Friday, January 28, 2011

Shock & Awe Talk : Of Rebels, War Criminals and rephrased Chetona speak

  • The week gone by was all about the Municipal elections and I really don’t care whether BNP outflanked Awami League or vice versa. What is heartening is most of the candidates were described in media reports as ‘rebels’ and reading cursorily between the lines, it seems the coinage had all to do with young Councilors and Mayors refusing to toe their respective ‘party lines’. Plainly stated the ‘rebels’ chose to respect overpowering ground realties; the people in general are fast losing their ‘appetite’ for the two mainstream parties.
  • Not surprisingly, many of the ‘rebels’ were expelled but what it possibly indicates for the future is that a new brand of young and alternative leadership appears to be emerging. By looks of things, this is a power base that clearly will not accept diktats of their fossilized hierarchy. Could this be the catalysis for a major change in Bangladesh politics? Unless we are being deluded again, there is subtle hope in the horizon……and like the saying goes….’if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’……my two noya shikiz to that …join ‘em and beat ‘em hollow……
  • Greed and political ambitions notwithstanding (it doesn’t make sense for any party to field four candidates for the same post) but what I am elated about is the outcome. Admittedly, there was violence but what about the peaceful images of conciliation and tolerance? Sadly very few newspapers ran photographs of the five smiling candidates, locked arm-in-arm parading the streets of Rangamati on way to the polling office to accept the verdict of the people. I ended this column on 14th January 2011, with a hope and prayer that the post-liberation generation be propelled to power. Municipal Polls 2011 – indicates that my prayers may have been answered………Amen……
  • Now, whenever this ‘old leadership’ talks about new or emerging young leaders, the onus is really to foster the possible entry of their ‘blood relatives’, or rub-in raw the culture of ‘leadership by default’. This has resulted in the mentality that unless we take cognizance of a persons blood line to either dead or living Presidents, Prime Ministers or Generals i.e. anybody other than the offspring’s of ‘dynasties’ by implication are unfit to rule. But how long will our wretched nation tolerate these unending ‘die-nastic’ quick-fixes?
  • The offspring’s in turn are glorified by party cohorts and a subservient media as ‘Prince and Princess Wannabes’ and for all we know, the ‘best’ among them may have a ‘degree’ from a US University with smattering of snobbish ‘digital knowledge’ which again, could be no more efficiency foretold than savvy access by Blackberry, Iphone devices to Facebook or Twitter! Anybody for a Facebook Status Update or Tweet? Try – “Hey Prince – tell thy mothers – we subjects are unhappy”…….
  • What then is the ‘qualification’ needed to rule a nation of 120 million people? Have we looked at the possibility that even a ‘lowly’ peasant’s son can aspire to and become a future leader of this country? ‘Times they are a changing’ and its time we optimize on the options we have, or else the changes that are inevitable will find us wont to a situation we are not prepared for – not even in our worst nightmares.
  • Shock and Surprises about the War Crime Trials: there seems to be not one political party in Bangladesh that is opposed to the same, and that includes the Jamaat-e-Islami – the nemesis of 1971! The Awami League having raised the issue in its election manifesto, and as popular opinion would infer, was the one singular factor that swept the party to ‘absolute’ power……that of course is recent history.
  • However the posters and graffiti’s all across Bangladesh have the same loud and robust message – HANG THE WAR CRIMINALS, It seems nothing short of putting the villains to death would please us, a ‘fair demand’ on surface. The realities of the Yo-Yo that indeed is our politics – leaves me to wonder - does the ruling party realise, that if they are unable to ‘hang them’ in this tenure, that they should mentally prepare to ‘hang’ if they fail? My gut feeling is this threat is not so much from the War Criminals – but from the people, specially the young and impressionable who voted them to power in the first place.
  • The US War Crimes Ambassador Stephen Rapp’s recent visit Dhaka in perspective and his suggestion ‘that key provisions in the statutes that set up UN-approved international tribunals should be introduced into the rules of procedure that govern the International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh’. The Government reaction being unknown – his ‘generous’ handover of ‘hundreds of declassified papers’ on 1971 to the Prosecution raises the question: how many thousand similar ‘papers’ has he passed on to the Defence on the sly? I wonder if he is somehow preempting a possible Wikileak on events of 1971…..only time will say.
  • As an active collaborator of the Pakistani murder machine of 1971, the US has absolutely no moral right to offer any ‘suggestions’ on how the War Crimes Trials are conducted, and the Government of Bangladesh should instead stay on course and conclude the task it has undertaken – a promise made to its the citizens.
  • Knowing all too well that in our political culture, promises are made never to be kept – what would then transpire? Surely subtle pressures from the US about the War Crime Trials are mounting and since beggars cannot be choosers will we as a nation sit back and co-opt to this shenanigan? Hello……does anybody have an answer………………
  • Its no secret that the US was and still is ‘comfortable’ with the Jamaat-e- Islami – and that’s not for any love of Muslims or Islam, but to afford its Military Industrial Complex the opportunity to bomb us back to Stone Age – like it did in Afghanistan.
  • What happens if the War Crime Trials are scuttled and how would the Muktijudddher Chetona traders foaming at the mouth interpret it? Sample rants – ‘we the brave nation decided to forgive and forget and adopted the South African Truth and Reconciliation model’ will fill the air waves……………hah…..Shocked……I am not…….
  • Epilogue for a Soap sponsored serial ‘natok’: ‘Back in 1974 if the Father of the Nation could forgive Pakistan – why can’t we?’………end of the sorry story……………National Anthem…… switch off your TV folks…….and while you dream, try explaining the above to souls of the Martyrs of 1971.
  • A nightmare? Do give it a think…...

