Friday, September 06, 2013

Abdur Rahman Boyati and the legacy of the body clocks last seconds

ABDUR RAHMAN BOYATI - 1939 - 2013 
Hasib Zakaria ©

by Mac Haque

Throw some food our way, not flowers at our corpse.’ Kuddus Boyati

When the legendary Abdur Rahman Boyati made his transition on August 19, 2013 the loss to the nation was not of a ‘star’ but a galaxy disappearing from the heaven above.  Paralysed with a cerebral stroke on September 17, 2003 and unable to sing, for nearly ten years the legend survived on contributions from all sections of our society. Yet when it was time to bid our final adieu to the man who represented Bangladesh in many an international event, gaining admiration and respect for his raw and pristine artistry, the picture that was repetitive and revolting was his apparent state of economic hardship. Revolting, for the media and social networks more than focusing on his music or his art or the man that was Rahman Boyati, went on an overdrive of shallow and hypocritical crocodile tears.

Images of musical icons living and dying for what they believe in and the art they practice scrupulously at great sacrifices to their societal or even familial needs and wants – is neither new nor surprising. However, what does merit open discussion is the word dustho shilpi which popularly may mean ‘destitute artist’ – yet in colloquial Bangla, also means a performer who is a pauper! In both cases the term is abusive, strips off dignity and is an insult to someone who has contributed enormously to culture by sticking true to our roots – our origin.

While music as an institution has traditionally received wide appreciation and fondness among people, and is a business of unimaginable magnitude, yet when it comes to state’s recognition, the government’s apathy is numbing. That the death of Rahman Boyati is no less the death of a heritage dignitary, a Bangladesh Ambassador of our majority rural citizenry was selectively expunged from public memory. Economically disadvantaged singers and musicians have time and again been meted with the same treatment before or after their deaths. Nothing can be more shameful.

We have a ministry of cultural affairs  that apparently has a fund for ‘destitute artist’, meaning the mindset has taken it for granted that a musical artist is destined to die pauper and such funds can, or will be used to make the government look like a tokenistic do-gooder! However, is fund and cash doles the only available option to ensure music and musicians will survive?  Sadly it is not, for more than money, it is our abject insensitivity at not creating enough space for musicians is ultimately where death knell for the arts rings loud.

Musicians more than money are denied the opportunity they deserve whether that is in the media or LIVE performances. Corporate exploitation and overkills of the arts chooses merely to tag and piggyback upon an artist’s ‘image’ and ‘popularity’ profiles to sell its product. When Rahman Boyati died, the hushed shock that enveloped everyone was ‘he never received any state honour’. But what state honour are we talking about here?

The biggest ‘honour’ that anyone involved with the arts can hope for is the Ekushey Padak. However, it is just not given to a recipient solely based on his or her merits and talents, but more so with how ‘otherwise talented’ they are in building political and media ‘connections’, and in their social networking amongst culture vultures and touts closest to the administration.

For someone as simple and naïve as Rahman Boyati, it was unthinkable to stoop so low, and it is a sheer tragedy that very few heritage artists have so far received the award. In the case of Rahman Boyati as is being speculated, a belated award may only serve the purpose of a nation’s afterthought to ‘honour’ a legend. But when it comes to taking stock of how Rahman Boyati ‘honoured’ Bangladesh all his life without asking for anything in return; a mere award that hangs in his home desolate in his absence and a few lakh takas paid to his beneficiaries can only be considered tokenistic bordering on depravity – no different than the ‘pauper’ tag we as a nation seem ready to mouth at any given opportunity.

If we at all have to honour likes of Rahman Boyati and other heritage icons and luminaries, we need to have a thorough and undiluted understanding of our rural traditions.

Boyatis musically and philosophically are in the same genre as Bauls. Whereas in the case of the latter it evolved in the erstwhile Nadiya district of pre-partition Bengal now comprising Kustia, Meherpur, Jhenidah, Chuadanga etc the Boyatis were predominantly concentrated in and around Dhaka district extending further until Faridpur and Manikganj.  However the geographical locale of the Boyati tradition is today expansive. Indeed wherever there are Bengali speakers, Boyatis are inevitably present offering not only a cultural, but importantly a spiritual service. Other than the length and breadth of Bangladesh, Boyatis reaffirm the tradition all the way from West Bengal to London!

The advent of the Boyatis can be traced back to the earliest Sufis who arrived in Dhaka some 700 years ago. Concentrated in the Azimpur locality the relics of the Dayera Sharif still in existence stands as a testament and silent reminder of the Sufi influence in our culture, with the Boyatis among others, the earliest exponents of the music, philosophy and legacy of Saints buried in its premise.

The word Boyati on the other hand etymologically means someone who has taken ‘bayat’ or ‘diksha’ (initiation) imparted on them by their Guru/Murshid. It is a lifelong oath and a pledge of secrecy for committed dedication to serve toiling humanity. Boyatis like Bauls believe in the primacy of a Guru/Murshid and remain for a considerable period of time under such a person’s tutelage. They are usually followers of the Chistia and Qadriya tarikat of Sufi orders.

The word also implies a direct relationship to Islamic history of the Ahl-al Bayt i.e the spiritual descendants of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who carried forward the mystically esoteric and exoteric messages encoded within the Quran. The Ahl-al Bayt or ‘people of the mantle’ encapsulates the Prophet himself, his cousin and son-in-law Ali, daughter Fatima, and grandsons Hasan and Hussain, i.e. the purported  pak panjtan (the exalted five) as in Sufi spirituality.

Boyatis therefore depend on shirzanama for their music and spiritual teaching and guidance. These are well recorded and agreed upon hagiographical flowcharts that tracks back the original message/s conveyed as ‘lip to ear wisdom’, via a chain of transmissions of innumerable Gurus/Murshids all the way to the fountainheads of the four known and popular tarikatsChistia, Qadriya, Mujadediya and Nakshabandiya – and even further to the secret teachings of the original Ahl-al Bayt.

