Political and Literary Reflections on a Divided Country
Being a descriptive narrative of the regime’s abuses of state tools and agents, the volume launches a crusade against the nearly autocratic and despotic one-party government, boastfully bragging about its denial of moral, political, and economic corruption and its obstruction of the democratic rights of the opposition.
Table Of Contents
- About the author(s)/editor(s)
- About the book
- Advance Praise for Bangladesh: Political and Literary Reflections on a Divided Country
- This eBook can be cited
- Notice to the Reader and Putting the Bartlebys on Notice
- A Conch Preface: Why the Book, Why the Title
- Part A
- 1 Introduction: Primary, Preliminary, and After
- Part A
- Part B: Fragmentation, commercialization, and compartmentalization of the 1971 spirit/ চেতনা of liberation: discussion continues
- The Jewish/Israeli connection: Aslam Chowdhury, Mendi Safadi, and Sajeeb Wajed Joy
- Discussion of the চেতনা / spirit above continues
- 2 Democracy and Development: Development With Corruption and Without Democracy
- Corruption in countless crores (one crore = 10,000,000)
- Banks in Bangladesh and their baneful banalities, suspicion cast as a surreptitious government, and the minority/majority insiders’ job
- 3 The Role of the Police and the RAB (Rapid Action Battalion) in the “Development Sans Democracy” Conversation and the Gopal/Gopali Parrots and Predators in the Police
- Who are these গোপাল/গোপালী parrots and predators in the police?
- 4 Politics Bangladesh Style: All Sick and Rotten to the Core
- The THAAD-and-thunder-like thumping thud over the thing elephantine
- Transplantation of the Donald Trump syndrome in Bangladesh
- A divided country under the yoke and clutch of state terrorism
- The question of (and the need to document and determine) the number of the martyrs during the 9-month-long liberation war
- 5 Bangladesh: A Trial Separation or a Complete Divorce in a Broken or Near-Broken Family?
- The issue of political/family dynasty
- Recep Tayyip Erdogan versus Sheikh Hasina
- 6 The Chiefs and Their Uddinization of the 2006–2008 Caretaker Government
- 7 From the Opposition’s চুদুর বুদুর (Wishy-Washy Dalliance) to the Position’s নিষিদ্ধ পল্লী (Red Light District): In Defense of the Three (Former) Female Opposition Parliament Members, the PAR (দেশকন্যা/ DeshKonnya Ashrafi Papia, Shammi Akhter, and Rehana Ranu)
- 8 Let’s Follow the Example of Mujib’s Clemency and Compassion and Not Set One of Cruel Otherization
- 9 The Quagmire of Partisan Politics Over the Dead: Controversies Over the Image and Status of Mujib and Zia
- 10 The Politics of the Past and the Honorifics of Titles
- Part B
- 11 Bangladeshi Nationalism: A Cause and Concept Right and Just
- 12 Secularism in Bangladesh: Questions of Politicocultural and Religious Conflict
- Islamic civilization and culture: a brief survey
- Un-Holi (unholy) and a-Mangal অমঙ্গল secularization of Islam and the Muslim-bashing secularist bigots and blockheads in Bangladesh
- Controversy over the culture of sculpted statues and idols (মূর্তি)
- The Muslim greeting of As-salamu-alaikum (Peace be upon you and with you!) as one of the most misunderstood and politicized one
- The role of the Hefajote and the like
- What secularism actually means in Bangladesh: mounds (maunds) of “political” flowers by the masses at the foot of the public monuments and memorials on countless occasions, only to be carted and cleared away in no time, but the message and its spirit hardly lasting, cherished, and sustained
- Secularism of a very small minority as “a large majority” in Bangladesh
- The Hindu minority in Bangladesh
- 13 Taslima Nasreen: An Ultra-Feminist of Politicocultural and Religious Divide
- 14 When Bangladesh Is Divided Over Its National Anthem “Amar Sonar Bangla” (A Tagore Song): A Politico-Literary Perspective
- 15 Conclusion (Parts A and B)
- Huntington versus Fukuyama
- The AL and the BNP: differences deepening, gravitating, pivoting
- Who’s who in the opposition, political, and/or otherwise
- A solution suggested
- The very last word
One aspect of this book is the integration and interweaving of Western literary references with the political, historical, and cultural context of the divided Bangladesh—more intensely divided than Donald Trump’s America, as bitterly divided as the other modern autocratic and authoritarian countries in the world, starting with Franco’s Spain in the 1930s, on to today’s Egypt, Sudan, Syria, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Cambodia, among others. The literary references that occur throughout provide a new dimension to this South Asian country-specific political book. I am, therefore, pleased to present the reader, in this notice, with a preliminary idea of the telescoping of the literary and the political that appears in the volume as one of its marked stylistic features to reinforce the themes concerning the rein-less Awami reign drifting far away from the dream of “Cloud Nine,” let alone the higher “Cloud Eleven” democracy, immersing itself into its deep-dug dictatorship and increasingly silencing political dissent to establish its titanic tyranny.
