May 2010

A few alarming events took place last few days. Let me list them,

1. A young men was arrested for doing cartoon caricature on our Prime Minister. Per newspaper reports, he did the same thing on PM’s son a little while ago. Law enforcement agency tells he also publish classified government report on BDR mutiny in facebook.

2. Same day, a few hours later, government banned facebook in Bangladesh on the pretext of it allowing materials hurting people’s religious sentiments.

3. Main media outlets which commands >90% readership reports those above stories with their mild spins. Through their spins, facebook ban is a temporary two day event and it was banned by BTRC. The news of the arrest was very successfully deprived of a headline by hiding it in the facebook ban news. In the news of the arrest the media told the nation that that young man was arrested for drawing cartoon on BOTH THE LEADERS, i.e. Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia.

4. My friend emailed me, visibly alarmed at a Naya Diganta news when some Madrassa nuts brought out a rally demanding facebook ban. To me it read like that the whole facebook ban is an act of the right wing nuts, our government had no option but to comply with their demands. So lets be very wary about the those right wing nuts . [ And give the government a break. ]


I replied to my friend that I am equally alarmed at all four above mentioned events. The right wings demands are concerning. Equally concerning to me are the efforts by our progressives who control our mainstream media to undermine this draconian act of the government and make it look like that our Prime Minister has nothing to with this.

I also wrote that when such things ( e.g. arrest cartoonist Arif arrest case) happened during 1/11 era, we never hesitated to make it a top down government crime and raise our voice by all the means we had. I also reminded my friend that if this kind of incident took place before 2006, what would have been our reaction? Would it have been an act of BTRC and RAB, would the arrest news got hidden in another news? It would have been a direct crime of Khaleda-Nizami cohort to make the country Afganistan.

It is ridiculous to assert that the ban was due to pressure on the government by the right wing Islamists. Just yesterday the number two person of the ruling party confirmed Law Minister’s previous announcement that government will change constitution to remove Islam as the state religion and other non secular amendments. In last ten months this government did not allow the main religious party Jamat e Islami to hold one single street rally anywhere. This has is nothing to do with a rally by Madrassa leaders like Amini or the publication of this news in Naya Diganta.

I would like to take this opportunity to challenge our friends in media, blogosphere to rise to this occasion. This is our opportunity to show the nation that our agenda is for a progressive cause, not for a partisan cause. I believe the cause is progressive, but it is our job to make the nation believe the same.

I am afraid, the whole facebook arrest and ban are ill advised actions of the government to contain some news which they either don’t want people to know or be used as false propaganda against government. This government banned youtube previously for publishing BDR mutiny related audios. Recently facebook was also used to publish some document purported to be classified government report of BDR mutiny. There may be great unease at this sort of activities. Religious sentiment may be an intelligent ploy this time to kill the bird and put the blame on the Islamic fundamentalists.

Facebook ban is a very dangerous precedent. We definitely reserve the right to ban materials that may hurt our feelings. But that could have been done in a more smart way. The specific page that contains any offensive material could be blocked. Whole facebook ban or arresting someone for caricaturing a political leader are not expected from a democratic government. If we ban facebook today, we will ban other outlets tomorrow and then whole internet will come under attack some day.

And we must see and say the spade a spade. It is equally dangerous to see some acts of bigotry are tolerated only because a friendly government is in power.

About ten years ago, Zafar Iqbal wrote a piece in the Prothom Alo. While commenting on the general political situation, he noted that it was not true, as many people insisted, that all politicians had become corrupt and devoid of principles. As an example, Iqbal cited a member of Parliament who had recently been on the same flight with him. Upon arriving at ZIA, Iqbal recounted, he had expected a big, shiny SUV to come and pick the other person up. Instead, the lawmaker had suggested that they walk a little distance from the airport before getting a scooter, because the scooters right in front of the airport charged inflated fares.

At that time, Iqbal kept secret the identity of this person. However, in the subsequent years, it became known that he was talking about Nurul Islam Nahid, then a lawmaker from Sylhet and chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education. No one would dispute Iqbal’s characterization of Nahid as an honest and principled person. Currently the Minister of Education, he belongs to the select group of Bangladeshi politicians who are doubly on the side of the angels: aside from being an AL politician, he also has a distinguished record of service on behalf of the Left, which means that he has a ready-made fan base amongst Bangladesh’s media personnel.

The final season of Lost will be airing this Sunday. For those of us who have been following the inhabitants of the Island for the past six years, it will be a time to say goodbye. Therefore, I would like to take a moment and imagine the ten ways Lost would have been different had the Island actually been Bangladesh.

10. Sayid would have been dead through crossfire by the end of the first season.

9. The Dharma Initiative would have been sponsored by Grameen Phone, not the Hanso Foundation.

8. All the male characters would either have Hurley’s girth or Charlie’s height.

7. Neither the Dharma Initiative nor Charles Widmore would have been able to reach the electromagnetic core, since the drilling machines would be ineffective due to lack of electricity.

6. Kate would wear heavy make-up and run around in a pink salwar kamiz. She would wear a sari for special occasions, like going to meet Jacob or being in the same cage with Sawyer.  

5. Charlie’s band would be named Cryptic Fate. Charlie himself would go on to have a successful career as a judge in Bangladesh Idol.

4. There would be no rivalry between Jacob and the Man in Black. They would just decide to alternate the control of the island for five years each.

3. The bald-headed man who went from being a puppet to the villain would have a different name. 

2. There would be fewer deaths by gunshot wounds, and more deaths by chapati and ramda attacks.

And finally, the last way the show would have been different:

1. There would be no Lost, since Jacob would simply pass on his duties to his children and make them protector of the Island.

Updated: Well done, Jack. Live together, die alone.