Do your children know Bangabandhu?

Bangabandhu
A little girl is placing flowers in front of a portrait of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, on 15 August 2016 in Dhaka marking his 41st death anniversary.

‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world’ — WB Yeats

When was the last time you told your children about Bangabandhu? I beg your pardon, what are you saying? You ‘try to stay away from politics’? But, I am not talking about politics here. I just asked how much your next generation knows about him. What? You don’t belong to ‘his party’? That’s insanely ridiculous, man. Bangabandhu does not belong to any particular party; he belongs to you, to your sons and daughters… he belongs to Bangladesh. Bangabandhu is far beyond politics. He is all about what your kids want to grow up to be.

Four decades. For long four decades this is how we are still confused about our history; and this is how our misjudgment, ignorance, and apathy are pushing the next generation, and, of course ourselves, towards the chasm of even a greater confusion and ultimately into a dark chaos. Perhaps this very historic confusion contains in it the answers to some serious questions you have been asking lately.

‘How could my son hack someone to death?’ ‘How in the name of God could he become so devilishly cruel?’ ‘Why did he leave home all of a sudden?’ ‘When did he become so radical in his thoughts without even my noticing it?’ ‘How did anyone manage to brainwash such a smart and educated young man so easily to become a terrorist?’

The answers are rather simple: you did teach your son history, but you left out an essential part because you thought it was either crudely ‘political’ or contradictory to your personal opinion. But it never crossed your mind what terrible consequences these incomplete and prejudiced teaching of history of one’s country could bring in. Being ignorant of a rational and liberal narrative of the country’s history yourself, you almost unknowingly bypassed the very centre of it, and in the process you left your posterity with a rather shaky and weak foundation of patriotism which could not stop them from becoming a killer of their own kinsmen. You failed to teach your son how to be compassionate towards his fellow countrymen and how to love his country. Sad, but it is undeniably true.

Your university graduate son, who has been radicalised and instigated to carry out senseless killings in the name of religion, might have thought a thousand times before even hurting anyone if you had told him the story how selflessly and profoundly Bangabandhu loved the Bengalis. Your young and intelligent nephew, who has pledged allegiance to a terrorist group by questioning the very legality and sovereignty of Bangladesh itself, might never have doubted the spirit of the Liberation War even in his wildest dream, if he had been told how Sheikh Mujib spent almost 12 years in jail sacrificing the happiness of his family for the emancipation of this nation, your daughter could not have said, ‘I hate politics’. Or if you had narrated to her the story of Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnisa Mujib’s life-long struggle and her constant support to help her husband become the Friend of Bengal. All the answers to your questions are here. Now, let us face the truth: Bangladesh is in a crisis, which, of course, is not so serious yet, but like an ominous shadow, it is growing bigger with each passing day. The nation lacks a centre to smoothly revolve upon and move forward. The people of this country are in need of Bangabandhu now more than ever. Only he could fill in the current political, social and, above all patriotic, void that exists at the nation’s core.

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Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Yes, I can see that sarcastic frown of yours as you hear me saying that Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman occupies the central position in the history of this country. Also are you ready to refute me by talking about the ‘controversies’ surrounding his role during his regime in the war-ravaged independent Bangladesh. At this point, a violent debate is likely to ensue between you and me and it will end without any practical solution offered to the current problems that we are facing. Sheikh Mujib was an ordinary human being just like any of us; he was no god. He was not immune to making mistakes. I will not say that all of his actions were popularly received. No such ruler has ever lived on earth to satisfy all of his people. Nevertheless, of course, there is no denial of what he did for us: his struggle, mountain-high personality and, above all, his charismatic leadership are exactly what made us vocal about our rights and, eventually, inspired the millions of us to liberate ourselves from the shackle of bondage. What a tremendous effort Bangabandhu employed to rebuild the nation from the rubble of war is well documented. He tried as hard as he could. You cannot afford blaming him so flatly. So, shouldn’t we develop a positive outlook in this regard for our own betterment? Isn’t it time for us to embrace the best of Bangabandhu and make it a vital asset for building a Sonar Bangla? It definitely is.

What now? A certain political party’s overprotective attitude to Bangabandhu is sometimes so bothering? Well, I do agree with you on this point to some extent. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is too big a figure to be contained by a single political entity. And, no political party of the present time should ever dare to think of doing so. It is, however, not something for which you can blame the whole organisation. There are only a few, both opportunist party members and brazenly sycophant public servants, who arrogantly try to do what they call ‘glorifying’ Bangabandhu. With their number growing in recent times, I believe these individuals are not as imbued with the ideologies of Bangabandhu as they are obsessed with naming institutions or petty structures after him. Bangabandhu is Bangladesh; he doesn’t need anything to be named after him. Their so-called reverence often has an undercurrent of flattery, insincerity and fraudulence. Party high-ups should take this issue very seriously and quell such practice for good. It should be remembered that human mind never accepts anything, no matter how grand or beneficial it is, which is forced upon them. Doing so will only frighten and confuse people. I am pretty sure the party that truly believes in and follows Bangabandhu’s ideologies will ever let that happen.

