Re­peat­ing Fa­ther’s Mis­take

Sheikh Haseena mustn’t re­peat her fa­ther’s mis­takes and al­low armed party goons

The Day After - - CONTENT - By DANFES

One could never have dreamt that protest­ing stu­dents in Bangladesh would force a gov­ern­ment to bar un­li­censed driv­ers from get­ting be­hind the wheel, or mo­tor­cy­clists to ride with­out hel­mets. What they have man­aged to do on the streets of Dhaka within just a cou­ple of days is im­pres­sive.

Per­haps the protest­ing stu­dents should have gone back home sooner and cleared the roads. But did that jus­tify bru­tal­iz­ing un­armed stu­dents us­ing the po­lice and armed units of party cadres?

Noth­ing can be hid­den these days. In­ci­dents like these are recorded and cul­prits iden­ti­fied. How photo-jour­nal­ist Ra­hat Karim was at­tacked with sticks and ma­chetes as well as the faces of the per­pe­tra­tors are now on the in­ter­net, just a click away.

Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina has banned my books and pro­hib­ited my en­try into my own coun­try. In fact, she did not even al­low me the courtesy of be­ing able to visit my fa­ther on his deathbed. Upon her in­struc­tions, the em­bassies do not re­new my pass­port or at­test any of my doc­u­ments.

And yet she has my undy­ing sup­port. I sup­port her be­cause she has been good for Bangladesh. But this as­sess­ment is not based on her strengths as a leader, her hu­man­ity or her ex­pe­ri­ence; it’s based solely on how bad her op­po­nents are. Even to­day, given a choice be­tween Hasina’s Awami League and the Bangladesh Na­tion­al­ist Party (BNP) – Ja­maat-e-Is­lami coali­tion, I will favour the former. It is not un­for­tu­nate for Bangladesh that they do not have a bet­ter po­lit­i­cal op­tion than the League; nor have they man­aged to fos­ter lead­ers bet­ter than Hasina. But the op­po­si­tion is so cor­rupt, treach­er­ous and in­vested in ideas of Ji­had that there is no choice but to sup­port Hasina.

She has made many mis­takes and her be­hav­iour fre­quently ap­pears to mir­ror that of a dic­ta­tor. She no longer wishes to ad­here to the tenets of democ­racy, hu­man rights and the free­dom of speech and ex­pres­sion. I feel pained, I scream out in anger; not that there is any­one to wit­ness my out­bursts. I am not a politi­cian, a philoso­pher or any­one in­flu­en­tial. I am in the shad­ows, at the end of the queue, an or­phaned writer among the many other dis­en­fran­chised of the land.

The faith and re­spect many pro­gres­sive in­di­vid­u­als across the globe had for Hasina is dwin­dling. She must demon­strate vis­i­bly that she is not just the leader of a party but also the leader of the peo­ple; that she does not con­done ex­tra­ju­di­cial mur­ders; that she does not want to sup­press the free press; that she is not venge­ful. She must con­vince the world that she does not main­tain an army of thugs and that she will not use armed cadres to crush pro­test­ers. She must re­peal Sec­tion 57 of the In­for­ma­tion and Tech­nol­ogy (ICT) Act and pro­mote the free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

Hasina’s well-wish­ers surely do not want her be­hav­iour to re­sem­ble the very op­po­nents she de­feated to come to power. Al­ready Re­porters Sans Fron­tières, the

non-profit that ad­vo­cates on be­half of the free­dom of the press across the globe, has is­sued a state­ment de­tail­ing how nearly 23 jour­nal­ists have been at­tacked while re­port­ing on the mass move­ment for road traf­fic safety.

Hu­man Rights Watch too has sternly crit­i­cized Sec­tion 57 say­ing it aided in per­se­cut­ing crit­ics of the rul­ing party and the gov­ern­ment.

The en­tire world knows by now that the case filed against photo-jour­nal­ist Shahidul Alam was based on Sec­tion 57 of the ICT Act, re­sult­ing in his arrest and 10 days of re­mand dur­ing which time he has been phys­i­cally and men­tally tor­tured. His only of­fence was that he gave an in­ter­view to Al-Jazeera re­gard­ing his ex­pe­ri­ence of pho­tograph­ing the stu­dent’s move­ment for road safety where he spoke in favour of the stu­dents and made a num­ber of crit­i­cal ob­ser­va­tions against the gov­ern­ment.

He did not mur­der any­one or hack any­one with a ma­chete or break peo­ple’s bones with sticks and ham­mers. The only thing he did was to sit in his own home and ex­press his per­sonal views in an in­ter­view to the me­dia. How can view­points that are per­ceiv­ably crit­i­cal of the gov­ern­ment be suf­fi­cient grounds for ha­rass­ment?

Let me as­sume Shahidul Alam did not speak the truth. Let the gov­ern­ment prove him wrong. The self-con­fi­dence of the gov­ern­ment has ob­vi­ously fallen which is why they are now fear­ing school stu­dents and a pho­tog­ra­pher’s cam­era. It is a thing of ter­ri­ble irony that the Sheikh Mu­jibur’s daugh­ter Sheikh Hasina is afraid of the same things that her silly op­po­nents are.

Many civ­i­lized coun­tries’ lead­ers re­sign even in the case of mi­nor mis­takes or er­rors of judge­ment. Democ­racy en­ables even the vilest, big­oted, self-serv­ing and stupid bar­bar­ian to come to power and rule a coun­try. The rest is achieved be­cause of the pres­ence of syco­phants. But to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism can­not be the so­lu­tion to any prob­lem. If we op­pose those who wish to es­tab­lish a com­mu­nal and fun­da­men­tal­ist regime, we must also ques­tion those who wish to run a to­tal­i­tar­ian regime in the guise of a democ­racy.

The day the peo­ple go silent will be a cat­a­strophic day. All forms of in­jus­tice must be op­posed. In or­der to heal, one must first iden­tify the wound. Al­low­ing the BNP to come to power would mean turn­ing the coun­try over to stupid and cor­rupt peo­ple like Tareq Zia and Khaleda Zia. The Ja­maat-e-Is­lami will in­vari­ably turn the coun­try into another Afghanistan. And I am not sure if one can place too much faith on those who are plot­ting to come to power by ‘off­ing’ both Hasina and Zia.

Hasina may win the elec­tion again. But that vic­tory will be hol­low if re­li­gious big­otry man­ages to spread its roots into the heart of the coun­try, if stu­pid­ity is en­cour­aged sim­ply be­cause it is more pop­u­lar, if those who be­lieve in free thought are as­sumed to be en­e­mies, and if dis­sent is si­lenced. Per­haps these cur­rents will ben­e­fit Hasina’s party, but it will most def­i­nitely not be ben­e­fi­cial for the coun­try.

One would pre­fer the democ­racy of some­one un­suit­able than the tyranny of some­one suit­able. Sheikh Mu­jibur Rah­man had made a grave er­ror when he had de­creed that there was go­ing to be no other party than BaKSAL (the Bangladesh Kr­ishak Sramik Awami League or the Bangladesh Worker-Peas­ants’ Peo­ple’s League); let’s hope Sheikh Hasina will not re­peat the same mis­take. We also hope that she will not re­peat the er­ror Sheikh Mu­jibur had made in form­ing the Jatiya Rakkhi Bahini (Na­tional Se­cu­rity Force), by al­low­ing the sup­port­ers of the Awami League or the goons of the Stu­dent League to con­tinue to com­mit acts of ter­ror with im­punity.

A child be­ing beaten by Bangladeshi Po­lice

A wo­man be­ing beaten by Bangladeshi Po­lice

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