Journalist Mohammad Al-Masum Molla releases first ever book on Bhasan Char
Journalist Mohammad Al-Masum Molla, one of The Daily Star's lead reporters of environmental, political, and human rights issues, sees the launch of his new book, Bhasan Char: Bastion in the Bay (Agamee Prokashoni, 2021), on August 25. The book, available in Bangla and English editions for preorder through the Rokomari website, is centred on the small island of Bhasan Char, the former site of sanctuary for robbers and pirates, and of pasture for cattle belonging to neighbouring residents.
Formed within the last 20 years by silt at the mouth of the Meghna River, the island is now being used for an entirely different means. The Government of Bangladesh has recently decided, and begun implementing, their plan of relocating 100,000 Rohingya refugees from their congested camps at Teknaf, Cox's Bazar, to the muddy, uninhabited 'char'—one of many unstable islands in the area—where buildings, villages, hospitals, and mosques are to be erected by the Bangladesh Navy. This initiative so far has been met with its fair share of pushback, including opposition from Rohingya leaders who have since moved to the island. Nobel Peace Prize-winning organisation Human Rights Watch has called it "a human rights and humanitarian disaster in the making". Through most of the last year and a half, with the project physically commencing, Rohingya leaders and some foreign press were barred from entry into the island.
"Having visited the island several times, I was quite convinced that this [topic] needed to be discussed further, so that even when there is a debate, it may happen in the right context", Al-Masum told Daily Star Books. "I have tried to address most of the concerns raised by human rights activists and international agencies by illustrating life at Bhasan Char and how it may improve compared to their living conditions at the refugee camps."
While Human Rights Watch has published "An Island Jail in the Middle of the Sea: Bangladesh's Relocation of Rohingya Refugees to Bhasan Char", a 75-page report on the crisis, in 2021, Al-Masum's is the first published book on the topic.
The author adds, "I hoped that this book would do away with the misconceptions and lack of information surrounding this humongous project. Given my access to Bhasan Char, I was among the few who actually knew the ground reality, and have strived to depict that in my book."
Bhasan Char is Al-Masum's second book, following a collection of political poetry entitled Apotti Shotteyo ('Despite Objections'), released last year. The author has a decade of journalistic experience, having written for The Daily Star, Dhaka Tribune, and Daily Sun.
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