Boyati is also someone who performs bayan or explanation of the Holy Scriptures, or a canvasser in today’s terminology, maybe even an evangelist. They are bards and minstrels, and as Islamic history records stayed true to tradition in face of Wahabi/Shariati demagogic bigotry that has all too often derailed the course of life and living in South Asia. Boyatis represents a resistance to orthodoxy and religious bigotry and like the Bauls/Fakirs and Sahajiya’s have likewise faced oppression and societal ostracisation.

Rahman Boyati was already a musical phenomenon even before the independence of Bangladesh. Around 1973-74 he had regular performances in the state owned Bangladesh Television (BTV) and his sonorous rendition of the perplexing song ‘Deho Ghori’  (The Body Clock) that covers everything from human anatomy, physiology, neurology, embryology, the central nervous system and sexuality, among others, made him a household name not only in the rural backwaters but also among the urban middle class and elite enthusiast.

When likes of mainstream performer Fakir Alamgir and the late Feroze Shai started covering the song with their respective bands from 1975, Rahman Boyati and the song together become a national spiritual icon.

There were good reasons for the song to have the impact in the broader spectrum as there were important parameters to be considered. Contrary to popular misconception, the lyrics were not penned by Rahman Boyati. In the initial rendition the ‘signature line’ was appended with his Guru/Murshid’s name ie Alauddin Boyati. No one knows for certain who the original song writer was and it may have well been conveyed to Alauddin by his immediate Guru/Murshid, their predecessors and so forth.

The beauty of the oral tradition that Rahman Boyati explained to me is the name of the ‘podo korta (poet/lyricist) is unimportant. It is to maintain continuity of the encrypted message/s that has to be kept alive and organic, is the foremost criteria. Therefore in ‘Deho Ghori’ Rahman Boyati  not only maintained continuity of what his Guru/Murshid imparted upon him, but set forth a new trajectory for later day transmissions by enthusiasts, which in 1995 I had the supreme honour and privilege to carry forward.

It was Mustafizur Rahman then general manager of BTV, who commissioned my erstwhile band Feedback to create a fusion version of the song ‘Deho Ghori’ together with Rahman Boyati for an Eid day special show of the magazine program ‘Subhechha’. The famed debater Abdun Noor Tushar was to make his debut as a show host. Feroze Mahmud was the producer, and he organised Rahman Boyati to come over to BTV and handover a scratch of the song on a cassette recorder. Pearo Khan on behalf of the band went over, recorded the song and wrote down the lyrics, which was abridged from the original given allocated time slots issues in BTV for music airing.

What set into motion was a marathon 72 hours as FeedBack doggedly worked on the song, argued endlessly about tone and tonalities – and in the end were ready to bring in Rahman Boyati to Soundgarden studio to dub his voice. It was to be my first meeting with someone who was no less a ‘star’ than Michael Jackson in rural Bangladesh and I therefore spent a sleepless night in anticipation!

Rahman Bhai turned out to be larger than life and joined in spontaneously to sing. It did not matter to him that the song was set to a club beat and his impromptu dancing while recording had us energised. He smiled and laughed all the way through and even volunteered to source a Baul children’s choir to join in the sing-a-long portions.

Two days later, we all packed a bus and set out to Gazipur where a video was shot. On Eid day when the song and video (available at was televised, the outpouring of appreciation and adulation for both Rahman Boyati and FeedBack was awe inspiring. In three weeks time a one song album was launched (the first of its kind in the history of Bangladesh music) and sold over 30,000 audio cassette copies on the first day alone!

My association with Rahman Boyati and the Baul/Boyati tradition increased as days wore on.

If there was one overriding characteristic of Rahman Boyati it was his simplicity to a fault persona. Always appreciative of the work I was doing, one of the fondest moments I have with him was when he thanked me for creating a totally new breed of fans. ‘I feel so proud when young boys and girls wearing jeans, tee-shirts and caps worn backwards come and shake my hand. They wouldn’t have heard my music or known anything about me, if it wasn’t for FeedBack,’ he told me chewing his trademark paan (betel leaf) one afternoon.

The legacy of Rahman Boyati will live on for as long as we take some time to explore the earth we walk on, instead of the imaginary sky we float upon or the ‘stars’ we aspire to become. There are thousands of Boyatis around us, and unless we create the space for them to perform, give them the respect they truly deserve, the tradition and all that we hold precious will die out eventually. That in a roundabout way would be death to whatever has been precious and valuable for our very existence.

New Age Xtra, Friday, 6th September 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Polls 2013 - Of power, pain, princes and poli-tricks

by Mac Haque 

''And in what fairy tale would John ever be any sane person’s idea of Prince Charming anyway? He was the opposite of charming. More like Prince Terrifying.'' Meg Cabot, Abandon

THE onset of Eid-ul-Fitr holidays saw Bangladesh struggling to rediscover a semblance of normalcy, which had eluded it from the beginning of the year. For the average citizens, trapped and held hostage between demeaning polemics and arrogance of the two mainstream political parties, the mighty ideals of democracy that all free nations aspire for has been laid waste. Time has come to a standstill as our politicians have stalled our minds to make any sense of the ‘what next’. 

Those ‘what next’s’ have led to a proliferation of ‘what ifs’ and all we can do for now is breathe heavily in anticipation; hearts asunder, we wonder whether it is any more fashionable to talk about reason. That an absence of reason equals to anarchist insanity is not even being considered in these unreasonable times.

We are forced to gulp nothing more than fear pills about threats of more violence and loss of lives and limbs. The visually violent faces of politicians we see on television or the unfriendly speeches we have to endure cannot make for comforting imaginations when we mull over the prospects of elections 2013. 

Every passing day confronts us with further uncertainties, and there are no assurances or indicators available anywhere to suggest that the loss of opportunities, loss of businesses, and the ultimate trial of our patience and sanity this year will be recompensed in the foreseeable future. Regardless of whether we vote and usher in the Awami League or the Bangladesh Nationalist Party with their respective allies to government in 2014, there seems to be no chance for peace ever to return. 

And all of our continuous pains, insults and ignominies are because we cherish ‘democracy’, which, in the Bangladesh perspective, has historically been no more than a battle of two families that have personal squabbles and scores to sort out, have one-upmanship as their only means to an end. Overindulgence in innuendoes and profanity-filled diatribes in public to force upon the people their mentally convoluted mandate and undermining ‘will’ in the end leaves no one with any inclination that our politician’s intentions are anything but to serve the interest of the people.

