Thotkata: Letter from an unborn child
More than 119 garment workers were killed in a fire that broke out at Tazreen Fashions Ltd in Ashulia Nischintapur, an area of Dhaka, on the evening of 24 November 2012. Many family members were unable to identify their loved ones as flesh had burned away, leaving behind only charred bones and skeletons: 53 unidentified bodies were buried in the Jurain Graveyard. Among them was Mimi, aged 18, five months pregnant when she died.
Long before the digital age, we met each other at political rallies, addas (informal gatherings), or in academia. In 2011, when we came together as Thotkata, 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 challenge sexism in Bangladeshi digital spheres. We were and are, of course, not alone. The feminist presence has been beaming with the promise of change. However, there was/is a resounding silence about socially differentiated experiences of sexual violence and gender inequality. There was/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.