In an all-pervasive autocratic and corrupt system of governance, rulers bear certain qualities that are well-publicised to create an inflated image of their paramount leader.
“Gratitude” is an attribute which goes well, in a particular sense, with the protagonists of the Awami League regime. Those who have been benefitted during Premier Sheikh Hasina’s reign are thankfully singing her favourite songs.
So, whoever Hasina has bought or hired – as she said in parliament that all AL leaders, except herself, could be purchased – have not yet betrayed her to political risks, at least during this stint of the post-January 5 period, despite the stigma that comes with a lack of legitimacy.
The beneficiaries can’t afford to identify themselves as ungrateful either. They are rather vocal enough to give proof of the fact that whoever speaks loudly for her obviously got something from her government – be it a cabinet portfolio, a licence, a bank, a lucrative appointment, a prized posting, a piece of land in Dhaka, a clearance certificate for talk-shows, access to the administrative hierarchy, the right to plunder national resources, or immunity from criminal jurisdiction.
But it’s not understandable why some of the Awami intellectuals who are not party to the process of taking “halua-ruti” (undue benefits) overtly or covertly support immoral activities and positions taken by the government’s men.
Their only liability is: They belong to the Awami “gharana” (school of thought) in the highly divided society. Is that the reason behind their silence on the corruption, extortion, bribery, violence, and excesses committed by others, even if their own moral positions get weakened?
There are two other gharanas, although those belonging to the political line of BNP are their immediate and formidable enemies. The third stream, which is a combination of left, right, and non-conformist intellectuals, is actually negligible to the AL camp.
However, the two other groups are advantageous at the moment, given the moral collapse of the Awami intellectuals after the January elections and the day-to-day performance of the regime. In political debates – on TV, seminars, or newspaper pages – they are the obvious losers, both in argumentation and in popular rating.
Why don’t they show some self-respect by distancing themselves from the evil designs of retaining power? Abolishing the caretaker government system leading to a one-sided ballot was a decision made by the premier and AL chief alone. Party leaders, let alone intellectuals, had no say at all, and they don’t have any voice today in setting the political course.
The intellectuals too see what is happening, and can judge the fairness in most steps taken by the AL administration. Let’s not embarrass them by mentioning the big scams, but just a look at petty crimes and corruption being indulged everyday explains enough.
A man of conscience, even in the AL fold, can’t make a long enough list of righteous deeds committed by the government of these “like-minded” people. Education, public health, urbanisation, business and economy, administration, police, parliament, and politics – nothing is in proper shape while civil rights are at their worst.
A nation which had paid such a high price for its independence in 1971, is losing hope of building a pluralist democratic country, thanks to a horribly unsophisticated leadership.
Who is this country meant for – criminals or gentlemen? The former dominate almost all sectors, and the latter stay silent inside their living rooms. Thus, corrupt people are out to replace the innocent ones from a civilised society once and for all by uprooting its norms and values.
Still, the gentlemen, including the intellectuals with allegiance to the AL, are waiting for improvement or changes that they assume will take place automatically.
They are perhaps unwilling to play a critical role. Presumably, as well-wishers of the regime should have done, they haven’t conveyed their concerns to the top leadership.
It’s not difficult to read probable arguments in favour of such inaction – the premier, already accustomed to making crucial decisions unilaterally, would not welcome any advice from the Awami intellectuals.
That indicates a lack of relevance of conscientious men and women to the ruling party, so the intellectuals have no political space to act there. Critics would question why they are with political masters who neglect intellectual minds.
If they are really not part of the corrupt governance, they are free to point out the mistakes of the regime to have their conscience remain clear. They have the option to propose a national dialogue to resolve not only the political crisis, but also diverse issues that have implications for future generations. They should spell out their thoughts even if Sheikh Hasina and her sycophants don’t listen to them.
The intellectuals can no longer be termed as conscientious people unless they are true to and are guided by their conscience in carrying out the historic responsibility bestowed upon them. Their collaboration with the corrupt and isolated regime may eventually brand them as culprits in history, as has happened in many countries around the world.