a piece of Nanda Rani’s live

Linked with Nanda Rani Das – Bangladesh.

Published on nijera kori, by Tamanna Rahman, 3 May 2006.

… The news reached our office the next evening. It came to me secondhand, or perhaps third or fourth, trickling down through a series of grave whispers: “Have you heard?” We all heard, in bits and pieces, details emerging, amassing, slowly: Nanda Rani and her family had been attacked. Neighboring landowners, incensed by some trifling falling out, had descended on Nanda Rani’s home and ruthlessly beaten everyone they could find. At least ten members of the family were in the hospital. This was all we knew at first. Over the next couple days, information about the incident grew, and with it, as what I soon realized to be a matter of course, the determination to take action.

To understand what happened after the attack took place, it is necessary to understand who exactly Nanda Rani is and what she means to her community. Nanda Rani was born to a low-caste Hindu fisherman family struggling beneath the multiple oppressions of crippling poverty, religious marginalization in a predominantly Muslim society, and caste discrimination within the Hindu community. As a woman navigating the overlapping spheres of these systemic inequalities, she faced the added pressures of gender prejudice and patriarchal control. When Muslim landholders forced her family from their own village, they fled to Zharabarsha, where they began living as refugees and where Nanda Rani first became involved with the landless women’s groups …

… What the fight had been over is minor, and irrelevant. There had been similar incidents before, over a stray chicken or a wandering cow; this was only the culminating attack in a long series of equally unfounded harassments. The attack occurred not for any specific reason, but because Nanda Rani had dared to challenge the power of the local elite, had refused to conform to gender standards, had agitated and spoken out fearlessly on behalf of the landless and disenfranchised. And what the attack ultimately accomplished, far from restoring the unchallenged power of the landholding bourgeois class, was a revelation of just how far the landless groups have come.

The efficiency with which they coordinated and came together and the loyalty with which they stood behind a fellow group member are a stament to the significance of the work done by Nanda Rani and many others over the last three decades.

I heard that the same day the case papers were stolen (and returned), two local “officials” visited Nanda Rani in the hospital. They reproached her for not having gone through the appropriate channels to file the case; that is, through them.

This mistake, of course, could be overlooked, but they would need to immediately collect the necessary fees for the case to be processed by the thana. I imagine Nanda Rani in her hospital bed, impeccably clad in her usual pristine white, eyeing them calmly. “I haven’t come this far to fall for that,” she told them, “You’ll have to try harder.” That is the Nanda Rani, uneducated, impoverished, a landless refugee, who taught her village how to come together and fight against oppression. And when she needed them, they came, ready to fight … (full long text).

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