Thursday, June 28, 2001

'Translucent Forces' And Two Colors in the Bangladesh Rainbow!

The grisly toll and 666:

6th March 1999 : Jessore, Udichi Bomb Blast- (10 Dead) : 8th March 1999: Khulna, Ahmediya Mosque Blast- (6 Dead) : 20th January 2001: Dhaka, Communist Party of Bangladesh Meeting Blast- (6 Dead) : 14th April 2001: Dhaka, Chayyanaut Concert Blast- (10 Dead) : 3rd June 2001: Gopalgunj, Baniarchar Church Blast- (10 Dead) : 16th June 2001 :Narayangunj, Awami League Office Blast- (22 Dead); (Total 64 Dead in bomb blasts since 1999).

The first in the ongoing series of bomb blast in Bangladesh was on the 6th of March 1999, the second and third blast left 6 people dead respectively. The Narayangunj blast is the sixth incident of explosions since it all began in 1999 (flip it over, and it becomes 6661!), and this coincides with the sixth month of the year 2001, June. For those uninitiated to the superstitious 666, let me state that the numerical troika is associated with the 'devil' in many cultures, including the folklore of Bangladesh. Till the 'Devil in the Desh' remains unscathed and unexposed - I'd pretty much like to refer to him/them as the 'unseen force'. No objections I hope?

For those of us witnessing the series of drama unfolding in Bangladesh ever since I wrote 'Death Proof' Security and Pre Polls jitters on June 10, what is becoming increasingly apparent is that the battle lines have been clearly drawn between 'us' versus 'them' and ofcourse a third 'unseen' force that remains 'necessarily elusive'. The pronounced nervousness of the Awami League would have us half believe that there will be only two colours in the Bangladesh rainbow - take it or leave it, and it is going to be - black or white? The third force is what we shall for argument sake term 'translucent' - and they can well take on any hue of the rainbow! However, for those of us with a euphemistic mix of the black and white equals 'grey matter', the skies over the watershed motherland could not have been more grey due to the incessant rains and clouds of the ongoing monsoon, and in part more ominous, as mother nature, too, seems overwhelmed by an aura of grief, following the blast in Narayangunj on June 16.

But before I ramble on - I would like to thank the many readers on this forum who offered very valuable comments subsequent to my piece of June 10, and while there was a lot of curiosity about my 'source of information' and doubts expressed about 'wild speculations and predictions', I also had to face the ignominy of being branded a 'conspiracy theorist with suspect motives', and one particularly brutal insinuation of being a 'flag waving sycophant'. In any case, this time around I would like to go back on the premise of some of the hypotheses that I had argued earlier - and take it from that point onward.

A 'Family Affair' - When Familiarity Breeds Contempt?:

Sheikh Hasina's personal security paranoia and alienation from the people was evident when she chose to use a Government helicopter for her 22-kilometer journey to Narayangunj, three days after the blast. In tow with her was the Awami League Leader Major General (rtd.) Shafiullah, best remembered as the Chief of the Bangladesh Army who on August 15, 1975, woken from deep slumber by a SOS phone call from Hasina's father, could do nothing to save the beleaguered President. I make these comparisons only to remind readers that both Sheikh Mujib and Ziaur Rahman were victims of recalcitrant elements of the Bangladesh Army, and no amount of security could save their lives. However, in the case of Sheikh Hasina there seems to be a hidden agenda which has more to do than just security, and we will have to wait and watch the situation over the next two weeks to find out exactly what they are. For the moment we may only make murky guesses!

