Shahbag to Shapla Chattar — songs of water and fire

Posted in activism, Bangladesh, blogging, Freedom of speech, history, Islamists, media, politics, Rights, uprisings by jrahman on March 26, 2014

The blog went into a hiatus about year ago. The reasons for that extended absence are, unfortunately, still relevant. That’s why the blog has been far less frequent than was the case in the past. However, it is what it is. I am not sure when the blog can be fully operational again. For now, pieces will come infrequently, and the blog will often be an archive for material published elsewhere. Also, the comments section will be off —it is disrespectful to not respond to comments, but since I can sometime be offline for days, if not weeks, it’s better to have the comments off.

This means no direct interaction with the reader.  But this also means the blog will become what blogs originally were — an online diary, a weblog, where one records one’s own thoughts and observations.  I guess it’s somewhat fitting that the first post in the new format is on the set of events that rocked Bangladesh as the blog went into hiatus.

These events, according to the contemporaneous analyses, were going to change everything forever. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that the contemporaneous analyses were mostly wrong. This is a for-the-record post summarising my evolving thoughts as the events unfolded between 5 Feb and 5 May 2013. It is important to note what this is not.  This is not analysis — I am not trying to offer an explanation of what happened, nor provide any insight into what they mean for our past, present or future.  This is not activism either — I am not arguing any particular case.  Rather, this is an extremely self-indulgent post, the target here is really myself years down the track.  If anyone else reads it, that’s just bonus.



Forget about Mahmudur Rahman

Posted in AL, BNP, politics by jrahman on August 6, 2011

Here is how Mahmudur Rahman, successful engineer-business executive turned prime ministerial advisor turned anti-government editor arrested for his writing, describes his moment of freedom:

জেলগেটের বাইরে পা দেয়া মাত্র দূরে রাস্তায় অপেক্ষমাণ জনতা সমস্বরে গগনবিদারী চিত্কার করে উঠল। আমি আকাশের দিকে মুখ তুলে উচ্চারণ করলাম, শোকর আলহামদুলিল্লাহ্, আল্লাহু আকবর।

And that, dear reader, shows why he will not lead Bangladesh anytime soon. 

Until the 1970s, Bangladesh’s polity was divided along two different concepts of identity, which were symbolised by two slogans — Joy Bangla and Allah Akbar.  Today’s Bangladesh is not divided along those camps. 

Today, we have a Joy Bangabandhu camp, which supplants the Joy Bangla and Allah Akbar with a cult of personality around Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.  This is the Hasina synthesis, which is articulated in the 15th Amendment, and is the Awami League is the party of Joy Bangabandhu.  Needless to say, the League will be led by Mujib’s family for a long while yet.

Against this, there is the Bangladesh Zindabad party, which is a synthesis of Allah Akbar and Joy Bangla.  This is the Zia synthesis, articulated in the 5th Amendment, and mainly defended by his BNP, though HM Ershad and Moeen U Ahmed tried to grab this at times. 

Mahmudur Rahman could have had a plausible claim to win the leadership of the Bangladesh Zindabad party.  Sure, under him this would have a bit more Allah Akbar than was the case under Zia.  But it would still have to be a Bangladesh Zindabad party. 

But tellingly, Mahmud did not shout Bangladesh Zindabad.

Bangladeshi mainstream is divided between Joy Bangabandhu and Bangladesh Zindabad.  Mahmudur Rahman cannot replace either of these with Allah Akbar.