Dr Firoz Mahboob Kamal 4/7/2018
The on-going war against democracy
There are only two visible powers in the political landscape of Bangladesh: the people of Bangladesh and the government of India. The political history of Bangladesh is indeed mostly the history of clash of these two powers. Before 1971, India had its incessant war to demolish the arch enemy Pakistan in its eastern wing. After India’s victory in 1971, Pakistan’s war has ended. But India’s war hasn’t. Rather, it has received a new life, new objective and a new game-plan against a new enemy in this strategic land so crucial to India’s destiny. Here, the Indian war is to crush the democratic aspiration of 170 million people of Bangladesh. Moreover, such a war has never been new in India; it is already continuing for 70 years in Kashmir and in its north-eastern provinces. And, it shows no sign to end in the near future.
On its eastern backyard, India never showed its readiness to tolerate a strong Pakistan-like neighbour. It wants only a subservient weaker Bangladesh -like neighbouring Bhutan, Nepal or melt-down Sikkim. In fact, such an Indian vision has always been the guiding compass for its foreign policy as well defence strategy vis-à-vis Bangladesh since its creation in 1971. Whereas, the Bengali Muslims want otherwise. They want to build a strong and independent Bangladesh and play its civilizational role as the 3rd largest Muslim country in the world. In fact, prior to 1947, the Bengali Muslims –the largest Muslim population in the subcontinent, played a crucial role to change the geopolitics of South Asia by creating Muslim League and Pakistan. Pakistan has been defeated in Bengal, but the vision survives. Because of strong entrenchment in such visionary premise, there starts an irreconcilable conflict between two incompatible objectives of the two dissimilar people. And such dissimilarity adds fuel to India’s obsession to crush the popular aspiration of the people of Bangladesh. They can’t see any acceptable alternative. To its advantage, India is not alone in the war. It has ruling Awami League as its partner. In fact, here lies the pathology of the political crisis as well as India’s second phase of the old war in this war-torn country since its inception in 1971.
India never kept it hidden that her geo-strategic interest overrides the popular ambitions of the people of Bangladesh. For the similar reason, Indian leaders couldn’t accept the democratic creation and the existence of Pakistan on its both flanks since its creation in 1947. This is why, whoever crushes the popular aspirations of the people of Bangladesh -like the one-party autocratic ruler Shaikh Mujib, the military junta General Ershad and the election fraudster Shaikh Hasina, could be embraced as the close partner in India’s war in Bangladesh. In 1972, India withdrew its troops, but didn’t withdraw its embedded agents who have been working for India’s interest in civil, military, media, cultural, political and intellectual arenas since 1947. Moreover, during its military occupation in 1971-1972, India could manipulate the pro-Indian government at Dhaka to install a new army of collaborators in the defence and security infrastructures of Bangladesh. Now it is alleged that the RAW operates sitting inside the cantonments.
The enforced indebtedness
India could successfully enforce a sense of indebtedness towards her political elites by its full scale war for the creation of Bangladesh in 1971. Such an embedded sense of indebtedness, has indeed reduced the sense of independence in the psyche of the nationalist Bengalis. As a result, the leaders of the ruling Awami League and its cronies take it as a pleasure as well as a political obligation to give license to India to interfere in the country’s internal affairs. In fact, they made it a precedence by inviting the Indian Army inside Bangladesh in 1971. The legacy still thrives in the political and intellectual arena.
The war of 1971 was not only against Pakistan, it gave India a golden opportunity to enforce a deep sense of indebtedness in the secularist Bengali psyche. The Bengali separatist fighters -called Mukti Bahini, never had the moral strength and the war-skills of the Afghan Islamist fighters. The Afghan Islamists liberated every inch of their land from Russian occupation without any helping foreign Army in their land. Even the US Army with the help of 40 other states couldn’t control more than 30% of Afghanistan. Whereas, Mukti Bahini couldn’t liberate even a single district or a sub-district on their own. They needed a full scale invasion by the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy to do the job. After its victory in the war, India could present Bangladesh –the separated eastern wing of Pakistan, as a gift on a platter to her submissive cronies.
As a result, Shaikh Mujib could be easily portrayed in India as a recipient of an Indian gift –not as the father of a nation. Thus, the third largest Muslim country in the world could be indebted to an idol-worshipping kuffars for its creation. As a mark of gratitude to India, the leaders of the ruling Awami League consider it a solemn duty to express such indebtedness by protecting Indian interest in Bangladesh in every possible ways. In fact, such a sense of indebtedness forms the basis of their policy of appeasement towards India. This is why, India could get so easily the transit through Bangladesh, access its sea ports, withdraw waters from its international rivers and flood its market with the Indian goods. Such pro-Indian collaboration has other vile expressions: it is to vilify, torture, kill and restrict the political rights of those who fought against the Indian aggression in 1971. The ruling Awami League even runs an incessant judicial and extrajudicial killing scheme to exterminate them.
