By: Shazzad Khan –
When I was very young, around 40 years ago, I was living in a village. I still can remember on one occasion a village woman saying, “Deshe ki kono ain kanoon nai (Isn’t there rule of law in the country)?” in response to some threat. By citing this statement I am not going to dwell anything on that woman’s affairs. I only want to mean that even 40 years ago a woman of a remote village had the confidence that if anyone violated her rights the country was there to protect her with law. I am sure, that woman was not the only one to have that conviction at that time – there were many, maybe the whole nation. Possibly, at that tender age, that was my first real-life-lesson as a moral – which says if anyone violates a law the country is there to protect it. As years gone by I learnt many such morals – in school, in collage, from teachers, from elders, from books and from religion.
I learnt that education is the backbone of a nation, in other words, without education we would remain blind (I was also told that the very first word from Allah was Ikra meaning ‘read’). I was taught to always speak the truth and not to lie under any circumstances. I was earnestly advised not to hanker after ‘money’ for illegally amassing wealth; rather I was advised to hanker after ‘knowledge’, so that I can enlighten myself to become a true human. I read in a book of morals that modesty and respect can win the hearts of all and arrogance does the opposite. In that book I also found that we should speak as less as possible and work as more as possible.
I was introduced that Bangladesh is a secular democratic country and is guided by the rule of law; hence I can be absolutely sure that anybody doing any crime will certainly be dealt with the law of the land without any concession. I was instilled with the belief that someone who cheats, plays tricks, becomes corrupt and does not perform one’s entitled duty would be strictly accountable to God. I also saw on the TV screen that those who waste money are the brothers of Satan. All such morals made feel jubilant and reassured thinking that the citizens of this country including me were safe and secure in every aspect of life.
But after all these years of my life now I realise that whatever morals I learnt in course of my upbringing were wrong. Those who taught me all these were utterly mistaken – either they were old-fashioned or devoid of reality of life, if at all the morals were true. Rather, the go-of-the-day has become such that you have to take everything exactly opposite what the morals say. If you fail to behave and act the opposite, you would be treated as un-smart and unproductive.
I shall not go very far, although I have seen a lot. Rather, I shall strict to a span of time which had been so utterly of great expectations. Although, the expectations of this nation had been extremely high, maybe almost similar to utopia, after the great liberation war was fought in 1971, I was too young then and want to forget and forgive those old days. But I must take into account of the time for which I along with many others wove dreams with our self-styled slogan “either this time or never”. It was the in the fag end of 2008.
As a true supporter of Bengali nationalism, our great liberation war and the great leader Bangabandhu, it is needless to say that along with many others I was extremely happy to see that Awami League was back at the helm. I don’t feel to expose like the protégé politicians how we celebrated Awami League’s return to power. Apart from my usual attachment to my feelings mentioned above there was one more feeling added on – “either this time or never”.
What had been that feeling “either this time or never” anyway? First, a modest Prime Minister; second, corruption-free Bangladesh ; third, a secular constitution; fourth, eradication of anti-liberation force; fifth, rule of law and good governance; sixth, independent judiciary; seventh, a responsible and accountable cabinet. It goes without saying that, maybe once and for all, these high hopes revolved essentially around the morals I learnt so intensely.
But after a few months’ time I realised that the disillusionment as against the high hopes had started taking its shape. So many stunning things started to happen that I felt myself in the middle of nowhere. Was I wrong? Were we wrong? Was the nation wrong? Yes, undoubtedly we were. Once again, this time being absolutely sure, I compelled to come to conclusion that we all are mistaken to have learnt those morals in our life and to have cherished them so tenderly.
Not long after Awami League had assumed power we were destined to see that the court had ordered the mass acquittal of the criminals convicted of murder. All those murderers had one thing in common – they all had the emblems of Awami League. Was an independent judiciary a daydream or were we mistaken to hope for it? In fact, it is an utter ignorance for us all to expect that the ruling party will not control the judiciary. And that is why the high court has been encouraged to play the roles that are supposed to be played by the parliament.