As if in a theatre of the absurd, even at the best of times, our politicians remind us of ‘pain’ and how more painful our fate and fortune ought to be, just to remember, like the original sin, the ‘original pain’! 

Take for example the prime minister’s comments, published in New Age on August 19, during her much-heralded press conference about the dismal power situation that the AL government has succeeded in taking a tight rein on. 

While the prime minister surely deserves accolades for the improvements made during her tenure, her statement that she deliberately switches off power for two hours daily and will increase it further so that ‘people can understand (remember) the pain of going without power’ sends very abrasive signals. More than a public display of her tendency to go overboard whenever she is surrounded by cronies, it also suggests arbitrariness of the highest order. 

What has gone unnoticed is improvement to the power situation is not exactly a ‘favour’ granted by the prime minister to the people but a duty she is obliged to perform in keeping with her much-touted dream of ‘digital Bangladesh’. Electricity is not exactly provided free to the citizens at large, yet amongst the phalanx of journalists present during the conference no one questioned or even challenged the revenue losses to the national exchequer for the hours power is switched off because of her whims and fancy.

If it is the loss of votes the Awami League should be worried about, the prime minister’s utterances were subversive in nature, an open admission of abuse of power and fundamentally a violation of her oath of office, and may have easily cost her over a million votes on the day alone. In addition, this punishing ‘pain’ on the people, simply because a huge proportion of our population supports the BNP, is pushing her luck to the brink.

The prime minister should have remembered that despite all the great deeds of her government, the Bengali race tends to sway in the direction the ‘wind is blowing’. Favourable wind ironically is yet to strike the sails of the ‘boat’ she concurrently navigates. Despite all her and the Awami League’s ‘great achievements’ in five years, the party should not forget the Bengali adage ‘Ek mon doodh noshto kortey ek fota lebu jothesto’ (a drop of lime is enough to destroy gallons of milk). The BNP does not have to struggle too hard to win. More sour words from the prime minister aimed at the people are enough to guarantee the Awami League’s suicidal defeat.

On a different note, our politicians have started believing that citizens at large have turned both deaf and mute, or complete jackasses. With constant barrages of warnings about ‘unconstitutional forces’ or individuals who will usurp power at the first given opportunity, they have craftily launched a ‘charm offensive’ that we accept by default ‘unconstitutional leaders’ that both parties are propping up as the nation’s potent saviours as our ‘take it or leave it choice’? 

For the love of God, can someone please tell me who ‘prince’ Tareque and ‘prince’ Joy are to lecture us anything at all on politics and statecraft? Are they elected leaders? Given an even playing field as opposed to the abject advantage of their pedigree, will they ever stand a chance to be elected by the people?

The propping into ‘national limelight’ of these two inconsequential ‘prince wannabes’ displays the political frailty, vulnerability and bankruptcy of both the Awami League and the BNP. It tends to reinforce the public perception that, whilst we continue to pay high prices in our pursuit of the elusive golden deer — democracy, the mainstream parties are anything but democratic. Indeed, what is on offer is a dynastic continuity, meaning Bangladeshis will have to keep tolerating that its land is no more than a fiefdom. 

As far as ‘prince’ Tareque’s track records are concerned, the nation has had a taste of his abuse of power and interference in the functioning of the previous BNP government. It is his alternative source of power, the bastion of his cronies and sycophants, termed the ‘young Turks’, in Hawa Bhaban that caused the electoral disaster for the BNP in the last polls and maybe even the consequent 1/11. While public memory in Bangladesh is traditionally short, to imagine that the nation has forgotten the episodes of the past or have forgiven him completely may be basking in a fool’s paradise.

‘Prince’ Joy, on the other hand, emerged out of nowhere ahead of Eid holidays and proceeded on a rampage of ‘killjoy’ comments! Despite his American university degrees and a bideshi wife to boost his image among the ‘peasantry’, when it comes to pettiness, his incoherence and indulgence in poli-trickery led many not only to be surprised but also deeply shocked. When it comes to ‘sophisticated bumpkin-ness’, there is not too much of a difference in his demeanour that sets him apart from his newly sworn nemesis — ‘prince’ Tareque. 

The media in combi with the BNP, however, had a field day making mincemeat when he muttered unintelligibly about having access to ‘information’ that confirms the Awami League would have a thumping victory in elections 2013. What actually transpired was ‘prince’ Joy used something akin to Gallup Polls outsourced to some of his buddies, as a guiding parameter to his ‘prophetic comment’. That the ‘information’ itself could have been doctored to please him is where he failed to make any matured judgement. 

That aside, the social network images of his mother (the prime minister) cooking in the kitchen for his birthday did nothing to boost his image; on the contrary, it may have projected him as a pampered ‘mama’s darling’.

However, what is very baffling is the public perception in general that the BNP will sweep into power. The success of the party in routing the Awami League in five city corporation elections may have buoyed their confidence, yet their rabidly growing ‘overconfidence’ about the people’s likely mandate is worrying and raises some pertinent questions: 

1. Assuming that the BNP accedes to the AL intransigence on the caretaker government issue and wins a decisive majority in parliament, bringing them back to power, will the next elections then be held under the BNP government? If yes, would the Awami League be ready to accept the same and contest the next elections under the BNP?

2. If the BNP comes to power, will it be possible for it to go along with the excess baggage they have accumulated over the past five years in the shape of the extreme right-wing Hefajat-e-Islami or even the remnants of Jamaat-e-Islami? Specifically, will they accept the 13-point demand of Hefajat and other such groups in the lunatic fringe? 

3. Assuming that the Awami League loses and is back in parliament as the opposition, does it mean the war crimes tribunal will be dismantled and all convicted criminals set free? Will the continuation of whatever has been of common good to the citizens in the AL tenure of five years be torpedoed?

4. Assuming that point 1 becomes a reality, does it mean that the Awami League has gotten so bankrupt (or ‘rotten’ to quote Khaleda Zia) as a political party that there is absolutely no chance of it ‘ever’ coming back to power?