Indian claim of the fatherhood
Because of an embedded indebtedness to India, the pro-Indian leaders of Bangladesh need to swallow even the most unpalatable stuffs to appease her. The Indians too, understand the helplessness of their collaborators; hence look emboldened to openly claim even the fatherhood of Bangladesh. Such a claim was made in public on 27.08.2008 to celebrate the death anniversary of General Manek Shaw -the Indian Army Chief during the war of 1971. The renowned Press Trust of India published an article with the caption “Manek Shaw: A Soldier Who Created a Nation”. In that article, General Manek Shaw and not Shaikh Mujib has been projected as the father of Bangladesh. It is noteworthy that the ruling Awami League and its pro-Indians coalition partners didn’t raise a single voice of protest against such a robust derogatory and demeaning claim made so publicly in the prominent Indian media!
Such a claim indeed bulldozes the pride as well the core essence of Awami League’s politics -as they claim Mujib as the father of Bangladesh. The Indians frame their argument on the basis that General Manek Shaw (later on honoured as Field Marshal) and his Army fought a full-fledged war against Pakistan for creating Bangladesh. Thousands of Indian soldiers had to die in the war. India spent billions of dollar to bear the cost of the war. In comparison, Shaikh Mujib didn’t even declare any intention of independence publicly. Rather, he fought the general election in 1970 with the promise of framing a constitution of a strong and united Pakistan – as expressed in his party’s election manifesto. He even sat with President Yahiya of Pakistan to reach a political deal.
Politics of appeasement & the new low
The politics of appeasement unto India has attained a new low in Bangladesh. In fact, it has turned to overt slavery of India. Politics is an art cum science of effectively running a state, safeguarding its interest and causing maximum benefit to its people. But in politics of slavery, the prime objective is to serve the geopolitical interest of the master; therefore, security and welfare of the state and its people get ignored. In an independent politics, who should be in power is the sole and sovereign issue of the people of the sovereign country. But in slavery, that is not the case. It becomes a subject to be decided by the foreign powers. This is why, it becomes a major issue in the political circles of Bangladesh to look at Indian preferences vis-à-vis who should come to the power in their country.
Such a sense of slavery towards India is expressed very candidly by Mr Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury -the adviser to Bangladesh Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina on information affairs. In a seminar in Dhaka Press Club on 28th May 2018, he told that India on her own interest will want the ruling Awami League in power. He emphasised that India can’t allow the anti-Awami League forces to win in any election in Bangladesh. In the past, Mr Pranab Mukharjee –the ex-President of India, reinforced the same view by a categorical statement that Bangladesh will not be allowed to slip away any more from the domain of the Indian radar. To support his expectation, Mr Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury argued that Awami League government is helping India in her war against the separatist forces in the north-eastern seven Indian states. He told, India has to invest heavily both militarily and financially to fight the separatist forces in Kashmir. India would have collapsed economically if it had to fight similar war in her seven north-eastern states.
Mr Chowdhury gives credit to Awami League government’s zero tolerance against the separatist forces in those North-Eastern Indian states that helped India to avoid such a collapse. Therefore, he believes, India has no other option but to keep Shaikh Hasina in power. However, he didn’t mention that such zero tolerance against those liberation movements is indeed an expression of full submission to Indian agenda. It is also an expression of zero morality vis-à-vis the democratic rights of the oppressed people of those states. Such zero morality of the Bangladesh government is also expressed through its Kashmir policy. Whereas, it is an internal matter of the people of the Indian states to decide whether they want to stay in India or get independence. Only the politics of slavery unto India can deny such rights of those people.
Mr Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury understands the incapacitating helplessness of his own party -as well as that of other stakeholders in Bangladeshi politics. Hence, the Indian preferences in the forthcoming election looks so important to him. Moreover, Mr Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury is also aware of India’s on-going crisis and the vulnerabilities. It can’t afford losing a protected market of 170 million people. He is also aware that India can’t accommodate a strong Bangladesh on its border. He also understands that only Awami League can give sustenance to Bangladesh’s sense of indebtedness cum a state of bonded enslavement to India. Hence, he could tell so frankly and confidently that India must see Awami League in power in future election for its own interest. His statement also reinforces the common belief that India has the full manipulating power to influence the outcome of any election in Bangladesh. And, like any pro-Indian Bengali nationalist, he too, shows the tip of a huge moral deprivation. If he had an iota of self-esteem, he would have asked himself: why should India have a wish vis-à-vis who should stay in power in Bangladesh? Why such an Indian preference should get importance in Bangladesh’s internal matters? It’s indeed an exact expression of the slavish mentality of the Bengali political pets who rely on the masters to decide their fate. Because of them, the opinion of the Bangladeshi people are not counted in the general election and a fake election becomes such a necessity.
