Bangladesh, like all other countries of the world, went through the most troublesome year due to coronavirus pandemic, which has affected over 83 million people globally, left 1.8 million dead and reversed the world economic growth. The adverse impact of climate change and the rise of fanatics extremist have become a potential threat.
The entire world hopes the coronavirus pandemic will be over in 2021 with global pharmaceutical giants making frantic efforts to produce coronavirus vaccines. If the vaccines succeed to contain the disease, Bangladesh, along with other countries, has control the pandemic effectively under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and soon it will return to normal, when people will be moving freely, students will be buzzing again at their institutions and businesses will be recuperating their losses. But what will be the implications of the fanaticism in the new year in Bangladesh?
It is utterly shocking and a big surprise to see the way the ruling Awami League, which has a glorious past in leading the War of Liberation, is being run and the way party leaders are being chosen for giving leadership in the volatile situation in the country. When the enemies of Bangladesh dare to talk against Bangabandhu’s sculpture, it means they have, somehow or other, gained strength and audacity to show the fangs of fundamentalism. And it is a signal of ensuing danger.
If anyone can launch an assault on the sculpture of Bagha Jatin and the Bangabandhu, he can even kill his father. Every civilised and sensible person respects his/her fathers. They love and respect their fathers deeper than the surface of their heart and the love is natural and spontaneous.
Fathers are respected by all. But it is obvious and universal that the father of the nation is the father of all fathers, and all citizens of the country have the highest esteem for the father of the nation. Those who do not respect the father of the nation, they must lose their right to be citizens of Bangladesh. Bagha Jatin was one of the heroes and freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the cause of independence of undivided India. During his time, he was a symbol of inspiration to the youths, who were fighting a grim battle against the British Raj. He should be equally respected in the countries of the subcontinent. It has been reported that a faction of the Jubo League, an associate organisation of the Awami League, vandalised the statue of Bagha Jatin in a bid to send its rival faction to jail.
What a surprise is it that one faction of the Jubo League in Kushtia wants to crush the other faction. We know that the comrades used to sacrifice their lives for saving other fellow comrades. But what is happening in the Awami League? One group wants to take the other's life in an intra-party feud and they do not hesitate to go to the extent of vandalising the statue of Bagha Jatin only to endanger the rival group. If a group can disfigure the statue of Bagha Jatin, they can vandalise the sculpture of Bangabandhu too to serve their self-sordid end in politics. The question crops up what type of politics is it? Competition in activities and performing duty is most welcome, but antagonism and the tendency of destroying rivals cannot be taken as a political competition.
The people who have no respect for the father of the nation and the founding fathers of the free subcontinent cannot be regarded as real human beings. And the people who attempt to inflict a crushing blow on their comrades are indeed intruders in the party. They are working as the fifth columnists in the Awami League and if such unscrupulous people exist in the party and its front organisations, they will continue to harm the party and it is a big question how the ideology of the Bangabandhu would be materialised by such people in the party?
Bangladesh is fighting a grim battle against the forces, which fought against us in an unholy nexus with the Pakistani occupation Army during our Liberation War and were finally defeated. Those forces are active again to deal a deadly blow to us. Now the question is how will the Bangladesh Awami League face this danger. If the unscrupulous and ant-liberation forces are active in the rank and file of the main Awami League and its front organisations, how will they be able to protect the people and the country?
It should be kept in mind when the Bangabandhu came up with the massive development programme, the enemies understood that if he succeeded in his programme of the second revolution, the people of the country would reap the real fruits of independence and they would not be able to do any harm to Bangabandhu and the people. At that time, the enemies of Bangladesh followed the policy of “now or never” which means if they could not stop Bangabandhu going ahead with the programme, their dirty politics will not work among the common people of Bangladesh. Due to our shortcoming and organisational weakness, Bangabandhu was assassinated because of domestic and international conspiracy.
The Awami League lost the Father of the Nation on the tragic night of August 15, 1975 that led the country virtually to the loss of its hard-earned independence and the spirit of independence for several decades. And the most pertinent question is how many times we will be repeating the same mistake. No, we cannot afford to make any further mistakes. Such mistakes would amount to the loss of independence, and the loss of a great hope of building Bangladesh as a developed country. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has made our people, who love Bangabandhu and Sheikh Hasina more than their lives, dream of a better life and made impossible the possible by dint of her firm will and efforts.
