantastic Four and X-Men series.

Here are all the films and tv shows in chronological order as they will be coming out in phase four:

Black Widow (May 1st, 2020) 

Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Fall 2020)

The Eternals (November 6th, 2020)

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (February 12, 2021)

WandaVision (Spring 2021)

Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness (May 7th, 2021)

Loki (Spring 2021)

What If (Summer 2021)

Hawkeye (Fall 2021) and 

Thor: Love and Thunder (November 5th, 2021)

Phase four has some really interesting stories in the box for us. We will see the origin of Black Widow and Hawkeye and the movies will most likely explore their infamous Budapest mission that they keep mentioning!

We will see Anthony Mackey don his Captain America suit and shield in Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Shang Chi will introduce the real Mandarin. (Yeah, we want to forget Iron Man 3 too)

Thor: Love and Thunder will give us Jane Foster wielding the Mjolnir as the female Thor.

And What If will be a non-canon animated series that will be an alternate take on the MCU universe. Like, what would happen if Loki had found Thor’s Hammer!

Speaking of Loki, we are getting a Loki TV show! Yay.

We eagerly look forward to Disney’s D23 conference next month for more information!

Day trips from Dhaka: 5 places you can visit for a quick fix

It feels nice to get away from the city once in a while. It feels nice to go somewhere, away from all the hustle, dust, crowd and everything else. 

What we lack is not the enthusiasm or the drive to travel, but time and money. And places near Dhaka which can be covered in a day are a blessing when it comes to getting away for a short time with a limited budget. 

Here are 5 places you never knew you wanted to visit for a day tour:

Read more: 5 countries you can travel to without a visa if you’re Bangladeshi

Chandpur:

Day tour from Dhaka: 5 places that you can visit for a quick fix

About a hundred kilometres away from Dhaka, Chandpur is a quiet and calm city situated on the banks of Padma and Meghna. Interestingly, Chandpur is the point where the rivers Padma and Meghna meet and the spectacular view of the two rivers makes Chandpur a coveted yet somewhat undiscovered tourist destination.

Find a hands-on guide to a day tour to Chandpur here

Sreemangal:

Day tour from Dhaka: 5 places that you can visit for a quick fix

They say it’s never a bad time to visit Sreemangal. Sreemangal, called the Tea Capital of Bangladesh, is adorned with hill after hill of lush green tea gardens, rubber trees and of course, is home to the famous and mysterious Lawachara  National Forest.

The best time to visit Sreemangal is either in the rainy season, when the rain makes the tea gardens greener and the smell of raw tea leaves you a little high, or in winter, when the dense fog keeps the forests and the tea gardens covered in mystery and you can enjoy one of the coldest climates in the country.

Find a hands-on guide to a day tour to Sreemangal here. 

Cumilla:

Day tour from Dhaka: 5 places that you can visit for a quick fix

Cumilla is a famous and historical town with a bagful of surprises. With a rich history spanning from ancient Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms to the British Era, World War 2 and home to the famous Rosh-malai, Cumilla is one of the most underrated tourist destinations in Bangladesh.

Find a hands-on guide to a day tour to Cumilla here

Dohar:

Day tour from Dhaka: 5 places that you can visit for a quick fix

It’s called the mini Cox’s Bazar. And for good reasons too. The endless horizon of water and splashing small waves at your feet on the muddy banks does remind one of Cox’s Bazar.

Yes, talking about Moinot Ghat or Dohar as many prefer to call it. About one and a half hours journey away from Dhaka, Dohar is the perfect place to spend a day away from the busy urban life. The best time to visit Dohar would be now, as the continuous rain has filled the river Padma to the brink and the overcast sky and the calm Padma waters together make an unforgettable view to feast your eyes on.

Find a hands-on guide to a day tour to Dohar here

Read more: 5 perfect places in Bangladesh for camping adventures

Munshiganj:

Day tour from Dhaka: 5 places that you can visit for a quick fix

Munshiganj, also known as Bikrampur is located about 33 kms away from Dhaka city. An ideal location for a day’s visit, Munshiganj is a little bit underrated as a travel destination and the lack of selfie savvy tourists is perhaps one of the best things about travelling to Munshiganj.

