Q M Jalal Khan:
Whither the BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party)? Let’s Still Identify With It, the Largest Political Party of Bangladesh, to Confront the Ongoing BAL (Bangladesh Awami League) Brutalities On All Fronts
Author of Bangladesh: Political and Literary Reflections on a Divided Country (Peter Lang, January 2018) and Bangladesh Divided: Political and Literary Reflections on a Corrupt Police and Prison State (Peter Lang, July 2019)
“To be, or not to be, that is the question.” That is how the 30-yr old Prince Hamlet of Denmark is deeply and frightfully pondering over whether to continue to live a safe and long life (possibly a love and family life too) and thereby passively tolerate the wide-ranging wrongs in his country (“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”) or to face them (“a sea of troubles”) and, in doing so, get killed. Off and on, he does confront the ills and evils facing the country, but he does so in a disorganized piecemeal, not targeting the root of evil—his formidably powerful uncle King Claudius. In the end, he rises to the occasion, finishes off the evil enemy as he also gets killed – heroically, tragically.
The BNP leadership, full of weak, frail, sick, and senile souls, is still thinking and cannot decide. The older they get (some are already in their 80s), the more indecisive they become about their political action program, the more in love with life they get passionately committed. The ensuing prospect of leaving this world makes them more attached and more clinging to it. Neither would they resign and retire from politics nor would they get engaged in action, if necessary, at the price of them missing in action. 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. 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 sufferings of the great and glorious and phenomenally popular Begum Khaleda Zia, who, in her old age, is counting her days in a dark lonely prison cell. Yes, I also cannot sleep thinking of her past nation-building contribution and her present 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, and corruption on the nation for years.
Yet, the same like-minded friend would hesitate to “identify” with the BNP and give the impression (or boldly 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. That does not mean one cannot identify himself as a supporter of this or that party, especially when a party is in deep trouble due to Awami-imposed terror and tyranny and, therefore, is in need of our full support and sympathy. Don’t many Awamis (except the stone-hearted Hasina) have certain misgivings about their party 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 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 much better. It has utterly failed under the weakest leadership it has since it was founded in the late seventies by President Zia. Maybe, it 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 heavily armed police (along with RAB too), who are voluptuously “carnivorous” and “omnivorous” in terms of their wholesale corruption and criminal oppression of the BNP, from top to bottom.
Logically, therefore, in the present fascist police and fantastically corrupt state (which Bangladesh never was until 2009 onwards), doubly locked by getting “Sikkimized” and “Hinduized” by India, the BNP cannot be expected to do any better. It is never easy to do any movement when the country is under the firm grip of the vast network of an organized police force guarding every nook and corner 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 and 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 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 and persecutor of Muslims. While Hasina plays a docile and domesticated role to Modi for his blessings (as if she is in a kneeling and subservient relationship with her Indian pirs and gurus, or the relationship of a dominating husband in complete control of his submissive and subdued wife, as suggested by her unimpressive and lackluster foreign minister), 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 the fantastically popular Khaleda was out until about two years ago, nothing happened. That’s why when she was barricaded by Hasina Gopalis’ sand-and-cement trucks, again and again, nothing happened. That’s why when the patriotically uncompromising Khaleda was ousted from her cantonment home, nothing happened. That’s why when she called on the people to come out and join the Hefajote gathering at the Shapla Square, nobody did. That’s why when she was continuously going to Hasina’s kangaroo court 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 inside 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 sat idle without a trigger.
Different forms of massive election cheating took place in 2014 and 2018, but nothing happened. Wild corruption in every sector, nothing is happening. Unemployment of the locals is staggeringly high; still, nothing is happening. Over a million of illegal Indian workers and officers in the country, nothing is happening. Hindu minority is taking over the Muslim majority Bangladesh; nothing is happening. Endless rapes, murders, abductions, and disappearances, 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 and thousands are behind bars, or they are happy with whatever food is available to them, regardless of how contaminated it is, be they in slums or posh neighborhoods.
Wasn’t the Awami League silent 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 the joint Awami-BNP movement against Ershad and his ouster, there were peaceful transitions of power for three terms. Since Sheikh Hasina got back in 2009 with the Indian engineered and the military manipulated the election, there has been a demise of the acceptable political process and a rise of dictatorship and neo-fascism with the opposition eliminated. Her Indian-sponsored iron-fist authoritarianism continues, getting harder and harder. She took back all those who celebrated her father’s assassination (Inu, Motia, Menon), but nobody revolted against her. Her party men have never challenged her connections with many Rajakar families. All of them are morally and ethically bankrupt but financially fat. They got no scruple of conscience in identifying with Hasina-led Awami League, probably the worst in the history of Bangladesh.
The way I see is that it is not easy to face arms, jail, and zulum (state of persecution and oppression and discrimination) from within home. Small pockets of suppression may be encountered, but not the widespread repression in which the party and the police and the judiciary and the administration are the same, interchangeable with each other, and proxy of each other. In the present circumstances of anti-people and opposition–devouring tails and tentacles all over, there is no way out without some divine intervention or otherwise, just as there was no way out without similar intervention in 1975. Identification of the hesitant BNP supporters and sympathizers with the party, 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, the BNP leadership would hopefully be stronger and more decisive too in launching movement to topple the tyrannical Hasina regime.