To save Bangladesh, bring back people’s politics
Firoz Ahmed

Don’t give in to shallow interests that hurt the nation. This is the concluding part of yesterday’s long form

  • We cannot afford to let our democracy fade away 

Remembering a bit of news from three years ago -- an agreement was being signed with the US to stamp out terrorism.

According to Prothom Alo, the officials from the foreign office had confirmed that the agreement between the two countries would allow exchange of information and training to Bangladesh to improve its capacity for counter-terrorism, and selling armaments.

Sycophants would argue that, without this pact with the US, Dhaka would have been transformed into Beirut. A few, however, continue to state that people are dying and that terrorism is on the rise precisely due to this strategy.

Still, a coincidence amazes me: Islam and terrorism were not uttered before the US economic gloom of 2000 and the global war on terror.

I recall an issue of Time magazine prior to invading Afghanistan in 2001. The headline was about who the likely perpetrators were, and where the US would strike.

The possible places for strikes were North Korea, Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. The principle was set, but not the target locations.

One would be wrong to assume that Dhaka would become Beirut before long. Even if this is part of a bigger international game, Bangladesh is not the target warzone. Rather, there are concerted efforts and hassles to get Bangladesh into players’ own tents -- IS and al-Qaeda are mere exhibitions of these shadow wars.

It is not entirely illogical to perceive that, while they are not exactly blood brothers, IS and Taliban are complementary to each other’s existence.

But it is important to note that in spite of the counter-terrorism agreement with the US, the incidents keep happening. In buying the arms, paying the training fees, and so on, Bangladesh had to help a stagnant US economy.

Bangladesh has become part of the war-dependent US foreign policy. And now we see the results.

All these issues stem from a single source: Our politics is not in the hands of the people. We have said it many times in the past that the nation’s institutions have been destroyed, and that this situation is fertile ground for breeding conspiracies.

Those who were supposed to investigate and find out the criminals, the police and RAB, instead killed crucial informants such as Fahim in “crossfires.”

The drama involving Babul Akther, and the murder of his wife hints at deeper conspiracies within the law enforcement agencies themselves.

The police can release photos of individuals who had been picked up a long while ago, and it may be possible that the police do not even know the names of those they kill in gunfights. Some may even feel mentally vulnerable due to a sense of “national haplessness,” not being able to pull the strings of conspiracies.

I do not know whether the police can find out the ringleaders behind the attack. Despite two police fatalities, there is doubt. The people remain suspicious that the state, law enforcement agencies, or a vested quarter’s ultimate goal is to hide the truth.

Why do we not collectively confront the ills happening in front of our eyes, forgetting our differences? Why do we not speak up against each and every communal attack? Our message of counter-politics will be strengthened if we can do these; we can overcome our subservience to the government.

The conspirators would not have been able to make our youth their prey had we been able to get above our insignificant self-interests, a little bit above the US-India-China-Pakistan-Saudi inclining politics to look after Bangladesh’s interests.

In accomplishing our miniscule interests, we ignore massive harmful projects in the Sudarbans and in Rooppur. We did not stand with the people of Bashkali.

We do not discuss their plight. We do not make any noise about the police harassment we would suffer if we raised these issues.

We lightly criticise money disappearing from our state-owned banks. We become the associates in corruption, and then, the energetic youth is diverted to the path of hatred and bloodshed. The extremists have shown their power.

What can we, the citizen, do against all this?

What we can do is politics that is both national and local. We must bring back elections and the democratic process.

We must reject any political parties that give away Bangladesh’s interests. We must reject fundamentalists and communal parties. We must relent against the war criminals’ political power. We must resist any conspiracies that seek to destroy Bangladesh’s ecology and economy.

There is a start and end of this in any society. In our society, the end depends on how quickly we can create, develop, and return to people’s politics. 

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Firoz Ahmed

Firoz Ahmed is the former President of Bangladesh Chhatra Federation, one of Bangladesh’s largest leftist student unions. He is currently member of the progressive political party Ganosamhati Andolon (People’s Solidarity Movement), which contested the 2015 Dhaka Mayoral election under popular young leader Zonayed Saki.