To be, or not to be, that is the question.” That is how the 30-yr old Prince Hamlet of Denmark is frightfully and philosophically pondering over whether to continue to live a safe, peaceful and long life (possibly a normal love life and a family life as well) and thereby passively tolerate the wide-ranging crimes in his country (“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”) or to confront them (“a sea of troubles”) and, in doing so, get killed, for sure, by the ruling clique. Off and on, Hamlet does challenge the ills and evils facing his country, but he does so in a disorganized piecemeal, not targeting the source/root of all evil—his own formidably powerful uncle King Claudius, who may have killed his father (the previous King) and married his mother. In the end, he rises to the occasion, finishes off the evil enemy Claudius as he also gets killed – heroically, tragically.
The BNP leadership, full of weak and frail souls, is still thinking and ruminating and procrastinating. They cannot decide. The older they get (some are already in their early 90s), the more indecisive they become about their political action program. The more sick and senile they find themselves, the more in love with life they get committed to. The sure prospect of leaving this world soon makes them more attached to it, more clinging to it. Neither would they resign and retire from politics nor would they get engaged in action for fear of being missing in action. The BNP General Secretary Mirza Fakhrul should be the first to go. He is a flop. Both in body language and tone of voice, he falls short. His useless statements fall flat, do not add up, and leave no impact.
One frustrated BNP sympathizer, who was a decorated freedom fighter once holding a high position in the government, comments about why the BNP is failing: “Where is the BNP? Is it time to read out statements? BNP has lost or is losing a golden opportunity to start a nationwide movement (Andolon). Is there a better ripe time than now? The Rohingya issue failed. Hasina failed at the UN. Hasina sold Bangladesh once again [after a series of slavish sellouts already] to India during her recent visit to New Delhi. Abrar’s brutal murder [following his Facebook protest of Sheikh Hasina putting Bangladesh on sale to India]. The corrupt and crooked vast Casino Empire. Unprecedented looting and plundering and smuggling. BDR massacre. Unheard of election rigging and cheating. EC’s and Duduk’s total failure. The whole country is ablaze in anger. BNP is virtually silent. Statements are useless. Sorry, whatever little sympathy I had for the party is fading. If I were in politics, I would have initiated a movement against today’s BNP. I would have burnt its Statement House. Sorry, President Ziaur Rahman. We failed you, Sir—failed you miserably!”
He continues: “They just needed to go to the street. The rest would have joined instantly. If the Gopalis tried to terrorize this time, I think the people would have overwhelmed them. The iron was hot, but the BNP/opposition failed to hit. Let them continue their Mujra. We have been talking about the reforms and leadership changes in the BNP for years. Nothing happened. And nothing is expected to happen, at least not in any near future. The way I see it, the 17 crore people will have to relax and enjoy the rape as long as Hasina is in the helm, and India keeps backing her. That is the price people have to pay for Hasina to hold on to her seat illegally, since 2009. That is the tragedy!”
As one can see, taking into account many other comments by the same sympathizer on many occasions for a long time, he has a great respect for President Zia and would eloquently praise him for his achievements and accomplishments, including his declaration of independence, his fighting for it in the front line of action in 1971 (which the Sheikh family never did), his upholding of the ideals of the liberation war (national sovereignty, rule of law, social justice, transparency, accountability, etc.), his introduction of multiparty democracy, his dealing with other countries on foreign policy issues with statesmanlike vision, wisdom, and integrity, and, above all, his honesty and dignity.
The same sympathizer would also have a deep admiration and deep sorrow for the unjust sufferings of the great and glorious and phenomenally and fantastically popular Begum Khaleda Zia, who, in her old age, is counting her days in a dark lonely prison cell. Yes, at times, I also cannot sleep thinking of her past nation-building contribution and her present horrible Hasina-inflicted inhuman plight for no fault of hers. The same sympathizer, as I am, is full of scathing criticism of Mujib and Hasina and their Awami League unleashing a beastly culture of impunity, oppression, repression, and corruption on the nation for years.
Yet, the same like-minded friend, a great political writer on Bangladesh and the subcontinent, would hesitate to “identify” with the BNP and to give the impression (or boldly and publicly profess) that he is pro-BNP. I don’t see any difference between one’s praising the party leaders all through without exception and one’s siding/identifying with that party. All parties, along with their collective leadership, have their dodging drawbacks and doldrums as all individuals do at their personal level. That does not mean one cannot identify himself as a supporter of this or that party, especially when the party is in deep trouble due to Awami-imposed terror and tyranny and, therefore, is in need of one’s full and unconditional support and sympathy. Don’t many Awamis (except the stone-hearted Hasina, maybe) have certain misgivings about their own party committing excesses too? Indeed they do, but they are all glued and ganged together, like a pack of wolves, in identifying with the Awami League, primarily because it has managed to stay in power by Satanic force and guile that has enabled it to let “milk and honey” flow to its supporters.
Sure, the opposition BNP should have done better, definitely so. It has utterly failed under the weakest leadership it is having since it was founded in the late seventies by President Ziaur Rahman, perhaps the greatest son of the soil, the brightest luminary, along with Begum Khaleda Zia, in its political horizon. Maybe, the BNP should have even risked the lives of an indefinite number (say, in dozens?) to free the nation from the clutches of Hasina and her Hindu Gopal-dominated armed police (along with RAB too), who are voluptuously both “carnivorous” and “omnivorous” in terms of their wholesale corruption and criminal oppression of the BNP, from top to bottom.