Convinced now? What are you waiting for then? Go tell your children what happened on 15 August 1975. Narrate to them how the Greatest Bengali of All Time had fallen that day. Show them how those poisonous snakes did their hellish job and also teach them how to find the hidden enemy. Do not tell your kids that a prime minister was assassinated. Rather tell them that a man along with 16 members of his family was killed that night. Ask them to feel what if it had happened to them; let them feel the pain and learn. Let your children find their centre. Let them know the Father of the Nation.

***This article was originally published on NTV Online.

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A hymn to music

mermaid-music-john-nolan

To write about music might require a true connoisseur of it; even, as some may argue, an amateur would not be eligible enough to dare such an expedition. This conception about critiquing music, conservative may it seems, is hardly deniable as the music’s influence on human civilisation, and above all on human psyche, is immensely powerful. What the writer is attempting here is to sing a song about music which perhaps does not demand any masterly knowledge.

It would be unjust to talk about an art before paying tribute to its artist. Among the branches of art, music is probably the most self-satisfying on the part of its artist: the musician or, being more specific, the singer, because it gives, no doubt, a sense of real achievement to its creator. Even though the lyricist and the musician make the vehicle, it is the singer who drives skilfully to the path of melody and creates the miracle, leaving the audience mesmerized. This vehicle metaphor describing music may seem to be little awkward to some people as vehicles has some sort of connotation sounds like machine or lifelessness comparing with the purity and aesthetics of music which is as alive as any being. My intention, however, is not to desecrate the sacred aspect of music rather to wonder how excellent dexterity a maestro shows to make a piece unforgettable. The skill of a singer is in no way different from that of a driver’s. Through road of symphony and melody goes the singer.

Paintings, sculptures or other artefacts all of these propagate themselves in a mute way. They depend passively on their admirer to be admired or criticized. But an excellent music speaks, urges for immediate reaction from the listener who is captivated by the melodious bar of the tune and is set free only when he expresses his feelings about it. And this is probably the reason we say “wow” immediately after an enthralling rendition is finished.

Apart from this artistic property, music has religious aspects too. The origin of music and songs is directly related to the worship and the prayer to God. They were originally composed for the admiration of God and His creations. Almost in every great religion in the world music are prized and practiced as a form of worship.

Above all it is the mind of men where music reigns. Science that often denounces art as mere lazy sit-down activity requiring little or no use of brain contrary to Einstein, the great user of brain, cannot cast away music so easily. Science lately has discovered that music have healing properties too. Songs with slow music is good for keeping once heart sound and they say so not because Shakespeare said music is food to mind rather it is the reality. For nothing serves as a balm for a tired, depressed and dejected soul better than a melodious tune. The great warrior and conqueror of all time Alexander, the Great took with him, when marching for war, a copy of Homer’s Iliad leaving his teacher Aristotle at home. Homer’s Iliad is more songs than poems. The rhythm and music between the lines imbued the heart of the great hero. During the war of Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, nationalistic songs aired by the then Shawdhin Bangla Betar Kendra geared up the warrior spirit in our freedom fighters.

Over the history of human civilization music, songs and the saintly souls devoted to this sacred practice have been treated with great esteem. Apollo, the Greek god of music, was said to have such magic in the melody of his flute that was enough to enthrall the stones to build the invincible walls of ancient Troy. Even in Islam Hadith tells us of Prophet David whose recitation of the holy Quran had a sort of magnetic power and it was so mellifluous that all fishes in the sea used to gather up to listen to him. Some may object to this reference to a prophet of Islam saying songs and any kind of music are prohibited in Islam. With due respect to them, however, it is congruously arguable that the very term “Quran” means “recitation” and recitation is associated with poetry which in its turn is synonymous to songs. Again there’s a clear direction in Islam that Quran should be recited in soft and melodious voice.

As a common man’s heart eulogizes the Divinity and expresses his mind unrestricted by anything, so the writer, being an ordinary listener, offers hymns to music which are enchanting and sacred and this essential property elevate music to a higher place, a place very much divine.

 

 

[First published on: Prothom Alo English Online, Link: http://goo.gl/BhRz6p]

Hell-fire resumes

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Shiuli, a third year bachelor student of Dhaka Eden College, is completely soaked with sweat. The deafening honking of horns hits her like arrows from all directions. Her desperate waving doesn’t get her any transport. She feels stranded on a desert with only mirages all around, when a throbbing minibus awkwardly brakes in front of her, giving her hope of finally going home. She jubilantly clambers aboard the fire-breathing dilapidated vehicle, only to find herself stuck in a corner among a crowd of tired faces like hers. A trace of a smile should have played across her lips at the prospect of reaching Grandma’s at Demra where she lived, but she remains standing and motionless, and so does the bus, trapped behind a tailback stretching ahead for a few kilometres. This is an appalling tale of Shiuli who, like many others living in our capital city Dhaka, one of the worst cities to live in, is simply burnt alive every day, a similar experience to Hell where sinners are believed to be thrust into flames. The people here, however, did not sin, unless struggling for survival is considered a sin.