Only weeks before she gives up power, it is tragic yet true, that Hasina has chosen to meddle in the affairs of the Bangladesh Army accused of being ' highly politicized' by the Indian media following Roumari. Among the more pertinent aspect of the Security Bill that was passed by the Parliament on the June 20, and approved by the President - is a clause that allows for her and her sister to dictate terms of their personal security arrangements, 'at anytime and any place necessary' to the Special Security Force (SSF). In effect the SSF will spiral down to becoming a 'personal bodyguard detachment' and poised to run at the whims and fancy of the two 'venerated sisters'. It also allows the SSF draconian powers, to conduct search, arrest and cause the death of any citizen of Bangladesh perceived as a threat to the 'sisters' security without any legal implications. All of this at taxpayer money - but that is not all. The tab taxpayers will have to pick up in this security charade is unofficially estimated at a cool 4 million US dollars plus, plus - per month! What is not understandable is the sheer timing of her 'insecurity' and, while debate rage about the constitutional validity of the Bill, there are a few facts that should not escape our 'grey' memory. When Sheikh Hasina for instance returned to Bangladesh from India in 1981, her security could not have been more dangerous than present times. The killers of Sheikh Mujib were on the loose and she was a soft target - and it was the people of Bangladesh that protected her. By 1984 the same 'killers of her father' had formed the Freedom Party and their heavily armed cadres carried out many assassinations; yet they never took any pot shot at Sheikh Hasina or other members of her family, even after they were voted into Parliament in 1988? The passage of this Bill is a strong indicator that Sheikh Hasina has connived with 'translucent forces' within the Bangladesh Army and a section of the media to have things her way, and have the more 'chetonized' lot within the forces back up her plan for a declaration of state of emergency should things get out of her firm egoistic grip - or a straight forward pro-Awami Army takeover - regardless of whether or not polls are held? Democratic fascism ala Baksal - who knows.

Having said all of that, it is worthwhile to inform the readers as to the Awami connections in the three out of the four recent promotions of Major Generals. Major General Tareque Siddiqui is the brother-in-law of Sheikh Rehana, Major General Ishak Ibrahim was a course mate at Sandhurst of the late Sheikh Jamal, and Major General Shahab Sikder was a member of the notorious storm troopers of Sheikh Mujib, the murderous Rakkhi Bahini - and it is none else but him that heads the Special Security Force today. What is, however, ironic is that the 82 officers from the rank of Majors to Colonels, who were promoted by Sheikh Hasina on the dint of their merits recently, will have their hard earned reputations tainted in the event of Awami League's defeat in the upcoming polls. Lest we forget - many senior Army officers were neutralized over the last five years because of their promotions during the BNP era.

The 'Dekchi' Blast at Narayanganj: 'Translucent' forces at work:

"We shall have to take revenge for the incident in Narayangunj. If it is my blood that you are after, come and get me, but please spare my party workers and my children" Sheikh Hasina's plea to 'unseen forces' at a rally Narayangunj on June 19, 2001.

"There will be only one political party in Narayangunj from today, and it will be the Awami League"- slogan of Awami League workers after the blast.

Following the blast at Narayangunj on June 16, 2001, several factors have cropped up as to what lies ahead for the bleak future of Bangladesh, especially in the run up to polls 2001 and who has gained 'what' and 'why' , this time around and the five previous havoc still remains a mystery. It is also important to note however, that it is for the first time that the blasts were targeted directly at the Awami League, and unlike the five previous occasion's it will be worthwhile to see the reactions and whether the 'real' culprits will at all be apprehended? The first heavy hands of blames were cast at the BNP, Jamaat e Islami and 'anti-liberation' forces (this being the standard Awami propaganda) -in a clear 'us' versus 'them' divide which ironically has few takers. Giving all the 'devils their due' all that I have been able to gather as a 'background' and 'foreground' to 'dark plots' are as follows:

As things stands till date, it appears that the prime target was Mr.Shamim Osman the Awami League MP from Narayangunj, who had earned notoriety and national headlines as being one of the 'godfathers' of the Awami League terrorist cadre in his area. Residents of Narayangunj are used to seeing him with his heavily armed supporters who form a tight cordon whenever he steps out of his house, even frisking bystanders at will. He forcefully evicted sex workers from Tan Bazar, one of the oldest brothel in Asia in 1999 to 'free his constituency of vices', but in doing so he compelled them to move to Dhaka and what we have since inherited is a 'floating sex trade' that contributes to seriously destabilize the social environment of Bangladesh's capital. Following the Ramna Blast, Osman organized a public mock trial that sentenced the Opposition Leader Khaleda Zia, and the Jamaat-e-Islami Chief, Matiur Rahman Nizami, to death for causing the blast. Effigies of both the leaders were hung in symbolic execution. Osman status as an ex-officio judge, jury and hangman in his 'princely constituency' thus became complete.

