It’s either 2005 or 2006. I am sitting at a family member’s home in Virginia, enjoying the new experience of watching Bangladeshi channels in the US. While surfing channels, the visage of a bearded man, holding forth on some lecture, flashes on the screen.
For the first and last time in my life, I hear the sound of teeth being gnashed.
I turn and ask my family member the reason for his extreme reaction. He tells me his story- of how, as a youth, he had run, futilely, after a Pakistani Army jeep which was driving away with his father. The place was Faridpur. The year 1971. And the man who had guided the Pakistani Army to his home was Bacchu Razakar, now Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the man with the orange beard.
April 3, 2012: “International Crimes Tribunal-2 Tuesday issued arrest warrant against Abul Kalam Azad alias ‘Bacchu Razakar’ for crimes against humanity during liberation war in 1971.”
April 4, 2012: “Police during a raid Tuesday failed to capture Abul Kalam Azad alias Bachchu Razakar, a major war-crime suspect, hours after the International Crimes Tribunal-2 issued a warrant for his arrest.”
April 9, 2012: “Maulana Azad slipped into India: Rab”
April 10, 2012: Members of Rapid Action Battalion yesterday picked up Azad’s elder son Shah Mohammad Faisal Azad, 36, younger son Abul Kashem Muhammad Mushfiq Billah alias Jihad, 34, brother-in-law Kazi Ehtesham-ul Huq Liton, 40, from a house in the capital’s Sutrapur around 5:30am.
Now, the second memory. It is near the end of the class, and the attention of some of the students are flagging. The professor, sensing this, posts a hypothetical: How would we like it if the US Government instituted a system where the sons and grandsons of terrorists could be put to death? Revulsion. But then, the professor asks, what do we make of this commandment, mentioned in some form in all of the three major Abrahamic faiths:
for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me
Just a few days after 9/11, Arundhati Roy wrote The Algebra of Infinite Justice, the definitive text of the past ten years. Can someone do the algebra and tell me how much pain we are allowed to visit on the sons (and, remember, grandsons and great-grandsons) for the deeds of their father?