These “hell-dwellers”, however, were virtually in heaven for a few days during the last week of Eid holidays when ‘dreadful Dhaka’, as one of my elderly relatives calls it, was a relief to those roaming in it. Indeed, the dwellers of Dhaka enjoyed an escape, albeit temporarily, from its usual malaise: traffic congestion, which turns cataclysmic during the month of Ramadan. And for God knows what reason, the terrible predicament simply worsens when rain visits this 400-year old city. Rain usually brings peace and soothes the mind, but here in the capital rain most often brings time-consuming tailbacks on the rajpaths, a ironically ‘royal’ word for the highway. One must be forgiven for dubbing Dhaka ‘a hell’ that keeps burning devilishly all through the year except for the short interval during the two Eid vacations, at the end of which the hell-fire springs up again.

On Eid day one of my fellow commuters was almost dazed to have reached Farmgate from Khamarbari within a single minute, rather than the usual 45 minutes normally required to cross it. Since for the first time he was staying in Dhaka on Eid day, he found it hard to believe what he called a ‘miracle’. Just at that moment I wished this word ‘miracle’ could whisk me away to some distant Utopia like the Nightingale’s sweet song took Keats to a flowery wood. But unlike Keatsian utopia, mine would have some children in trim uniforms attending school on time, a man smilingly talking over cell phone, possibly with his wife or beloved, his shirt tucked in smartly, showing no signs of rush to get to office, because the vehicle he is in is proceeding smoothly. But fancy phases like ‘I wish’, ‘I hope’ and ‘I dream’, do not count in Bangladesh. Here everyone survives, but none lives. Once one escapes from such unspeakable trauma and sufferings of Dhaka, it would be madness to return. But since ‘survival’ matters so much, after Eid the helpless inhabitants return to hell. Actually they are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. They come back here to be burnt in devilish hell-fire to escape the harsh sea of poverty.

If you dream of higher education or you are a fresh graduate seeking a suitable job, or you are gravely ill and need proper treatment, you must rush here, to the capital. Irrespective of your economic status, rich or middle class or marginally poor, Dhaka is your inevitable destiny. Why should it be so? Can’t a university in Rajshahi be the place of which you dream? Can’t a job in Rangpur be befitting for you? Can’t you or your ailing parents have quality medical service in Khulna?

Political, administrative, fiscal, economic or even environmental decentralisation has been a much-discussed issue ever since our independence. Unfortunately the authorities never bother to even discuss this matter which is so important an issue in terms of public interest. Their stance on decentralisaton has never been clear. Many a person who talked, discussed, opined and wrote in favour of decentralisation has died long ago, and the many more who are still talking and writing will also die someday. But unnerved are our policy makers. They do not care if those children are rebuked at school, they do not care if that guy gets fired from office, and they really do not care if Shiuli reaches home or not. Their pathetic carelessness keeps the hell-fire perpetually aflame.

 

 

[First published on Prothom Alo English Online, Link: http://goo.gl/qjnZs8]

Return of Facebook: Is a storm coming?

facebook

‘You can’t possibly chew chicken bones while eating at a KFC restaurant. So the next day when you are having chicken for lunch at home, you crush and powder them,’ one of my teachers at Dhaka University gave this example while taking a class on Freudian layers of the psyche. ‘It’s the drive of the Id that catapults the suppressed desire of chewing chicken bones at a posh restaurant out of the consciousness,’ the professor went on, ‘and you become the bone-crusher at home.’ Well, he was right.

Your emotion is like an iron spring: the stronger you force it, the crazier it responds back. And I, as well as many other tech-psychoanalysts, believe the same thing will happen with Facebook too as soon as it is unblocked. The suppressed desire to hang out with our beloved social buddies surely turn ourselves into something what we are usually not. But there is a big trouble involved. You know why? It’s the status-photo-video-tsunami, I’m talking about.

Facebook, O, dear Facebook, you are gonna have real tough time in Bangladesh when you come back to us. There will be hundreds of thousands of profile picture changes and exhaustingly uncountable photo and video uploads within minutes. And not to mention the millions of status updates, most like ‘Missed you friends’ sort, that is feared to flood the news feed within seconds after the government lifts its ban on the social networking platforms.

The authorities blocked Facebook on 18 November citing security reasons reportedly to avoid untoward situations that might have occurred following the executions of two condemned war criminals this month.
The reactions of the people, who undoubtedly cheered at the executions, however, were not friendly to this Facebook-ban decision that isolated them from their hundreds of virtual friends. Some may call them Einstein’s idiotic generations, but that blue-and-white world of Facebook truly means a lot to them (and so to many non-idiots too).