While we mull over the above ‘what if’ hypothesis, the most important points for the citizens to consider is the following: 

5. In the event of a BNP victory and capture of state power ‘democratically’, what guarantees do the citizens have that the Awami League will give a respite to street agitations, murder mayhems, human rights abuse, attacks on minorities and women as well as unending calls for hartal? 

6. What assurances do we, as voters, have that tit-for-tat regime of violence and uncertainties that has been part and parcel of our so-called ‘political culture’ will end for good?

For now, there are unfortunately no convincing answers. 

The BNP’s agenda for the polls is to merely trash the Awami League’s achievements and focus on what it sees as ‘corruption, arbitrary conduct, violence, human rights abuse’ and the much misused propaganda of ‘attack on Islamist and their construed faith and belief by atheist in the government’. That the BNP cannot absolve itself from the same exact evils and the same allegations is one that bedevils the national psyche.

Likewise, the Awami League’s agenda for the polls is only to talk about its achievements, and how the nation will face the prospects of ‘militancy, bomb attacks and rehabilitation of war criminals and Taibanisation’, if the BNP wins — an old and rehashed piece of trash that does nothing more than to appease the US and its allies in the non-existent war on terror! Other than a continuation of one fear psychosis or the other, the Awami League or the BNP has nothing tangible as such on offer.

In the above scenarios, it is not the politicians but the citizens who in the end will be the perfect and ultimate losers. Whether or not the election will be held at all is speculative, yet if within the ongoing chaos a ‘respectable poll’ does come through, what will be interesting to look out for is no party having a clear majority to form a government. A ‘hung parliament’ will hopefully usher in a ‘political culture’ where the Awami League and the BNP will be left with no option but to battle it out on the parliament floor — and not on the streets, not at the cost of innocent citizens. Outdating either ‘decisive’ or ‘brutal majority’ seems to be the only answer for the time being. 

I welcome the prospects — as a hung parliament will ensure that the people, the citizens will be spared the ‘pain’ of being hanged by politicians repeatedly!

New Age Op Ed Monday 26th August 2013

Monday, August 05, 2013

জীবনে একবার দেখা হেমায়েত উল্লাহ আওরঙ্গ

মাকসুদুল হক 

১৯৮৯ এর এক দুপুর | দিলকুশায় আমার অফিসে কাজের ঝামেলায় আছি,এর ভেতর এক কলিগ এসে বললো, ৭জন ছেলে এসেছে আমার সাথে দেখা করতে | জানতে চেলাম কি বিষয় | বললো ফিডব্যাক কে কৃষি কলেজে একটা কনসার্ট এ আমন্ত্রণ জানাতে চায় ছাত্র লিগ | ফিডব্যাকের গায়ক ছাড়া ব্যবসায়িক লেনদেন আমি করতাম তাই ওদের হ্যালো বলে বসতে বললাম আর ১৫ মিনিট পর কাজ সেরে বিস্তারিত খোজখবর নিলাম |

সবি ঠিক লাগলো তবে টাকা এত কম যে আমাদের সন্মানী তো দুরের কথা, সাউন্ড সিস্তামের ভাড়াও তাতে কভার হবেনা| ছেলেগুলো প্রায় কান্নার কাছাকাছি - হাত ধরে বলে 'মাকসুদ ভাই একটু ট্রাই করেন' | আমি পরদিন যোগাযোগ করতে বলে সন্ধায় দলনেতা বাবু কে এলভিস ষ্টুডিওতে বিষয়টা জানালাম | বাজেটের অবস্থা বেগতিক - বাবু এক কথায় বললো 'দোস্তো ইম্পসিবেল - না বলে দেও কারণ এত কম টাকায় ছাত্র লীগের কনসার্ট করলে অন্য সংগঠনদের না করতে পারবা না' | কথার যৌক্তিকতা ছাড়াও ফিডব্যাক তখন যন্ত্রপাতির কেনার ঋণে জর্জরিত| তার উপর পলিটিকাল শো - মারামারি লেগেই থাকে |

পরদিন শুক্রবার | বাসায় এলভিস ষ্টুডিওর সত্তাধিকারী জাহাঙ্গীর আমাকে ফোনে করে জানালো - একজন আওরঙ্গ নামের লোক আমাকে খুজছে | জাহাঙ্গীরের গলায় খুবই আতঙ্কের ছাপ, বললো 'দোস্তো এইটা ওই 'ভয়ানক সন্ত্রাসী' আওরঙ্গ মনে হচ্ছে, সাবধানে বিষয় তা হ্যান্ডেল করিস' | আমি বললাম 'ধুর ...আওরঙ্গর নাম ভাঙিয়ে অনেকেই চাঁদাবাজি করছে - আওরঙ্গ তো কলকাতায় গাঢাকা দিয়ে আছে অনেকদিন হলো' |

জবাবে জাহাঙ্গীর বললো, 'আমি শুনসি সে নাকি গোপনে দেশে ফিরেছে - সো তুই যা করিস ক্যার্ফুলি করিস আর মাথা ঠান্ডা রাখিস'| আমি বিষয়টা ভুলে গেলাম বললে ভুল হবে - পাত্তাই দিলাম না |

এর পরেরদিন সকাল ৯:৩০ অফিস পৌছে দেখি ওই ৭টা ছেলে লাউঞ্জে বসে আছে | সালাম ঠুকে একজন এসে বললো 'বস - লিদেরের চিরকুটটা পরেন' | একটু হতবাক হয়েই হাতে নিলাম - অত্যন্ত সুন্দর হাতের লেখা একটা চিরকুট :

"আমার সুপ্রিয় গায়ক মাকসুদ, 
ছেলদের সাথে তুমি কষ্ট করে চলে আসো ভাই..একটু চা নাস্তা করে যাও| 
ইতি তোমার 
আওরঙ্গ দা "

ভয়ে কেমন জানি দেহে একটা কাপুনি অনুভব করলাম | কতোনা এই 'ভয়ংকর সন্ত্রাসীর' কথা শুনেছি, পত্রিকায় পরেছি - আর আজ উনি আমাকে 'চা নাস্তার' আমন্ত্রণ দিচ্ছে ?