Yes, still there is time to go to the people and enquire about their problems and try to solve them by yourselves. If you cannot do it, try to get involved the government, local and international donor agencies, which have so many programmes to uplift the poor and mass people living a life below the standard. The Awami League, a party concerned about the wellbeing of the people, should immediately organise a team of activists nationwide to go to the people at the grass-root level. And make it immediately before it is too late.
A country is run by the government and the government is run by political parties. So the party leaders and activists, who are usually entrusted with the task of running the government affairs, must be capable of performing the duties they are assigned to for the welfare of the people.
The elected representatives in a democratic society have moral and constitutional obligation to work following the doctrine of “...government of the people, by the people and for the people”. The definition of democracy, given by Abraham Lincoln, has the real essence of establishing civil and human rights, freedom of speech, which are not in fact being practised in all the countries of the world. One thing should be taken into consideration that there are great many definitions of democracy and there are so many good and encouraging words in developing democracy, but nobody should try to control democracy by using any attribute to it, since democracy controls itself and it is also established that violence and abuse of human rights have no room in democracy. It is known to all that the intoxication of power is worse than the intoxication of liquor. If a man gets drunk, the intoxication will be over in two or three hours. But when a political leader is intoxicated with a sense of power, he will never get himself rid of it.
Practising democracy and performing the obligations associated with it are not difficult by the people who are morally strong enough and enriched with the ideals of democracy, which encourage the leaders and activists to go to the grass-roots people to know about the condition they have been living in.
People want leaders who are really anxious about the wellbeing of the common people. And to do such a job, a big money is not needed. Of course, some amount of money is necessary, but not too much. If the people have faith in you that you are really concerned about their needs, their support would be spontaneous.
People’s unalloyed support is very important for a political party. If we take the Awami League rule as an example, we will find that despite having the great pride of leading the Liberation War in 1971, the party lost many achievements. Losing the Father of the Nation was the greatest loss for us. The Awami League led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had to face a lot of odds and obstacles. Frequent jail and atrocities had been a regular feature in the life of Bangabandhu and his followers during the Pakistani rule in Bangladesh.
It is mentionable that during the 23 years of the reign of oppression unleashed by the Pakistani rulers, Bangabandhu had to spend most of his valuable time in jail. And due to time constraints, he could not organise the Awami League leaders and workers, who were politically motivated and ideologically strong, at the village level as the 1969-movement, which ousted President Ayub Khan, was followed by a general election held in December 1970 that brought a landslide victory for Bangabandhu.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib, the chief of the Awami League and elected leader of the majority party in Pakistan, was supposed to be invited by the president to take oath as the prime minister of Pakistan. The denial of election results by the military ruler General Yahya Khan in connivance with a pampered politician Zulfiker Ali Bhutto, led Bangladesh to the War of Liberation.
The situation was developing so fast that there was no time to create a team of politically conscious and ideologically strong activists at the village level to brief the people about the War of Liberation. And when the victory was achieved on the 16th December 1971, the freedom fighters could have been given the idea of rebuilding the war-ravaged nation by themselves who fought and liberated the country shedding their blood and thus they could have mustered the popular support for the new government headed by the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The freedom fighters and the Awami League leaders and activists, who fought a fierce battle against the Pakistan Army, could not fully estimate the value and dignity of independence. They failed to be attentive to nation-building work. The people of the newly independent country had a puzzling experience. Political violence was spreading across the country day by day and law and order situation was going from bad to worse.
The war-torn country was facing colossal problems and the mounting plight of people made it impossible to run government affairs peacefully. Moreover, the unruly opposition political parties opted for the path of violence. The national and international conspiracies were hatched and the enemies of the country, who had been working directly against the birth of a free and independent Bangladesh, were trying to take advantage of the national problems as an opportunity for serving their selfish end.
Some derailed army officers, with the support of then General Zia, brutally killed the Father of the Nation on August 15, 1975. With that tragic incident, martial law was imposed and the country went under military rule. Had the Awami League leaders and activists been politically conscious and ideologically enriched, they could have retained people’s support and protected the Father of the Nation. The enemies of Bangladesh, who were directly involved in unleashing genocide in collaboration with the Pakistan Army, have again reorganised themselves to inflict another blow on the nation. And in that case, the ruling Awami League must have strong control even at the village level and keep people alert to rumours the anti-liberation forces are spreading nationwide.
Sharif Shahab Uddin is Editor-in-Chief, Bangladesh Post.