The Hasina regime and its Awami party are far drifting in “the foam/ Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn,” showing no charm whatsoever, as the English Romantic poet Keats’s Nightingale does, to open the political “magic casements” for democratic peace, harmony, and stability in Bangladesh. Writer and researcher Mohiuddin Ahmad is clear about the Hasina regime’s false cover of highly ← xi | xii → defective, one-sided, and jaundiced material development to justify its Machiavellian pursuit of all nefarious and crooked means to stay in power: “দেশটা ওপরে ওপরে ফুলেফেঁপে উঠেছে। চওড়া সড়ক, লম্বা সেতু, বিশাল বাজেট দ্যুতি ছড়াচ্ছে। ভেতরে ঘুণ ধরেছে, ক্রমাগত ক্ষয়ে যাচ্ছে। একটা সময় আসবে, যখন প্রশ্ন উঠবে, তাহলে আমরা স্বাধীনতা চেয়েছিলাম কেন? কেন লাখ লাখ মানুষ জীবন দিলেন, সম্ভ্রম হারালেন? কেন?”5
This alerting notice has in fact been triggered by the latest fuss and fanfare in the politically suppressive and democratically declining Bangladesh, the noisy whoopla being in existence for the last ten years. There is no end of farcical charades and masquerades in this class-ridden country of fantastic সাগর চুরি পুকুর চুরি / sea-and-swamp big corruption and exploitation. The latest farce in the series, especially after the sham and mock election on the coal-black January 5, 2014, was the search within the already unnecessary and superfluous search (similar to the story within the story, subplot within the plot in a literary work) for what finally turned out to be a foregone conclusion: yet another predetermined pro-Awami Election Commission (EC), to be only nominally in charge of what are extremely important and crucial elections, especially the national/parliamentary ones, that make the change of government and thereby the transfer/transition of power possible.6
Practically, it is the brutally biased and purely partisan Awami government that remains in charge of the “do or die” elections. That it was a preplanned EC is proved by the disputable choice of the new EC Chief, AKM Nurul Huda, who was recommended through a secret arrangement and understanding by Hasina’s political allies: controversial H M Ershad and the equally controversial, small, and negligible religious sect called Tarikat Federation, who are a religious grave-specific and grave-centered (মাজার-কেন্দ্রিক, rather than mosque-centered) offshoot, consisting of মাইজভান্ডারি বাবাজান হুজুর কেবলা পীর ও মুরিদ community. That it was a preplanned EC is also proved by Nurul Huda’s own words as well as the doubtful haste and hurry with which the new Commission was announced by the government.7
New Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) AKM Nurul Huda may not be different in his personal biases and preferences than the former CEC ATM Shamsul Huda, both still viewed to be far from at least commendable, if not total, impartiality and objectivity. Justice M A Aziz, who was CEC for a year and a half only, was unfortunately a scapegoat for no fault of his and was blamed for no good reason, the fact being that there were no elections held during his short tenure. Honest and innocent as he was, Aziz was way better than Shamsul Huda and way, way, way better than Rakibuddin Ahmed.
If (1) the 19 local (Upazela and Poura-shava) elections of March 5, 2017, (2) the Comilla City Corporation election of 30 March, (3) the information of ← xii | xiii → about 10 lakh voters missing from the EC server, (4) the internal EC staff transfer without the knowledge and unanimous consent of all the Election Commissioners, and, most importantly, (5) the EC roadmap in preparation for the next general election make for an owlish and ominous harbinger, as written about by Stalin Shorkar, the new EC under Chief Nurul Huda may be heading toward yet another round of dull disaster.8
The EC seems to be as perplexed and retarded in its noble effort as John Keats’s “dull brain”—burdensome knowledge of physical reality—“perplexes and retards” his upward flight in soul and imagination to the nightingale singing in the forest. Claiming, without feeling sorry for the Commission’s alleged failures, that those elections (#1 and #2 above) were hundred percent clean, fair, and smooth, Chief Huda was speaking in the same loyalist language as his immediate predecessor Rakibuddin, not as a CEC with a strong backbone of his own. In his being hopelessly unprofessional and unprofessionally loyal to the Hasina regime, Rakibuddin may be regarded as one more Uddin added to the 2006–2008 trio or tetra of Uddins, all known for their well-earned disrepute. Trump accused Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and the media of being “fake,” “crooked,” “inefficient,” and “low.” One wonders how he would have described the contestable and controvertible “penta” of Uddins, had they been in the leading positions of his country to fight against.