জানতে চেলাম 'কোথায় যেতে হবে - উনি তো এখনো আত্মগোপন অবস্থা আছেন তাই না' - ছেলে গুলো মাথা নিচ করে নিরুত্তর রইলো | ওদের আস্বস্ত করতে বললাম 'ভাই আমি উনার সাথে দেখা করতে ভয় পাচ্ছি না - কিন্তু উনারে তো করা নজরদারির উপর ঈরশাদ সরকার রেখেছে নিশ্চয়? আমি এরেস্ট হলে গান বাজনা চাকরি আমার কিন্তু সব শেষ - সন্ত্রাসীর খাতায় ও আমার নাম উঠবে' |

ছেলেটা কন্ফিদেন্ত্লি বললো - 'লিডার কোথায় আছেন এইটা তো বলা নিষেদ তবে ইনশাল্লাহ আপনার কোনো সমস্যা হবে না - আমরা আছি আপনার সাথে' |

ভিশন রকম দোটানায় পরে গেলাম ....আমার পেট বললো .... 'না যাব না', কিন্তু মুখ বললো - 'চলো যাই' | বেরুনোর আগে বাবুকে ফোন করে বিষয়টা জানালাম | বাবু চিন্তায় পরে গেলো | বললো 'ও মাই গড - দি গাই ইজ ফর রিয়াল'? আমি বললাম 'ইয়েস'! উত্তরে বাবু বললো, 'ম্যাক - বেস্ট অফ লাক - তুমি ফিরেই আমাকে কল দিও এন্ড বি কেয়ারফুল ' |

ছেলেগুলা কে আমি বললাম আমার গাড়িতে উঠতে | জবাবে ওরা বললো 'বস আপনার ড্রাইভারকে বলেন গাড়ি নিয়ে আমাদের ফলো করুক, আপনি আমাদের সাথে উঠেন, আপনার নিরাপত্তার দায়িত্ব আমাদের' |

তাই হলো | আমি বেবি টেক্সীতে উঠলাম - আমার দুপাশে কোমরে অস্ত্রধারী দুই যুবক | সামনে পেছনে আরো ২ টা বেবি টেক্সী - মত ৯-১০ জন আমাকে এসকর্ট করে নিয়ে যাচ্ছে আওরঙ্গদার কাছে | কিন্তু কোথায় যাচ্ছি ত়া কেউ কিছুই বলছে না | আমিও আর চাপাচাপি করলাম না |

কিছুক্ষণ পরে দেখি ধানমন্ডির ৩২ নম্বর বঙ্গবন্ধুর বাস ভবনের সামনে আমরা উপস্থিত| এক টানে বেবি টেক্সী ঢুকলো বাসার বাউন্ডারির ভেতর | আমাকে একটা রুম এ বসিয়ে ছেলেরা চলে গেলো |একা - এই প্রথম আমার জীবনে আমি বঙ্গবন্ধুর বাসায় | তখনও তা মিউজিয়াম হয়ে উঠেনি | কেমন জানি ভুতরে পরিবেশ - ওয়াল এ ঝুলছে ৭ই মার্চ এর ছবি | মনটা খুবই ভারী হয়ে উঠলো | এর ভেতরে ছেলেরা আসে, উকি দিয়ে চলে যাই - আর বলে 'বস একটু থাকেন - লিডার আসছেন অল্পক্ষণের ভেতরে' | বসেই থাকলাম একা - তারপর হঠাত ছেলেরা এসে - ভেতরে আরেকটা রুমে নিয়ে আমাকে বসালো | জানালা সব বন্ধ - টিউব লাইট জলছে |

১০ মিনিটের মাথায় সাদা পাঞ্জাবি পাজামা পরা অবিকল একেবারে বাংলা সিনেমার নায়ক উজ্জল ভাই মতো দেখতে এক লোক এসে হাত বাড়িয়ে বললো 'মাকসুদ আমি তোমার আওরঙ্গদা ' | হাতে হাত রাখতেই বুকে জড়িয়ে ধরে বললো 'কেমন আছ ভাই? তোমার নাম, ডাক গান আমি সবি জেনেছি ও শুনেছি ইতোমধ্যে' | এটা সেটা অনেক কিছুই আলাপ করলাম - আর ৩২ নম্বর উনি আছেন একথা অকপটে জানালেন - তবে সব সময় থাকেন না | 'টিকটিকির উত্পাত বেশি দেখলে অন্যত্র সরে যাই মাঝেমাঝে' - বলে মৃদু হাসলেন |

সিংগারা, চা ও পেস্ট্রি খেলাম এবং দুপুরে খেয়ে যাবার জন্য জোর অনুরোধ করলেন | অফিস পালিয়ে দেখা করতে এসেছি বলাতে বললো, 'আচ্ছা ঠিক আছে' | ছেলেদের রুম থেকে বেরিয়ে যাবার ইশারা করে - দরজা বন্ধ করলেন |

এপর পকেট থেকে একটা খাম বের করে আমার হাতে চাপিয়ে দিয়ে বললো, 'ভাই সংগঠন তোমার, দেশ তোমার আর আমি তোমার বড়ভাই - বড্ড বিপদে আছি যা তুমি ভালো জানো | টাকা পয়সা একেবারে নাই কিন্তু কৃষি কলেজ এর পর্ষদের নির্বাচনে আমাদের জয় শুনিশিত - তবে ছাত্রদের একটাই ডিমান্ড - ওরা ফিডব্যাক কে চায় প্রজেকশন সন্ধার মিটিঙে | ভাই এটা প্রেস্টিজ ইসু, তুমি বুঝতে পারছ আশা করি | তোমাদের যেই সন্মানী আমি ত়া দিতে পারবো না - কিন্তু আমাকে হেল্প করো - আমি কেবলি তোমাদের বড় ভাই না - আমি একজন মুক্তিযোদ্ধা তোমাকে রিকোয়েস্ট করছি' |

