Every cloud has a silver lining.
I am not going to get into the discussion about the state of emergency that prevails in the country at this moment. There are far more capable people than I to debate this. What I want to take up a bit of your time on is the contention that the Caretaker Government (CG) that is going to be announced soon should have representation from Generation 71.
Gen 71 is the term some of its members are using to refer to people under the age of 40 (give or take a few years). This generation was either born after 1971 or were too young at that point of time to have vivid first hand experience of the pains of liberation. We have always been Bangladeshis. We were too young to know Shiekh Mujib or General Zia. During the formative years of the Ershad regime we were still busy deciding which toy to buy. Politics these days seem reliving history over and over again. It is governed by what happened in the past. Who said what when and who did what to whom where. We have been shackled by the past and are not building bridges to the future.
Demographically speaking we are in the majority. 115 out of 140 million Bangladeshis are below 40. Gen 71 makes up more than 70% of the current voter roll. But are we represented in Parliament or decision making politics with equal gusto? Barring a handful this is not the case. Now before you give the “you are too young” speech, let me point out that in other spectres of Bangladeshi life the Gen71 are making their mark. Be it sports or journalism, business or culture, NGOs or rock bands, IT or banking, I can give you literally handful of names of people who are redefining their fields. Alas this is not the case in politics.
I wonder why? Student politics has always been in the forefront of political change in Bengal. Be it the Language movement or the 1969 movement that laid the foundations of the Liberation War or the anti-Ershad movement. When young got involved things got done. Dr. Kamal Hossain was in his early 30s when he wrote the Constitution. Rehman Sobhan a young lad when was the author of Bangladesh’s economic roadmap. Tofail Ahmed or Moudud Ahmed or Rashid Khan Menon or ASM Rab or Mannan Bhuiya all were in their 20s and 30s when they played a their part in the formation of our country. But 30 odd years later it is the same face we see running the nation. No disrespect meant but has their “sell-by” date not passed? Are we not now victim of stale thinking? Are we not held ransom to the experiences that they have lived through? It is time for fresh ideas, fresh way to look at things, fresh impetus for change. Only will the passion and vigour of youth bring about such a revolution. Give Gen 71 a chance. Let the future decide the future.
Over the next day or two the new Caretaker Government will be constituted. I am sure in the list will be prominent and capable names. But now is the time to also include in that lists a couple of names of people who have the potential to create a difference. Gen 71 should, if by nothing else but the virtue of the fact that we are the majority in the nation, get representation in the CG.
I strongly believe and I am sure many of my peers will agree that this will be one of the catalyst to bring back the interest of the majority of the young to the noble calling of politics and statehood. And that in turn will infuse life into the most dynamic group in any civilization. Look across the world from Georgia’s President Saakashvili to Jordan’s King Abdallah; US’s Senetor Obama to UK’s Leader of the Opposition Cameron; the young are now moulding the future of our world. Why should Bangladesh be left behind?