Bangladesh: NEW GENERATION WANTS JUSTICE


Spectacular student resurgence strikes at the core

Shahid Islam

THEY don’t have a playground to be playful; a quaint park to be dreamy in wandering; any friendly parents and teachers to walk them through the spectacles of a universe that is otherwise divine and dazzling.  Amidst ugly stares of death stalking their lives on way to and from schools that are scattered, diverse, half-public-half-private, the teenaged students of Bangladesh have been left to the mercy of a rowdy, risky, killer traffic hazard that had taken away, on average, more than 20 lives each day across the country over the past two decades.

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Shahid Islam    11 August 2018

THEY don’t have a playground to be playful; a quaint park to be dreamy in wandering; any friendly parents and teachers to walk them through the spectacles of a universe that is otherwise divine and dazzling.  Amidst ugly stares of death stalking their lives on way to and from schools that are scattered, diverse, half-public-half-private, the teenaged students of Bangladesh have been left to the mercy of a rowdy, risky, killer traffic hazard that had taken away, on average, more than 20 lives each day across the country over the past two decades.

Bloody 29th July
As two competing buses rushed for their share of passengers in another rowdy morning on July 29 just minutes away from Dhaka airport road’s Radison hotel-cum army golf-club vicinity, the second bus ploughed over dozens of waiting school-going teens; killing seven (authorities admit to two deaths only) and grievously injuring dozens. The incident jolted the national psyche, glued hands and minds, and, steered the students of all stripes to take control of the streets; not to stop traffic to a standstill, but to guide them to slotted lanes that they never followed.
For over a week, mostly high school students in Dhaka checked drivers’ license and other legal documents of transports, including those belonging to the law enforcers and high officials; only to remind an inert nation that, what the leaders of the nation thought impossible is well- nigh possible. They showed, what a corrupt, inept police force had failed to achieve is quite achievable. They proved: It’s the intent that lies at the core of all good deeds.

Enter politics
But alas, all things are political in this fractured, psychologically-parboiled nation. Although few good things happened first before this historic week began to fade into the memory—the government pronouncing to craft a new road safety law and listening to what these teenagers had to say —  from nowhere, ruling party thugs lurked in to attack many of the protesting students demanding justice to ‘intentional murder or manslaughter’ while opposition leaders and activists began to be looped into sedition cases; including media workers and famed photo-journalist Shahidul Alam of the much- famed Dreek Gallery.
The Amnesty International and other rights groups demanded Shahidul’s immediate, unconditional release while the global media went ballistic with tales of traumatized incidents to inform the world that the depraved, demonized, student community of Bangladesh was under the rampage of marauding ruling party cadres and partisan law enforcers for the ‘crime of demanding justice and street discipline.’
Politics also took to other conspiratorial contours. Departing US Ambassador faced an attack after attending a civic farewell dinner in the capital’s Mohammadpur suburb; ruling party’s main office in Dhanmondi came under an attack; apparently to create scape goats out of the innocent protesting students in order to mobilize a major clampdown on the pretext of a phantom fear which the ruling party leaders labeled as ‘intrusion’ of opposition activists into the student protest to ‘transform it into a movement for the government’s downfall.’

Absurdity and surrealism
The latters have been over-stretches of incredulous nature, to say the least. The government has already run a full course and election is only months away. An election schedule is otherwise expected any time sooner; despite there being no assurance whether it will be a fair and inclusive one, or, another re-run of the January 2014 brand of an one party showdown in which 154 MPs of the ruling AL got elected un-contested.
The peaceful activism and demand for justice of young students meanwhile saw senior BNP leaders like Mirza Fakhrul, Amir Khosru Mahmud, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, and many others being goaded to the parapet of justice on seditious accusations. A clearly delineated blue print to disqualify senior opposition leaders from contesting the upcoming election seemed in execution at a time when the BNP chairperson Khaleda Zia, and the party’s senior vice chairman Tarek Zia, remain in custody, and in exile, respectively.
Worst of all, the media is being ostracized, persecuted and censored from telling the people within, and the world outside, how all the colleges and the universities of the nation joined this ‘cleansing movement’ to rid the nation of the corrupt, illegitimate transport pools run by ruling party ministers, leaders, law enforcing officers, and many others allied to the power that be.

