"Why can small numbers excite rage? They represent a tiny obstacle between majority and totality or total purity. The smaller the number and the weaker the minority, the deeper the rage about its capacity to make a majority feel like a mere majority." [Arjun Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers]
Naeem Mohaiemen starts his article with the above quote. Here's some background, in his own words:
"I was stirred from slumber by an e-mail I got from Dhaka last week. With the most volatile elections of Bangladesh history approaching in two months, the minority vote (Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, Paharis, Adivasis) is a target as they are expected to vote for the left-of center AL (Awami League) en masse, vs. the rightist-islamist ruling coalition of BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party).
In the e-mail, my friend wrote: "I have already received 3 independent e-mails from
contacts in Bangladesh (2 Hindu, 1 Christian) who are terrified after threats their families have received in the last few days ("don't vote, or we'll kill you", basically). As the rumor-mongering kicks in and accusations are traded, the minorities will again become a pawn between the two main factions."
I wrote the text below in response. An abbreviated version of this was published in the main Dhaka newspaper yesterday.."
To The Polls, Unless Your Name Be Das, Tripura, or Roy, by Naeem Mohaiemen.