So, when Facebook returns, there will be a mini Second-Coming, a mini-revolution, a victory of the suppressed emotion. Burning speeches will shake every corner of Bangladesh. University and college campuses (and of course schools and may even kindergartens), public transports, playgrounds, tea-stalls, the parliament- everything will be on fire, the Facebook fire, which, like wildfire, will drive many sane persons insane or vice versa. ‘Yes, yes, we are back again (blue thumps up sign everywhere)’
And my goodness, that chatting! I dread to imagine how the Internet volume vendors will have jackpots with a gargantuous amount of data being sold like water. The usual chatting time with a particular friend online will undoubtedly increase fivefold. Even the least talked with friend can be seen on the top of the chat bar.

A sudden boom in online shopping is also expected to occur as online businesses that have been terribly hungry so far for promoting their goods will literally raid your home page with an avalanche of promotional shares. Online news portal also will not be far behind. It will be a temporary chaos, an apocalypse! It will be…!!

Hold your breath, my friends! Nothing like any of this might happen. Perhaps it is just an apprehension of the writer, who himself, like many others, is so excited about and eagerly waiting for the return of Facebook amidst us. So, we wait and hope that we get our friends back as soon as possible.

 

 

[First published on NTV Online English Portal, Link: http://goo.gl/BWMvlc]

Bangladeshis always pay their debts

gonojagoron-mancha

Remember the iconic and often said dialogue of Tyrion Lannister from ‘Game of Thrones’? “A Lannister always pays his debts”- well may be, but Bangladeshis surely do. They are pretty much sincere about paying their debts.

On 22 November 2015, the fourth and the biggest installment of the reparations to the debts to the sacred blood of the liberation war martyrs has been paid off.

Notorious, and of course brazenly arrogant, war criminals Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed walked to the gallows together on 22 November at 12:55am, which was indeed a happy and mind satiating moment for the Bangladeshi people, who are undeniably indebted to the 1971 Independence War martyrs.

This debt, however, is not for their sacrifices that made us freemen of a free country, and we can never possibly think of repaying that debt in the first place. For the precious lives of 3 million brave souls, the honour of 2 lakh mothers and sisters, and the horrendous plights and great sacrifices of yet more hundreds of thousands of people go beyond our human capability to pay back. All we can do is to remember them with honour, praise and glorify them, and to uphold the dignity of the independence that is a gift for us from them. Unfortunately, exactly here at this very point we became indebted to our most noble souls.

How could these blood-sucking beasts like Salauddin and Mojaheed rise to power to become public representatives? How on earth could they and their anti-Bangladesh ideology prevail in a country the birth of which they tried to halt with all force? Who gave them the opportunity to roam on this sacred land with blood still dripping from their fangs? We did! My reader perhaps is thinking about other options in an attempt to blame the politics and politicians for this. But this is the truth. Face it, man, face it. If there is anyone to blame, it’s you, us.

Entrusted to the sincere care of us, the sole responsibility of the country’s betterment was, is and will be ours. The moment Salauddin, Mojaheed, Sayidee, Nizami, and other anti-liberation forces like them stepped inside the Parliament House of the Independent Bangladesh; right then we got deep into debt to the martyrs who sacrificed their lives to present us this free country expecting that we would care for it. We can’t deny our responsibility. So, the debt was high with already 44 years gone by.

But, it’s better late than never. Finally the people of Bangladesh have started to pay their debts off. Today’s executions of two war criminals at the same time were a big leap towards the reparations to our heroes. We have already taken care of other two, Mirpur’s butcher Quader Mollah and Shohaghpur’s devil Kamaruzzman, and confidently expect to clear the entire debt off soon. And it would be very unfair to give our collective compliments to our honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as it was her tremendous courage that made it possible for us to be relieved of this burden of 44 years. Her iron-like resolution combined with the aspirations of 160 million people to bring the evil to justice.

 

 

[First published on NTV Online English Portal, Link: http://goo.gl/FMwrZt]

Looking for God? Mom’s next room

Courtesy: Chidi Okoye
Courtesy: Chidi Okoye

Frankly speaking, most of us are fools. We make hectic efforts in search of God, Who, according to most religions, cannot be seen. He is abstract. But still we go for finding Him all through our lives. Wait a minute, you are getting me wrong buddy. I’m not an atheist, neither am I an agnostic. I truly believe in God. Now the question is what makes us call an abstract, unseen being ‘God’?

The answers may well vary from person to person, but the fact that He created us might go beyond all other reasons to worship Him. He created humans and, of course, the whole universe. We are kind of instinctively engineered to look for and, to be specific, go closer to our Creator. But alas, we can’t see Him. There is no way to meet the Supreme Being. All we can do is to believe and obey Him as the principal object of faith, as Wikipedia put it. And surely we will be doing so until our death. Well, now that we can’t see him, what to do with our built-in instinct to crawl closer to our Creator?

The Creator, one who created man.  And how is man created? Man does not fall from the sky nor does he grow on trees. Actually, man is created in the womb of his/her mother. Yes, mother! As far as creation is concerned, man is definitely created in the womb, from where she/he is physically created and brought on the earth. Now tell me what will you do if you can’t reach the head office of an institution whose help is badly needed by you? Obviously your only hope is the local branch of that institution.

