Summer of ’77

Posted in Uncategorized by jrahman on December 15, 2018

Abu’l Fazl, the Grand Vizier of Akbar, didn’t like Bengal much.  Since he wrote in the 16th century that the country of Bengal is a land where, owing to the climate’s favouring the base, the dust of dissension is always rising, Bengal delta had been part of Empires, a monarchy and a republic, all of which extending beyond the current borders of Bangladesh.  In all these years, only three Mughal Governors — Shah Shuja, Shaista Khan, and Azim-ush-Shan — and Nawab Alivardi Khan had ruled this for a longer period than Prime Minister Hasina Wajed has.  One cannot be in power for this long without having certain leadership qualities.  And one admirable quality of Mrs Wajed is her ability to learn from experience.

Take for example her loss in the 1991 election.  While rejecting the result in a knee-jerk fashion — shukkho karchupi — she accepted that merely asserting the Awami League’s claim to power on its pre-1971 leadership role or the tragedies of 1975 would not be sufficient.  The party needed to appeal to the majoritarian sentiment to win votes.  At the same time, there was a need to assuage the urban, educated, increasingly affluent section of the society that the party had broken decisively from Bakshal-style socialism.  By donning a hijab and downplaying secular credentials, she achieved the former.  To manage the latter, she brought into the fold acclaimed professionals like SAMS Kibria.  Similarly, from her loss in 2001 election she learnt the importance of alliance and electoral arithmetic, which paid dividend in 2006-08.  Also from that election and the aborted 2007 one, she learnt the difficulty of remote control management of the caretakers — so she did away with the caretaker system altogether.

What will happen in Bangladesh in the coming weeks and months will depend crucially on what lessons the Prime Minister learnt from two elections of the summer of 1977.


The not-so-curious tragedy of AKM Wahiduzzaman

Posted in Freedom of speech, Rights by jrahman on October 23, 2014

AKM Wahiduzzaman is a geographer.  He used to teach the subject at Bangladesh’s National University.  A keen sportsman, he represented Bangladesh in basketball in the 1980s.  And a vocal BNP supporter in various online platforms, he has been in jail twice in last three years.  For the past year, he has been in hiding. He may well be going back to jail soon.  Seeing his ordeals, his father has become seriously ill.

Make no mistake, his ordeal is because of his politics.

He is a very good Bangla commentator, with verve and wit.  He writes galagali free polished Bangla, not indulging in ad hominem attacks — itself an extreme rarity in Bangladeshi cyberspace.  Just as rare is his steadfast and frank support of BNP.  Unlike so many, he does not hide behind so-called non-partisanship.

Because of his politics, he comes under attack from the Awami Leaguers (and their ultra-nationalist ‘useful idiots’) as well as Islamists.  There is nothing curious about that.  And that’s not particularly tragic either — your opponents will try to hurt you, that’s how it works.

It is, however, tragic when those who claim to be neither Awami collaborators nor Islamists — the so-called non-partisans — don’t stand by Mr Wahiduzzaman.  If there is one genuine case in Bangladesh where free speech is under threat, he ought to be the one.  It is a tragedy that this is not the case.

But it’s not at all surprising.  No, not to me.  I am not surprised that our so-called progressives don’t speak out for him.  You see, to our progressive intellectuals and activists, Wahiduzzaman is BNP.

Sanaullah Babu was hacked to death four years ago.  He was BNP. There was no human right violation for him.  Similarly, no rights for Ilias Ali or others who have been abducted.  They are BNP.  So why should it surprise me that no one cares about Wahiduzzaman?

It doesn’t.  And this post isn’t about demanding justice for him.  Because he won’t get it.

Over the fold is an example of Mr Wahiduzzaman’s writing.


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