Tuesday, October 03, 2006

“Read this... or one tight slap!”

Do you get a feeling that we Bangladeshi’s have gotten very short fuses these days? At a drop of a circuit breaker we are ready to pounce on each other. Be it the police or the demonstrators.

Just today in a simple altercation over parking space, a fight broke out between some sportsmen and the police leading to Commonwealth Game medallist Asif being brutally beaten up. Now each of the groups blame the other for starting the fight. But end of the day police yet again lost credibility with the common man. And all this during Ramzan. Are we not supposed to be more civil during this month?

I had such a run in with the police a few years back. I had apparently parked in front of an embassy when I was not supposed to. Anyway when I got back to my car the cop there started shouting at me. I replied that he should have told me when I had parked and I would have moved it. Anyway as I was moving out how did it matter. Without warning he grabbed me by the collar and hit me with the butt of his gun. I was stunned! Before I could react some drivers near the area came and pulled the cop away. It seems he had done this a few times before the previous weeks. Though I complained to the Gulshan Thana I doubt anything happened to the policeman.

It is not police brutality only. Just recently in an incident, that I am being forced to be a judge to, an argument over keeping one’s voice down got into a point where punches were exchanged. Mind you both the aggrieved parties are from “bhodro” background and it happened in an executive setting!

All this frustration I guess is basically, stemming from the helplessness we feel. Might, we have been proven time and time again, is right. Look everywhere. Whenever we rave and rant we seem to make headway. Be it shouting for exams to be postponed because of the World Cup, or to keep loss-making Biman flying – all it takes seems is a loud voice. Kansat, Phulbari, Mirpur all are branded around as successful examples of “people power”. While I am not getting into the rational or justifications for the actions in these places, I am worried that the apparent success of such movements in the long run shows the way for others. In the future movements might not have popular support or justification. All it will take is someone to whip up a fervent crowd and we get what we desire! Is that not how the Nazi Party came to power in pre-war Germany? Burn down the Reichstag – down with the Jews!

Then again what can we do? Our leaders are not leading. Their example is also that of the “gunda” raj. If I have musclemen on my roles, it translates to I have power over my constituents. It is matter of time before the ones that I dominate with rise up against me. Off with the head! French Revolution will not be far behind if all we do is use sheer strength to make oneself heard.

In 1947 and then again in 1971 we decided that we do not have a shared heritage with rest of the sub-continent. So we never recognised some of the role models of pre-Partition days as rightfully ours as well. Gandhi somewhere got erased from our history. And with it the most valuable lesson he taught. Turn the other cheek. Now Bengalees from all sides of the divide had an equal role as any other Indians or Pakistani to throw the English out of our country. And with the exception of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and his INA, we did live true to Gandhi’s directives. Non-violent movement paved the way for our independence alright, but in the backdrop of the bloodshed of the Partition that lesson was easily forgotten. And since then any change we have had has been rooted in violence. The language movement, the 1969 student’s movement, 1971, 1975, 1980, 1991 all those dates have one thing in common – violent uprising. Anytime we needed a catalytic change we resorted to violence. So now if the shopkeeper wants electricity in his shop in the evening all he has to do is threaten violence and government does a 180 degree volte-face.

Will we ever find Gandhi again? India is currently going through the “re-birth” of Gandhi after appearance in the hit movie “Laghe Raho Munna Bhai” (ironically the lead actor Sanjay Dutt was jailed after being implicated in Bombay Blast case). The film’s protagonist is a muscleman who discovers the learning of Gandhi when he tries to impress his love interest. Weaved around the plot of the movie is that being true to the non-violent path will eventually lead to the desired outcome. This movie has rightly sparked up a lot of interest in the teachings of the Mahatma.

Despite what many in the world think, Islam too is a religion of peace. And the basic tenant of the holy month of Ramzan is purification. We need to do away with the evil of our hearts and re-pledge our allegiance to the purity of Allah’s ways. The “new” jihad needs to be against violence and not be the root cause of it.

I believe the time has come for us to look at these lessons well. Violence will beget more violence. Peace will lead to peace. Does it not make more sense to talk things out rather than to throw punches?


Rezwan said...

Uncontrolled power is always bad. The role of police as seen by government is to give protection to VIP and beating up people. The saying is in their head "Pitaile Bangali thanda thake." This is how they have crippled the police force.

And another menace is RAB's overwhelming power and impunity. The whole shooting complex saga started with a RAB DIG's wife.

If your only tool is a hammer then all your problem looks like nails.

Salam Dhaka said...

Well said Rezwan, especially the last line.

I do agree with one thing Farhan said - people are frustrated.

No one is there to give anyone any hope.

Supriyo said...

Farhan, interesting to read your comments on non-violence. I read Rajmohan Gandhi's Revenge and Reconciliation : Understanding South Asian History, and I would definitely argue that we have a shared culture of violence in the region. Mahatma Gandhi was not representing Indians, but he was trying to bring about a change.

I like what you say about Lage Raho Munnabhai, though I have not seen the movie yet. But I will go hunting for the CD in Tooting, where we have a mini-Eastern Plaza,, sort of!