When we talk about weapons of mass destruction, we think of missiles, bombs, nuclear explosions. When we talk about greatest or most destructive innovation by human kind, we talk about atom bombs. But the fact remains; the most destructive force was invented by humans, in very early age of their evolution. Men made knives, turned them to daggers and then moved on to guns and then missiles. All of them were weapons and in different phase of human evolution, these weapons were perfected and used for good or evil purposes. Men also invented Gods, then rituals and then religion. In different stages of evolution, they endorsed different forms of religions and effectively used it for good and evil. At this cutting-edge phase of human history, religion has lost most of it’s purposes, those who were once considered the sole meaning of life. Still religion remains an incomparable, invincible, transcending weapon for one group of people, those who want to rule with fear and those who want to rule the foresighted, with the support from the oblivious.
Religion plays a crucial part in the “Game of Thorne’s” in most part of the world. I say most because, in places like Australia, where the Prime minister herself is a self-proclaimed atheist, religion can no longer be a king maker. But sadly, in most 3rd world countries, it still plays a pivotal role, in the musical chair of power and its solecism. Especially in Indian Sub-continent, the politics of religion has been going on for centuries, yet doesn’t show any sign of departing in the way it did in many developed countries.
Since the first invasion of the Arabs in year 711, there has been a major shift in the religious beliefs among the population of Indian Sub-continent. The predominantly Hindu India lost a huge portion of its mass to Islam. This resulted in the introduction of religion based politics, or the politics of religion. As majority of this region is still lingering in acute poverty, inadequate education scope and facilities for practice of science and literature, religion still seems and proves to be the safest bet for any ambitious power monger. This acts as a cover for the inability to eradicate this poverty, failure to lead the nation towards a common goal by the ill equipped, semi-skilled and deeply corrupted political leadership. This deep rooted ignorance in the society and the existence of these undeserving leadership, has been reciprocating each other’s existence for ages now. This dependence has grown so deep that, these leaderships are reluctant to move out of it, or even if they want to, they have to step back because of their inability build a knowledge based society. They are very well aware of the fact that, an amply educated mass would never accept a weak visionless leadership. So majority of the leaderships feel, confining the large mass in the darkness of religious superstitions and backwardness, lends it easier for them to manipulate their fate.
As Subcontinent was divided based on religious identity of its citizens, it is no wonder; religion will play a part in every room of the society. The geographical location of Pakistan, sharing a common border with hard-core Islamist Iran and troublesome fundamentalist playground Afganistan, slowly but surely, led the country to a path of deeply rooted Islamised social structure; as a result, politics in Pakistan is merely dwelling with the feelings of the Muslim population there. India on the other hand, although a predominantly Hindu country, they still have a large Muslim population. Religious segregation of the voters plays the pivotal role in deciding election outcomes there. Congress as we know it, have always been portrayed as a friendly alliance to the Muslim sect. While they have won the trust of the most moderate Hindu’s, Muslims have been their eternal vote bank. BJP-RSS alliance on the other hand, is a hard-core believer in Hindustan and boasts the support of the most die-hard Hindu nationalists of India. As with progression of the society, major part of the young India has become more liberal and moderate, making it almost impossible for any fundamentalist force like BJP to make any impression in the national elections. While being branded as a secular force, Congress, has drastically failed in protecting the rights of rationalists, the most recent example, prosecuting rationalist activist Sanal Edamaraku for exposing a Chrisitian Church sponsored Hocus-Pocus, forcing him take to refuge abroad.
Bangladesh, which started as a nation consisting of almost 30% Hindu and 70% Muslim population, 42 years after its birth, finds it left with merely 10% Hindu population, rendering the effect of religious sentiment of this huge Muslim population, unfathomable in the eyes of the politicians. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that, none of the political forces in power during this period, has been able to provide a secular environment for peaceful co-habitation of religious minorities and majorities. Although East Pakistan, as it was known, was formed based on mainly the majority of Muslim occupation, 24 years after its formation, the inhabitants of this region preferred a national identity, based on its language and culture. Although the goal was to diminish the trend of oppression on religious minorities, the last 42 years proved it to be futile, as more and more Hindus were forced to leave the country.
Bangladesh was born through the leadership of Bangladesh Awami League (previously Awami Muslim League). It is a secular fraction that decided to omit the Muslim part, giving the impression to the society of establishing a secularist country. Due to its strong tie with India, Awami League has always been portrayed as a political force, sympathetic to the cause of the Hindu population. AL has always taken advantage of this tag and had the privilege using the minorities as their vote Bank. In return, they have always failed in complying with their promises. Rather, AL even failed to revoke the black law ‘Vested Property Act’, which made it possible to occupy minority owned properties forcibly, with endorsement from the state and legal system. Along the years, this law has been misused by the influential and thugs in the society, irrespective of political Identity. A recent research done by famed economist Dr Abul Barakat, found that, the equal beneficiary of this Law has been followers of the ruling party during its reign, irrespective of BNP or AL .
On the other hand, BNP the other major political force in the country started its journey into the political periphery by re-establishing Islam based politics. The hard-core and fundamentalist Islamic political force, Jamat-E-Islam and its leaders were re-established into the political domain by BNP. Jamat intends to establish Sharia Law in the country and denies most of the major values a liberal, secular democratic country. As the Hindu population is predominantly considered as a vote bank of Awami League, BNP-Jamat alliance has been accused numerous times of hate attacks on Hindu establishments. Recently, this accusation has extended to attacks on Buddhist population and its Pagoda’s. BNP and Jamat formed an alliance, in view of accumulating all the ardent Muslim votes. In one side, while AL has been labelled as the sole proprietor of secular humanist movement in the country, BNP-Jamat takes the credit of the sole protector of Islam in the country.
