BNP has made a mistake! BNP has missed the election train! Khaleda Zia must repent now! I keep hearing version of this argument from various quarters, including individuals in whom I have a great deal of faith and who judgment I regard as sound.
What would have happened if BNP would have participated, and hypothetically, won the election? Would Sheikh Hasina have handed over power to Khaleda Zia and meekly left Gono Bhaban? “I can tell you that Sheikh Hasina will not hand over power. It can only happen over our dead bodies.” Was Mr. Wazed speaking only in the context of coups, or was it a general statement, encompassing all foreseeable future possibilities? Bangladesh is the country of double standards. That the horrific and murderous attacks on our Hindu communities happened while Awami League is in power, following an Awami League “victory”, with Sheikh Hasina herself handling the Home Ministry, is still somehow all evidence of BNP-JI’s diabolical nature. If the hypothetical victory had actually happened, we would immediately have seen an outcry, and a plausible excuse not to hand over power to BNP.
In the double standard version of Bangladesh’s history, the 2001 atrocities happened, and then this year’s post-election attacks happened. Nothing happened in the middle: no Ramu, no Satkhira, no Hathajari. Just like Bangladesh was enjoying a blissful, golden period of electoral democracy when a group of majors suddenly went mad and killed Sheikh Mujib, and then bad things, like martial law, started to happen. If BNP had agreed to participate in this election, without any changes to the government, the Election Commission, the Rules of Business, and so forth, let alone what the result of the elections were, a new chapter would have been added to this strange history of Bangladesh: in which elections cannot be held under BNP, but can be held under Awami League. Where 1996 exists, but 1973 is forgotten.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda… all that is in the past now. And of course, I may be completely wrong. What happens now? Well, there is some discussion about stability and why growth is more important than democracy – Mamun Rashid explicated the phenomenon extremely well here. The problem with this line of wishful thinking, of course, is that this isn’t 2009 when AL can start over again. This is 2014, and AL, and Sheikh Hasina in particular, has been working with great vigor to dismantle as many bits of the broad coalition that brought her to power in 2008, as possible. She could survive the BDR massacre in 2009, but she can’t handle an event of comparable magnitude in 2014. In short, she is no Narendra Modi, to be able to offer development if Bangladeshis give up on democracy. And this fact will only become more clear when the actual Narendra Modi, or a proxy, takes over in India in a couple of months.
In lieu of a governing mandate, Sheikh Hasina will attempt to govern in her usual fashion: by lumbering from crisis to crisis. The first one of her new regime is already here. When I read the allegation (first in a blog, subsequently published in Inqilab), that Indian armed forces members were alleged to have helped murder and otherwise put down opposition activists in different places such as Satkhira, I did not believe it. In fact, I believe that with news reports like these, the people who believe it will believe far worse, and people who don’t believe it (hopefully the vast majority) will just shrug and move on. However, if the blog had gone further and said that after a curt conversation in a flashing red phone, Manmohan Singh picked up an AK 47, parachuted into Bangladesh, and like Yoda in Revenge of the Sith, single-handedly fought the evil-doers, they should still be within their right as the citizens of a “democracy.” Or are the quotation marks beginning to overwhelm the word between them?
As far as I know, three people have so far been arrested for publishing this article, which is three more people than the number arrested for the attacks in Jessore. Are these heinous attacks really less important than a single newspaper story? And to those in the non-AL camp who believe this for a second, grow up! I realize that this preserves a useful fiction regarding the infallible nature of Bangladesh Army, but delusions can only take you so far.
Bangladeshis, members of the armed forces or not, are very much capable of behaving with complete callousness and lack of morals towards fellow Bangladeshis. Just like there was no need for the Board of Directors for BCCI to parachute down to Dhaka and overpower our BCB directors so that they would not be able to contemptuously reject the horrible plan now being championed by India. No foreigners needed. Whether this government lasts for five days or months or years, it will be because of Bangladeshis, not anyone else.