New Age Xtra, Print Edition

Friday, 28th January 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Shock & Awe Talk: Of Vested Quarters and Political Atheism

  • For those who do not know me, I am a scribe of small repute who wrote ‘irregularly regularly’ for this publication since its inception. I then went on a hiatus for over five years which in retrospect and in all truthfulness had to do with my articles either not being published or being harrowingly edited – making them incoherent not only to readers , but also to myself! Nonetheless, there being no ‘burying old hatchets’ issue at stake, I can only say New Age this time around appears reasonably optimistic in handling the ‘shock and awe’ columns I intend to write every other week. Fate ironically reduced me to a ‘restricted writer’ with only semblance of a presence on the Internet, this re-entry into the ‘real hardcopy world’ – print, photograph and all…ah… feels like a deep breath of freshly polluted air which in reality is what we breathe in Dhaka! Welcome all….
  • Why Shock? Well……why not? Electrical shocks are used to resuscitate dying patients, however in Bangladesh today we have taken on the retinue of being ‘constantly shocked’ to events surrounding our day to day existence. It has come a time when we have been rendered (to use the cliché expression) ‘shock proof’ which on the flip side again means we have decided to be in denial of realities around us. Exception being, until some realities come up close and bruise our comfort zones we ‘care not to care’, or play plain disinterested. Take for example the print version of New Age of 9th January 2011. On the front page itself there are 6 reports of deaths, murders shooting, slaughters (throats being slit…eeeee), and mayhems – the word ‘kill, killed’ appears 3 times and the reports are gruesome, grisly and sufficiently capable to incapacitate a ‘fresh mind’ that has just woken up from comforts of a wintry slumber.
  • Not being your average Bengalee citizen who by inclination and perceived genetic disposition is expected to be ‘very brave’, such shocks can cause distress and disequilibrium which in turn can mar a perfectly productive day. That being a wake up ritual – back home the same evening if one makes the mistake of switching on the TV or worse tune-in to watch the ever growing numbers of reasonably pretty faces who read news in piercing high decibels (obviously a replication of Indian TV presenters) the exercise could cause more havoc than bargained for.
  • On the 9th January evening (i.e. after this newspapers kill, killed front-page) – all TV Channels ran footages of a female ruling party MP who lives in Pallabi, Mirpur, reporting that masked bandit had robbed her and a nearby apartment residents of all their valuables – in a precision operation that lasted well over ninety minutes. The Home Minister was also seen at the crime scene mouthing her oft repeated phrase of ‘how appreciably the law and order situation has improved’ and how some ‘vested quarters are out to discredit the Government’s accomplishments’! That aside – she promised to get to the root of these crimes and ‘nab the Godfathers within 24 hours’. Shocked?
  • Not at all. Scared? Just a wee bit. Why? a) its armed banditry in my own neighborhood which is a little too close for comfort b) a MP has been robbed and she is no ordinary citizen c) and as the evening wore on TV news also beamed gruesome blood drenched footage of a slaughtered mother and child, (clear acts of defilement by the Media, denying victims the dignity of their death) a Shonaton Temple in the city being robbed off the gold jewelry adorned on the principal deity and more. Cumulatively a,b and c sadly doesn’t quite add up with the Ministers ‘improved law and order situation’ statement. Shocked? I dunno…..
  • Point for rumination – the citizenry at large are held ransom to whims and caprices and serious low life attitude of our political leadership with barbs such as vested quarters’, tongue in cheek obviously meaning the Opposition. What has become taxingly dreadful is this political culture of appropriating blame on real or imagined foes is a legacy that we have not been able to shrug off in the 40 years of our existence. This divisive culture whereby if you speak out against the Government you are a ‘demon on the payroll of the BNP/Jamaat axis of Islam pasand bigots’ or member of the hard to define ‘anti-liberation force’…. and if nothing works to humiliate you into silence, in that case ‘mmmmmmm…..most definitely you are an active post-Liberation Razakar hindering the War Crimes Trial process’ option is always open, which clearly demonstrates closed mindset veering on lunacy of a shock and awe kind!
  • The constant reminder about War Criminals despite the ruling parties ‘brute majority’ does not speak about its confidence but its fragile vulnerability. We tend to complain and never unleash solutions and when we do – we make them appear as ballistic science understandable only if we ‘agree to agree’ with the ever growing number of Government backed see-no-evil faithful sycophants who appear on nightly TV talk shows. To square peg a round hole, one is rendered a political pariah – with the exit door open, sometimes with threats or even pain of death if you don’t rush it………..scared? Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh – not saying!
  • When it comes to my personal belief system, I am a believer but also an agnostic – a strange twist! However when it comes to our politics, I am a disbeliever and a vowed atheist – in that I have come around believing that anybody that believes our politicians simply cannot believe God! Thus as a pronounced ‘political atheist’ I do not vote, have no time for partisan politics – and if I could have things my way – I would outlaw this state of ‘Demon-ocracy’ masquerading as Democracy altogether – for in 40 years we have proved to ourselves that we simply do not deserve it or are fit to practice it.
  • What other options do we have? None as far as I am concerned – other than slapping a life ban on all existing politicians and demanding that new leadership emerge from the post-Liberation generation, removed from the taints and stigma of our historical travesties of fate. The nation turns 40 in March – and as a Political Atheist I would rather trust the new forty something generation – and God!
  • God help me………………..
Mac Haque
New Age XTRA Print Version
Friday, 14th January 2011