Friday, January 12, 2007

Our Time Has Come

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?


Rezwan said...

While I agree to your point I hope the new chief adviser reads this. It will be easier as this has also been posted in the Daily Star. We may see some young faces in the new 10 advisers.

Azimur Rahman from Jannat-ul-Ferdous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nazim Farhan Choudhury said...

The above comment was deleted due to graphic language and personal attack.

As those read my writing will attest to the fact that I've said time and time again that I stand for free speech. However it cannot be blatantly libelous and personally hurtful to anyone.

Supriyo said...

I agree, Farhan, that there should be younger people with appropriate skills and backgrounds on the advisory board, and also in running the country. The other names that you could have mentioned are Nicolas Sarkozy and Marie-Ségolène Royal of France.

One of the issues our countries have is that the party leaderships are normally bestowed for life. There is no Michael Howard who will retire after an election defeat, or a Jacques Chirac who will be voted out by his own party if he decides to run.

This allows for little mobility inside the party, further hindered by successions within the family, Joys, Tarek Rahmans and Rahul Gandhis. Therefore, if Gen71 has to take the charge, it has to probably work out outside the main parties.

In any case, congratulations to Mrs Chowdhury on her new role, I am certain she deserved that more than anyone else by her business experience and social prominence, and by being a great example of leadership and courage in our societies, which, traditionally, have little respect for either women or work.

Aly Zaker said...

Posted from:
Letter to the Editor, Daily Star, Wednesday 17th January '07

Youth and the Past
I would like to draw your attention to a write up by Nazim Farhan Chowdury in Point Counterpoint section of your daily of January 13, 07. I would congratulate Farhan for his piece. I am really impressed by his youthful exuberance. I only have problems digesting a couple of his sentences like "We have been shackled by the past and are not building bridges to the future" or "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?" Unfortunately, I belong to the generation that Farhan has taken to task in his piece and, therefore, the following reaction.
I am afraid many of today's youth unfortunately consider the connection with the past as 'shackle' forgetting the fact that it is exceedingly important to build bridges with the past just as well as it is necessary to build bridges with the future. Come to think of it, if we did not have that bridge we'd have been lost in an unending chasm and our present would have remained ever so elusive. Some of the people of my generation have indeed sacrificed their past so that the generation of Farhan could have a world from where they could launch themselves to a future. And what a glorious past indeed. These are the people who were associated with a nation that sacrificed its brave sons for the sake of their language. A sacrifice that has been recognised by the world and has been entered into the almanac as a significant day. We belong to a nation that fought for autonomy leading up to a war that liberated our country. If my memory serves me right we are one of the 5/6 nations in the world to have an official document called the "declaration of independence" and that was written by those that Farhan is so wary about. Such are the glories that one can not lose sight of. Perhaps we overplay these than we should. But there are valid reasons for it. The people of Bangladesh, irrespective of caste; creed or vocation fought a war to achieve 'certain something'. These had to do with politics, economy and; more importantly; culture. Yes, the all pervasive culture that includes history; religion; language; food; rituals; societal belief system and of course performing arts. With the advent of Bangladesh, as time passed, we saw that each of the values and ideals that the forerunners of the independence movement stood for was to make way for whatever we fought against. Secularism had to make way for religious bigotry; Bangla culture replaced by a cocktail of unknown non-culture, language and the spirit of it that we revered so dearly was mutilated, the polity was beaten around by people with dictatorial ambitions. So we were pushed back to square one. Every time we thought of starting afresh we were intimidated by regressive schemes that made us revisit our history and refer back in time. I don't think that we can start anew before sorting out these issues. We have to go back to our roots and peruse the basis of our nationhood to take a stride towards the future. This does not make thoughts 'stale or undesirable'. These exercises are absolutely necessary. No new leadership should ever consider ditching its founding fathers and their knowledge of the people and the country. This would mean defeating the cause of our 'being'. Let the "generation 71" come forward and help rediscover what made us tick in '71, meet the people beyond the confines of our capital, understand and speak their language and take over. Wishing all the best to Farhan and his generation. Aly Zaker, On email

Akku Chowdhury said...