To you, your mother is the physical being that brought you to this world. You can’t see God, but she is always there to listen to your problems, to your needs. She is always there to share your joy and grief.

Looking for God? Mom’s alone in the next room. Stop posting her photo on Facebook, shut the PC down, and go talk to her.

Happy Mother’s Day

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread

The memorial to the victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion at Mitino cemetery in Russia. Photo: Collected
The memorial to the victims of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion at Mitino cemetery in Russia. Photo: Collected

Wise men, especially our Murubbis (seniors), often forbid us to take things sentimentally advising a path of discretion to be followed. What they really mean by this is nothing but a pragmatic attitude to the situations that we face in our day to day life. Indeed, it is not wise to take decision, whether about something trivial or even of paramount importance, out of mere silly sentiment. My intention, however, is in no way to belittle the essential spirit of one’s mind which is of course important to take up challenges of the rough course of life. One definitely needs to be well spirited and this, as a matter of fact, must not to be confused with being sentimental. Now if a little boy expresses its ‘spirit’ by saying it can drive its father’s motorbike which sometimes the father himself finds hard to control, we had better call the child sentimental and of course not spirited.

The government of Bangladesh is going with the plan of setting up Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in the northern district of Pabna ignoring concerns of the public and experts who think it is too early for Bangladesh to go for such an option. The cabinet on the 4th of May 2015 approved the draft of ‘The Nuclear Power Plant Law, 2015’ to this end. Here arises a very crucial question: Do Bangladesh possesses such technology and disaster management capability that may come handy to deal with any possible nuclear accident arising from calamities like earthquake or from any other kind? I think the authority can’t answer the question with ease. Look at our tech-giant Asian friend Japan, a country still divided on whether to continue with nuclear projects or not. Now that Japan came to scene, let me tell my readers what I saw there.

An Explosion at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Plant After the Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.
An Explosion at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Plant after the earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. Photo: Keiko Takahashi

In June 2013 I had visited Japan under JENESYS 2.0 for SAARC Countries, a youth exchange programme organized and funded by the government of the country. The program was attended by thirty students from different universities of Bangladesh. Although the programme had manifold aims, including familiarizing us with Japanese life and culture and strengthening Japan’s relation with others Asian countries, it was actually intended to assure us that Japan is no longer a threat in terms of radiation and now it can be a safe choice for higher study or simply for travelling. On that 6-day tour all the participating SAARC countries were divided into several groups and sent to different parts of the country. India and Afghanistan were our group-mates and our place was Fukushima, a Japanese prefecture in the island of Honshu, which drew international attention after it was hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the subsequent tsunami in 2011. This catastrophic quake, the largest nuclear incident since the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986, exacerbated the situation as it was followed by a triple meltdown disaster at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant spreading deadly radioactive particles within a big proximity of the plant. As a result the water, vegetation, soil and even roads of Fukhshima got highly contaminated with radiation. The soil of this Japanese prefecture got strewn with cesium 137, an extremely radioactive particle which, due to its long life span, stretching about 30 years, started to be absorbed by rice plants. This put the lives of a huge number of people into jeopardy exposing them to a lethal threat of radiation.

On our arrival in a village in Fukushima we were given specially prepared sticky rice that we really found hard to swallow after hearing this. Though we ate them, hesitantly of course, only after we were assured that they had managed to reduce radiation to a tolerant level. Since the programme was intended especially to show us how efficiently and almost successfully this technology-giant of Asia cleaned-up the mess of nuclear disaster and reduced radiation level to almost zero, we had to attend several discussions and presentations on the country’s strenuous struggle against combatting radiation in Fukushima where some of my friends, who live there and I met on that tour, had goose bumps when narrating their nightmares about this nuclear menace. One such a presentation took place on Fukushima University campus. There we were almost flabbergasted to see what Japan has gone through and to what extent this country, with one of the biggest economies in the world, has made effort to reduce radiation level in earth and water.

Japan is still struggling to manage these hundreds of thousands of bags filled with contaminated top soil. Photo: Greenpeace
Japan is still struggling to manage these hundreds of thousands of bags filled with contaminated top soil. Photo: Greenpeace

Apart from many giant steps, almost impossible for other many Asian countries, there were two special that drew my attention greatly. First, they managed to scrape away the topsoil that became affected with radiation from about four surrounding prefecture, and quarantined them in plastic thousands of plastic bags. Secondly and most surprisingly they have changed the soil component by adding some materials that can absorb cesium 137 from the contaminated soil. They added Prussian blue in soil for this purpose which was almost served. But one thing is for sure that Japan, in spite of being a technological giant, found it very tough to complete this Herculean task. After about nine months the quake ravaged Fukushima, The Wall Street Journal ran report and the headline was: “Nuclear cleanup confounds Japan”. One point is to be noted here that even Japan got ‘confounded’ and could not get one hundred percent success. The country has been struggling to manage and store the hundreds and thousands of plastic bags containing about 100 million cubic metres of contaminated soil removed from the affected land. And needless to mention the unpredictable amount of money needed to handle the cleanup process Japan must bear. Nevertheless, there are still reports of radiation contamination in Fukushima on world media.