Indian collusion & the guaranteed victory of Hasina
Recently, Shaikh Hasina finished her India tour. Since her meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Mr Norendra Modi couldn’t yield anything for Bangladesh, she now talks like a philanthropist. Recently, she told the press at Dhaka that she loves giving and dislikes begging. She also mentioned that she has given so such to India that can never be forgotten. It is indeed the usual expression of the deep-rooted indebtedness that India could instil in the secular Bengali psyche through its intervention in 1971. In fact, the war in 1971 was a political necessity of India to engineer an intellectual, cultural and political conversion among the secular Bengalis. The feeling of deep indebtedness to India is indeed the product of such a inner conversion. Because of that, serving the Indian strategic interests in Bangladesh has become a political obsession among the Bengali nationalists. Hence, Hasina is not an exception. In fact, the conversion is so profound that many of them even say in seminars that if the bondage with India is severed, Bangladesh will again become a part of Pakistan.
Such a sense of deep indebtedness has indeed inculcated the political, the ideological and the cultural submission to India. So, the influential Indian Bengali daily the Ananda Bazar could gleefully report that the Bengali New Year celebration in Dhaka looks more like a Hindu puja celebration in Kolkata. Shaikh Hasina feels proud of that. It is indeed the marker of hindu’isation of the Bengali Muslim culture. Shaikh Hasina has given free license to India to launch such an ideological cum cultural invasion. She is repackaging such a service cum submission to India as philanthropy. Now, it is obvious that Shaikh Hasina and her comrades can’t come out of such a life-long bondage -enshrined in the name of indebtedness. So, the people of Bangladesh have to pay heavily for Indian involvement in war in 1971. No doubt, India will continue to cash on it in the future. This is indeed the price that Bangladesh has to pay for inviting an opportunistic India in its midst in 1971. It is indeed the ugliest moral and political failure of the people who led independence of Bangladesh.
There is no doubt that what Hasina has given to India is unprecedented in the history of Bangladesh. India couldn’t even think of that in the past –even during her father’s time. It is also true that India would not forget such an exceptional servitude of Hasina. But she should also know that better slavery never helps get free from the bondage of slavery, rather earns new role to serve the new agenda of the master. In such context, Shaikh Hasina has already earned a new role as the collaborator in India’s war in its seven North-Eastern states and the executioner of the Islamists in Bangladesh. Since 1971, Bangladesh has served so much the geopolitical cum economic interest of India, but India never paid back to benefit the people of Bangladesh. On the contrary, it has done everything only to give more mileage to the rule of its own stooges. Hasina also understands India’s predicament. Since India has no other better substitute, she would be the sole beneficiary of the Indian collusion in election in Bangladesh. It gives her an extra confidence in her eminent election victory in 2018 –as repeatedly expressed in her recent speech.
Since election is at the doorsteps, Shaikh Hasina needs to tell people about her deep Indian connection with a strong political purpose. She gives such lectures not for any Indian audience, these are only for the domestic consumption. This is why, she delivers such lecture only in Dhaka, and not in Delhi. She wants to warn the people of Bangladesh that India is definitely on her side; hence her victory in the forthcoming election is guaranteed. Nobody can undo that. Conspicuously, free and fair election is not the subject in her political sermons. Her adviser Mr Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury told the same stuff in a seminar in Dhaka Press Club. Such lecture has an implicit intimidating message for those who dare oppose Hasina’s rule. Such intimidation is done intentionally to demotivate and demoralise them. It works as a strong deterrence against people’s power. Hence for the opposition parties, the message is clear. Since Hasina is going to stay in power, they have no way to avoid her punishing wrath.
Fake election: a tool of state-run terror
Fake election has always been the most favourite tool to legitimise the rule of terror in Bangladesh –as has been the case in Syria, Egypt and other autocracies in the world. Power-addict Hasina abolished the consensus formula of the election under a caretaker government only to use it as a tool to defeat the aspiration of the people. Her wrath is well known: the brutalities in the police custody, the physical abuse on the street by her party hooligans, the fabricated criminal cases in the court, the judicial and the extra-judicial killings and the enforced disappearances cum death are its usual features. These are indeed the powerful weapons to force the people to a total surrender.
Such a state-run terror has tremendous power not only to silence the people’s voice but also to damage their moral power. In state of deep despair, a ray of new hope is very essential to generate an effective political force. Hence, crushing such a hope in the public mind is the most common objective of all brutal autocrats. They use the massive tool of the state-owned terror to kill such hope and drive people out of the political arena. The British colonialists ruled Bengal for 190 years by generating such hopelessness by using the massive military power. However, they didn’t have fake elections. But Hasina has an advantage. Along with the state-owned tools of terror, she deploys fake election to impose the same subjugation more cunningly and more deceivingly.