Two friends, George Floyd, a black man from Minneapolis, USA, and Nikhil Talukdar, a poor Hindu farmer from Gopalganj, Bangladesh meet in another world. George Floyd was killed by a white policeman, Nikhil Talukdar was killed by a Muslim policeman.
George: What is your name?
Nikhil: Nikhil, what is yours?
Nikhil: It is nice to know you.George: Thank you. I have heard your name and I know that you were also killed by the police.
Nikhil: Yes, it was about a week after your death. But, hey, I saw a lot of very important people attend your funeral. It was televised around the world.
George: Yes, that was wonderful. How was your funeral?
Nikhil: Well, I was cremated before the world came to know about my death.
George: What happened to you, Nikhil?
Nikhil: You were chased for apparently using a fake twenty-dollar bill, and I was for playing cards. The policeman eventually caught up with me and killed me by breaking my spine.
George: My past is not clean, I have been to jail, but you are an innocent farmer and as far as I understand, playing cards is not illegal, even in your country, then why has this happened to you? Is this because you are a Hindu?
Nikhil: What was that policeman thinking as he strangled you with his knee? This is a black man, it would not be a big deal if he dies, am I right? Similarly, in Bangladesh, killing a Hindu or taking away his property does not bear much consequence. Law usually does not punish the perpetrators.
George: I was killed by white police; we call it racism. Is there racism in your country?
Nikhil: It is a different kind of racism. Blacks face discrimination in America because of their race, their skin color, in Bangladesh Hindus face discrimination because of the religion they practice or just because their names identify them as belonging to the Bengali Hindu community. We do not call it racism; we call it religious communal repression.
George: Oh, I understand! It looks like racism and communal repression are similar.
Nikhil: Yes, they are alike in some respects, but are different in many aspects.
George: How come?
Nikhil: You were born black, but your death launched a movement. I was born poor, and I died poor, but in addition, I died in vain. I belonged to the Hindu community, and it is laughable to think that my death could launch a movement against the repression of Hindus in Bangladesh.
George: What are you saying?
Nikhil: Despite the coronavirus, millions of people marched on the street to protest your death, major networks carried the news, and politicians demanded dismantling systemic racism not only within the police but in every American institution. Many white policemen took the knee to ask for forgiveness. For a poor Hindu farmer like me, the death news was simply a footnote in the newspapers, people did not take to the streets because they were too busy denouncing racism in America. It is true!They watch American TV and get riled up by what is happening in America, but they have no understanding of the injustice that is happening next door to them. No, I misspoke, they willfully ignore what is happening next door.
George: Are you sure?
Nikhil: Listen, after I was killed, initially my family was not even allowed to file a case! Later, only after some protestation, a case was filed.
George: See, the law has taken its course.
Nikhil: Not necessarily, the process is not transparent. In the meantime, my family may face the wrath of the majority!
George: Are you saying there is no law and order in your country?
Nikhil: There is, but Hindus have no recourse to that.
George: So, you will be in pain even after your death?
Nikhil: You got it! George, you died, your family will be compensated. Your daughter’s college education is already free. There will be scholarships in your name, but more than that your death has launched an awakening that will change America for the better.
George: I do not understand! I was killed by a white policeman, now many whites are crying for me. One police officer killed me, but the whole police department is kneeling in support of the protesters.
Nikhil: That is why I am telling you that you are lucky. I was killed by a Muslim policeman, and rather than following the law, the local leaders decided not to file any case and persuaded my wife to accept the fait accompli in exchange for two lakh taka, which is about $2300, and jobs for my wife and brother.
George: Did your wife accept the offer?
Nikhil: You will not understand George! It is impossible to stay in the village if you disobey the ruling of the local leaders. How could a poor farmer go against them? It is almost impossible!
George: But you said that a case has been filed?
Nikhil: Yes, a case was eventually filed. That is because some expatriate Bangladeshi Hindus protested, and the Bangladesh Government could not ignore the strong sentiment that was associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. Unfortunately, if we go by history, such cases are never prosecuted, and my killer will never face justice.
George: I am sorry, my friend!
Nikhil: See, George, your death has brightened the future of your daughter; it has changed the country; you have become a hero. My death has not only terminated my life, it would put my wife and two little children out in the street. I was a poor farmer, to begin with, and in death, I have become absolutely nobody. Your and my journeys were the same, my friend, but the outcomes are very different.
George: I still cannot understand, a crime has been committed, why justice will not be served?
Nikhil: If the policeman were tried, it would tarnish the image of my country as an exemplary Islamic country of communal harmony, where different religious and ethnic groups thrive. You may not know but Hindus are being driven out of their homes for decades in this country.
George: My God! The movement Black Lives Matter got energized after my death. Will there be anything like that for you?
Nikhil: Some expatriate Hindus of my country, had started a movement called Hindu Lives Matter, but nothing will come out of this!
George: Why not?
Nikhil: In your country, the majority-white population has come forward to amend the wrong. In my country, the majority of Muslims are either not aware that such injustices are being perpetrated or they intentionally ignore these because they dream of a 100% Islamic country. What unites these two groups is that both deny that the minority religious and ethnic groups are being subjected to discrimination and unfairness.
George: That is unfortunate!
Nikhil: Finally, you understand! I thank you, my friend, for understanding.
George: Thank you, I learned a lot, we will meet again. Our struggles co ntinue.
Note: The tragic story of Nikhil Talukdar first came out in a Dhaka daily, The Prothom Alo on 04 June 2020, and in The Daily Samakal the next day. Nikhil, a farmer, was brutally killed by Police officer Mohammed Shamim Uddin. The incident happened on 02 June 2020 at Kotalipara, Gopalganj, the electoral constituency of the sitting Prime Minister Sheik Hasina. Nikhil, a Hindu, was playing cards along with three others when the police officer caught him. Playing cards is not illegal in Bangladesh. The officer along with two civilians beat Nikhil mercilessly broke his backbone into 3 pieces. Later, an X-ray confirmed that. Nikhil was taken to the local hospital and then to Dhaka, but he died on 04 June 2020. Initially, no case was filed and the local government party leaders along with officials tried to settle the issue out of court. But pressure mounted from outside Bangladesh, and police accepted a case filed by the younger brother of the victim, the officer was arrested.