Find a hands-on guide to a day tour to Munshiganj here

Honorary mention: Uttara

Day tour from Dhaka: 5 places that you can visit for a quick fix

Artwork by: Fahim Anzoom Rumman

Uttara is a nice little place to leave the city for a day, away from the hectic weekdays. Ideally, this little, somewhat primitive small city-state should not take more than 30 minutes to visit. But thanks to the adventurous route that leads to this place, it almost takes an entire day to visit Uttara and come back to the city, safe and sound.

Read more: 5 unique experiences in Dhaka that most tourists never see

So, if you’re tired of all the cliched places people visit these days like Sreemangal and Cox’s Bazaar (or you want to turn your image of a lazy duck who sits at home all day playing PUBG into that of a spontaneous traveller), buckle up. You’re in for the adventure of a lifetime.

Find a hands-on guide to a day tour to Uttara here. 

BUET students continue class boycott for the fifth day

Photo courtesy: Dhaka Tribune

Students of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, BUET, continue their sit in for the fifth consecutive day pressing their 16 points demand. The protesters have locked down the administrative building and vice-chancellor’s office.

BUET students have been demonstrating since Saturday staging a 16-point demand that includes the introduction of digital students’ payment process, the introduction of teacher evaluation system, increased allocation in the research sector and recruitment of a student-friendly director of student’s welfare among others.

As the deadline for meeting their demands was over yesterday, it is likely that the demonstration and sit in will continue for days to come.

To Eid or not to Eid?

By the time you’re reading this, the suspense regarding moon sighting last night should not be a news of surprise to anyone. The National Moon Sighting Committee (whatever their purpose may be) has literally one job to do and people who celebrate Eid cannot trust them to do even that one right. That brings us to question the entire stunt of moon sighting. How did it come to be? How logical are the old methods and what do science and common sense say? Let’s take a look at the facts.

What is a new moon?

Not a Twilight movie. A new moon is a common astronomical phenomenon that takes place periodically in a process known as the moon cycle. A new moon occurs, after a complete cycle, when the surface of the moon facing the earth is completely away from the sun so that no sunlight reflects off it. This phase, logically, is not visible.

Credit: Dr. Phil Sutton’s Blog

The start of a new lunar month begins when the first light from the crescent moon is observed. This happens 11-15 hours after the new moon. This is our cherished “Eid moon” and our centre of all the circus.   

Do different places on earth observe different phases of the moon?

A common misconception, but no. Of course, because our earth is spherical, the crescent moon cannot be observed from everywhere on earth. The lunar phases occur at the same time no matter where you are. The only issue, naturally, is of the visibility.

From the parts where it will be visible, the same phase will be visible to all.

Our reluctance to scientific methods and common sense

In the past, a naked eye sighting of the moon marked the beginning of Shawwal and Eid day. The religion wasn’t spread worldwide like today and it was fairly easy to keep track of things for a comparatively smaller community. Modes of communication between faraway communities were extremely limited and each community relied on their own sighting to mark Eid day.

We no longer need to rely on our eyes to know the moon cycle. Thanks to the modern apparatus of science, we know how the moon cycle works and when the new moon will come up. So what bars the Islamic scholars from following this simple, harmless calculation?

If the crescent moon is sighted from any corner of the world, that means the month of Shawwal has begun.

It is pointless to keep trying to observe the crescent moon with a naked eye from a position of futile observation. It’s time the committee adopts a global means of moon sighting that almost every other Eid celebrating countries follow. It is 2019 and the future is now. Let’s not shy away from it.

Now that we’re in the clear, Eid Mubarak to those who’re celebrating. Those who are not, happy holidays!

5 unique experiences in Dhaka that most tourists never see

Dhaka has a long way to go before it becomes a conventional tourist destination. Nonetheless, tourism is common in the 400-year-old city. There is a fixed rounded up list of places that people always go to whenever they visit Dhaka.  But Dhaka has more to offer than Lalbagh fort, Jatiya Sangsad and the National Museum. There are a ton of places to visit and things to do outside of what the brochure or your tour guides tell you about.

