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The Wrong Turn

March 24, 2014

Bengalis are passionate about their months with historical importance. The fiery March secured a significant place in their lives as many historical events unfolded in this month. Father of the nation, undoubtedly Bangladesh’s most popular leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was born in this month. It also witnessed proclamation of independence under the directives of 7th March address. On 25 March, 1971, Pak Army inflicted a fatal blow to Bangladesh’s struggle to independence by unleashing a brutal crackdown on innocent Bengalis. It started nine-month-long war of liberation.

Bangabandhu (Friend of Bengal), as Sheikh Mujib known to Bangladeshis, has been deprived of giving due credits in official history books for a long time since most of the time anti-liberation force was in charge of running the country. Now things are changed. True narratives of freedom of struggle, overriding the twisted history, are gradually becoming the mainstream narratives. But we have to wait at least 20 to 30 years to sketch an objective portrait of Bangabandhu as a man and as a statesman.

Like the fate of many leaders of newly independent post-colonial nations, Bangabandhu’s fate also met a tragic end. While reading Pankaj Mishra’s enthralling ‘From the Ruins of Empire’, I came across few lines, which strikingly resemble Bangandhu’s rule and end, of  ‘The Soccer War’ written by Ryszard Kapuscinski. Though I don’t like quoting, I cannot help sharing them:

 

…terrible material resistance that each one encounters on taking his first, second and third steps up the summit of power. Each one wants to do something good and begins to do it and then sees, after a month, after a year, after three years, that is just isn’t happening, that is slipping away, that is bogged down in the sand. Everything is in the way: the centuries of backwardness, the primitive economy, the illiteracy, the religious fanaticism, the tribal blindness, the chronic hunger, the colonial past with its practice of debasing and dulling the conquered, the blackmail by the imperialists, the greed of the corrupt, the unemployment, the red ink. Progress comes with great difficulty along such a road. The politician begins to push too hard. He looks a way out through dictatorship. The dictatorship then fathers an opposition. The opposition organizes a coup.

And the cycle begins anew.”

 

Cashing in on the spirit of 1971, AL came to power. It is no longer holding onto the basic tenets set by Bangabandhu. Moreover, It is doing a disservice to that very spirit by indulging in corruption, by freebooting, by delaying war criminals’ trial. The dilapidated condition of AL would have disappointed Bangabandhu had he been alive. Under this govt.’s tenure, financial institutions of religious extremists grew stronger. And it was frequently seen in accepting their sponsorship. When someone drew govt.’s attention to this, it simply shrugged the matter off saying ‘it’s (IBBL) not an illegal organization, it has license’. One of the priority tasks of a govt. claiming to uphold the spirit of 1971 is to undo the misdeeds of past regimes. We found ourselves dumbfounded on International Women’s Day when our PM said,” We won’t pass any special law for women since Islam recognizes respectful position of women in the society than any other religion does”. Why did you not mention this in your electoral manifesto?

Another deviation from AL’s old path can be found in agricultural sector. Instead of protecting the indigenous varieties, it introduced BT brinjal.

So far, AL’s policies are less effective to bring up the bottom; in fact AL is rather bringing up the local level vices–extortion, abduction, village politics, ballot hijacking, forced labor, cheating–to national level.

AL has to keep in mind that a govt. with consent of a smaller section of people, though credible, cannot commence big infrastructure project. Finding a durable solution to peaceful power transfer, apart from other priority tasks, should be put before starting any mega project. It is in power because we do not have next best alternative. None other than AL knows it well. But its actions indicate it is misusing the status quo. For the moment it seems, it has taken it for granted it will carry its 5-year tenure through.

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