The displaced families of the Fukushima nuclear disaster victims are still crying.
The displaced families of the Fukushima nuclear disaster victims are still crying.

Think for moment what if Bangladesh has to deal with such a catastrophic nuclear disaster if, God forbade, any of such gigantic sort like that of Japan hit the 2,000-megawatt Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant that the authorities, with much enthusiasm and confidence (read overconfidence), want to set up ignoring public concern. Besides, spells of earthquake in recent days and ominous predictions about possible occurrence of catastrophic quake that may hit our country in near future only aggravates our worries over this nuke plant.

With the recent earthquakes in the country and experts fearing about possible big quake, it will not be wise to think of a nuke power plant.
With the recent earthquakes in the country and experts fearing about possible big quake, it will not be wise to think of a nuke power plant.

When a country like Japan once got ‘confounded’ and now is re-considering its nuclear projects and trying to drop them if possible, should Bangladesh even think of it right now? Put Bangladesh and Japan in a checklist with points like, technological advancement, skilled work force, transparency, responsible officials, and many others you think fit, I bet Japan will have tick marks on each of these fields while we will get nothing but crosses. The authorities concerned defend their alacrity in favour of this nuclear power plant saying adequate safety measures have been taken to face any disaster. They seem to be much confident about it whereas the Russian company that is going to be the ring leader of this project never spilled the bin about safety precautions. Again the effectiveness of ‘safety measures’ in Bangladeshi perspective is familiar to the countrymen. We have safety measures when each year ferries sank and vehicles fall into accidents, we had safety measures when suicide bombing came to scene, we had measures when some unknown businessmen siphoned off massive amount of money from public bank, we had much precautions when commuters were burnt to death with Molotov cocktails, we really had special safety measures when Rana Plaza collapsed and more than a thousand of our kinsmen perished. Our authorities failed to recover all the bodies of those poor workers from the debris of a collapsed building leaving their corpses to rot and only their bones to be found in pieces by city urchins. It was just a nine storey building collapsed onto its basement. I dread to imagine how many years, if not the eternity, the government would take to clean up the accident scene if any disaster occurs in that sophisticated nuclear power plant.

Recently a group of Japanese students have collaborated to write a book titled
Recently a group of Japanese students have collaborated with other famous persons to write a book titled “No Nukes” in Japanese language. Photo Courtesy: Keiko Takahashi

However, we must try to keep pace with the world and advance our nation towards economic independence through industrialization and technological advancement. This is what we all dream of and work for. But everything has its time. We cannot act like that aforesaid fictitious boy and try to do something that is beyond our capability. The boy will definitely ride his father’s bike one day but only after he grows up and acquires the strength to do so. We are still lagging behind in technology based industrialisation, our disaster management capability is weak, our economy can hardly bear the brunt of any major crisis, our workforce is not skilled and above all we have not yet been able to ensure corruption-free administration. If we want to follow industrially and technologically advanced countries like Japan, Russia or other Western states, we have to acquire these strengths first. Of course we can show our courage and give it a try since Bangladeshis never give up. Besides we undoubtedly are in need of power for sustainable development. But why it should be nuclear power plant? There are many options for generating power apart from this nuclear one which is way too dangerous to even give it a try. Let us not be like that boy. Rather let our discretion lead us, not our sentimental attitude. After all who can deny that “discretion is the better part of valour”?

 

 

[First published on NTV Online English Portal, Link: http://goo.gl/fNqQxO]

Amar Ekushey pleads for unity

Photo Courtesy : Wikipedia
Photo Courtesy : Wikipedia

The 21st of February each year comes to remind us of who we are and what we are capable of doing. Apart from symbolising the unshakable spirit of our nation, this day bears with it the flag of unity that was undoubtedly the defining motto behind making us what we are today. It is the unity among the people of this country that made it possible to write the history of 1952 and of the glorious 1971. Even the structure of Shaheed Minar sublimely symbolises unity and strength.

Unfortunately 21st February this year, which essentially symbolises the strength of unity, comes amid a shameless show of political conflict and violence. Only if they had had even the slightest idea of what was going to happen in the country after 63 years of their sacrifice, Salam, Rafique, Shafique, Jabbar and Barkat would probably have given a second thought to the plan of going to violate section 144 on 21 February in 1952. Pardon my remark, but is this why those language martyrs sacrificed their lives? People are virtually imprisoned in their own country. They aren’t feeling safe in their own home. The intensity of their sense of insecurity can be easily understood when windows of public buses are seen shut even if the temperature is pretty high. Although sweating profusely, they dare not slide back the window shield lest there should be any firebomb attack on them. Such mindless killings, violence, and political crisis are the direct antitheses of the spirit of our struggle for language and liberation.