Whether you are visiting Dhaka for the first time, or you’re a local who wants to experience this city like never before, here are the 5 things you must do to complete your Dhaka experience.

1. Embark on a spiritual journey in Hussaini Dalan 

Hussaini Dalan Muharram Dhaka
Hussaini Dalan during Maharram

The Hussaini Dalan serves as the main Hussainiya in Dhaka. The shrine is a major gathering place for Shia Muslims, followers of the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. It was originally built during the latter half of the Mughal rule (17th Century) and patronized by prince Shah Shuja, son of Emperor Shah Jahan. The structure has an elegant Mughal and British architectural style. Followers of the Shia community come here to say their prayers; the atmosphere is amazingly calm and serene. You can feed the ducks in the adjacent ponds, listen to the sermon and exchange deep philosophical talks with the clerics.

Pro tip: Visit during the Muharram festivals. You can see and even take the part in the vibrant Muharram parades.

2. Visit the historic Ruplal House

Ruplal House Dhaka
Ruins of Ruplal House

The Ruplal house in Farashganj of old Dhaka is a mansion built in the late 19th century by Armenian Landlord Aratun. Ruplal brothers bought it in 1835 and hired Martin and Company of Calcutta for renovations. Ruplal House and Ahsan Manzil, which is nearby, used to be the ornament of Dhaka back in the day. The area was the residential area for the rich merchant class and top-posted British officers. Ruplal house hosted a lot of cultural activity of the time. Gurus of Indian classical music like Ustad Alauddin Khan, Ustad Wali Ullah Khan and Lakshmi Devi regularly hosted shows. Ruplal house was also politically important during the Renaissance period.

Ruplal house was expensive to build on site. The structure features an Indo-Greek architectural style, massive blocs, porticos, tinted glasses, ballrooms and feast halls. There used to be a clock tower on the top which was damaged by an earthquake. The fall of Ruplal House began after the Ruplal family left during the partition in 1947. Now the Ruplal House is jointly owned by several private and commercial owners.

Visit Ruplal House to find bits and pieces of the old glory days of Bengal. Dhaka boasts a number of establishments which remind us of our glorious past. Ruplal House is just one of the many.

3. Grab lunch in Beauty Boarding

Beauty Boarding hotel Dhaka
Beauty Boarding

Beauty boarding is a famous hotel, or as its commonly known, a boarding house. It also has a restaurant that serves Bengali food in a traditional homely atmosphere. The building was originally a zamindar house. A local rented the house in 1951 and then turned into a boarding house and restaurant. Located near Banglabazar book market, the spot became popular with the local book traders, literature aficionados, poets, and artists.

In terms of its intellectual importance, Beauty boarding can be compared to the Coffee House in Kolkata.

The boarding was a regular spot for poet Shahid Qadri and Nirmalendu Goon who stayed for five years in the boarding. Poets like Shamsul Haque, Rafiq Azad and Shamsur Rahman used to gather for their evening tea.

Pro tip: Beauty boarding doubles as a great background for your photos if you want to keep some mementos of your visit to the land of Bengal.

4. Go book hopping in Nilkhet

Nilkhet book market Dhaka
Nilkhet book market

Nilkhet is the second largest book market in the country and a heaven for book lovers. 2500 shops are crammed together. The shops sell local prints and second-hand copies of original books. Bookworms of Dhaka, especially the students, go to Nilkhet for the best deals on books.

Pro tip: Looking for a rare book? Chances are you’ll find an original first edition copy of it, tucked somewhere in the piles of books that are on display. Make sure you bargain hard to get the best deals.

5. Take a boat ride in Buriganga

Buriganga river ride in Dhaka
Boatride in Buriganga

Buriganga is the major river on which the city of Dhaka stands. On it, is Sadarghat, the largest river port in the country. Hire a boat for an hour from Sadarghat, for only 200 takas per hour. The boatman will take you on a river ride to the other side of Dhaka. On a clear sunny afternoon, see the Dhaka skyline. Ahsan Manzil, the palace of the nawabs of Dhaka, will be visible from the river. Stay to enjoy the sunset. You’ll see hundreds of people commuting and crossing the river on wooden boats.