Despite many serious complaints of irregularities (without which the opposition BNP candidate would have won by a landslide in Comilla, for example), not only did CEC Huda let them go unaddressed but also dismissed and downgraded them as only a few isolated incidents. Why should there be even one incident (not accident), one instance of rigging, and one case of stuffing boxes with false and fake ballots, like why should there be even one shooting, one death, one abduction, one assassination, whether in the capital or the countryside, connected or isolated?
The few and far between BNP wins, at the chosen and selective mercy of the repressive Hasina regime, can be read as a trap for the BNP. The neo-and-near-fascist stratagems of the regime would like to coax the BNP into the upcoming general elections, which it wants to hold under its highly coercive police and civil admin control and under its loyal, so controversial Huda Commission. The latter is using the scattered and isolated BNP wins as a so-called neutrality card to increase its so-called credibility, however dubious that may be, and lure the BNP into the parliamentary elections, which, as the game-changer big jumbo jackpot—তালগাছ—the vehemently bellicose, belligerent, and BNPhobic Sheikh Hasina wants to carry. If successful, that would enable her to grab the state power ← xiii | xiv → to form the third corrupt and consecutive government, after the questionable first and detestable second.
That the Hasina regime would never allow free and fair elections at the national তালগাছ level is being demonstrated by the fact that her police, in plainclothes or otherwise, various clandestine forces with or without her knowledge, Gopal/Gopali gangs and gongs, and their well-protected hoodlums and hooligans, mischievously and maliciously, continue to arrest, abduct, kill, and imprison the BNP leaders and activists, day in and day out.9 That Hasina would never allow inclusive and impartial elections is being demonstrated by her ever denying the rights of the opposition to hold public meetings in public squares, while she has been going around holding public meetings everywhere and actively campaigning for her party, all at the expense of the public exchequer and all at the demolition of the political and democratic freedoms of the opposition BNP.
That the Hasina regime would never allow credible and participatory polls in a level (plain)-playing field is being demonstrated by its continually firing the elected BNP mayors and filing politically cooked lawsuits against them, ruining their careers and keeping them running from court to home and back. The regime’s evil intention manifests itself when it makes clear that it would like to stay for four or five consecutive terms and then forever. The regime has been cynically acting according to the rural countryside story of jealousy and malignity that goes like this: “You’re a poor dull boy. It’s worthless for you to go to school. You won’t do well and you won’t pass. Even if you pass, you won’t be accepted for college. In case you pass college, you won’t get a job. If there’s a job for you, you’d be kicked out no sooner than you get it.”
The Nurul Huda Commission is yet to rise over the “lovely, dark and deep” attractions of the Hasina regime and yet to keep the “promises” that Chief Huda made at the beginning. He has long electoral miles to go to earn the public trust before he goes to “sleep,” meaning rest and retirement (to echo Robert Frost).
Otherwise, in all likelihood, the new EC, as complained about by the BNP, is going to turn into another Rakib-মার্কা EC (the immediate past EC, the worst of its kind Bangladesh has ever had—sadly soft and spineless—that, instead of being strong and independent, as the Constitution clearly mandated the Commission to be, served at the pleasure and satisfaction of the Hasina regime and delivered the election results accordingly, with only a few accidental or intentional exceptions, to be used as a cover for the so-called, already traded, compromised, and sold-off neutrality). Despite having broad Constitutional powers and being responsible under oath to act independently and judiciously and to be fair and equal to all the stakeholders, the Rakib Commission was garishly happy to play as ← xiv | xv → a tool of the Hasina regime, so much so that it was closely akin to the American Novelist Herman Melville’s deluded Wall Street scrivener Bartleby.