চোখের দিকে চোখ রেখে এমন ভাবে 'প্লিজ' বললেন যে আমি এক কথাই রাজি হয়ে গেলাম | আবার জড়িয়ে ধরে ছেলেদের বললো 'আমি বলসিলাম না মাকসুদ আমার কথা রাখবে' | চতুরদিকে ছেলেদের আনন্দের যেন বন্যা বয়ে গেলো, হাততালি এবং 'থানক ইউ বস' বলতে বলতে - আবার একই কায়দায় বেবি টেক্সিতে আমাকে অফিসে পৌছানো হলো |

পরদিন রোববার - কনসার্ট শেষ হবার পর আওরঙ্গ দার সাথে দেখা করতে যাবার কথা ছিলো| তবে উনি সেদিন দুপুর থেকে আবার গাঢাকা দিয়েছেন এই খবর পেলাম | এর পর আর আওরঙ্গদার সাথে দেখা হলো না |

হেমায়েত উল্লাহ আওরঙ্গ গত শনিবার এক মর্মান্তিকসড়ক দুর্ঘটনায় মুন্সীগঞ্জে মারা যান | ইন্নালিলাহে.......রজেঊন

Saturday, August 03, 2013

জামাতের নিবন্ধন বাতিল, আল্লাহ নিবন্ধন প্রসঙ্গে এবং 'এসলাম'

মাকসুদুল হক 

১. আল্লাহ 'সাত আসমান' থেকে উড়াল দিয়ে এসে পৃথিবীতে অবতরণ করে নিজের পরিচয় মানুষের কাছে দেননি - দেবেনো না | মানুষ এই শব্দ আবিষ্কার করেছে - মানুষের কল্যানে তা ব্যবহার হচ্ছে এবং হবে | যারা মানুষের ভেতরে আল্লাহর রূপ দেখেনা, যারা আশরাফুল মাকলুকাত কে, তাকে চেনেন না বা চেনার কোনো ইচ্ছা রাখেনা তাদের নিজের অস্তিত্তই বিলীন | নিজের অস্তিত্বের ভেতরে যার আল্লাহ নেই - সে নিজে প্রকৃতির যেকোনো জীব/জন্তু থেকে কোনো ভাবেই পৃথক না| মোদ্দা কথা ওরা মানুষ না 

২. তাই 'কাগুজি আল্লাহ', কাগজে 'নিবন্ধিত আল্লাহ' কে তারা 'আল্লাহ' মানে এবং তা আছে কিনা, সেটা টেলিস্কোপ দিয়ে খুঁজে বেড়ায় - এ ছাড়া তাদের আর অন্য কোনো 'ধান্দা' নেই | ঘুম থেকে উঠে তারা আল্লাহকে অন্তর থেকে স্মরণ করেনা, তারা সচক্ষে দেখতে চায় আল্লাহ কথায় আছে বা নেই - দেখতে চায় সংবিধানে আল্লাহ ঠিক মতো বহাল তাবিয়াতে আছেন তো? 

"এই দিল কোরানটি না বুঝিয়া আয়াত কোরান পরে কোনো লাভ হবেনা"  ফকির লালন শাহ 

৩. 'নিরাকার আল্লাহকে' তারা মসজিদের ভেতরে 'আকার' দেয়.....'আল্লাহু' লেখে, গলায় সেই একই 'আল্লাহু' তারা স্বর্ণ অলংকার বানিয়ে 'মুসলমান' সাজে | শেরেক যদি কেউ করে থাকে এই জামাত/হেফাজত পন্থী নব্য 'মুসলমানগণ' রা তা করে | তবে আমরা যারা নিজেরদের 'পবিত্র ধর্ম নিরপেক্ষ' বলে মনে করি বা 'sacred sanctified secularism' এ বিশ্বাস করি - আমরা কি আসলেই পাপ/গুনাহ মুক্ত? 

৪. বাংলাদেশের মূল ইসলাম, অর্থাত খেটে খাওয়া মানুষের 'মুহাম্মাদী ইসলাম' থেকে এই রাজনৈতিক ধান্দাবাজি ইসলামের যে কতটা পার্থক্য তা এর আগে এতো পরিষ্কার আর কখনই হয়নি| মূল কথা হচ্ছে যেটা আমরা 'মূলধারার ইসলাম' (mainstream Islam) বলছি তা কেবল জামাত/হেফাজতরা একাই পালন করছে আর আমরা করছি না - এটা একটা দাহা মিথ্যা কথা| 

৫. যে ইসলাম আমরা প্রাকটিস করছি যা টিভি, রেডিও, পত্রিকা সহ ফেসবুকে বহুল প্রচার পাচ্ছে,যা আওয়ামী লিগ, বিএনপি সহ সবকটা রাজনৈতিক দলেরে 'ইসলাম' এসব একই ওয়াহাবী/শরিয়াতি 'এসলাম' এর ধারাবাহিকতার 'এসলাম' | রাসুলাল্লাহর মৃত্যুর ৩০ বছরের পর এই 'রাজকীয় এসলাম' এর জন্ম এবং তা কেবলি ধর্নাধ্য, মানুষের 'এসলাম'| রাসুলাল্লাহর বংশধর্দের জবাই করার সময় যাদের বুক একটুও কাপেনি - তাদেরই এই 'এসলাম' | এই ভয়াবহ সত্য কথাটি আমরা বেমালুম ভুলে গিয়েছি |

৬. জামাতের নিবন্ধন বাতিল করেন, জামাত/হেফাজতকে নিষিদ্ধ করেন - তা খুবই ভালো কথা | তবে ইসলাম যে ১৫০০ বছরে ৭২টা 'ফির্কা' তে ভাগ হয়ে গেছে, খন্ড বিখন্ড হয়ে গেছে - আমরা আসলেই কোন ইসলাম, কোন আল্লাহকে মানি, কাকে উপাসনা/ইবাদত করি সেটাও ভেবে দেখার সময় চলে এসেছে| জামাত/হেফাজাত কে নিষিদ্ধ করবেন কিন্তু তাদের 'এসলাম' কে আমরা নিজের ধান্দা ফিকিরের জন্য ব্যবহার করবো - এই গোমরাহী আল্লাহ যে মেনে নেবেন, আমার তা খুবই সন্দেহ | 

