Al Masum has walked the beaches of Bhasan Char feeling the sand between his toes. He has been there when the island was barren and when it had become a buzzing township, and many times in between. It is evident that 'Bhasan Char, shagore nogor' (and its passable translation) is a culmination of numerous reports over many months during which time the writer got to know the ins and outs of this mega project.

It is also evident that he is passionate about this project to resettle Rohingya refugees from Cox's Bazar.

The book strives to examine all the different aspects of refugee resettlement on this once barren island and takes the reader almost step by step how it was made suitable not just for human habitation but a planned settlement to accommodate a large refugee population.

The book, a reportage of sorts, begins with setting up the context. A reporter at heart, Masum leverages the advantage of not being limited by column-inches of the leading English broadsheet he works for. He explains, at length, how it was that the Rohingyas came to be in Bangladesh and their precarious situation in Cox's Bazar.

He elaborates on the many dimensions of this complex situation and why it is not desirable to have so many refugees huddled together so close to Myanmar border in rural Cox's Bazar where the host community grows impatient.

The narrative then moves on to the island of Bhasan Char. The book takes great pains to explain in fair detail, the security and protection measures, besides of course the amenities in store for Rohingyas who choose to leave the confines of their congested shelters in Ukhiya and Teknaf.

One chapter is exclusively devoted to rebutting and refuting the many objections and reservations that national and international human rights and development activists have raised. Pointedly, however, the narrative is hardly critical towards even the outlandish claims that a remote island like Bhasan Char has the potential to become an agricultural or industrial hub.

The narrative ends with several thousand resettled Rohingyas living fuller and better lives.

Despite his desire to remain objective, the writer ends up championing Bhasan Char as an ideal solution (a global model) to the Rohingya crisis. The book does not explore that Bangladesh would need five such Bhasan Chars to accommodate the Rohingyas.

It is entirely silent that those establishments like Bhasan Char would have to run for the better part of three decades since the average time for refugee repatriation is almost 30 years. Neither does the book explore that objections of the development community may not stem from their concern for Rohingyas only, but out of self-interest too. Nor does the book explore the political ramifications of assimilating a million refugees in Bangladesh.

The book is perhaps the most sophisticated version of the rhetoric that the government has tried to articulate for long. It is good enough to convert the ignorant and enlighten those who aren't. It will strengthen the conviction of those who believe in the necessity of Bhasan Char and educate the detractors.

Available in both Bengali and English, 80-page hardcover non-fiction from Agamee Prokashoni sells for Tk 255 on The passable English translation, although devoid of the flare in original Bengali, costs almost Tk 300. The offset print quality is standard and monotony of clinical chapters is broken by photographs in between.

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