Forty years ago last week, things were happening in New Delhi that are more often seen in Islamabad and Dhaka. India came under a State of Internal Emergency on 25 June 1975. Indira is India — the cult of personality around Prime Minister Indira Gandhi preceded the Emergency, but with wholesale detention of opposition politicians on spurious charges, draconian censorship, executive decrees and ordinances bypassing the legislature and subordinating the judiciary, Indian experiment in democracy seemed to be over.
Then, in early 1977, Mrs Gandhi called fresh elections, which were held on the announced date, in a free and fair manner, and her party was thrown out of office by the voters, she herself losing her seat. Accepting the verdict, she stepped down. Indian experiment in democracy returned, to be continued to our time.
The Emergency plays a climactic role in Salman Rushdie’s much-celebrated novel Midnight’s Children. But it’s Shashi Tharoor’s treatment in The Great Indian Novel that I find more nuanced. Tharoor’s rendition of the Mahabharata has the general election of 1977, following the Emergency, as the modern-day Battle of Kurukshetra. Duryodhana, the leader of the ‘baddie’ Kaurava clan, is recast as Mrs Gandhi, while the ‘goodie’ Pandava brothers are: Morarji Desai (who replaced Mrs Gandhi as the prime minister) as the virtuous Yudhishtir; the Indian army as the valiant Bhim; media as the heroic Arjuna; and the civil and foreign services as the Nakul-Sahadeva twins. As the epic battle isn’t simply ‘good trumps over evil’ in the Epic, so it is in the novel, which ends with a place of honour accorded to Priya Duryodhoni / Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi in the ‘court of history’.
A few years ago, Vietnam was the rage among the Bangladeshi chatteratis who hobnobbed in the development circle. Look how they have forged ahead under a strong, patriotic leadership, while we languish behind because of our corrupt, venal political class — that was the refrain. Of course, anyone who knew anything reasonably detailed about both countries would have their eyebrows raised by that. I have vague recollection of writing something for Zafar Sobhan on this, but can’t find any link anywhere.
In any case, who cares about facts in Bangladesh?
… is upon Rahman pere et fils.
We’ve watched all six episodes — starting with A New Hope, followed by The Empire Strikes Back, then the prequel trilogy, to finish with Return of the Jedi. Then we started afresh with the first two prequels. Now going through The Clone Wars — we will not watch Revenge of the Sith until the animated series has run its course.
That’s, of course, on TV. On the iPad, between the homework, dinner and bedtime reading, endless loops of I am your father or you are the chosen one or goood, not to mention the lego or angry bird versions of the saga or eleventy million fan videos — that’s a different story altogether.
He has the lines from this memorised:
At this rate, I think the kid will have his first brush with disappointment because, let’s face it, sky high expectations are usually unmet.
Was it the unrealistic expectation that caused our disappointment with the prequel trilogy? After thorough research (see the first para), I am convinced that the prequels are bad in their own right. In fact, I can do better. I think I have a good idea of what went wrong with those movies. As long as these mistakes are avoided, I think I’ll be satisfied with the new one.
I guess only a Leone or Coppola could meet my expectations, so I must not be too harsh on Kamal Mukherjee. He ought to be lauded for taking a chance, but the fact that his adaptation only gets a 6.7 in IMDB tells me that there is room for Bollywood yet.
When that happens, it’s imperative that Bunyip is done right.
Voters of Dhaka and Chittagong are supposed to exercise their democratic right on 28 April. These elections are hardly going to change the political status quo that is Mrs Wajed’s one-person rule over Bangladesh. And yet, there is something for everyone in these elections.
In Dhaka North — where yours truly spent a part of his life — there really is a choice. Towards the end of this post, you will find the preference of this blog.
Forecasting is a bit like urinating against the wind, you feel the heat, while everyone else laughs at your expense. Okay, that’s not my original. I heard it from a former boss, who, being an Antipodean, used to express it in rather more colourful terms. But anyone involved in any kind of forecasting will tell you that it’s a mug’s game. Scenario analysis, however, is not forecasting. Rather than saying X will happen, scenario analysis is about what if X happens.
I have no idea what will happen in Bangladesh. Anyone who tells you that they know what will happen in Bangladesh is either pushing an agenda, or is delusional, or both. However, it is possible to make an informed commentary on plausible scenarios. And it’s even easier to comment on scenarios laid out by someone else. Fortunately for me, Arild Engelsen Ruud has already described five possible scenarios for Bangladesh. Over the fold is my take on these.
Guest post by Tacit. First posted at Rumi Ahmed’s.
The current political problem in Bangladesh is primarily one of imagination. Obviously, neither Khaleda Zia nor Sheikh Hasina will accept an option that is total defeat for them. However, a study of the priority of the two leaders may allow us to glimpse what s solution to the current, bloody impasse may look like.
If Sheikh Hasina currently allows an election, she will lose. She will hand over the government to BNP for the next five years. She will certainly face many uncomfortable cases and inquiries about the BDR massacre, the Padma Bridge controversy, the atrocities committed by RAB in the days leading to and the aftermath of the 2014 election, the Share Market scam, and so forth. Moreover, given the age of both these individuals, it is highly likely that this would be the last time they would face off. Hasina understandably does not want to end with a defeat.
On the other hand, even if hypothetically an election were to take place tomorrow, and BNP was to win the expected 250+ seats, it would very quickly find itself in a world of hurt. BNP has always been composed of two wings: the governance wing and the AL-lite wing. Ever since 2006, the governance wing has been badly worn down. The Chairperson’s faith in Rafiqul Islam Mian, Jamiruddin Sircar, M K Anwar, et al isn’t what it used to be. And there are too few Shamsher Mobin Chowdhurys and Salahuddin/Sabihuddin Ahmeds to fill the void. This is understandable, because BNP has now been in continuous war footing for the 9th year running. If we take Ershad’s ascension as the formal start of his dalliance with Awami League, then this is the longest stretch that a party has been in the role of the “Opposition”, faced with the full brunt of state savagery. It’ll take a while to reset from this to governance mode.
No, not the politics of the Star Wars saga — been there, done that in what seems to be a long time ago….. (oh, the Daily Star archives don’t work! — note to self: must do something about old articles. No, not the politics of the star wars, but politics in the star wars, to be precise, in the upcoming trilogy.
A few weeks ago, there was a debate about whether the new movies should dabble in politics. I think I should note my thoughts about this very important matter.