Posted from:
Letters to the Editor, Daily Star, Wednesday 17th January '07

I couldn't agree more with Mr. Nazim Farhan Chowdhury regarding the representation of those under 40 (calling themselves generation '71) in the caretaker government. In fact I will go further, as I have always suggested in my articles, this generation should take up the leadership in as many sectors as possible. The time has come now for them to be directly involved in politics and as a show of force should prepare themselves to be the candidates for the next parliamentary election.

Enough is enough with the old and stale ideas which have failed the nation. Let us give opportunity to the new generation and let them prove themselves their capability to build a better Bangladesh.

I have faith in them and believe they will do a better job than us.
Akku Chowdhury, Banani, Dhaka

Nazim Farhan Choudhury said...

First of all I would like to thank Mr. Zaker. I like millions of Bangladeshis am a big fan of his. And I would go on to say; more so, as I am in the same industry that he is in – advertising. Growing up I was constantly witnessing the amazing advancement Mr. Zaker and a handful of others had brought to our chosen profession. He and his peers contributed, incubated, prodded, encouraged, dragged, cajoled, and nurtured our industry into state it is in now.

Furthermore Mr Zaker is a valiant freedom fighter. His exploits are legendary. Who does not know the story of their house in Calcutta during the war or his efforts with the Sadhin Bangla Betar Kendro? Mr. Zaker in his letter is absolutely correct to say that without the efforts of his generation we would not have a sovereign country today.

Mr Zaker’s life long dedication to this nation and her citizens has ensured his place in my mantle of heroes.

But I think Mr. Zaker has mis-understood to an extent the point I was making. I at no time in my article was trying to demean the contribution of his generation. He and his generation (that includes my own parents) are, it is easily argued, the greatest generation of Bengalis that have walked this earth. They heard a calling and took it upon their shoulders the responsibility to build a nation.

However now the time has come to pass on the baton. Like he has done in his own company, where his able son is now shouldering the responsibility of taking it into the next level of growth; it is time for him to do the same for the nation. I am sure he will agree with me that the energy, intelligence and dynamism of youth today are something to be wondered at. Undoubtedly he sees in the world around him the new and the driven. Young hearts and minds who are changing the landscape of advertising with their fresh ideas. I am sure he interacts on a daily basis with those who have the potential and the belief in themselves and in Bangladesh to dream a new future. Mr. Zaker has always encouraged the youth and it is time again for him to egg us on.

Zaker Uncle, as I said, no disrespect meant. But our time has come. The onus is now on the Gen71 to build our own nation like you had when you were a young lad in your 30s. We need to take on the light that your generation ignited and ensure that Bangladesh lights up this world as example of what is great in people. And as usual I hope for your support and encouragement.

Supriyo said...

Hi Farhan!

Now Dr. Younus has circulated his letter and talked about floating a political party. This is an old idea of yours, and I look forward to see your views on this.


Sharful Islam said...

Farhan... While I agree wholeheartedly with the idea of our generation taking a lead in the possible future of the country, I must point a couple of things out that may have been missing from the discussion (or I may have overlooked).

Just as there exists people in the previous genration that 'use' 1971 as the front to further their personal and political agenda, there exists people in the current generation that prefer following their 'idols' blindly rather than making a conscious decision based on facts. We must be careful of 'which' Gen 71 to bring to the forefront so as not to repeat the current state of our country.

You pointed out several examples of how our generation is affecting various sectors of our country positively. I feel that one arena we are gravely lacking in is the realization of the total loss of what fundamentally makes us Bangali. I believe this is what Mr Zaker was attempting to expand on.

As far as I know, we are the ONLY country in the world to fight for our language, culture and the way of life. To see people use Arabic or Urdu words and phrases as part of the language, to me, is the same as putting a firm-handed slap on the faces of ALL our prior generations since 1952. To see the regression of our cultural independence being trampled in the name of religion is no less shameful.

There is a wave of change that will undoubtedly bring positive changes to the country. But to save the boat from this 36 year storm is not enough. We must step forward and hold the hull steadily to make sure we don't get swept away again.

To do this, I feel that we have to keep our 'objective' in order. Not the War of Independence, but why the war was fought. As long as this is recoznized as the fundamental goal of every person attempting to rebuild Bangladesh - and acted upon - it doesn't matter what Generation is running the country.

I can think of MANY people of past generations (including your parents) that would, in most cases, be a better choice than an average Gen 71 leader.