Netra News is Netrahin (Without Eyes), said a Bangladeshi friend after its editor, the one and only Tasneem Khalil, plunged into one faux pas after another beginning with his admission of receiving funds from the National Endowment for Democracy of USA.
The latest is Netra News’s providing a platform to a discredited Indian author Sarmila Bose, whose ‘Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War’ was a shameless attempt to distort the history of the Liberation War.
Bose, disowned by her mother Late Krishna Bose (educationist politician) and Brother Harvard academic Sugata Bose, had put her ‘original new research’ on the 1971 war in question by not only playing down the Pakistani genocide but making huge factual errors.
Bose’s history of fraud stood exposed on her grievously wrong ORBAT (order of battle) in 1971 when she claimed Pakistan just had 26,000 soldiers in the field of battle in East Pakistan at the start of ‘civil war’ and this rose to 34,000 when war broke out with India in December 1971.
“How could such a small number of soldiers rape a quarter of a million Bengali women,” Bose stupidly seemed to reason.
BBC veteran Subir Bhaumik exposed Bose by reminding her that 93,000 Pakistani soldiers officially surrendered to the Indian army in December 1971 and a few thousand were killed in the battle (Book, film greeted with fury among Bengalis – Subir Bhaumik/Al Jazeera, Apr 29, 2011).
Bhaumik, an Oxford fellow himself, had seriously questioned an Oxford thesis by Bose going so horribly wrong on basic facts and how could such a flawed thesis even be considered for a DPhil in hallowed Oxford.
“Why should she miss out on such basic statistics which is all in the public domain,” said Bhaumik, a veteran BBC war correspondent.
As someone who has covered the 1971 war intensely and reported on the Pakistani surrender on Dec 16, 1971, I could not believe an Oxford scholar like Bose, whose brothers Sugata and Sumantra are both top-flight scholars, could go so horribly wrong on basic facts.
But then her motive became clear – ‘Dead Reckoning’ was a book project in a series of efforts by Pakistan to run down war crimes by belittling the extent of the genocide and mass rape.
Now Netra News providing Bose with a platform to revive her flawed and twisted narrative and Bose referring to David Bergman as one of two prima donnas whose opinions she cared about lets the cat out of the bag on the anti-Bangladesh conspiracy trail.
Netra News’ operation has been badly exposed in recent months and the trash they have fed on Bangladesh imagining the country was loaded with fools like him. But it was me who exposed Netra News for being a paid front for US regime-change operations in Bangladesh.
I banked on good old Jeff Richelson’s book on the US intelligence community and Khalil’s own admission that Netra(hin) News was actually funded by the National Endowment for Democracy. Richelson has detailed how NED was funded out of the US intelligence budget for regime change operations across the globe — so this was no democracy expansion platform but one that brought down governments not subservient enough to the US by spreading the stink about lack of democracy in their rule.
So their rage against the Bangladesh government and the ruling party is understandable — but to imagine that someone like me or Mahfuz Anam (accused by Khalil of turning a sycophantic hagiography into an art form for praising Hasina with his column) would write something on party commissioning is to level the field and treat horses and donkeys as one. Mahfuz or I have been professional journalists for decades — Khalil and Bergman are activists masquerading as pseudo-journos, having only earned their spurs in disinformation and may now claim the Pulitzer for lies. Or the Nobel for Fake News. We write what we have to and Mahfuz has often had trouble after critiquing the government. Now the praise heaped on Hasina’s government by the likes of Mike Bird (Asian Wall Street Journal) or Grace Li (Nikkei) is based on an objective assessment of the government’s performance — a recent piece also insisted that Hasina is as successful in the fight against terror as in pursuit of development goals.
Now, this success in the fight against terror will surely upset Khalil and he is surely falling back on Islamist fundamentalists. This is why Khalil feels “state-sponsored terrorism” (euphemism for the fight against terror) is worse than militancy itself. So he feels the action against Hifazat is unjustified and insists on online users to support the rule of militants in Bangladesh.
Khalil’s pearl of wisdom includes the following — “Peaceful protest is a right enshrined in the constitution. Even if the demonstrators call for the removal of a statue of anyone. The utmost responsibility of the cops and law-enforcing agencies shall be to defend their sacred right to protest, not to disperse the crowd.” So, he is pitching for Hifazat-e Islam, describing them as ‘peaceful demonstrators’ when they have even burnt down the Music Academy in legendary musician Alauddin Khan’s house.
But Bangladeshis have little love for these mediaeval fundamentalists who are involved in serial child abuse like the madrasas in Pakistan. Our dear sister and Awami Mohila League leader from Cumilla, Ayesha Zaman Shimu poignantly exposed a Hifazat madrasa boss, pyjama down and poised to rape a child, through hidden camera lens — when she was attacked by these fundamentalists, she reminded them to lace up their pyjamas first.
Bergman had predicted the death of millions when Bangladesh was first hit by COVID-19 — he was proved wrong when Bangladesh managed to control the pandemic until it ran out of vaccine supplies from India, which was suffering a deadly second wave and paying for Narendra Modi’s ill-planned philanthropy.
But even with a slice of bad luck, that necessitated a tough lockdown, Bangladesh will in the end manage to come out of this calamity with much less loss than Bergman’s original patron nations in the West. Bergman and Khalil have made a fool of themselves by making horribly off-the-mark predictions and biased support for fundamentalists.
They are playing frustrated Kamal Hossain’s agenda of stink-bomb politics — little realising Kamal is no Trump and David is no Jared Kushner. But frustrated dreams make for vicious politics and propaganda — so Bangladesh can expect more of the Bergman-Khalil trash.
Bergman’s sidekick Khalil has the audacity to start a ridiculous spell of name-calling which are factually as weak and flawed as Sarmila Bose’s ‘Dead Reckoning’. In reality, the gang is worried their hour of reckoning has arrived.