Intellectual Bankruptcy


March 12 saw over a hundred thousand people gather to listen to Khaleda Zia speak. They came, despite the fact that all long-distance transportation to Dhaka, including buses, trains, and ferries, had been stopped the last three days, that police was indulging in mass arrests of anyone even suspected of going to the rally, and that on the day of the rally, AL workers armed with weapons were stationed at various points of the city to “discourage” people from attending the rally.
But you wouldn’t know any of that from reading Afsan Chowdhury’s latest. In fact, his piece is a perfect illustration of the iron-clad rules governing BD journalism. All criticism of AL is generic and vague: “AL came out looking like a bunch of scared rabbits”, “the AL who now stands out looking inept”, “But what the AL also did in its failed attempt to contain the crowds from swelling was use its cadres”, “AL had a bad case of nerves”, “AL decided to add to it by making direct broadcasts impossible”, “the party came out looking so novice like, out of depth and touch, hardly the kind of maturity that can handle a political crisis.”
You see, AL is a party governed by a series of inter-changeable drones, and all members have the exact same contribution to policy-making, so it makes no sense to mention the prime minister, or any of her advisers, or members of her cabinet. The party is governed by a hive-mind. Everyone is equally culpable: no need to mention anyone by name.
By contrast, the criticism of BNP is sharp and personal: “Khaleda where her political imagination is limited by her lack of understanding of what people want”, “she however left out was significant which is any reference to the War Crimes Trial”, “It was a very convenient but unpleasant silence on the part of Khaleda Zia”, “Khaleda has declared a number of new programmes including a hartal. So we are back to the hot and heavy season.”
Simple: BNP bad, Khaleda Zia worse.
Finally, this may come as a shock to Chowdhury, but there is no law “that forbids any criticism” of the war crimes trial. There is, however, Section 39 of the Constitution of Bangladesh, which is titled “Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech.”  It protects the right of all Bangladeshis to express themselves as citizens of a free and democratic country. Perhaps he should glance at it.
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“…Why do I need a visa for Bangladesh? Why does Habibur Rahman Khan, the Bangladeshi co-producer of my films, need a visa for India? It’s absurd. And it’s political. I don’t need a visa for Nepal which has a different language and culture. But Bengalis living across the border need visas. Wah!…”

Eminent Bangalee film maker from India, Mr Goutam Ghosh, expresses his take on Indo-Bangla relationship. Wish his Bnagladeshi counterparts among Bangalee progressive society could think as eloquently and as clearly as Goutam Ghosh does. But unfortunately Bangalee progressives thought process remains confined in a very small box. This box-thinking makes our cultural elites blindly defend every action ( right or wrong) of India and blame a so called ‘anti India mindset of Bangladeshis’ for all bad bloods starting from building Tipaimukh dam to killing of Felanis to India’s noncompliance to signed treaties to creation of unfair trade/ tarriff barriers against Bangladesh to banning of Bangladeshi TV channels in India and so on.

The full interview of of Goutam Ghosh follows belows…

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While giving the verdict on the legality of the punishment of Colonel Taher, the high-court bench of Justices Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik and Zakir Hossain declared that the whole trial process was illegal and it was in fact a cold blooded murder of Taher by Late president Ziaur Rahman.

What high-court did to come to this conclusion? They interviewed one shoddy journalist character Lawrence lifshultz, who is a political follower of Taher’s communist doctrine. Other interviewed are also 1. Political opponents of Ziaur Rahman’s political platform 2. Supporters of ruling party who took it as their prime job to destroy Zia’s image 3. Political followers of Colonel Taher. Even the judges who delivered the justice, are publicly known nemesis of Ziaur Rahman’s ideology and are former leaders of socialist political platform based on Taher’s doctrine. And this is probably the first court proceeding in Bangladesh history where an witness could simply deliver his opinion via e mail to a third person. There was no ‘balai’ of oath taking, cross examination etc.

Before we go further into what these two judges did and what their judgment means, lets see what Taher in fact did back in early 70s.

1. Taher revolted against the then Awami League government of Sheikh Mijibur Rahman and formed and led an armed force called ” Gonobahinee”. Thousands and thousands of Awami League activists, leaders as well as general people were killed by the armed force. Any literature describing Mujib era Bangladesh will give testimony of the atrocities of Taher’s Gonobahinee.

2. While all other sector commanders were being promoted in the army as Brigadier/ Major General and who in turn helped rebuild the army, Taher was sacked from Bangladesh army by Mujib Government. ( It is unclear what Shamsuddin Chowdhury Manik had to say about this cold blooded sacking of ‘war hero’ Taher).

3. Many sources, well informed of the political military dynamics of 1975, say that it was Taher who was more likely to kill Mujib and there was an invisible race among Taher’s group and Faruq Rashids group in who would kill Mujib first. After hearing of the massacre of 15th August, most observers’ first suspicion was on Taher.

4. Taking the advantage of unstable situation of Bangladesh, Taher’s forces ( a select group of armed anti state forces including Taher’s brother Bahar) attacked Indian High Commission in Dhaka in an attempt to kill India’s high commissioner in Dhaka, Mr Samar Sen. Although Samar Sen survived with bullet wounds in his back, Police force guarding India’s high Commission shot and killed four members of Taher forces ( Including Taher brother Bahar).

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The Ganges flew quite far, the people in Arial Bil resisted and won, Mashrefa Mishu remains in jail after torture, an elected local government leader Sanaullah Nur Babu got chopped to death in front of public TV, ruling party MP Shaon walks around head high after yet another killing, student cadres of ruling party continues their mastaani, poor peoples’ life keep getting more and more intolerable due to spiraling of prices.

Our ever awake national conscience Muhammad Zafar Iqbal seemed to be sleeping all along. Nothing probably was exciting enough to wake him up from his hibernation.

But good news is that Mr. Zafar Iqbal finally woke up. In his latest piece he expresses his grave concern as people he saw could not memorize the lyrics of national anthem and the exact size of national flag.

Long live our national conscience.