Read newspaper columns by our intellectuals, and you’ll see a common refrain: we Bangladeshis don’t learn from history. We forget our past. We don’t honour our heroes. And so on. Yet, the events of the last four years or so seem to show rather the opposite. We do learn from history; we do so greedily.
Consider the coup on 1/11 by Moeen U. Ahmed. Coup? What coup? There was no general issuing proclamations, no military council ruling by fiat: we had a nice elderly gentleman of Princeton pedigree. He spoke good English, quoted the right Tagore phrases, and seemed on the verge of turning Bangladesh into Plato’s Republic, when the philosopher-kings of yore would again hold sway. Where we would not be troubled with partisan, nasty, narrow politics. The nation would unite behind our own Mahathir, Lee Kuan Yew, you name it.
If still not convinced, turn to our current Prime Minister, Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina. Does anyone realize that Hasina is now the senior statesman of SAARC, and probably the most accomplished head of state for at least five or six hundred miles in all direction? Poor Manmohan Singh has never won an election in his life; he is the Indian equivalent of Bangladesh’s MPs from reserved seats (a comparison apt in many ways). Pakistan’s troubles are only matched by Zardari’s foolishness. Rajapaksa is guilty of genocide. Karzai… no, Hasina towers above them all.
And she, too, has learned her lessons. A lesson from 2001, about how the most trusted individuals can become confused if left without adult supervision. A lesson reinforced in 2007, as boot-lickers turned into back-breakers. Maybe a second lesson from 2001, about history would have been different if she had gone ahead with her gut instincts and called for early elections, before the Four-Party Alliance had coalesced. And, finally, a lesson from 1975: if only H. T. Imam had thought to call BKSAL something else, like Bengali Democracy. Sounds so much nicer.
Indeed, who will object to the mighty Sheikh Hasina, Leader of the House with a majority of 303 seats out of 345? Indira was India, এক নেতা had his এক দেশ, where is the catchy slogan that does justice to Hasina? Backed by an army that has turned pro-India with a vengeance to stay relevant in this post-9/11 world, a business sector that would love to see some continuity instead of the hassle of having to figure out whom to pay homage to every five years, and a judiciary which is more partisan than many, many leaders of the ruling party, she strides the land like a behemoth.
In the end of the day, only her own inner demons trouble her. She knows she is alone; the weasely cowards who crowd around her and dare speak of the spirit of 1971 did not come to her father’s help in 1975, just as they surely would not come to her own aid if something happened tomorrow. But this time, nothing will happen; the fairy tale will not turn into a blood-soaked nightmare. The ending will be happy.
How dare those wretched countrymen of hers let her father die like that? There must be collective punishment: she would make her own father everyone’s father; patricide, after all, is more grievous than mere regicide. Hanging the men who physically killed her father was not enough, she will finish his unfinished business. Two thousand years ago, another leader had asked, why so much fuss around the word “king?” After all, it was just a word. If his countrymen did not like it, he could replace it with something innocuous, like his last name, Caesar.
Similarly, BKSAL is just a word. A word that the curs used to darken the image of her saintly father. Why would Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, with a majority of his own of 293 out of 300, need of more power? Yet, that did not stop his move for the actual liberation of the people of Bangladesh as being portrayed as dictatorship and tyranny. Well, his daughter will prove the point once and for all. If it is just a word that the people of Bangladesh object to, then she will give it to them, only without that word this time. They’ll take it, and they’ll like it, and they’ll thank her for it. And finally, the inner demons will quiet their howlings.
And there will be peace, inside and outside. Everywhere.