The Awami League believes that it was this protest that led to the BNP and the Jamaat to carry out the bomb attack, and there are even suggestions that Khaleda Zia 'may be arrested' for her involvement. Signed, sealed, delivered and 'bombed' - this looks like a open and shut case, and for those that died and those that assembled in Narayangunj on the fateful evening, hoping for 'justice' from the powerful MP, who sat in arbitration into petty disputes - their deaths have been reduced to meaningless body counts. While unofficially intra-party feuds are not being ruled out, the Home Minister's promises of 'thorough investigation' and 'vows to get to the bottom of the incident' are lies that we have more or less gotten used to. 'Translucent' forces are of course regrouping elsewhere, for another strike - another day.

Uncanny Escapes-one too many:

Mr. Osman landed up in hospital with splinter injuries - and many believe it was a 'miraculous escape'. However, it is now confirmed that several Awami League leaders were seen outside the arbitration hall, extremely nervous, agitated and anxious before the blast. Osman was interrupted by an 'unidentified person' who beckoned him several times to come out of the room - to which he did not heed. Eyewitness accounts suggest it was finally Mr. Khokon Shaha, the General Secretary of Narayangunj Awami League who finding no other means to extricate the MP from his 'throne', enticed him out, on a plea that his (Osman's) uncle-in-law was looking for him on an 'urgent matter'. Thirty seconds later the 'dekchi' or cooking pot bomb (and some reports suggest a brief case bomb) exploded, killing twenty-two people. While a remote control device is supposed to have caused the senseless havoc, the crude architecture used in construction of the powerful bomb is indicative that a timing device could well have triggered it.

Such 'miraculous escapes' and last minute 'divine intervention' by 'unidentified members' of the 'translucent forces' to save the 'select few' is nothing new. For instance, in the first blast at Jessore, the third blast at the Communist Party meeting, and the fifth blast at the Ramna Botomul, the 'noted actor and TV personality' of Bangladesh, and Awami League 'cultural activist' Mr. Hasan Imam also 'miraculously escaped'. In the first blast at Jessore, he was called off the stage, together with members of a visiting Indian cultural troupe minutes before the blast! The same sequence of chilling 'miraculous escapes' of macabre familiarity was repeated in the CPB Meeting at Paltan Maidan, and later at the Ramna Botomul . Either Mr. Hassan is the luckiest person on God's earth - or knows a thing or two about dodging 'unseen forces' that we don't! I will leave readers imagination to run riots……….

Either Awami League or no polls?

One of the hypotheses I had put forward to readers of this forum in my last piece, was 'translucent' forces carried out the bomb blast at the Beniarchar Church at Moksedpore, Gopalgunj, on the 3rd of June, in a bid to scare the 1500 or so foreign observers due for Polls 2001, and conduct pre polls monitoring. The blast was carried out to propagate the theory that 'Muslim fundamentalists' were targeting Christians and it is very unsafe for them to come to Bangladesh. That plan backfired as we all know - but what transpired on the June 19 more or less confirms my earlier contentions.

Instead of directly suggesting that 'foreign observers' stay away from the upcoming polls, an Awami League delegation met the Chief Election Commissioner and informed him that they will not permit the proposed 200,000 odd local observer to oversee the polls. The local observers were to work as facilitators to provide input to the foreign observers. Given the evolving scenario, foreign observers need not come at all - unless they are planning on a picnic - which given the volatile situation will not be worthwhile in any case! The prospect of Polls 2001 is getting increasingly bleaker so let us clap one hand clean?