On one occasion the opposition leader Khaleda Zia took a commendable step. She presented a shadow budget to the nation. Out of my modest mind I thought that our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would appreciate that. In doing the eulogy, even as a mere formality, the Prime Minister would have needed as many words as could have been completed in 30 seconds (I counted it). But instead of that we were destined to hear the Prime Minister say with immodesty and mockery that the opposition leader had tried to make a stunt show to the nation! As a daughter of Bangabandhu my expectation from the Prime Minister might not have been too much to expect, but I should have known that, time is changed and I was too old-fashioned to expect that. Immodesty and retort to others are the go-of-the-day now, I should have known that too! Possibly I am still over too old-fashioned to expect that even the opposition leader will be as modest as I expect, because we all are of a nation whose father is Bangabandhu.
In the similar fashion I expected that the Prime Minister would stay away from the dirty name-game politics. Many of us implored her not to change the name of ZIA. But she did – saying that as BNP did it, so did Awami League! With my utter naivety I trusted that Awami League was just opposite BNP.
It was also a stupidity that I didn’t know it was the arrogance (not modesty) that could win the hearts of millions of people. It was only out of arrogance the high court was compelled to pass the abolition of caretaker government and the parliament just followed suit. Although Awami League workers and common people shed blood for caretaker government system, we all realised that it had been only one man’s special desire – so be it! Not only that, speaking truths about failures and corruptions of the ministers and government officials that we heard on TV channels and read on newspapers were against the usual norms of secular democracy, and hence we should have turned off our televisions and stopped subscribing newspapers. We should have borne in mind that when it is a matter of arrogance, modesty and respect to people should be brushed aside. And it is only in this way people’s support can be sustained and increased. It has been a revelation of a new moral.
The go-of-the-day also dictates that the rule of law has become an outdated affair. Rather, those who violate law on behalf of a political party are the “golden sons” of the soil. So henceforth all the party-criminals should be treated as the “golden sons” and whatever crime they do, even murder, they should be pardoned by the high court or by the president. With my utter stupidity I should have known that the whole nation felt proud as they learnt on many occasions that the convicts who were supposed to walk gallows were released either by high court or presidential order. Even if you see the live pictures of party-men shooting and killing the opposition, they should not be kept behind bars as they have many nation-building roles to play outside. It is also nice to know that the police are now eager to share their responsibility with people and are opting for mob justice.
It was the first time in my life (maybe in everybody’s life) I heard that people do not require education! We were given a sermon recently that it was enough for people to know how to distinguish between a cow and a goat. What a novel moral! As an old-fashioned man it would be very difficult for me to shun the moral I learnt earlier that without education a man is blind. This old-fashioned moral drove me in pursuit of reading books and developing a library. I can’t promise now, but I shall try to gradually stop reading and replace my books with toys and pictures of cows and goats.
It is undoubtedly a stunning move by the government that only for the sake of upholding Bangabandhu’s name a new airport will be built, although our existing airport is still underutilised and not to say, Bangladesh became synonymous to Bangabandhu even before 1971. The moral of not wasting money should be ignored here as it is the desire of someone whose desire stands beyond any moral. This nature of philosophies I have yet to learn in life and the teachers of social studies should update themselves accordingly. The overall cost involvement to build the Bangabandhu airport will be not less than sixty thousand crore Taka. This will undoubtedly pave the way for some rich people to become richer. So considering this special benefit of “some people” the whole nation should be affirmative to such move. At least in this case we should forget the question of wastage and possible utilisation of the money to get a huge number of poor people out of poverty.
There may be many such instances of the ruling parties of Bangladesh that can refute our centuries-old morals and values. Instead, those have germinated and will germinate new morals and values that we should abide by for the sake of our deep respect and gratitude to the angelic deeds of our angelic politicians. I believe time has come to revise our social studies books and replace the newly germinated morals of the politicians with old ones that we learnt so mistakenly.
[The writer is a member of civil society organisation; Email: email@example.com]