The said Commission would constantly shy and shirk away from doing its job. It would be glad and gleeful to stay put to its inertia and be carefully careless to refrain from being assertive and taking any initiative, for long five years, by virtually meaning to say what Bartleby so famously says, “I would prefer not to,” thereby leaving all the benefits and advantages that accrued from the Commission’s passivity and inaction to the ruling Awami League (AL), the party of Hasina. Its full and complete loyalty to the League must have been in full and complete violation of the spirit of the oath its members took. (What’s the point of taking the oath in Bangladesh when there are all sorts of moral and political deviations and deprivations taking place to let the majority or the overall national and democratic interests go awry and sundry, sore and sordid? Is it all a photo opportunity? A redundant, decadent, and supercilious showoff?)
Again, exactly like Bartleby, the members of the last (Rakib) Commission, according to common public perception, must have been suffering from a kind of clinical disorder and psychological depression, out of their blind, uncritical, and unconstitutional allegiance to the AL and its Hasina government. Can they one day stand trial, despite whatever constitutional impunity they may have?
No wonder, all the fair-minded, neutrally inclined, and well-respected observers and commentators, such as Dr Akbar Ali Khan, Dr Asif Nazrul, and Dr Syed Anwar Hussain, hold the succeeding, newly formed EC, suspiciously formed so swiftly and speedily (all probably having been set previously), to criticism and ridicule as they also held the previous ones, all for being weak, timid, and cowardly, afraid of exercising their constitutional powers and being HMV (Her Majesty’s Voice).10 It is not surprising that one bold and impartial journalist and TV anchor of fair and fine talk, Mahmud Bin Feisal of SATV, dismissed the new EC as consisting of all Gopals, a disgraceful and derogatory term for those who are hopelessly servile and slavish to a government, especially the present Hasina-led Awami government, as people in general also love to stigmatize such Commissions as being this or that মার্কা /marked Commission, after the name of whoever was the Head of the Commission?11
It was a disputable search for the controversial search committee for, as has just been said, yet another prearranged commission, considering (1) the last ten years of regressive and retrograde political history of Bangladesh under this regime and the two years of the military-backed interim government before; (2) the haste and hurry, within just over an hour after it had received the search committee recommendation, with which the regime decided upon and declared the commission ← xv | xvi → members, about ten days in advance of their taking oath of office; and (3) the fact that the majority of the finalists and the finally successful names came from the regime’s very small and inconsequential allies, with most of them bearing the mark of not so clean associations, having largely been Awami beneficiaries and holding Awami leanings and leniencies. The whole process was thus all “struts and frets […] full of sound and fury/signifying nothing,” to take the phrases from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, who thus expresses his realization of the petty and idiotic vanity and emptiness of his otherwise action-packed and ambition-filled life at the end of the play.
If morning shows the day, why should the high-sounding yet partisan Presidential Search Committee and the Presidential EC be an exception? After a long-winded eyewash or showoff dialogue of dozens of political parties, some of which is as fabulously big as some are microscopically small, with the figurehead president, it all came down to an all pro-Awami select committee of five, far from being a balanced and bipartisan one, let alone a fair and neutral one. Didn’t the President, precisely similar to the biased and partisan precedent set by his predecessor, find even a single individual considered fair and neutral, like the widely acceptable and twice recommended former Secretary Ali Imam Mazumder, to head the 5-member committee to make a real difference? Forget about the far cry of looking for one even remotely sympathetic to the popular opposition BNP from the population of 160 million to head the much hyped 5-member committee, many members of which had actually Awami favors and blessings that were expeditiously but cynically programmed and manipulated through the small and inconsequential Awami allies?
Why did the majority of them, especially the chief, have to be of pro-Awami badge and background, directly or indirectly, if the polls were “promised” to be free and fair at all? As the nation’s ill luck would have it, President Abdul Hamid was not able to come out of the narrow vision of his purely partisan and endlessly circuitous loyalties. So, as one helplessly holding the merely ceremonial guardian position, President Abdul Hamid pitiably failed to become a bipartisan and above the partisan unifier president and lost a rare opportunity to present himself as president and pave the way for enlightened public discourse in a moment of utmost necessity and utter democratic crisis that his country, their country, and our country—ultimately and simultaneously one and the same country—was unprecedentedly facing.
