Bangladesh’s political horizon is now dark and getting darker by the day. A bunch of self-aggrandised predacious people, surrounded by slavish cronies and sycophants, are making the lives of millions of hard-working, self-reliant people up and down the country a total misery.
This is what an unknown middle-aged, working-class house-wife by the name, Gita Sarkar told the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina on her face from the hospital bed in Dhaka Medical College Burn Unit. Gita Sarkar was travelling in a bus with her daughter when the bus was torched by miscreants who wanted to enforce the ‘hartal’. With extensive burns on her body and face she was taken to the Burn Unit of the hospital and after treatment, she was recovering; while other victims were fighting for their lives.
When Sheikh Hasina came to see the victims in the hospital, Gita Sarkar could not hold back her emotions and agony. With tears in her eyes, she held Hasina’s hand and sobbed, “Didi, why do they kill us? We did not do any harm to them? We only wanted to lead our own lives.” Such heart rendering expressions made everybody around her sickbed overwhelmed with grief and emotions. She then told Hasina pointedly, “We made you; you did not make us. Our husbands look after us, feed us. You play games with our lives. We do not want sick government, we want healthy government”.
In just few sentences Gita Sarkar expressed the absolute truth and exposed the sick state of the country so eloquently that even the best writer or novelist couldn’t have done it better. Her every word is profoundly so significant that it makes me speechless. “We made you, you did not make us” is the best lesson on democracy that Hasina, the outgoing Prime Minister, and the whole of the feuding political establishment in Bangladesh can learn. It is the crucial and most sacrosanct bit of knowledge on democracy. The word ‘democracy’ originated from the Greek word which meant effectively the ‘rule of the people’. The Bangladesh constitution also states quite clearly and unambiguously the ‘sovereignty of the people’ as the major plank of the democracy.
But where is the ‘sovereignty of the people’ in Bangladesh? Right from the inception of Bangladesh, each and every leader or the head of administration, whether civilian or military, used ‘democracy’ and, in its wake, ‘sovereignty of the people’ as a superfluous item, only to be used as and when it is deemed to serve his or her purposes and selfish ends. When Gita Sarkar cried in desperation and said, “We made you”; did it make any impression or carry any meaning to the imbecile like Sheikh Hasina? Does Hasina or the ‘other protagonist’ waiting in the wings to grab powers realise that people like Gita Sarkar are effectively their paymasters and they are there to serve ‘Gita Sarkars’ during the tenure of their terms?
When Gita Sarker said, “You did not make us”, she was absolutely right. What does state give to the common people to meet their day to day needs? Hardly anything! The common people had to fend for themselves. When hundreds of thousands of people lost almost everything in the staged stock market crash in 2011, the government did not come up with a compensation scheme. Bangladeshi people have been left to swim or sink on their own, government does not offer any helping hand. When Bangladeshi people get beaten up in the Middle East in the course of their work in a foreign land, the government does not come up with a remedial plan or try to allay their suffering. But these political leaders are quite happy to enjoy the benefits of their remittances in making foreign tours on flimsy grounds.
When Gita Sarkar said, “You play games with our lives”; that was the most accurate observation of the present political predicament of the country when these two protagonists are engaged in vicious and fatalistic games with the lives of the common people. Accusations and counter-accusations on the causes and number of fatalities from these sponsored ‘hartals’ are traded publicly to revile the opponents. Loss of human lives to them is nothing but collateral damage in the political game.
Gita Sarkar also demanded that we need healthy government, not the sick government. Did Hasina realise that this woman and millions of Bangladeshis were calling her government as sick? If that is the case, it could be the first time she has heard it straight on her face. Her sycophant ministers, advisers, bureaucrats, who could not even look at her eyes and keep their eyes firmly embedded at her feet, would not dare say this.
These two political women have made Bangladesh a feudal state perpetually claiming its ownership on grounds of inheritance. Democracy is used just as a veneer to top up their lawfully owned possession. Even this democracy has been stripped down to a single element – electoral democracy. As long as election is conducted, no matter how, the main strand of democracy is presumed to have been met and the party winning the election has the right to pillage the country for the elected term of office. As judiciary, civil administration and all other branches of government have become polarised and part of the political establishment, pillaging the country is a piece of cake.
The electoral system has become a big money spinner for the political parties. For the nomination in each constituency of the ruling AL, millions of takas are transferring hands. In fact, the whole process is like a gigantic auction or bidding for the telecom licence; the highest bidder will get the official nomination. The winning candidate invests large sums of money in the hope of recouping his investment as well as very good returns on his investment. The whole system has thus been made institutionally corrupt by these two parties.
In Bangladesh democracy has gone fugitive, morality has died a slow death, honesty has disappeared completely and politics has become a game of poker with large stakes. In this poker game comprising hundreds, if not thousands of direct stakeholders, death of thousands of innocent people is an acceptable collateral damage to them! This is how these two women with their party followers are shaping the country.
Now Gita Sarkar brings a glimmer of light amidst the encircling gloom. Her sense of democratic rule, her forthright assertion of democratic principles is the silver lining in the dark clouds in skies of Bangladesh. Those ministers who recently fell into the feet of Sheikh Hasina to seek her blessing would do much better to fall into the feet of Gita Sarkar to get her blessing to imbibe a basic sense of democracy, honesty and acquire self-dignity and self-reliance.