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Mischievous Leaks

February 27, 2015

Bangladesh politics is full of twists and turns. Two leaked phone conversations have recently caused a tempest in a teapot. An unfortunate victim of the ensuing debate is the civil society.

First conversation was held between Mahmudur Rahman Manna[1], a former AL leader, and BNP leader Sadek Hossain Khoka; the other one took place between Manna and an unanimous guy.

To some, the conversations contain few explosive remarks: Manna sought dead bodies at public university; he wanted to talk to some senior military officials.

None supports and shares the view propagated in the conversations about campus and cantonment politics. But magnifying such trivial matter and harpooning the bigwigs of social change movements call into questions government’s true intentions. More than a dozen of General Diaries were filed against Manna in connection with the leaks at different police stations. He has been arrested by Police after being picked up by RAB.

Since the beginning of this debate, we observe that a set narrative is being fed to the public by govt-backed media, which is fueling the public outcry for lynching Manna.

The conversations are informal in nature, tapped by some govt agencies, and finding any kind of wrongdoing in those purely depends on which political party one blindly follows.

In our table talks or chats with our friends we often make fiery comments that can be seditious, malicious, an attempt to kill and an act to incite violence. Can you ever give a serious thought to try a heartbroken fan for his frustrated comments at his team or country that lost miserably in a crucial match?

No! Then why should it be different for Manna?

Even Manna in an interview owns the remark about dead bodies in campus [2]. He also urged everyone to listen carefully the conversations before judging him. He accused some media of misreporting of the conversation.

Dead bodies are highly sought-after things for parties in opposition. This is nothing new for us. Even AL leaders made comments about dead bodies when the party was in opposition.

The conversations took place within the last one week. BNP is having a tough time as petrol bomb campaign has turned the public support away from it. In this backdrop, it can hardly wreck any havoc at the campus at this moment.

The second conversation looks like a set-up. The unanimous guy tried to lure Manna to talk to some army officers. Of course, Manna was willing, but it does not prove he is conspiring against the state.

The leaks disorientated the fragmented civil society whose members are relentlessly demanding a well-functioning democracy, which needs government’s change of heart, and are very critical of the way government is dealing with the political crisis.

Partisan media houses have jumped to dress down members of civil society since the phone conversation made public. The role of the media houses that published the agency-supplied conversation also needs to be examined [3].

The leaks also need to be viewed in the light of the upcoming Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) polls. The conversations have been made to public just a day before the official announcement of DCC polls. For long, Manna has been cultivating himself as a potential candidate for DCC mayoral election.

The leaks assassinated both his character and his dream, giving his contenders the upper hand in mayoral election [4].

We are familiar with politicians’ lust for blood of their fellow species. But in this league of cannibals, Manna is just a cub. While the older ones cherish authority and fame, he faces public wrath and hatred.

Are the leaks about unmasking a cannibal? Or, are these about shackling further the freedom of civil society, which seems to be more effective in questioning govt policies than effete BNP, by tainting clean images of its members?

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Notes:

1. He is also a convener of a civic platform called “Nagarik Oikya”.

2. Manna’s comment about dead bodies at campus goes like this: “Say, there is a procession at the university campus. Skirmishes, just like the ones going on across the country, take one or two lives. What can we do? But the incident will shake up the top brass of government tremendously.”

3. The media house that first published the leaked conversations ran similar stories before. In 2014, it carried a news report that said US govt was conniving with Bangladesh Army to topple Hasina govt and to change the left govt in neighboring Indian state of Tripura.

4. PM mooted the name of a businessman as a candidate of the mayoral election. The businessman operates one of the controversial quick rental power plants and his group is headquartered at the office building of the ruling party’s planning minister, also a treasurer of the party.

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