So here I go connecting and correlating literature and politics, as I have just done above, sometimes by way of similarity, sometimes by contrast. At the satanic prospect of embracing the mythologically most beautiful woman on earth, that ← xvi | xvii → is, Helen, or actually her deceiving phantom, English dramatist Christopher Marlowe’s tragic Dr Faustus is effusively saying “all is dross that is not Helena.” Similarly, Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina (forcibly hanging on through her police/RAB) and her farcically ruling AL think that nothing is worth anything that does not belie, behoove, and conform, even remotely, to the closet and carbuncle of their autocratic and despotic rule and their narrowly one-sided and myopically short-sighted frame of views.
Of the endless number of excruciatingly painful, biased, and discriminatory stories that keep occurring daily, only a few of them say it all about the dictatorial and totalitarian designs of the Hasina regime. One is of the long suffering, long harassed, and long humiliated Begum Khaleda Zia, the most popular political leader of Bangladesh; another is the similar story of the thousands of long-persecuted, beleaguered, and bedeviled leaders, workers, and followers of her party, BNP; and yet another is of her former cabinet minister, editor of the now suppressed popular daily Amar Desh, a public intellectual, and a media personality, Mahmudur Rahman, who, as a national treasure and a national hero, was a prisoner of conscience for many years, a heavy price he paid for his freedom of speech under what he describes as a fascist government, for the toppling of which he is openly calling for a mass upheaval, a mass uprising.12
One of Portia’s boxes (in the casket scene of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice) containing a written scroll reads: “All that glitters is not gold.” Similarly, all that is claimed by Hasina to be glittering and shining in the name of the so-called development is not actually golden. It is all class-ridden and corruption-ridden, causing more and more economic divide and disparity, poverty-stricken slums, traffic congestions, bank and business lootings, share market scams, and black market smugglings, all in millions and billions, all to the big benefit of the AL and their allies, followers, affiliates, associates, and loyalists.
Marcellus, one of the palace guards in Hamlet, says to Horatio, at the beginning of the play, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” So is in the state of Bangladesh, making many to soliloquize, as Hamlet does, “To be, or not to be …,” all being in the dark and insecure and frightening atmosphere of unending police violence and state terrorism let loose mainly on the people of democratic dissent, with thousands and thousands, including all the opposition political leaders, detained, remanded, and thrown into jail. Given the bloody chaos, waves of fear, violent murders, cruel conspiracies, deadly disappearances, and hard moral reversals, it takes no time to apply to the situation in Bangladesh the weird sisters’ formula of “fair is foul, foul is fair” found in the opening scene of Macbeth.13 ← xvii | xviii →
Probably no other country is as full of sham and shallow political theaters, masques, and pantomimes as Bangladesh, staging up and staging down the different scenes of the Hasina-directed political play in different ways, but nothing in a free and frank and fair way, all being in the way of the narrow and naked interest of the ruling clique and coterie, more so than ever, under the currently ruling and democratically illegitimate Hasina, who, from the point of view of a clear and absolute majority, is defiling and devouring everything possible to feed and fatten her personal and political ego, to the detriment of what is quintessentially, most conspicuously and most consequentially the lifeline of democracy and democratic culture and environment—transparency, accountability, and free and fair polls. Destruction and displacement of the freedom of choice and the people’s vote and voice have become the hallmark of her rope-less and rein-less reign, which is not possible in a country of democratic openness and fairness with both rein and rope.
Sheikh Hasina is able to do all she wants and wishes to do with the help of her police/RAB and other agents and accomplices in her governing regime and her party. The police/RAB are the main players on the stage that she has maliciously and malevolently set up in pursuit of her personal and political goals, the cast of the minor characters being members of the civil bureaucracy and civil administration, along with a few greedy very small parties, too small to be named, headed by individuals of no real following. All the wings and feathers and branches of the state are used in a purely partisan way. Not even a divinely appointed and/or anointed King or Queen, Tsar or Tsarina, Kaiser or Kaiserin would be able to do what Hasina can do at the stroke of a pen or a word of mouth, in her sole and solo female version of “let it be and it is.”
