Today In Fact, 17 April

The tiger of Graaff-Reinet. People have lived in Bengal for over 4 000 years. Bengal lies on the Eastern side of the great Ganges river. The land of the Bengal tigers, during the independence of India from Britain in 1947. Bengal, whose population is largely Muslim, became part of the Pakistan in 1947.

The people of Bengal were separated by over 1, 500 km from West Pakistan to the North of India. The Bengalis experienced discrimination, economic neglect and political exclusion within their newly formed country. A resistance movement was formed and supported by India, the Bengalis fought a 9 month liberation war against Pakistan. Today in 1971, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh was formed as a secular democracy.

With over 160 million citizens, Bangladesh is one of the World’s most densely populated countries. Bangladesh continues to face a number of major challenges, including poverty, corruption, religious intolerance & discrimination, political instability, overpopulation and vulnerability to climate change. However, it has been praised by the international community for its significant progress on the Human Development Index. Bangladesh has produced many outstanding world citizens such as poets; Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam. The Nobel prize winner and Ashoka fellow, Muhammad Yunus who started the Grameen Bank is also a Bangladeshi.

Bangladesh is now recognised as one of the next 11 countries to achieve financial and economic success. This is largely due to the energy and business acumen of its citizens. Bangladesh is filled with entrepreneurs and they also have moved to other countries to trade.

In the small South African town of Graaff-Reinet for example, a Bangladeshi called “Tiger” has, since 2001 established over 50 small convenience stores in the township area. Tiger is now recognized as a significant businessman in this small town and such stores of intrepid trading in the non-formal market is repeated in countless towns across Southern Africa.

Certain sections of the South African population however, resent the energy and entrepreneurial flair of these “foreigners”. Many Bangladeshi businesses are attacked and Bangladeshi nationals are often murdered by local citizens, jealous of their success.

What motivates a person to travel half-way across the world to trade in a small Karoo town? What would motivate a person to burn down a business and kill its owner?

Doug Racionzer (more of Doug’s historical insights can be found at http://serendipiday.blogspot.com/)