Communal Provocation's - Playing with Fire:

Nothing plays better in Bangladesh than religion. The recent communal provocation following Khaleda Zia's sudden visit to a Hindu Temple is a case in point. Her public statement that if Awami league is voted to power, 'uloos' will be heralded from mosques was what was reminded to us by Sheikh Hasina. The cultural inadequacies of both leaders were clearly spelt out - as 'uloofication' is not specifically a Hindu rite but is practiced by many Muslims in the Middle East till this day. It is an ancient rite of celebrating any auspicious occasion.

Khaleda Zia's visit to the temple was a calculated move to break the Awami League vote bank prior to the polls, and woo Hindu voters to BNP. The open armed resistance to stop her from visiting Southern Bangladesh and her desperate bid to break through the Awami League gun toting cadres cordon, the entire day of June 17 was ostensibly to visit the region NOT on a pre-polls tour - but specifically to reach Chitomaree in Bagerhat district. It was the murder there last year of Mr.Kalidas Boral a powerful lawyer and elected Chairman of Chitolmaree upazilla and the local convenor of the local Pooja celebration committee's - following his expose of an Awami League syndicate in the local smuggling network - that had the Hindu community irate. The sandal and shoe throwing incident directed at the Home Minister and the nephew of Sheikh Mujib, Sheikh Helal (they 'miraculously escaped' in a Government helicopter the combined public wrath) at a memorial service for Boral has been a major bone of contention in relationship's of the Hindu community at large and the Awami League local leadership in particular.

In any event, it is now confirmed that more than two thousand members of the Hindu community were supposed to formally join the BNP and a secret rendezvous between Khaleda Zia and leaders of the Hindu community of Chitalmaree was planned at the Bagerhat Circuit House. The veil of secrecy was exposed when intelligence reports reached the Awami League 'high command' that several community leaders had already assembled at the venue. Messages were sent to the Awami League armed cadres to resist and thwart Khaleda's visit 'at any cost' - and resulted in four ugly incidents were her motorcade was ambushed and she finally had to abandon her idea of the planned tour, and return to Dhaka

The repression and intimidation on the Hindu community by the Awami League in Chitalmaree following Boral's murder is well known, and it has not been helped in any part by the Government stalling of its promised 'Special tribunal' to try his killers. Large sections of the Hindu community - who have traditionally been loyal to Awami League - have deserted its fold. If readers will recall my hypotheses in the last piece, a communal provocation at these fragile times will wreck havoc and MUST be resisted. I make a call to all conscious forum members to closely monitor developments in this sensitive area and make it a priority agenda to resist provocation's and promote harmony - and ensure that minorities are allowed to exercise their right to franchise without fear or favor.

'How many Paddy How many Rice' and 'Push thy name is father'!:

Finally with the Security Bill passed and the Gonobhaban formally allocated for her stay by the 'people of Bangladesh' - Sheikh Hasina's insecurity seems to have diminished enough for her to predict future course of action and re-inject her 'fighting spirit' in a display her very quarrelsome disposition. At a rally in the Paltan Maidan celebrating 52 years of the Awami League and 5 years of her 'glorious' governance on June 23, she warned the BNP that while she had to restrain herself and her followers being in Government, the upcoming days will not be easy or smooth sailing for anyone. 'tothyabodhok shorkarer shomoi budjhiya debo - koto dhaney koto chaal' - translation- 'after the caretaker Government is installed we shall show you how many grains of rice kernel is thrashed out of the paddy'.

That statement in our culture suggests a taking stock of grains by landlords from tenant farmers. Farmers were savored this particular reprimand if the rice they handed over to the landlord was less than what they thought was due - based on a visual calculation of acres that had the ripening paddy. It usually means the next time around -the entire paddy field will be up for close scrutiny, a death knell for the ones caught cheating!

A jest of a translation is 'how many paddy how many rice' in colloquial Banglish! However what we need to watch out while our Leaders fight for their own 'turf' in the fiefdom called Bangladesh - is there anything we the hapless 'serfs', can do to counter act - or describe our pathetic own fate?

Shall we call our fate 'thelar naam babajee' or in Banglish 'Push-thy name is father'? Any cultural background to this proverb will be welcome?

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