© Maria Litwa from "Inside Geneva Camp", 2013

Maria M. Litwa: Inside Geneva Camp

Maria M. Litwa (Poland/Germany): Inside Geneva Camp

‘Inside Geneva Camp’ is a multimedia story about three young women who live in Geneva Camp in Dhaka. It’s the largest ghetto-like settlement for the Urdu speaking minority – locally known as ‘Biharis’ – in Bengali speaking nation of Bangladesh. A place where a huge number of this language minority lives since 40 years. Education and also marriage seem to be the only possibilities for women to escape from this stigmatized spot and to become integrated into the Bangladeshi society.

The enmeshment of the history of the ‘Bihari’ community and the personal statements of Rina (14, housewife), Shabnam (20, student) and Putul (24, teacher) allows an empathetic insight into the lives of those who still suffer from the consequences of the Partition of British India in 1947.

Those whose mother language is Urdu locally are called ‘Biharis’ as most of their grand-parents originate from the Indian state Bihar. After the partition of British India in 1947 the Urdu speaking muslims migrated to East Pakistan (today Bangladesh) and West Pakistan (today Pakistan). In India they were persecuted or even murdered because of their religion. However, when East Pakistan became the independent state of Bangladesh in December 1971, again they became a target. After the Pakistani Army evacuated the new-born Bangladesh, the Biharis were left behind. Bengalis saw them as traitors, and refused to accept them as Bangladeshis. They were placed in dozens of refugee camps across the country.