৬. শেষ কথা : 'আল্লাহ তে পূর্ণ ইমান' ১৯৭১ এ পাকিস্তানের সংবিধানেও ছিলো, কিন্তু তাতে কি মুসলমান সহ অন্য ধর্মবিলোম্বিদের মুসলমান দ্বারা নিধন থেমে ছিলো? ধর্ষণ থেমে ছিলো ? একইভাবে বাংলাদেশের সংবিধানে 'আল্লাহতে পূর্ণ ইমান' লেখা থাকলেই যে আমরা সবাই ১০০ ভাগ হালাল মুসলমান হয়ে যাবো, 'আল্লাহর' নামে, 'এসলাম' এর নাম খুন ধর্ষণ আর হবেনা - এই গ্যারান্টি কে দেবে? 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Hefazat and the high art of lying

by Maqsoodul Haque - Mac

"The only thing worse than a liar is a liar that's also a hypocrite!" Tennessee Williams

We have reached close to a point of no return in our political shadow boxing and hence the mainstream parties have decided to hire sidekicks to keep us entertained, as the going has gotten clearly rough. These sidekicks in the form of Hefazat on the other hand have conveniently taken on the subject of Islam, knowingly fully well its implications; i.e. our general citizenry is averse to discuss or debate this in public.

It is not because citizens do not want to, but its selective anathema on the subject stems more from ignorance as to the history of political Islam, as well as the flimsiest knowledge about the strength of Sufi Islam, the dominant strains in our culture that has been in existence for over 400 years, with records of fighting bigotry and intolerance. It has therefore helped bigots to stamp the word 'sensitive' before the subject, and by default, has made them the 'sole authority of Islam' in the public perception.

We have therefore been thrust into frustrating and predictably inconclusive debates on God and our respective iman (faith/belief) and who is or isn't a 'better Muslim' forgetting quite placidly, that it is not Allah that will come in to run things for us, bring in order from anarchy, or sort the mess we are in; but us humans.  Never ever, has our polity and propriety combined been dragged down to a level lower than what we are now witness to.

The recent disgusting video from the Hefazat supremo Ahmad Shafi of Hathazari has kept us thoroughly titillated, and what is obvious is more than our politics, secular values, women or even our culture, it is Islam in Bangladesh that has been maligned in more ways than we may imagine. If there has been any damage done thus far, it has been to Muslims who for centuries have lived in peace and amity in this country, despite fact that ultra-conservative strains among some religious groups have been omnipresent.

If we need to assign blames, first we have to point fingers at sections of our morally bankrupt politicians that have moved us out of the ambit of discussing ways and means as how the nation can prosper, as other than divisions they have nothing else to offer. That done, we also need to point many more fingers back at ourselves for permitting our commons sense to take leave, and in the process create further fodder for disquiet in the desh.

For reasons ominous and best known to the powers that be, Hefazat an inconsequential group on the lunatic fringe is being primed to center stage of our attention as one among 'powerful factors' that caused the debacle of the ruling Awami League (AL) in the recent City Corporation elections. However, is that the truth, or is Hefazat just another expendable 'bogeyman' that is being used not only by the Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP) but also by the AL in the run up to Polls 2013? Is this to create an aura of a force much 'larger and powerful' than both and one we have to perforce align ourselves with ..or else?

In both cases, a reality check brings into forefront massive errors of our collective judgment. We have been conned into believing that Hefazat with all pretensions of being 'defenders of Islam' will make a change to our political landscape and in turn, the fate, 'faith' and fortune of Bangladesh is a lie of the highest order. Hefazat is surely not the last word for Islam in Bangladesh, nor is there any truth to the ruse of their 'massive support' all across the length and breadth of the country.

Evidently, there is a sinister pattern emerging this Ramadhan in Afghanistan and Pakistan where unheard of clerics are handing out vitriolic fatwas (edicts or decrees) targeting women and ones their respective governments are shockingly acquiescing to. No different is the case of Bangladesh.

Taking a cue from an article 'Spare the faith' in New Age Xtra of 19th July 2013, the writer states "The point is that there are 65,000 quomi madrassahs in the country and their reach is all over the country. Their institutions are growing by the day and more and more children are getting into these madrassahs as they provide food, lodging and Islamic education all at the same time" - yet the most important points were missed out as these are presumptions, and not ones based on facts or ground realities.  

Firstly, is there any convincing evidence that Hefazat's perverted zero-centricity and misogynist mindset 'reach', to each and every one of the above 65,000 madrassahs? NO they do not, for this is a case of fear psychosis driven stereotypical profiling by our city based elite about madrassahs. It is in our criminal ignorance in not knowing the workings of these institutions that in the end leads to monsters like Hefazat to multiply. Also, our failure to see through the web of lies and falsities these elements have traditionally woven around us, are ironically ones we do not take lessons from.

Secondly, what is the demography of quomi madrassahs? The figure '65,000' is purely speculative (read lie) and not based on any hard evidence or fieldwork whatsoever, neither are any data available as to the numbers of actual students in these institutions. Thus for argument sake, if we add in 200 people on average (i.e. direct beneficiaries/stake holders of the quomi madrassah system) and multiply that by 65,000 madrassahs we reach numbers not exceeding 13 million. This in effect is too paltry a figure for any serious demographic judgment when we consider the total population of Bangladesh currently at 160 million people!

The bottom line is , Hefazat despite all our fear psychosis has no clouts whatsoever as a political or even social movement and despite the 'paramount importance' showered on them by sections of the media, in the hungama everybody seems to have overlooked the financing methodology of this obscurantist entity, that has suddenly become the 'talk of the nation'.

The pertinent question is; who pays for the upkeep of children in quomi madrassahs? The answer to that is the quomi madrassahs in themselves do not pay a damn thing. If anybody does, it is us, the communities i.e. the 'Islam sensitized' overwhelming part of the citizenry, who support them to the hilt, and are its ultimate patrons. Quite simply stated, quomi madrassahs unlike aliya madrassahs are not supported/financed by the Government.