I don’t know who is to blame for the deaths from firebombs on the roads, for the extreme uncertainty that is hovering over hundreds and thousands of SSC students, or for the shattered economy of the country. But, the fact is these are what happening right now, and putting an end to all these should be our main concern. People are dying and the country is being pushed about half a century backward by the apparently incessant violence, confusion, and distrust.

We the people are simply wary of this confusion, uncertainty, and lack of trust in country’s political arena which quintessentially incorporates all other spheres of our lives. We want security, we want peace. We expect our politicians (our representatives) to make us their only concern. They can’t just fight with each other. They simply can’t stay divided when situation demands them to be united and work for one single cause: the betterment of the country and its people.

May Amar Ekushey with all its spirit prompt everyone concerned to join hands in order to end the ongoing crisis and dissuade them from agonizing the people whose betterment is exactly what this great day embodies.

 

 

[First published on NTV Online English Portal, Link: http://goo.gl/kdavHJ]

An Orwellian nightmare

Life being so precious man always says to death, ‘not today’. An unending struggle, evading death, that man starts in the cradle and continues until the time the angel of death comes to him to claim his so lovingly protected life which he must give. Still in certain times man succumbs to death with a smiling face. Dream to live, dream to be free, and above all dream to live with dignity have always lead man to wage his precious life and challenge death’s tenacious grip. We, Bangladeshis, also dreamt of life, honour and freedom, and we did the same: we waged our lives. Now the billion dollar questions are: what purpose did these sacrifices served? Did the sun of true freedom ever shone over us? If yes-then how?

The answers will be better clarified through the premises of the much-read and famous novella Animal Farm by George Orwell, a prominent English novelist.

A manor’s animals, being imbued with the sense of their own animal identity, freedom, and equality, declare a battle against the human oppressor Mr Jones, the owner of the manor. Together they shed blood and eventually throw off the human domination. They establish an ideal state called Animal Farm, where all animals will be equal and humans or anything related to them will be boycotted. The pigs, being the most intelligent animals in the group take control of the planning and government of the farm. Within a short time Snowball and Napoleon, two pigs, engage in ideological disputes and compete for power, with Napoleon craftily driving away Snowball labelling him a traitor [as he describes Snowball to the other animals].

In the absence of Snowball, Napoleon assumes the position of the farm’s supreme leader and other animals starts following his orders obediently since it is their own home now and they are working for their own benefits. The pig is guarded with a gang of armoured fierce dogs and punishes others severely even for a minor mistake which also the animals accept considering it a means of maintaining law and order situation. Rules, which were collectively formulated as the constitution of the farm, are changed every day as per Napoleon’s convenience, but other animals can’t notice the subtle linguistic alterations. Some of them even blame their weak memories for not being able to remember the rules properly. Later Napoleon persuades his comrades to build a windmill, which he claims will bring heyday for the Animal Farm, keeping others so busy that they don’t have time for noticing what their leader is doing in his private chamber. Breaking their animal law, Napoleon sells goods to humans and the farm dwellers accept it as their own good.  He often gets drunk, makes others work harder as days pass on giving them little food, and lets others starve saying they are all out of food. One day the supreme pig drinks heavily while playing cards with humans and at one point he starts a fight with them, while the hard-labouring and humble animals starve, and helplessly gaze at their drunk leader fighting humans over a trifling game.

Courtesy: The Daliy Star
Courtesy: The Daliy Star

The mention of ‘Animal Farm’ may confuse most of the readers. But just take a deep breath and think for a minute. With dreams so profound and aspiration so lofty we had fought for freedom; we Bangladeshis struggled for honour. But what is happening now? We are confused, perplexed and gazing at our leaders stupefied much like the animals in that novella.

National identity, freedom of speech, secularism, equal rights and a corruption-free, prosperous country are what led us to be united to sacrifice our lives for the sake of independence. All we ever wanted was to live peacefully in our own country with our own people. But the reality is that we shamefully lost our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, to the same evil forces against which the very War of Independence was fought in 1971. After that the nation was plunged deep into the abyss of decades of military regime followed by short periods of mock democracy, re-appearance of the anti-liberation force in our land [just like the humans in the farm], and a little taste of dictatorship. Since the very day of our victory we are living with the strong belief that whatever happens, one day everything will be alright. Since we have secured our own land and freedom at the cost of 3 million precious lives and tremendous sufferings of hundreds of thousands of people, nothing can stop us. Unfortunately enough we forgot the presence of Napoleons among us who always want to trick us using our belief as a tool. They beguiled us of our rights. Like the common animals of the Animal Farm, we were shackled in our own homes secured with blood.

Our struggle was for democracy, for upholding our cultural and linguistic identity rejecting the primacy of religious fundamentalism. Both these basic principles that formed the very spirit of independence in people were turned upside down within a few years after the liberation war. The growing religious intolerance created the machete-wielding extremist forces who are threatening to destroy the very core of our nationality. Recent killings and persecutions of bloggers, writers, publishers, and secular thinkers provide ample evidences of the kind of ‘democratic’ and ‘secular’ society we are living in. Such murders also put some lights on the real freedom of speech and human rights situation in the country.