Sullied image
As well, the spectacularity of the events compelled the UN, the USA, and the EU to issue statements and warn the government that the attacks by ruling party thugs and the police on innocent students were unacceptable and deplorable. The global media also brought to the limelight how the noble action of mostly teenaged students to rectify the rusty, inoperable traffic system of a rowdy nation-state got thrashed and bruised by the merciless punches of ruling party ruffians and the club-wielding, bullying law enforcers.
Meanwhile, a loosely coalesced, motley alliance of civic society high-ups—including Dr. Kamal Hossain and Mahmudur Rahman Manna—gathered for a show up along with the Bikolpodhara leader and former President Badruddoza Chowdhury and, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul, to remind the nation why a national unity of all politicians and civic society leaders remains a prerequisite to bringing about an infusion to compel the government to hold the upcoming election under a neutral-transitional regime under the supervision of the constitutionally apolitical military.

Post-Eid prescriptions
The populism of the movement beefed up further with students of higher educations joining the ongoing movement of their younger brothers and sisters; making the authorities nervous enough to decide to send students to Eid holidays before the slated dates, and, convincing the PM to making a sudden visit to a local hospital to see injured student leaders in a desperate bid to dwarf and dampen the spreading rages of this forgotten generation that has begun to redeem its worth in an unprecedented manner.
For decades, leaders of this nation forgot that the students of their country thrived under an ambiance that was traffically impassable, physically exhausting, intellectually bankrupt, and, morally swampy and hazardous. They have had no mentors to tread them toward a morally higher ground amidst ubiquitous corruption and illegitimate acts of their peers and parents.
Now, they feel that the roads must be governed by traffic lights, not traffic police. Streets must have lanes and laws to steer vehicles to slated ways. Vehicles must display caution and signal; zebra crossing, not foot-over bridges, must allow passers-by to traverse their ways across the streets. Above all, foot-over bridges are mainly meant for highways, not for bustling urban metropolises where universally applied rules of regulated traffic and passers- by light signals apply (this scribe reminded about the hazards of this unregulated, rowdy street menaces only a week before this fateful incident, on this page).

However, the so-called D-day is knocking the door of the nation as the incumbent regime will outlive its slated tenure sooner. After the Eid, opposition parties will cry for an interim regime and military’s supervision to help holding a fair, inclusive election. The regime in power will deny those wish lists; first by verbosity, and then by baton-wielding and tear-gassing. In the end, there may or may not be an election within the constitutionally stipulated date, as there was none in 2007.
What seems destined and certain is the unleashing of diametrically opposing forces to suck in the military into an interventional fray, or, an unprecedented reign of terror that no regime can rein in. In all likelihood, unless a national consensus is arrived at, the boiling blood of this forgotten generation will dot the bloody icons of history one more time, as it did in 1971.

Anecdotes from history
That may seem alarming and fatalistic, but we are not here to stir a revolution; as the authorities might suspect. Nor are we the antiquated reformers to do the jobs that public servants and politicians are supposed to do. Simply put: we are on no one’s payroll. Yet, we dare to remind our leaders that the Bengali nation is historically merciless and brutal. Among the dozens of nation-hood-qualified races and nations in South Asia, only Muslim-predominant Bengalis managed to emerge as an independent nation, so far. And, having found their dreams yet unfulfilled, they killed their founding leader Sheikh Mujib in 1975; a liberation war hero and president Ziaur Rahman in 1981; imprisoned another president HM Ershad in 1991; and, the two battling Begums in 2007; one of whom is leading the nation now.
What we respectfully want to remind is that not a single head of government of this benighted nation got spared from the wrath of the mass in the past. As the incumbent PM has achieved quite a lot of feats during her tenure as the head of the government, we want and pray that her name shines through the pages of history as a partly-exceptional artifact.

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