Monday, August 31, 2009

Bangladesh: Time Then and Time Now


For those of us in the anti-establishment fringe living in rejection of the Bangladesh political system’s grounded status quo of 36 years, events that began on the first week of January 2007 (referred to as 01/11) left us bemused. We thought we are witnessing a dejavu, sort of - seeds of our quiet and peaceful revolt being planted by men in uniform, our beliefs and hopes, and hearing things that we had said all along and were traditionally shunned and pooh-poohed even marginalized, now blossoming into unrestrained reality right in front of our eyes!

However misplaced reality may be, everything appeared to be a mirage, and the ‘dramatic’ developments only succeeded in ‘importing’ an uneasiness in our day to day life, together with an embedded sense of drift, not a sense of relief that was anticipated at the end of the 'Caretaker' equation.

Our sincere positioning and apolitical hopes to aspire for the very best for our nation is yet a long way away and as events unfolded; ‘thinking realities’ were dotted with pitfalls. The path taken upon by the ‘new brand of rulers’ professing a ‘new brand of democracy’ with no road map other than jargons to get the country back on track, appeared to be potently hazardous, the way forward fraught with tremendous risk.

The adhocism and piece meal solutions to problems did neither belie maturity, nor any sound understanding as to dynamics of states craft. The sincerity of our military backed interim governments mission, was thus up for close scrutiny. The times therefore were not ‘hours’ to feel elated or to even consider basking in complacency. Whether on or off uniforms, states craft like war is far too dangerous a business to be left only in hands of Generals, and regrettably neither can Bangladesh conceive of a politician zero future. Therefore parity had to be drawn somewhere and no time left to waste or any attempts to gain time by excuses of various schedules.

It is true, we wanted an end to the anarchy driven dynastic politics of the two major political parties, yes we wanted to see an end to the vexed specter of the ghosts of Bangladesh’s ‘founding father’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the disservice General Ziaur Rahman may or may not have done by ‘declaring Independence’ still being battled obnoxiously and unrestrained in the public domain.

Yes we opted whole heartedly and wanted an end to the political divide that was designed to strip polity for sole use of narrow minded posturing by ‘elected village elders’ masquerading as politicians in Dhaka, when their only credible job was to hold the nation savagely captive to their whims and caprice. These behaviors were often read as their ‘political agenda’; agenda’s to rule with brute force, of loot and plunder all in the name of democracy?


Yes we wanted an end to the endemic corruption among many things yet, ironically over the years and with vivid reminders from our recent history we also took a firm line that neither will we support the military or any adventurism that may be attempted in the name of the haloed and sometimes feared institution – nor will we tolerate a repeat of the same by sanctified civilians. If it is going to be ‘Demon-o-cracy’ as opposed to Democracy, it is for every citizen to say – ‘gloves are off’.

Let us face it, all of the above has become part of our unavoidable ‘national political culture’, and we half agreed that our ‘leaders’ had only to shout and scream at the top of their voice to ‘make a point’ (any point), for the politicians had taken it for granted that it was not THEM but the 120 million people of Bangladesh who are deaf, which by implication also meant that we are dumb and perhaps blatantly stupid.

In an age of ‘globalization’ our politicians took every opportunity to exploit the system not only for financial gain, but to implant a system and despondent culture which left the citizenry mentally paralyzed and trapped in a despairing no-hope, no-gain, no-win situation. The doom and gloom mantra which was ever so pervasive over the years perhaps in default recognized what the power of free flow of information in the millennium context meant. On the flip side, politicians by their actions and deeds, absurdly and firmly believed in the notion that the people will tolerate this stale ‘narcissistic democracy’ as the only form of states craft till eternity. Perhaps they are right?

Thanks again in a large part to the largesse of a beneficiary media, unthinking and irresponsible political sermons bordering on fringe lunacy filled our mornings with ‘screaming’ headlines in newspaper for days, and as if that was not enough the same was heralded by high decibel visual and audible display and repeats on our national and satellite TV station in the evening. Some of the media owned by corrupt ‘Mughals’ unashamedly in the name of democracy played a huge part in collaborating with the system that has come and gone and will come again, are equally responsible in derailing the aspirations of the people. A ‘national thought process’ that has always been the demand of this writer never materialized.

