Suhrawardi Uddyan park is home to a great number of displaced and homeless people in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
“This park is providing me shelter and livelihood, why I need to leave the park? If I leave the place how I’ll manage to feed my children?” So says Rabia Begum. She has been living in Suhrawardy Uddyan Park with her two children since her husband left them to fend for themselves, now she works as a hawker in the park.
Suhrawardy Uddyan is one of the largest and the oldest parks in Bangladesh. It is related to many historic events of the country. These days this park has become more than just open space for refreshment, it is a sanctuary to many who find themselves abandoned or destitute in the city. The country’s largest university and art college sit on the edge of the park and the open, free space buzzes with the conversations of many artists and intellectuals.
Dhaka has grown into a huge city of more than 20 million, swelled by the arrival of those city in search of better opportunities. Moreover, season many more people come to Dhaka from the northern part of Bangladesh because of Monga – a seasonal state of joblessness and famine affecting north Bengal. Many Bangladeshis are migrating to big cities like Dhaka from southern states too. They have often lost their home and livelihoods because of the rapid change of climate and agricultural conditions. In the sprawling city they find what shelter they can on the streets, in railway stations, and parks like Suhrawardy Uddyan.
In my observation this is a park which reflects the current vulnerable socio-economic condition of a huge number of people in Bangladesh. They are being effectively abandoned with no support for rehabilitation, or recourse to basic citizen rights let alone social security. An affluent class of Dhaka visits the park everyday but they appear not to care or even acknowledge the people of Suhrawardi Uddyan.