Riding a boat in Burganga is a chance to spend time in the calm waters, away from the bustling city while getting intimate with the lifestyle of the locals.

The best part of Dhaka is its people. What the city may lack in traditional grandeur and glamour, is made up for by the kind-hearted, lovely and forever curious people of this magical city. Open up to Dhaka, and it will open up to you with its four hundred years’ worth of culture, history, and tradition.

Notre Dame: the cathedral that defines Paris

Notre Dame. Perhaps two of the most instantly recognisable words in the entire world. Immortalised by Victor Hugo’s novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Disney Classic of the same name, the Notre Dame cathedral is one of  France’s most iconic landmarks. The finest example of medieval architectural work where art and engineering swirled into one another.

To travelers and patrons of beauty, Paris has always been one of the most cherished destinations. And Notre Dame has always been a subject of fascination to art and history geeks. Its gothic architecture, its rose-tinted windows, its collection of historic artefacts has always called to them.

Sanctuary, Sanctuary.

On the morning of 15th April 2019, to the world’s horror, the cathedral caught fire from ongoing renovation work and sustained significant damage. The iconic spire collapsed and two-thirds of its roof was destroyed including the complete destruction of its interior wooden frame.

Paris could only watch in shock and horror as the fire kept engulfing the cathedral. Parisians cried and sang Ave Maria in the streets as they watched their landmark burn down in front of them.

French President Emanuel Macron promised to rebuild and renovate the cathedral and we are sure it will be restored to its original structure once again. But a small part of history will be lost forever. The bricks and the woods that saw the coronation of Napleon I is no more. Neither is the altar that saw the celebration of France’s liberation in 1944.

The Notre Dame cathedral has been home to art and history lovers for centuries. The backdrop of Parisians’ daily lives and pride of Paris, the city of art. We hope Notre Dame returns to its former glory once again because Quasimodo waits to ring the bells again. Sanctuary, Sanctuary.

The story of how Bengalis owe Pohela Boishakh to Mughal emperor Akbar

It’s that time of the year again. Pohela Boishakh is tomorrow. As usual the country will welcome the Bengali new year 1426 with music, parades and day-long celebrations.

Even though every year we engage in the celebration of a day that is unique to our own heritage, we seem to have forgotten where it all started. In fact, we owe our very own holiday to the Mughal emperor Akbar.

Here’s how emperor Akbar invented the modern Bengali calendar.

A new religion?

Source: Creative Commons

During his tenure, Mughal emperor Akbar had set up one of the most powerful empires in the world. The seed of aspiration that emperor Babur had sowed when he first came to Hindustan had bloomed into a strong rooted tree by Akbar’s time.

With his empire and his hold over Hindustan secure, Akbar shifted his priorities to a more intellectual side of things.

His interest in religions and theology eventually prompted him to come up with his own new religion. It had elements of both Islam and Hinduism. Amartya Sen believes that a new lunisolar calendar was a part of his plan to float this new religion.

Taxation: The higher motive

But a different group of historians, perhaps more authentic accounts, suggest that Akbar had a higher motive than religion; taxes. Since the mughal empire followed the Islamic lunar calendar, it often posed a conflict with the common subjects as the lunar calendar was not in sync with the on and off seasons for cultivation in India. For the ease of his taxmen, Akbar ordered his astrologists to take the Islamic lunar calendar and prevalent solar calendar in India, combine them, and come up with a new lunisolar calendar.

Tarikh-e-Ilahi

This new calendar, known as Tarikh-e-Ilahi, was introduced all over India. But just like Akbar’s newly introduced religion, Din-e-Ilahi, this too didn’t last after his reign. Except for Bengal. In Bengal, this new calendar became an integral and useful part of daily Agriculture and the local Hindu religion.

The calendar that was invented by Akbar and introduced all over India has now become the sole identity of the Bengali nation and culture. This Pohela Boishakh, let’s take some time to remember the emperor who gifted us an integral part of our national identity. Literally. Shubho Noboborsho.