Some low comedy scenes of raw and raucous humor but affecting the course of national events and their final outcome, as in the English Elizabethan/Renaissance plays of fools, jesters, and entertainers, include, among others, those of (1) Sheikh Hasina’s fishy and dirty tricks in connection with the repeatedly ripped and revised constitution and the interim CTG system; (2) the constantly fluctuating and fickle-minded, yet Hasina’s once enemy now a close crony, former President Ershad (satirically and sarcastically called CMLA, “Cancel My Last Announcement,” and by many other distasteful and dishonorable names for his antics related to his on-again off-again unreliability and untrustworthiness, both in his personal love life and political/public life, including the one called বিশ্ব বেহায়া given him by artist Kamrul Hasan in the last year of his rule, 1990); (3) Ershad cum-and-versus his wife Rawshon, both often locked in a tenuous and strained relationship, to be periodically reconciled by comical political and domestic marriages of convenience; (4) the mock-heroic দিদি ও দাদাগিরি visit of the Indian ← xviii | xix → emissary Sujata Singh to Ershad days before the phony, fraudulent, and the opposition-boycotted nonelection of 5 January (blacker than black, perhaps the blackest and most bogus day in the history of Bangladesh) and the intervention of দিদি Singh’s Indian government in the affairs of Bangladesh run by India’s too friendly Hasina government (to use that mild euphemism for what is described by critics as a stooge or puppet); (5) Indian Ambassadors’ visits of “insidious intent” to different police academies in Bangladesh; (6) the highly disreputable and disastrous Rakib-মার্কা EC; (7) rubber stamp parliament; and, finally (8) sections of pro-Hasina interest in the judiciary, media, civil service, and civil society. Some of these coarse and jarring scenes and acts have been nicely touched upon by journalist Minar Rashid.14
All this is/was possible in the country of all possibilities, Bangladesh, suffering from too many cons and phonies in terms of the destruction of the spirit of independence, freedom of speech, democratic tolerance, economic equality, social justice, human dignity, rule law, and good governance, all shrunk, squeezed, diminished, and degenerated, to the point of being nil, especially for the popular opposition BNP, especially under the present Awami government, which is being shielded and sheltered by the neighboring India in the latter’s selfish and hegemonic interest. It is a government that kills and jails and kidnaps its own people, sometimes for no reason and sometimes for the slightest and flimsiest of social media criticism against its own fellows and followers, be they politically and financially corrupt black cats or wrongheaded leaders.
Billionaire New Yorker Michael Bloomberg and the former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney of Massachusetts described Trump, before he became President, as a con, a fraud, and a phony. There is no dearth of such people in Bangladesh, which is also full of (Shakespearean?) fools and clowns, otherwise quite wise and reflective, as poet Abu Shahriar is known to have once described the dramatic culture figure Aly Zaker to be one such:
“সর্বপ্রকার বিচারে মনুষ্যত্ববোধবিবর্জিত সেই ভাঁড়শ্রেণীর লোকটিকে ইদানীং ‘আলোর পথযাত্রী’, ‘আলোকিত মানুষ’, ‘আলোয় ভুবন ভরা’, ইত্যাদি তকমা গায়ে এঁটে তেলতেলে হাসিমুখে যত্রতত্র অনুষ্ঠান করতে এবং ঘুরে বেড়াতে দেখা যায়॥”- আবু শাহরিয়ার (কবি)/ বালুকাবেলায় ॥ [পার্ল পাবলিকেশন্স - ফেব্রুয়ারি, ২০০৯ । পৃ: ১৫/৩১-৩২/৬১-৬২/৭০]15
All the national institutions—from the office of the titular president to the fearful and frightening police (who are a reincarnation of the Awami Rakkhi-Bahini of the mid-1970s), from the Prime Minister’s office and residence গণভবন to the figurehead President’s office and residence বঙ্গভবন, from the national parliament to the local council পৌরসভা, from the courts and the clubs to the commissions and the corporations, from the civil admin to the media, from the banks and boards ← xix | xx → to the federations and directorates—have been “franchised” as no more than an outfit of party loyalists, sycophants, flatterers, and miscreants. All institutions are suffering from eroding trust, independence, and confidence. All this is taking place by way of boring political camouflage and dreary diabolic criminalization, of the nature of “a tedious argument/ Of insidious intent,” to quote a trope from T S Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. The entire spectra of the beaten and blunted political opposition have been “etherized, like a patient, upon a table,” again, with a small change in word order, of course, from Eliot’s Love Song.
One tactic/strategy of the dictatorial regime is: allow “them”—the other—some, not more than some freedom to talk on the public/mass media, print or electronic, in criticism of “us” as a way of limited ventilation of “their” emotions, but don’t allow “them” any street action, which should solely belong to “us” and all election results have to be on “our” side, in “our” favor. No protest, no demonstrations, no meetings, no assemblies, no rallies, no celebrations by the opposition are to be tolerated, just as no such popular and plebian outburst is allowed by the Pompey supporting aristocratic patricians to mark the triumphal return of Pompey’s rival Julius Caesar, even though that would coincide with the pagan Lupercal holiday, as it is seen in the very first scene of that play by Shakespeare. No opposition win in the election is to be allowed to stand and, if there are any wins anyway, those wins are to be snatched away and the such elected representatives, instead of being allowed to function, are to be charged with petty, paltry, flimsy, fishy, and made up offences to be arrested and put in jail. All images of the opposition leaders, dead or alive, are to be vandalized and removed the way Caesar’s images are dislodged and taken down, again as seen in the same first scene.