While this religious warfare has been going on in the political arena, time did not stand still, and the once oblivious backward people of the sub-continent went through a major renaissance. The affordability and availability of technology, easy access to the information highway, gave people access to facts and information in a way that was never possible before. Specially the younger generation of this region, went through a wave of change, in their way of thinking and assumptions about society and politics. Slowly but surely, this wave has started to hit the century old fort, built by the aged politicians. Recently, we observed a huge youth uprising against corruption in India. The ruling Govt is still struggling to contain that flame.
While questioning someone’s belief is a Taboo in Bangladesh and considered a crime in society, it could not stop the wave of scientific information that started to barge into the shores of Bangladesh, with the introduction of internet. In the opening phase, some freethinkers living abroad introduced a few websites, which encouraged rational discussions about the contradictions beetween scientific facts and different faiths. As internet was still considered as a luxury in those days, these discussions were confined within a very small part of the society and the environment was healthy. Our aim and view was to eradicate superstitions and oppression in the society, that are done in the name of different faiths. Not to agitate any section of the society. As technology became cheaper and widely accessible to majority of the population, rationalist idealism started to spread like ray of light in the society. But as this availability was a boon, it had some repercussions too. The new band of young rationalists took this endeavour to the next phase. They called it militant atheism. Different blogs and discussion forums in the web became an open Warfield between the rationalists and fundamentalists. A few of the rationalist bloggers resorted to foul language and pornographic description of religious idols and rituals, which I personally feel, very unsuitable for a person claiming to be a freethinker. Being a more mature human being, it is the responsibility of every freethinker, to treat a believer, his sensitivity in a manner, which doesn’t fuel uncalled hatred and violence in his mind. That only fails the purpose of the discussion. On the other hand, Islamists begin to resort to ultra-extreme methodology of threatening to kill off the rationalists. In a planned way, they started to locate the rationalist writers and attacking them.
Majority of this rationalist bloggers were city-centric, well-educated and from middle-class families of the society. Their imagination of the country and the society was confined to known periphery of metro-life, oblivious of the facts in rural Bangladesh. In all the 3 countries in sub-continent, a huge social division has formed during the last 2 decades. While a big part of the middle class people have become open to new ideas and humanistic views, still majority of the low-income rural population has been completely left behind. Their faith and belief still remained as acute as it had been in the Middle Ages; they still rested their fate on supernatural energies and still believed in superstitions, rather than science. They can be ignored in every social decision-making process, but the one time they cannot be ignored is the election. When AL and Jamat came face to face in an open warfare, about the war-crimes tribunal and prosecution of the top leaders of Jamat, the rationalists showed their utmost support to the ruling Awami League. They came out in numbers and joined the procession in Shahbag. Huge numbers of sympathizers joined them from the predominantly middle class city habitants of the country. The rationalists thought, they have the support of the whole country and also the political force in power. The ruling party encouraged them, and used them. Till the day, they realized the reality on the ground. The BNP-Jamat sponsored media, started to circulate copies of incendiary blogs by few rationalist bloggers, where they ridiculed religion and its idols in somehow inappropriate manner. They hit the jackpot. It is very easy to agitate the oppressed portion of the society with abuse. Specially if the abuse is hurled at their last resort, their only hope of rescue, Faith and God. These people have been deprived of most of their rights and heavenly pleasures in their life. Their only hope of attaining them is in afterlife, so if you want to take that dream away from them, they will resist, they will resist with all their might. Bangladesh being an ultra-sensitive society to religious abuse, in every nook and corner, in every mosque and religious establishments, a resistance started to bloom. As it has been evident to them that the ruling AL government is giving protection to the abusers of their faith, this resistance seems to be slowly turning against AL. AL tried to ignore this uprise in the first few days. They resorted to all kind of peaceful and unlawful manners to compromise with the leaders of this religious uprise, but in vain. Meanwhile the situation deteriorated to such extent, the member of parliaments of the ruling party, were even afraid to visit their own constituencies in fear of public backlash. Surely AL now realized their miscalculation in the game of Democratic election. It is quite evident, that they have been portrayed as an enemy of Islam in a country, where 90% of the population are practicing Muslims. That was the turning point. The MP’s started to call for withdrawal of support from these rationalists. It is time for damage control. Government law enforcers have started to round up rationalist Activists one after another and put them in Jail. They are also taking steps in introducing a new blasphemy law, with a scope for death penalty. No wonder this is a knee jerk reaction from AL. Their desperation shows in their reactions. Their actions prove their betrayal of trust, with the forward thinking younger generation. Both AL and BNP, are hell bent on capitalizing the religious sentiments of the millions of god fearing, fact-starved, delusional portion of the population. They have proven they won’t hesitate to block the voice of any segment of the society, when in desperation. AL has just taken off their Secularist mask and shown their deep rooted belief in “Keep them blind, lead them as you wish” methodology. While many of us were sure of their treachery, and warned the Youngers of containing their feelings and not to depend on such a historically untrustworthy political force, the inexperienced younger generation rested their faith on the shoulders of AL. I can only hope, we will learn from our history.
History has seen the rise of the Illuminati’s in every society. At the end, only they survive, and those who are with them. Unless you accompany them, you will also be forgotten one day, with the superstitions and stigmas that we leave behind every day. Any political force which has a vision for future, should take into consideration of these facts. No one should be jailed or tortured for expressing his or her views. It is the primary responsibility of any government to ensure the freedom of speech for its citizens. We hope the government will rollback it’s precarious steps of the last 72 hours and facilitate the nation to move forward.