Accepted paper:

The Future that did not Happen: Recollections of the Project

Authors:

Delwar Hussain (University of Edinburgh )

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the programme of modernisation instigated by the post-independent East Pakistani and later Bangladeshi states, told through the aesthetics of industrial failure and decay.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the programme of modernisation instigated by the post-independent East Pakistani and later Bangladeshi states, told through the aesthetics of industrial failure and decay. The Khonighat Limestone Mining Project was part of a larger programme of development that was hoped to propel the country into the future. Built on the border between the Indian state of Meghalaya and Sylhet, the "Project", as it came to be known, was to furnish the newly independent country with limestone. Thousands of migrant labourers and officials moved here during the 1960s to take part. A colony was built to house them, organised along ranks of hierarchy. There was electricity, running water and indoor toilets. A clinic was built, as was a school, bank and officers club. Very little of this exists today. With the liberalisation of the Bangladeshi and Indian economies in the 1990, the Project was closed down and the officers and their families transferred out of the area. The labourers, once at the bottom of the Project hierarchy, since closure, have taken over the nearby cross-border coal industry and acquired wealth and respect. The middle ranking officers and their families simply stayed behind. Today, these ex-teachers and administrators continue to live in the decaying, crumbling surroundings of the Project. Very little of what had once existed now remains. With no jobs and the threat of eviction ever closer, their prospects are bleak. Though modernisation has failed these people, they continue to believe in its promises.

panel P35
Imagining Bangladesh and forty years of its aesthetic trajectory