Revolting Democracy

All Bangladeshis have been following the events of the past week with great interest, home and abroad. The initial reports seemed like the kind of things that stay on page one the first day, move to the second the day after and so on till it disappears. With Ramadhan around the corner, prices of all food items shooting upwards and daily life becoming more of a drag, who has time to worry about whether a group of misfit soldiers and students fought over who gets to view a crummy football match? Then again, in a country of 150 million, with the majority having nothing better to do, someone always to come up with bright ideas.

The fight was reported on the national papers on 21st August, with Dhaka University students clashing with police and fighting through the night for the removal of an army camp set up in the Dhaka University gymnasium and for an apology for beating up three of their fellow students. Sounds fair enough, with a question popping up that “what was the army doing in the gym in the first place?” No one seems to have any answer to that. Simply put, the army should not have been stationed in a manner that so hampers students’ right to enjoy any university service. On the 22nd, the papers reported that the army had begun to withdraw and it would be over in the late evening. The protesting students had also demanded that the soldiers who assaulted the students should be punished. Worrying news came in the form of protests and violent agitations by students elsewhere in the country. Universities and colleges all around the country witnessed students taking to the streets to demand, funnily enough, that the caretaker government lift the emergency rule. I say funnily enough because they were inviting to get shot. Under emergency rule, one has to be careful what one says about the government and its rule. While the students were protesting on the streets, their mentors and teachers were using the platform of Dhaka University Teachers Association to make the same demand. I have a question here, “how is that related to teaching issues?” I wonder if the emergency rule somehow hampers teaching and studying, maybe if you are a student/teacher of journalism maybe, but emergency rule has not stopped me from doing all the math and economics I needed to, so just what is going on here? The difference lies in the people who operate in the public educational institutions. Top posts in the universities are normally held by the most obedient slaves of the party in power, who in turn hire teachers who will dance to the whims of the board, who in turn want students who will form the mindless foot soldiers a.k.a. student wing of the political parties. The student political participation that began with the 1952 Language Movement, simply sank into a putrefied pool from where political parties draw the ‘Blind Believing’ to realise their immoral and crooked ends. The end result is what was once hailed as the “Oxford of the East” and bred some of the finest minds in the region is now a stage for political party idolatry and a factory to devise ingenious ways to sell the nation.

The disease is one that has, in a single generation, managed to manifest itself everywhere. In one generation, the politicisation of society was completed by the very same people whose duty it was to form the protective guard against such an event. The rampaging mobs on the 22nd of August created chaos all over the country, damaging private property and bringing life to a screeching halt. During the morning, standing above the chaos, I looked on as the ‘students’ of a nearby college pelted a particular building with stones and rocks, because it was owned by a government advisor, Tapan Choudhry. That barely made the news as the government proceeded to enforce a media censorship and announced an indefinite curfew from 8pm that day. At 2pm, I was at the university with my sister. We decided to hurry home and got out onto the deserted street. A friend of mine happened to live near a particular place where heavy clashes had occurred the day before. I suggested going elsewhere as she trying to get home alone would not be safe. After getting home and having lunch, I tried contacting my friends to see if everyone was fine. Not a call went through. Then I went out. Since the bus services were shut down and the main roads were chaotic, I decided to take a rickshaw around the trouble. Going along Satmasjid Road, in the distance I noticed a plume of smoke rising. As I got closer, I noticed that the road was littered with bricks and stones and that a building was on fire. I took the same rickshaw back home before I got caught in any trouble.

Sitting at home, I wondered about the mindless violence that had raged on during the day. The burning building happened to be an upscale restaurant and people had also laid waste to a few other popular places as well. For want of sane reason, I will speculate that it was simply because the vandals found those places to expensive for them to have fun in. To say that it was a sudden outburst of resentment against an authoritarian ruler is saying that no one welcomed it in the first place. Since Bengalis suffer from lack of recall, allow me to point out that the savage behaviour of the political parties lead to the declaration of emergency rule on January 11, 2007. At that time, the same mindless goons of the political parties were behaving in the exact same manner as these ‘revolting’ people. (Revolting and loathsome.) Someone characterised the uncivilised behaviour as the “…revolt against the military regime…” and was the “…awakening of the people.” The party mentality of such people simply does not fail to shine through the hypocrisy of their statements as they call for democracy, return to party-based politics and government formed by parliament. The moment one party or the other comes to power, they will not waste a single second in ensuring that they remain in power for generations to come and that they will be able to profit from the government coffers while the poor continue to suffer. While they scream themselves hoarse saying “we want a return to democracy” the same people are the ones who will rush to defend the party’s lack of internal democracy which future leaders would come through. All the party men and women keep saying that they have popular (majority) support, but popular support can be had by only one side. Supporters on both sides call the other corrupt, devious and criminal while shamelessly singing songs of praise for the corrupt people they want to support. Hired people in rallies and protests instigate crowds to turn violent and riotous, causing insufferable damage and pain to the majority who simply wish to lead a decent life.

Everyone says that they want to see an honest, good government running the country. That is an impossibility given the fact that most of the politically aware are nothing but party stooges who would prefer to vote the corrupt into the office than to extend support to an honest person of another party. Till the people here mature politically, they do not deserve any better than to be bossed around by soldiers who have not even completed high school.

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