With the military training guns from the background as ever, it is only a re-run of an undeclared state of war between the minority military and the majority citizenry. If anything has changed to keep this state of flux going – is that we have only re-invented enemies – basically shifted the goal post one too many times to suit our expediency and keep the citizenry second and third guessing.

It is thus a hard bargain, and our guess is, today we have come to point where we are to pay a cumulative and collective price for our failure, and just not blame the politicians or the military for our plight. This time around, we have no option but to overpay, for tragically what we had known as democracy so far, has been nothing but a disguised ‘elected oligarchy’, and it will be a very long time and too taxing on our patience to get things out of the mess we have gotten into. Are we prepared to wait?

Come 2008 and the election saw us having a party that champions the ‘Spirit of Liberation’ in power, but in action has no inkling as to what the ‘Spirit of Independence’ for which 3 million people sacrificed their lives really means. In posturing and promoting something as vague as ‘national interest’ - all it does is bend over backward to serve Donor interest and importantly a new Mafia that controls Trade, Commodity, Narcotics, down to what people should be reading, seeing or believing. A finely tuned and heavily financed brain washing machinery worse than what the Nazi’s could dream of – has been activated.

Getting ever so powerful this ‘minuscule’ yet powerful minority holds any Government – whether elected or selected or ones that ‘takes over’ - all at public expense with a demonic force that has its tentacles spread all across the fabric of the nation. Talk of environment pollution, illegal construction sites on rivers and embankments, the impunity of this lot of ‘businessmen’ leaves us wondering, if at all there is anything called a ‘public voice’ to brutally protect public interest?

Add to that the so-called rise of Islamic ‘fundamentalism’ – it is only but a repeat of similar dramas we have seen from as far off as Iraq down to the Philippines over the last 10 years. “If you do not admit you have em Jihadist – you gonna starve” …....fair enough – so we arrest a bunch of dim witted Mullahs with really nothing more sophisticated than ‘grenades’ in their possession, which are all sourced back to India, whose Media again with unhesitant regularity will tell you what a ‘threat’ Bangladesh has become – thanks to the ‘extremist’.

By implications that would mean each and every citizen of the country is a Muslim, who fits into the Al-Qaeda stereotype. The fact that majority Islam’s mindset in Bangladesh is totally divorced from the Shariati,Salafi and Wahabist Islam of Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan is a reality unknown to the rest of the word.


That we as citizens practice a much more diverse and plural brand of Islam – perhaps unique in the entire Muslim word, are cultural component never promoted, because at the end of the equation it is only the orthodox, hard-line, ritualistic Islam of the ‘pukkah (kosher) Muslim’ variety that has become the standard of acceptability in both print and electronic Media and a gullible citizenry are left with no option but take it as the ‘real thing’ - so great is our fear of aLLAH.

And despite our best intentions to try them for war-crimes, the US Ambassador in Bangladesh is also seen having a hearty Iftar – with the very same lot, it came to ‘rescue’ during the fag end of our Liberation War in 1971. We will therefore not be surprised if at the end of it all the much touted ‘War on Terror’ comes to a close and a peace accord reached with Al-Qaeda and other associated global jokers! Who will have the upper hand in Bangladesh’s political equation thereafter – is just about anybody’s guess.

Jokes aside – it is time now to ponder deep and hard, for the eerie facts leading to the BDR carnage of February will never be known. We may have ritualistically and tokenistically blamed each other and our Intelligence services, buried the officers in uniform very quietly and moved on to debates on which law to try them; the hard undertone – death and mayhem will continue unabated and come winter (the ‘season’ of politics) , with or without the much touted ‘day light saving time’ hoopla, political unease and blood shed is imminent.

Time then and time now, is only time for serious introspection and time to give our so called ‘existence’ a serious think.


Uttara, Dhaka, August 31, 2009

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