On the one hand, the Hasina-led AL is intransigent and recalcitrant, and, on the other, it is also paranoid, hypochondriac, and schizophrenic. It has been chronically suffering from a deep and dark sense of BNPhobia, just as the Nazis were suffering from anti-Semitic Judophobia. Similarly, Narendra Modi’s India, Trump’s America, Geert Wilders’s Netherlands, Marie Le Pen’s France, Matteo Salvini’s Italy, Gabor Vona’s Hungary, Frauke Petry’s Germany, and Nigel Farage’s England are unnecessarily suffering from Islamophobia. The Awami-Hasina regime’s ballistic bulldozer and bombastic steamroller have successfully tamed and domesticated the opposition BNP into a rudderless and leaderless party, reduced to the status of the locally bred political Rohingyas, left in weary and dreary doldrums. The Awami way of liquidating the opposition BNP is the same as the Pakistani way of leaving Bangladesh free of academic intellectuals on December 14, 1971. It is the same way as many Awamis themselves wanted to render their own country devoid of top political leaders on August 15 and November 3, 1975. ← xx | xxi →
There is a commonality between the two first parties—the Awamis and the Pakistanis—the latter having played in 1971 and the former now playing the same role to realize their dark intent of dictatorial suppression, oppression, and repression. Shouldn’t any government whose history is one of deadly Rakkhi-Bahini locusts descending down on the people of Bangladesh with dire consequences, গুম ও খুন (abductions and assassinations), হামলা ও মামলা (attacks, accusations, and penal persecutions) and jail and zulum জুলুম (imprisonment and incarceration) have its moral and political rights eroded and evaporated? Doesn’t any government whose history is one of tons of heinous and horrible crimes against humanity and human rights abuses in a neo-and-near-and-more-than-partially fascist manner have to think twice before it talks out loud about 1952 and 1971?
Why should a leader who lived in great comfort under the generous care of the Pakistanis (receiving 1,500 taka per month, in addition to all other expenses and services, including the safety and security provided by them and their celebration of the birth of her son, for all of which she was then full of praise and gratitude for the Pakistani army) with no contribution to the nine months of the bloody war in 1971 divide the nation in the name of the latter and give all credit only to India and the AL for the liberation of Bangladesh, with no recognition of the other leaders, parties, and people who had made an immense contribution to the creation of Bangladesh and formation of Bangladeshi nationhood before and after? (See Chapter 9).
Hindu India had its own agenda of weakening its age-old arch enemy Muslim Pakistan by breaking it up into pieces behind its support for the armed struggle for an independent Bangladesh, which would have become independent anyway, maybe over a slightly longer time, without any Indian support. The proof of this claim is borne out by three facts: one, India joined the 9-month long war on December 3, 1971, just 12 days before the final victory on 16 December when the Pakistani forces were already facing defeat on different fronts by the freedom fighters of Bangladesh; two, India’s enslavement of the still-unborn and newly born Bangladesh by the tight noose of its unequal pacts with Tajuddin and Mujib; and, three, India never helped Bangladesh on any issue—border, business, water—since 1971.
Hegemon India only exploited and imposed (and is still exploiting and imposing) its interest and influence on Bangladesh, which is experiencing a soft-targeted neo-and-near Sikkim syndrome politically, economically, and culturally, in which Indian RAW is playing a big role intelligence-wise. The Sikkim syndrome is clearly palpable in terms of trade imbalance, border killings, lack of ← xxi | xxii → water sharing, construction of environmentally destructive coal plant, and various security details, including the clandestine and surreptitious presence of shadowy and সন্ত্রাসী/terrorist commando elements and structures with their snake-like operations here and there.
