Mizan, who lives in the tiny enclosure on the right, plays with his pigeon. Despite a lack of living space, affection for animals and birds, especially pigeons, feature strongly in the people’s lives at Geneva camp in Mohammadpur, June 2006 Dhaka.
Statement: This picture is from the series “State Excluded” a long term project about the Bihari community in Bangladesh. Among the overwhelming population in the tiny camp I found a strong neighbourhood. Patches of sky seen through the shabby quarters and narrow allies of the slum was the only breathing space for the dwellers. A space without any empty space, embroidery works by women, religious environment continued to characterize the life of the camp. Here, kids still fly their pigeon; milads (religious recitation) are performed in tiny shelters, children runs through the allies.
“We want to stay in this country. We don’t want to move either to Pakistan or to India,” says Shawkat Ahmed, a camp dweller. With all the deprivation, injustice, social negligence people of the camp survives in this metropolitan with all their resistance. India, Bangladesh or Pakistan refused to accommodate them as part of the state. Yet, they dream on – for life, and to survive. Their spirit runs free.
The title ‘refugees’ or ‘Stranded Pakistani’ for this community stands as a veil on most eyes, hiding the rich cultural diversity and heritage of a community of people who 60 years back left their home in Bihar to belong to the new state of Pakistan. A community that possess many useful and sublime skills in labour, one that has its own literature and language, its own norms and customs, many culinary and cultural treats, have been buried under the title ‘refugee’. Today, in the twenty-first century when the citizens of the world demand of their state to look after most major and minor affairs, the Biharis exist without a state.
BioAndrew Biraj born in 1982. Currently working in the REUTERS as Bangladesh correspondent.Biraj completed a basic course in photography from Pathshala in 1999, working alongside in a local weekly magazine, before traveling through Bangladesh to pursue his own work as a photojournalist. Throughout the years in his own country, Biraj photographed stories from the political brutality of Bangladesh to the solitude life of his old grandma. He often focuses on the people living on the fringe from the social, political and environmental perspectives.
Since then, he has worked on numerous stories in the UK, Cambodia, Myanmar and Bangladesh, including his ongoing project ‘State Excluded’, a photo essay about the stranded Bihari community in Bangladesh.
Biraj completed advanced diploma in photography from The South Asian Institute of Photography- Pathshala. In 2004 he obtained a full scholarship from the University of Bolton, UK to finish his B.A in Photography.
He has been selected for the World Press Photo JoopSwart Masterclass grant in 2008.
He won 1st Prize in the “Environmental Picture Story” category of “Best of Photojournalism” by NPPA; 2008
Bronze prize in the 3rd China International Press Photo Contest (CHIPP); 2007
Winner of Press Award with Karen McVeigh of The Guardian in One world Media Award; 2008
2nd Prize in the Photojournalism category in Venice International Photo Contest; 2007.
His work has been featured worldwide, including Visa Pour l’Image, Perpignan, France.
Angkor photo festival in Cambodia.
International Photography Biennial of the Islamic World in Iran.
Noorderlicht photo festival ‘Act of Faith’ in The Netherlands.
Yangon photo festival in Myanmar.
Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts in Japan.
Tops- World Photojournalism Festival in China.
S. Maria della Pieta’in Venice; Italy.
National Art Gallery in Malaysia.
Drik Gallery in Bangladesh and University of Bolton in UK.
Biraj has also been published in TIME.com, The New York Times, The Guardian, International Herald Tribune, The Observer Magazine, Courrier International, Asian GEO, Saudi Aramaco World, Himal Southasian, I Care, New Age, Forum Magazine of Daily Star and in many other international publications.