Opportunities and danger both present itself in the scenario. The danger is in unsolicited funding by vested interest in connivance with political elements make them a potent yet 'inexpensive force' for rise in Islamist militancy and its twin, nihilism. The post-80's influx of Saudi petro-dollars has actually seen the upsurge of the phenomenon, the rest is history.

The opportunities are; we as communities, the contributors and patrons, can demand greater change in the madrassah curriculum, as well as embed awareness building mechanisms that can lead on to negating and marginalizing the likes of Ahmad Shafi. We can also demand public accountability and transparency as to how the money we donate to madrassahs are spent. If Hefazat claims, it is a force that respects 'democracy', they should have absolutely no problems in accepting the above proposal!

The irony nonetheless is despite the communities overwhelming support in cash or kind to the quomi madrassahs for as long as we can remember, what at all has been their 'productive' output? Ahmad Shafi demonizes women working in garments factories, considers them 'lecherous adulteresses' simply because they have to work anywhere between 12 to 14 hours to feed their children and families, and has clearly spelt out women as the 'nastiest things' that Allah has created. Yet have any of us enquired about Shafi or his cohort's actual 'contribution' to the national economy, the exchequer, to our prosperity and wellbeing? Nothing whatsoever - in fact they have lived all along on freebees, turned slothful and his idle mind and those of his cohorts have no doubt become the 'devils workshop' and advocate.

Put plainly, the first breach of trust on part of Hefazat to Allah and the nation is by being so supremely ungrateful to their patrons, and in the same token the sin in demonizing women, our mothers and sisters who the Qur'an commands us deserve our unqualified respect and honor. By mobilizing vulnerable children who we pay for support and upkeep in these madrassahs for 'march of Iman' and bringing them to Dhaka NOT for a show of force against an 'atheist Government' voted in by a 'brute majority', but threatening us with insane violence, based on their scurrilous misinterpretation of Islam, has proved beyond reasonable doubts that their intentions were anything but peaceful.

Clearly, Hefazat wants to reduce Bangladesh to economic and moral bankruptcy.  All that they wanted to project themselves was a 'menacing threat' which may have earned them accolades from an unenlightened few, but overall condemned  by the vast majority as unworthy of either respect or hospitality, regardless of their Alem status.

In addition, what about their lies? Here is a list worth considering:

Lie # 1: Hefazat was born as a 'spontaneous rejection' to the Shahbag 'atheist movement': the truth - it was born as a B team of the Jamaat-e-Islami/BNP axis to create indirect pressure on the International War Crimes Tribunal and scuttle the ongoing trial of war criminals of 1971. By eulogizing that anyone disagreeing with them is an 'atheist', their 'our way or the highway' analogy fell through over time, not without thereby creating unrealistic and unnecessary fissures in our society, that will take a much longer time to heal and seal.

Lie # 2: The hundreds upon thousands who 'marched' into Dhaka during the siege program on 4th April '13 did so 'spontaneously': the truth – billions of takas were pumped in for the mobilisation by vested interest, Free Masonic enterprises fermented with black money and usury,  thus disparaging the ideals of Islam and the words of the Qur'an.

Lie # 3: Hefazat is a non-political spiritual 'movement of the people' with Ahmad Shafi as the head: the truth is Hefazat's real politico-spiritual-philosophical 'ideologue' has since been identified as a former atheist and leftist intellectual, with strong leanings to JeI/BNP who in recent days has veered sharply to the far right 'core of believers'. As early as 2011-12 he had predicted in TV talks shows about the 'rise of a force unseen and one worthy of our fear' and mixing it with Marxist jargons of 'class war' to make his point. Yet it was not a prophecy nor a forecast, but one he had  been conniving for long supported by intelligence operatives,  some well known as double even triple 'agents', close to several corridors of power.

Lie # 4: The AL Government in its crackdown on Shapla Square on 5th May '13 killed 2500 Hefazat supporters and transported the corpses by truck to India for disposal: the truth is the claims were so bizarre and unsubstantiated, that international human rights bodies who in the early days bought the story and chastised the Government, at a later stage (while not exonerating the AL) acknowledged its mistake and censured Hefazat for 'manipulating figures with gross exaggeration'.

Lie # 5: Hefazat's 13 point charter of demand is not 'anti-women' nor against garments workers: the truth has been corroborated convincingly in the video of Ahmad Shafi that sent shock waves and went viral three weeks ago. This despite the fact that scores of JeI/BNP 'intellectuals' including the extreme-left-turn-extreme right turncoat as well as his wife, had penned reams of pro-Hefazat article and its supposed 'pro-women' policies. Their silence since the video has been deafening!

Lie # 6:  The Government to 'humiliate' Shafi doctored the video in an apparent 'media coup': the truth became evident in the force of public scrutiny on the one hand, as well as the hostile reactions of a supremely uncouth and foul-mouthed BNP women MP in parliament. It however speaks volumes about Hefazat's fragility and cultural inadequacy that it was left with no option but solicit a 'women' in a failed attempt to protect its own sullied reputation. When public demands for Hefazat to produce the 'un-doctored video' peaked following the furor ..the set was stage for the last, if not the least of their lies….

Lie # 7: The video was addressed and catered to a 'village audience': the truth that evolved from the statement is Hefazat and Shafi are pathological liars, hypocrites and have dangerous double standards, human traits that the Qur'an terms munafik, i.e. a person who pretends to be a Muslim but in the heart is not one.

As more dangers loom in the horizon for the nation, it is entirely left to us as who to believe. Is it going to be the AL Government, BNP, Jamaat or Hefazat? The truth is nowhere in between, neither will it ever be black or white, but then if it is going to be Allah who we believe will decide for us, it is best that we leave everything to His judgment instead of entrusting  our resolve behind farcical and violent 'Godmen' or pretentious clerics who we in our ignorance have permitted to proliferate.

That Islam does not permit a clergy or any human intermediaries in our 'ultimate relationship' with the Creator must not be forgotten. Hefazat needs to be damned and eradicated. The strength and resilience of our culture, 'secular' or otherwise and our faith in Allah should be good enough for the job.

New Age Xtra Friday 26th July 2013