Here are the key 21 episodes you need to watch before Game of Thrones season 8 premieres this Sunday

Winter is finally here. Ironic, because so is Boishakh with its heat waves and stormy mood swings. But let none of these bother you as you prepare your body for the final and 8th season of Game of Thrones!

Over the span of seven seasons, Game of Thrones has built a massive world with countless characters in conflict with one another. It can be quite a task to keep track of every character ark and storylines that have been set in motion since season one. Of course, you can watch one of the billion quick recap videos out there in YouTube to cram all that in. But we’re guessing being a true Game of Thrones nerd, you’d want the full flavour while being short on time for your Boishakh preparations and other engagements.

Fret not, Game of Thrones writer and co-executive producer Bryan Crogman has compiled a list for Entertainment Weekly of the key 21 episodes to watch before the season 8 premiere. Now, he’s the only writer who’s been associated with the show since season 1 so it’s safe to say that he’s as wise as the three eyed raven.

Here’s the list, for the watch: (Geddit, no? okay)

Season 1

Episode 1: “Winter Is Coming”

Episode 2: “The Kingsroad”

Episode 9: “Baelor”

Episode 10: “Fire and Blood”

Season 2

Episode 3: “What Is Dead May Never Die”

Episode 6: “The Old Gods and the New”

Episode 9: “Blackwater”

Season 3

Episode 3: “Walk of Punishment”

Episode 4: “And Now His Watch Is Ended”

Episode 5: “Kissed by Fire”

Episode 9: “The Rains of Castamere”

Season 4

Episode 6: “The Laws of Gods and Men”

Episode 8: “The Mountain and the Viper”

Episode 10: “The Children”

Season 5

Episode 8: “Hardhome”

Season 6

Episode 5: “The Door”

Episode 9: “Battle of the Bastards”

Episode 10: “The Winds of Winter”

Season 7

Episode 3: “The Queen’s Justice”

Episode 4: “The Spoils of War”

Episode 7: “The Dragon and the Wolf”

Valar Morghulis!

Is Julian Assange’s arrest a fatal blow to free journalism?

The Julian Assange case is a morally tangled web. For many of his followers, Julian is a trailblazing hero. Someone who exposes information that never should have been hidden, despite mounting personal risks from powerful states and their instruments. To his foes, Julian is a criminal for hurting international diplomacy by exposing documents that jeopardise international relations.

The Julian Assange saga

Is Julian Assange’s arrest a fatal blow to free journalism?

Love him or hate him, Julian Assange and his crusade against state confidentiality have somewhat topped the news for the past seven to ten years since he took refuge in Ecuador Embassy in the UK skipping bail. He was charged with a sexual harassment case and faced extradition to Sweden, which had later been dropped. Over the time period of seven years, Ecuador’s stance on Julian’s asylum has grown colder due to various reasons. It took its hardest fall when Wikileaks started exposing personal accounts of Ecuador’s president Lenin Moreno. A week ago Moreno said that Assange was violating the terms of his asylum by being involved in Wikileaks and its operations. What followed was an invitation of The Scotland Yard to the Ecuador Embassy earlier yesterday and the arrest of Julian Assange according to UK laws.

Wikileaks and its lone crusade

Julian Assange founded Wikileaks in 2006 with a goal of exposing confidential information. Wikileaks hit the news four years later when it exposed video footage of US soldiers killing civilians from a helicopter in Iraq. Since then Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange had sparked countless debates on both sides of the moral compass. Veteran newspapers like The Guardian have expressed their different viewpoints with Julian’s ideology of believing in publishing stories that should not be published. At the same time, liberal media has portrayed Julian Assange as a messianic figure of sorts in this age of information.

An antagonist? Not yet

Is Julian Assange’s arrest a fatal blow to free journalism?

“Information should be free” is a popular term. But it covers a substantial amount of moral grey area when a bigger perspective comes into play.

Julian Assange might be an antagonist in the diplomatic books of many states but he is no criminal.

The convoluted mess of all the charges brought against him will require time and effort to untangle. The debate of absolute right and absolute wrong will stretch to further lengths in this particular case and this arrest will lead him to face charges for skipping bail under the UK laws. But extraditing him to the US will certainly be a dark day for free journalism.