Now, it is very reasonable to ask: what happened after the dictatorial rule? Definitely we are enjoying, since the fall of dictatorial regime, democracy so dearly dreamt by us. We can express our ‘opinions’; we can choose our ‘leaders’ and, we can live ‘free and peacefully’– but that is not the end of the story.

The democracy-dish served before the nation was already mired with unhealthy political competition characterised by violence, mistrusts, blame-game, election rigging, corruption, and above all, lack of respect to the people. The only visible (read virtual) bridge between people and the politics or politicians are parliament elections, which too have not been out of controversies in recent times. This once-every-five-year power of the people can never ensure a prosperous country, regardless of how much it claims itself as a ‘democratic’ one.

Actually, what we have now is totalitarianism in the guise of democracy. Here we have totalitarianism which is collective in nature, meaning the party in power rises as a totalitarian giant. Whenever a party ascends to the power of the government, the party itself becomes an autocrat like Napoleon. Napoleon and the other pigs drink all the milk and the apples claiming that they are the driving forces of the nation and so they need more nutrition. If we consider the situation in our country, the lavish lifestyle of our honourable ministers, lawmakers, and the leaders of the ruling parties, and even opposition ones, are in complete contrast with those of the majority of us, the common people. They really need more than us and so they work accordingly to gain more than the commons. ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’ – this motto claimed by Napoleon rejecting the original one: ‘all animals are equal’ in ‘Animal Farm’ seems to be the only motto of our ruling class too.

From a broader perspective, oppositions and ruling party are alike since none of them care for the public interest though the first and foremost concern of the oppositions should be directed to the interest of the common citizens. In this sense all politicians of the country have collectively formed a totalitarian agency to exploit the people. Sometimes we see the oppositions are turning the people of an independent state into hostages by burning public properties and killing people in the name of strikes, which they claim are their ‘democratic rights’. They seem never to bother about the betterment of the citizens. Grabbing power and exploiting public properties through corruption transcend their sense of duties to the nation. As the common animals of Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ work just to survive so do the common people of Bangladesh who are terribly helpless in the hands of a handful of Napoleons. It seems people are nothing but vote-machines. They are only here to keep the wheel of the lucrative politics-business running smoothly.

Courtesy: The Guardian
Courtesy: The Guardian

George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, which is a scathing political satire and centred on the theme that power corrupts and thus the common people suffer, is unalterably applicable to the people of every society in the world, and so it is in the case of Bangladesh. Anthony Mascarenhas, a noted journalist who is said to be the one whose writing evoked the favour and sympathy of the international community to Bangladeshi people during the Liberation War of 1971, writes in his historic book ‘Bangladesh: A Legacy of Blood’: ‘Those were sacrificed to make a reality of the long-cherished dream of Sonar Bangla or Golden Bengal. This was intended to be a state based on equity, social harmony and cultural effulgence echoing the statements dear to the heart of every Bangali. But it was not to be. The sacrifices were in vain. The dream becomes nightmare. Bangladesh got snarled in a legacy of blood.’

Truly we are in debt of blood to those martyrs of liberation war which we must pay. It’s not too late. There is still time to create a Sonar Bangla. Let us annihilate all the curses that are fettering our hopes. Let us wait with our belief that our Animal Farm will turn into a peaceful home someday. Otherwise who knows that our ancestral instinct of embracing death happily will not come out again to fulfil our dream for freedom and honour?

Finding normalcy in abnormality

Photo: Jakaria Bulbul
Photo: Jakaria Bulbul

There was a time when hartal and blockade would come upon us once in a blue moon forcing everyone to stay home and making us real worried. Now, however, these once dreadful words- hartal, oborodh, dhormoghot- have become so familiar to people that they hardly care about them. Although the form and type of violence have been horrible lately, unlike strikes of the past, they can do little to make us cower. It seems they lost their scariness over the time like a failed monster of Monster Inc, an animation movie of Disney. They scream louder than before, yet the child (people) laughs. The monster has turned into a motley-clad joker. Here lies the big concern for everyone concerned.

Hartals, blockades were never meant to be anything dreadful, nor they were supposed to be such laughable. They had purpose once; a noble purpose I should say. To protest against oppressive governments, to gain people’s rights, to be heard in democracy- these, and lot more others of course, were their purposes. They used to be just and peaceful means for democratic ends. But everything’s changed now.

In spite of the extreme danger lurking outside on a hartal day, people take to the road; it is their lives and survival they care more than anything. There are some reasons behind this change in people’s response. First of all enforcement of strikes for weeks, sometimes months I guess, has made the abnormality and danger of such strikes very commonplace phenomena. Secondly and most importantly people have come to realize that these strikes, that were once called to serve their interests, are no longer for them. They, therefore, carry on or at least make the hectic effort to continue the normalcy in their lives. But will those (I mean the politicians of course), who are actually needed to be normal, be normal in their actions?

 

 

[First published on NTV Online English Portal, Link: http://goo.gl/xvSh4n]

Bangladesh and Beyond