Letter from an unborn child

On the evening of November 24, 2012, more than 119 garment workers died when a fire broke out in Tazreen Fashions Ltd in Ashulia’s Nischintapur. Many family members were unable to identify their beloved ones as the flesh had burnt away leaving behind only charred bones and skeletons. Fifty-three unidentified bodies were buried in Jurain graveyard. Mimi (18) was among them. She was five months pregnant when she was killed.

Long before the digital age, we met each other at political rallies, addas, or in academia. In 2011, when we came together as thotkata collective, blogs were already a vibrant site of resistance, but the language was largely anti-women, masculinist, homophobic, and often abusive. We were, and still are, outraged at the aggressive male chauvinism within the Bangla online space. The word ‘thotkata’ means ‘cut lip’ in the sense of “one who is not careful in her speech.” In that spirit, our collective was born out of a commitment to challenging sexism in Bangladeshi digital spheres. We were, of course, not alone. Feminist presence was beaming with promises of change. However, there was/is a resounding silence about socially differentiated experiences of sexual violence and gender inequality. There is also a disturbing development of a sarkari naribad (feminism of the ruling elite) that appropriates feminist causes to serve the agenda of ruling regimes. Rage against rape has somewhat “gone mainstream”, but the way power elites try to justify extra-judicial killing of rapists, or resort to sexual morality to cover-up state crimes, has largely escaped feminist attention. Thotkata, in its very small way, has been trying to include these questions in on-and offline feminist debates. Thotkata started with online activism, but over the years, we have participated in protests and responded to events of state violence and‘industrial accidents’. We collected stories of lives and movements. We were called besshya (prostitute), bedharmi (atheist), or sarkar-birodhi (anti-government). A decade later, we continue to believe that to speak and write against power is to invite infamy. In our quest for freedom, Thotkata considers such titles as crown jewels and wears them with pride.