I was sitting in the office of my friend’s garments processing and dyeing plant in Mirpur, speaking to him. The security guard appeared at the door, and told my friend that a young man would like to see him. “OK, let him come in,” my friend replied.
In a minute, a rickety-looking young man, most likely in his early 20s, came into the room. My friend asked him to have a seat. He did so, and then introduced himself as the cultural secretary of the student union of a nearby college, not forgetting to mention that he was also the president of the local unit of the student wing of a political party.
My friend wanted to know the purpose of his visit. The young man asked for Tk5,000 as a donation for a cultural program that was to be organised by the student union of his college.
Without any further talk, my friend told his accountant to give the boy the sum he asked for and then resumed the conversation we were having. A few minutes later, the accountant came back with the money and gave it to the boy. The boy took the money and got up to leave. “Please pray for me; I start my political career today,” the boy asked of us.
We didn’t care much for his request.
I started to ruminate: What did he mean by “I start my political career today”? When I inquired, my friend said: “You know, this is the first time that boy has collected ‘chanda’ from a businessman -- he thinks that’s politics.”
I did not pray for the boy for his success in politics -- doing him a favour. Nowadays, the lives of politicians, especially young ones, in Bangladesh are mired in conflict. If we go through the pages of daily newspapers, we see how most such young men and women are not only getting killed in inter-party conflicts, but in intra-party conflicts as well. These days, inter-party conflict in our politics is a thing of the past, while factional infighting is now the most decisive killer of young politicians.
These young politicians who are getting killed wanted to serve their country and compatriots as well in their own ways. Noble enough causes, but what was the point, given that their lives were cut so short?
Let’s go through some old issues off of our national dailies. On August 8, a local youth leader was hacked to death by miscreants at Jamirakanda village in Purbadhola upazila of Netrakona district. On August 13, a youth leader was hacked to death by unidentified miscreants at Balaishpur village of Lakshmipur Sadar upazila.
On August 31, a local student leader was hacked to death in Khulna. On September 10, a ward-level youth leader was shot dead by some unknown assailants in Kanchana union of Satkania upazila. On September 21, a local student leader was found dead in Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila.
There are at least 10 more instances of such deaths that I could have listed here for dramatic effect, but I hope I’ve gotten the severity of the situation through.
These young politicians who are getting killed wanted to serve their country and compatriots as well in their own ways. Noble enough causes, but what was the point, given that their lives were cut so short? How could I have given that young man my blessings knowing his probable fate?
The lives of our youths matter. To save our budding politicians’ lives, we need to root out the causes of such killings. The politicisation of various highly-lucrative businesses such as the admission business, room allotment at student dormitory business, tender manipulation, sand lifting, land grabbing, etc, could be a few possible avenues that we can explore.
Our nation’s bigger political parties must reach a consensus to stop this politicisation, or shut down the branches of their parties, youth wings, and student wings at each and every village, ward, and mahalla of the country. Many of our youth and student leaders flock to politics, attracted by those lucrative businesses. The trend of killing of young politicians, if not stopped, will only get worse as time progresses.
Faruque Hasan is a freelance contributor.