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Then and now

  • Published at 12:03 am August 5th, 2016
  • Last updated at 02:25 pm August 5th, 2016
Then and now

We, of the older generations -- who were born as Indians under the British Raj, grew up and lived as conscientious citizens of the then newly-created Pakistan for 24 years, and then broke away from Pakistan to establish this independent and sovereign Bangladesh through a bloody War of Liberation in 1971 -- can hardly come to terms with the current state of affairs in the country.

True, there was alien rule and no democracy under the British Raj and the then Pakistan. We were virtually ruled like a colony.

But we must concede that there was a semblance of rule of law and safety of life and property for the common the people.

Men and women could move about freely in the dead of night without apprehension of any harm befalling them. Nobody was picked up from their homes, as we now hear too often of people with political influence and money being picked up with no clear idea about who picked them up and no clue about their whereabouts.

Mostly, the hostages end up being killed, with their dead bodies being dug out from nearby fields or floating in the river.

The police was not such a large a force back then, as it is now. It was known to be corrupt then as well, but at the lower daroga level only. Nobody could point fingers at the officers.

Anybody could lodge a complaint at the police station, and mostly, the petty thieves got caught. Now, of course, the people’s perception of the police has changed. Instead of being friends of the people, as they ought to be, the police are now feared even by ordinary people who are just trying to get by.

The image of the police has gone down immensely since our independence, partly because it has been thoroughly politicised and partly because it has been poorly led by its officers and has strayed away from its moral moorings. It sounds harsh but it is true that there is hardly a crime our police force has not been accused of. There was poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment before. But back then we upheld certain moral and ethical values.

We looked down upon the corrupt and the debased regardless of their social status and political clout. We were scornful of the poor milkman who would mix water with the milk he sold.

But now, our dairy farms produce and market milk not by mixing water, but substances harmful to health.

Our politicians and government servants who are responsible for ensuring quality of not only farm products but all produce as well, either look the other way deliberately, or do not feel concerned about what is happening around them to the common folk.

The police was not such a large a force back then as it is now. It was known to be corrupt then as well, but at the lower daroga level only. Nobody could point fingers at the officers. Anybody could lodge a complaint at the police station, and mostly, the petty thieves got caught

As ordinary people, we adored those who symbolised justice and simplicity. We were full of admiration for the district munsif, the judge who travelled in a rickshaw from his residence to the court building and back, symbolising humility and integrity.

Our womenfolk did not wear the hijab before as some of them do now, nor were they told by our religious leaders to observe purdah as they are being told now frequently over so many TV channels.

They dressed modestly but sensibly. We had co-education in schools, colleges, and universities. Our teachers took care of us like they were our guardians while we were on their charge away from our home. We never heard of our girls and women being teased by boys, let alone being raped, as we hear now too often.

It is worth mentioning that Islam alone has a complete code of life. Islam spells out, in the Holy Qur’an, that to tell a lie is a sin. Islam has specifically declared alcohol and certain food items forbidden for Muslims.

Islam alone has a dress code for both men and women: The Qur’an has certain instructions for women about how they should dress -- both men and women have been asked to look down and not look up lest they attract their opposite sex. Do we not see many transgressions which were not there before?

Our children have become drug addicts. Narcotics such as yaba and phensedyl are supplied easily from across our borders, while our BGB men are apparently looking the other way.

Some young men coerce girls into having sex with them, dangling the promise that they would marry them, and often even tape such immoral acts using their smartphones in order to blackmail their victims.

Blue films are available on the internet and in video shops all over the country as well. λ

The concluding part of this long form will be published tomorrow.


Brig Gen Shamsuddin Ahmed (Retd) is a former Military Secretary to the President of Bangladesh.

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