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“The River and the Corruption of Memory” by Khan

“The River and the Corruption of Memory”

The springs of life, including the waterways, rivers and wetlands of Bangladesh, have birthed joy and pain, creating a bitter-sweet situation in their history. “The River and the Corruption of Memory” addresses water sources such as rivers, reservoirs, and lakes as a social fact that connects the diverse domains of life (Khan 2015). However, the pollution created by human activities destroys the riverine that link the people, creating a disconnect within the society. This essay describes the concerns raised in Khan’s article, the arguments raised about temporality and my understanding of time and history.

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Specific Concerns Raised

Bangladesh is surrounded by the largest wet ontologies, such as the Bay of Bengal. The country boasted of clean water sources that supported fishing, such as the river Dwaki depicted in the picture. However, many social-economic practices have had devastating ecological consequences on the deltas that channel water for use (Khan 2015). This effect hindered the economic growth of the people living in the riverine. This limitation occurred considering that fishing activities were hindered due to siltation. This consequence rendered Hindus helpless and unable to make political decisions (Khan 2015). Therefore, the deterioration of the social-economic state of the fishing community has resulted in the decline of the living standards and is supported by the capitalist government.

A picture of river Dwaki, one of the cleanest in Bangladesh
Figure 1: A picture of river Dwaki, one of the cleanest in Bangladesh

The article introduces the topic of displacement by reflecting on the societal norms depicted in three films about Bangladesh. Some of the issues raised through this analysis include corruption. Fraud is highlighted considering the role of government in the deterioration of the milieu and the societal relations supporting seclusion (Khan 2015). The idea of corruption is introduced both as a figurative phrase and a relatable symbol of the moral rot within this society that clouds the beautiful memories of the two communities in the country (Khan 2015). Corruption is used to describe the siltation, moral rot in humanity and the erasure of beautiful memories created when Hindus and Muslims lived together in peace.

As a multiracial country, encompassing the Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and other groups, the fight for equal rights became impossible, creating a disconnect between the predominant natives, Hindus and Muslims (Khan 2015). In addition, siltation of the rivers such as Dhaka affected fishing by reducing the number of fish available, which dispersed the Hindus from the island (Khan 2015). The picture below shows an example of a river in Bangladesh that was once used as a fishing hub but is currently contaminated.

Siltation of river Dhaka
Figure 2: Siltation of river Dhaka

As the Indian business collapsed, agricultural activities practiced by the Muslims boomed, creating a significant gap between the rich and poor, affecting the relationship between the two groups. With the loss of economic activity, most Indians could not sustain their lives, forcing them into poverty (Khan 2015). Therefore, this new setup eroded the initial memory of the two communities since most Hindus struggled with starvation and diseases, something that was not initially witnessed.

Another issue addressed by the author is the river decay resulting in community intimidation. With the siltation of the water channel that sustained fishing, Indians became afraid to continue living in Bangladesh because of their loss of livelihood (Khan 2015). As a result, the Muslims began disrespecting the Indians by grabbing the peasants’ lands and avoiding relations, creating strife. Furthermore, the river was contaminated because of human-related activities such as oil spillage, increased water hyacinth and dumping trash. This consequence was an inclusive fault since no particular group is to blame for the pollution (Khan 2015). Moreover, the outcome of this was contamination, which significantly degraded their economic activity and interreligious relations. As indicated in the picture, the people began crossing to other lands, searching for better lives.

Photos of Hindus Migrating from Bangladesh
Figure 3: Photos of Hindus Migrating from Bangladesh

Deep state conspiracy influence is an argument described in the last sections of the article, which explains another reason for the outmigration of the Hindus in Bangladesh. She recounts how this community is currently dispersed in an environment once dominated by the community (Khan 2015). In a monologue, she mentions that she does not know if the people who were dispossessed of their lands were compensated, considering that obfuscation and fraud are evident. This finding raises questions on the role of the government in securing the Indian community (Khan 2015). With the preference of communism, socialism is outlawed, meaning that the government will claim the lands initially owned by the Hindus, and none of them will be paid.

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This action revealed a hidden interest in the government’s plan to enhance economic activities such as fishing and agriculture by introducing industrial systems supporting economic expansion after the Indians had left. As the author recalls, “Young chauras cannot believe that there were any poor Hindus in the area” (Khan 2015, 407). The reason is that the place became deserted, new norms and living standards were introduced, eradicating the memory of the former inhabitants of that place. Moreover, while the government considers industrialization by supporting activities such as commercial farming, the war against global warming is ignored, raising questions on the government’s initial intention to support interracial communities and help curb climate change.