“It is hundred percent true,” Mohiuddin Anwar of the USA argues,
that India helped Bangladesh’s liberation war enormously. The reason is not only for the love of Bangladeshis’ aspiration for liberation but also to divide and weaken Pakistan. Pakistanis exploited Bangladesh for a long period of time; similarly, India also is exploiting the Muslim Kashmir even more. We Bangladeshis understand how much painful it is to live under occupation and similarly we can feel the pain of the Kashmiris, Palestinians, Chechens and all other freedom loving people of the World. Although we appreciate the help of India for our liberation, unfortunately, we cannot help the freedom loving Kashmiris […] India occupied Kashmir, Hyderabad, and Sikkim without their peoples’ approval, like now Russia occupying some areas near their border, rest of the World can do nothing. (E-mail to the author, July 15, 2017)
Still Bangladesh remains and should remain thankful and grateful to India for its decisive support during the liberation war. But its gratitude and thankfulness must not translate into enslavement. It must not overshadow and overwhelm Bangladesh’s freedom, independence, integrity, and sovereignty. Bangladesh’s friendship should not be in excess of the events that took place in 1971. It must not be indiscriminate, unqualified, and unconditional—giving all but receiving nothing.
Corruption in Bangladesh under Sheikh Hasina is more widespread than West Pakistan (WP)’s exploitation of the East (1948–1970). The Awami axis’s exploitation of its own Bangladesh is more intense and debilitating. Hasina’s Bangladesh is in a state of political civil war, which is much worse and dangerous than the Pakistan times. Being an outsider and far apart, WP was an easy target to fight against, but now it is more difficult, the enemy being within, as if it is the case of শর্ষে ভূত and ঘরের শত্রূ বিভীষণ, to use Bengali proverbs to drive home the same. Despite WP’s exploitation of the East—perhaps not more than slight and mild, if any—there was a real and solid material development in economy, education, and industrialization with much less corruption, better work ethics and environment, and saner, safer, and cleaner office culture during the 20 years of its domination. Despite the WP’s (mostly moderate) exploitation of the East, the latter came into being because of the former from which, as Dr Firoz Mahboob Kamal of the UK points out, the Muslim majority East immensely benefited. By contrast, India, where the Muslim minority remains as low and neglected as Dalit untouchables, never wished well to East Bengal and did not want to take East Bengal in its fold in 1930 or 1947.16 ← xxii | xxiii →
Communal/ist/ic Hindu chauvinist Rabindranath Tagore, among many other Indian/West Bengal communalists of his time, always remained attached to his Hindu “mother” India. He was discriminatory against East Bengal (East Pakistan/Bangladesh) and its Muslims, for whom he bore an ill will (see Chapter 14). He was never in favor of the University of Dhaka and was never on behalf of the High Court in Dhaka, never ever. Despite his immense and endless contribution to Bengali literature and culture, the Guru of the Tagore devotees and votaries not only wrote several poetical and prose works full of hatred and anathema for Muslims but also campaigned hard against the formation or establishment of those two key institutions in East Bengal. His strong nay to the vital academic and educational interest of the people of East Bengal can only remind a Bangladeshi about Shakespeare’s King Lear’s nays about his two most treacherous elder daughters. In answer to his youngest and most faithful (but initially misunderstood and banished) daughter Cordelia’s question, toward the end of the play (V.3), about those two most ungrateful daughters, “Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?,” fallen father-King Lear replies, “No, no, no, no!” Tagore, however, took the position in the negative out of his communalist and sectarian Hindu chauvinism.
Had there been no lofty, kind, rich, and generous Nawab in Sir Salimullah and his Muslim League and other stalwarts of his family (in the mood, mold, and manner of W B Yeats’s aristocratic “big country house” tradition and heritage of the landed estates during the same period of time), there would not have been those landmark installations of East Bengal. From the East Bengal of 1905 to the reunited Bengal of 1912 through the (East and West) Pakistan of 1947 to the Bangladesh of 1971 and, of course, from the Muslim League and Nawab Salimullah of 1905 onward—all are woven with the same thread. One was the origin of another, one led to another, one cannot be thought of without the other. Moulana Bhasani and Sheikh Mujib in the 1950s and 1960s became part of the same thread—two-nation theory of 1947 on the basis of religion (Hindu majority India and Muslim majority Pakistan) leading to the three-nation theory of 1971 on the basis of political and economic disparity alone (please refer to Mujib’s 6-point demands and his 7 March speech), never on the basis of secularism and language, both having already been settled in terms of the priority of Islam as the religion of the majority and the 1952 language movement. In other words, religion and language were not to be bargained any more, both remaining in the same status as they were.
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2018 (February)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2018. LVIII, 546 pp.