At present, Bangladesh is a neo-fascist police state. Together with its deep-throat immersion in financial corruption (which Bangladesh never was until 2009 and onwards), it is doubly locked by getting “Sikkimized” and “Hinduized” by Delhi and its surrogate Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka. In the present circumstances, the BNP cannot be expected to do any better. It is never easy to do anything when the country is under the firm grip of the vast network of an organized police force guarding every nook and corner of the streets in order to keep the BNP under their boots and bullets. They’re obsessed with subjugating the BNP under their close watch and closer scrutiny with a horribly authoritarian ruler at the helm—a ruler who is at the same time playing a mew-mew lackey to India to continue her hold onto power while pleasing and placating her party men with billions of “black cat” big bucks.
Had the country remained a reasonably democratic state since 2009 with enough space for dissent and an acceptable degree of level playing field for all, the situation would have been different. But, unfortunately, there prevails a state of cut-throat police repression under the one-person and one-party rule of Sheikh Hasina whose destructive rule continues under the direct tutelage of Narendra Modi of Gujarat—a hater, killer and persecutor of Muslims. While Hasina plays a docile and domesticated role to Modi to obtain his blessings (as if she is in a kneeling and subservient relationship with her Indian pirs and gurus, or the relationship of a dominating or domineering husband in complete control of his submissive and subdued wife, as suggested by her unimpressive and lackluster foreign minister Momen), she is, however, a Mugabe, a Bashar al-Assad, a Gaddafi, a Maduro, a Saddam, or a Central Asian dictator at home.
That’s why even when Khaleda Zia, one of the greatest patriotic and nationalist leaders of all times, was out until about two years ago, nothing much happened. That’s why when she was barricaded, again and again, by the Hasina Gopalis’ sand-and-cement trucks, nothing did happen. That’s why when the uncompromising Khaleda Zia was ousted from her cantonment home, nothing could happen. That’s why when she called on the people to come out and join the protest against the fatal threats on the Hefajote gathering at the Shapla Square, nobody did. That’s why when she was continuously going to Hasina’s kangaroo courts to attend the false and fake and phony hearings, nothing happened. When nothing happened then, what can happen now that she is rotting and dying in a dark cell? Nothing. When there was a brutal, nationally and internationally conspired massacre of BDR army officers in early 2009, nothing happened. The fellow military, docile and domesticated, sat idle and silent and inactive without a trigger in use. They were and remain as completely powerless and helpless as Hasina is to India.
Different forms of massive election cheating took place in 2014 and 2018, but nothing happened for fear of the blanket police and judicial repression. There is wild corruption in every sector, but nothing is happening. Unemployment of the locals is staggeringly high; still, nothing is happening. Over a million of illegal Indian workers and officers are there working in and smuggling from the country; nothing is happening. The Hindu minority is taking over the Muslim majority Bangladesh; nothing is happening. Still the Hefajote Huzurs and the Aliya Huzurs and all other religious sections and communities are deaf and dumb. Endless rapes, murders, abductions, and disappearances are matters of common occurrence on a daily basis, but nothing is happening. Freedom of expression is nil; nothing is happening. People are either frightened in Hasina’s police state with dozens of fake lawsuits against everybody in the opposition with thousands being already behind bars, or they are happy with whatever creams or crumbs are available to them, regardless of how dirty and contaminated those are, be they in slums or posh neighborhoods.
Wasn’t the Awami League silent to the extent of being knee-broken when their leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated on 15 August 1975? Wasn’t it silent when General Ershad rehabilitated the 15 August coup leaders by letting them find a seat in the Parliament under the banner of the short-lived Freedom Party? Following Ershad’s ouster as a result of the joint BNP-Awami movement against him, there were peaceful transitions of power for three terms. Since Sheikh Hasina got back in 2009 with the Indian engineered and the military manipulated election, there has been a demise of the political process and a rise of rogue neo-fascist dictatorship with the opposition almost crushed or eliminated by the regime. Hasina’s servile Indian-sponsored iron-fist authoritarianism continues, getting harder and more unruly and more uncivilized and more jungle-type. She took back all those who celebrated her father’s assassination (Inu, Motia, Menon) and many others with razakar background, but nobody revolted against her. Her blind flattering party men, engaged in undiluted sycophancy and money-laundering, have never challenged her connections with the Razakar families of her choice. All of them are morally and ethically bankrupt as they are financially fat. They got no scruple of conscience in identifying with the Hasina-led Awami League, probably the worst in the history of Bangladesh.
The way I see it is that it is not easy to face, from within home, deadly overwhelming force wielded by the vastly outnumbering police/RAB boots and bullets, live arms and ammunitions, armed Awami cadres, and indiscriminate jail and zulum (state of persecution and oppression and discrimination). Small pockets of suppression may be encountered, but not the widespread repression in which the (Awam) party and the police and the RAB and the judiciary and the administration and the bureaucracy have all become the same, interchangeable with each other, synonymous with each other and proxy of each other.
In the present circumstances of anti-people and opposition–devouring Awami tails and tentacles all over, there is no way out without some divine intervention, just as there was no way out without similar intervention in 1975. Identification of the hesitant BNP supporters and sympathizers with the BNP, out of power for a long time, would then be easier and more forthcoming than now. Once either in power or at least free to engage in political action programs without the Hindu-dominated Hasina police bars and barriers and boots and bullets both at home and in the open, the BNP leadership would certainly be stronger and more decisive in launching a movement to topple the tyrannical Hasina regime.
*Q M Jalal Khan is the author of Bangladesh: Political and Literary Reflections on a Divided Country and Bangladesh Divided: Political and Literary Reflections on a Corrupt Police and Prison State. Due out in March 2020 is his “Sheikh Hasina’s Brutal BNP-Phobia and Her Scandalous “Midnight” Power Grab Through Vampire Vote Dacoity and Villainous S/Election Rigging With an All-Time High Record of Humongous White-Collar Corruption.”