Argument about Temporality

Deep time is a technique used by the writer to explore the past, present and future of a generation that relied on the waters for economic purposes such as fishing and domestic use. The author uses the reflection of occurrences to create a temporality scenario that explains how the erosive tendencies of the river have dispossessed Hindus of their land (Khan 2015). The prosperous, independent and generous Indian community was established by the success of their fishing activity in the rivers of Bangladesh. However, as time went by, the pollution resulted in mass fish deaths which destroyed their economic activity (Khan 2015). Having no monetary influence, they got into debt and poverty, which forced most of them to move to other countries such as India.

The percentage population of Hindu in Bangladesh
Figure 4: The percentage population of Hindu in Bangladesh

Bangladesh, a country once graced by the Hindu culture, is currently a Muslim dominated state. As indicated in the picture above, their population declined significantly following the economic failure. The lack of government support and diseases steered by the contaminated waters contributed to the radical decline in the population of Indians in the country (Khan 2015). Therefore, it is justified to say that there will be no Indian left in Bangladesh in the next two or three decades. Considering the prosperity story of the Hindus, it was unlikely that one day they would be out migrated in the country (Khan 2015). By fishing on a large scale, this community would have prospered and been established.

The pricks of the contemporary world may have also been felt by the reestablishment of the Hindus in Bangladesh. The effects of modernization would go deep beyond the people and their environment. The reason is that with great revolutions such as the integration of technology in fishing, these communities would become subjects to their master (Khan 2015). Further, the environment would feel the wrath of this development because of activities such as overfishing, oil spillage and air pollution (Khan 2015). These environmental effects are currently evident because this development has resulted in over dumping of wastes in the rivers, as illustrated in this picture.

A River Clogged with Wastes
Figure 5: A River Clogged with Wastes

The picture above illustrates the effects of people working around the rivers and the failed conservation measures. As depicted in the image above, the water is polluted since the vendors selling their goods dump their waste into the water. The effects of this behavior are catastrophic, considering others may use the water for domestic purposes. As Khan (2015) mentions, the effects of human activities on the environment can change what we know about it such that all the memories of the place become history. This statement means that pollution can become so rampant that the clean world becomes just a memory and not a reality.

How my Perception of Time and History has changed

Initially, I thought the time was only responsible for the changing dates, months and years. However, I did not realize that time marks occurrences remembered as history. When time passes, we can analyze the effects of modern techniques, rationales, and systems on the conventional world (Khan 2015). Through time we can determine who we are and where we are headed by learning from the memories created. As depicted in the picture below, time has rendered Hindus slaves in a country that they were once masters (Khan 2015). The deterioration of fishing in Bengal is also to blame because this has deprived them of the energy needed to make the change.

Photo of an activist demonstrating what the Hindus have become over time
Figure 6: Photo of an activist demonstrating what the Hindus have become over time

History is the study of past events, which can be assessed by remembering when something happened. Unfortunately, the memory of Bengal as a Hindu state is now being rewritten. As Khan (2015, 407) mentions in her conclusion, adaptation corrupts memory by creating new ones. Therefore, adaptation can change history, but time helps reflect on the forgotten past, which can never be erased. For instance, if someone mentions December 16, 1971, this time is intertwined with a historical meaning of independence (Khan 2015, 406). Even though the people may be struggling to regain their lands and control the water pollution, the memory of independence cannot be erased because of its great significance to the citizens. As the lands continue to be covered by the waters, the story of Hindu landowners is erased, but time will bring back memories.

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The article introduces one of the saddest events for the Asian community. Waters from the rivers flood the lands they once called home and created memories. But, unfortunately, everyone played in their displacement by polluting the environment resulting in global warming. Climate change was triggered by human activities that included throwing trash into the rivers and overfishing. The government’s failure to control the wastes of industrialization was also significant in polluting the rivers, resulting in the deterioration of fishing activities. Therefore, the memory of once a robust, dependable and resourceful; Hindu community has been turned to poverty and slavery because of the changing time.


Khan, Naveeda. 2015. River and the Corruption of Memory. Contributions to Indian Sociology 49 (3): 389–409.

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