By Dr. Q M Jalal Khan 28 September 2023
I’m glad to write this introductory note as a review of the above mentioned recently published book by no other than the undaunted and indefatigable writer, thinker, soldier, diplomat and freedom fighter Rashed Chowdhury, who, even after numerous books and scores of articles, continues to write and write as if no one knows when they will see an end to his penchant for writing history and politics mainly about Bangladesh. Chowdhury has discovered for certain that through all these years his pen remains as mighty as was his gun in 1971.
Sir Philip Sidney, born into an aristocratic family, was a prominent literary figure of versatile genius and, as such, a unique example of the sixteenth-century English Renaissance. He was famous as a poet, sonneteer, courtier, scholar and soldier. He died fighting in the Netherlands at the age of 31 only in 1586. The greatest Anglo-Irish poet W B Yeats of the twentieth-century referenced him in the context of lamenting the equally premature death of the Irish Airforce pilot Major Robert Gregory in an elegiac poem on him. Major Gregory, son of Yeats’s close aristocratic friend and patron Lady Augusta Gregory, died fighting in WWI at the age of 36 only. In the elegy, Yeats metaphorically describes the fallen Gregory as if he was also a Renaissance man of demonstrated excellence and accomplishment very much like Sidney: “… my dear friend’s dear son, /Our Sidney and our perfect man.”
Major Gregory is described by Yeats, in a series of incremental refrains, as,
Soldier, scholar, horseman, he,
And yet he had the intensity
To have published all to be a world’s delight. …
Soldier, scholar, horseman, he,
And all he did done perfectly
As though he had but that one trade alone. …
Some burn damp faggots, others may consume
The entire combustible world in one small room
As though dried straw, …
Because the work had finished in that flare.
Soldier, scholar, horseman, he,
As ’twere all life’s epitome.
No exception, except in age, is the author of this book, A Soldier and the War Within: Post-Independence Bangladesh and many others, such as: (1) A Soldier’s Debt (which is an account of his escape from Lahore and his role in the liberation war under ‘Z’ Force in 1971, and which is also a peek into his background); (2) Post-Independent Bangladesh: A Soldier’s Story; (3) Village Boy to Accidental Soldier (which contains his adolescent struggles and early military life, in addition to being a brief on his family); (4) FACTS, NOT FICTION: Bangladesh in Perspective (which is a compilation of his published articles until 2017); (5) FACTS, NOT FICTION: Bangladesh in Perspective, Vol 2 (which is a collection of his published articles from 2017 to the end of 2021); and (6) My American Dream (that gives an account of his 20-year diplomatic life and the struggles in the US).
Rashed Chowdhury was a career soldier, decorated frontline fighter in the 1971 liberation war of Bangladesh, longtime diplomat overseas, and continues to be a great scholar-writer of political and historical books on Bangladesh. His is a long “flare,” consuming “The entire combustible world … As though [it was a] dried straw.” In his works, Chowdhury has done everything so “perfectly” and with
so much professional ease and empathy that it seems it was all his “one trade alone.” His achievements demonstrate that, like Gregory, he also “had the intensity/To have published all to be a world’s delight.”
In book after book and article after article, Chowdhury brilliantly captures not only the splendid and excellent individual roles he played in various capacities and how he rose to the occasion in various stages of his life but also his country’s birth pangs, subsequent emergence, its disillusioned and dystopian aftermath under its initial but betraying leader Sheikh Mujib, and the current age-long one-party fascist rule by his daughter Sheikh Hasina, thousand times worse than her sire. Bloody and brutal dictator Hasina was planted by India so that it could control, even occupy Bangladesh in its horrible hegemonic designs.
Chowdhury published about half a dozen books and scores of articles – all well-written and well-researched — in which he provides a highly authentic and reliable narrative of the country’s equally regressive and retrograde movement backwards, to the point of total political, cultural and institutional destruction, accompanied by widespread distortion of history, under the devilish and dynastic rule of the two Sheikhs—father and daughter—and their corrupt mafia circles.
Under the grip of a wild and beastly police force and with rampant and widespread corruption going unabated, from top to bottom, Bangladesh is teetering not only on the verge of an unprecedentedly abysmal moral and ethical mess but also a boggy and bewildering political, cultural and religious morass. A choking and suffocating atmosphere of frightening terror is prevailing in Bangladesh with countless enforced disappearances, made-up crossfire killings, illegal detentions, custodial and extrajudicial deaths and millions of lawsuits on fake and flimsy charges against the opposition leaders and supporters. There is a complete collapse of the rule of law, wholesale violation of human rights, total suppression of freedom of speech and indescribable subversion of all shades and spectrum of political opposition. The Hasina-led Awami hoodlums and hooligans and her surrogates and sycophants have literally grabbed the country by its “noose” with the help of the Indian “RAW” combined with the tails and tentacles of their own naked and nihilistic force and fraud. Had he lived today in Bangladesh, Yeats would have written another “Second Coming” as he did his first back in 1919 saying, seeing the ominous rise of fascist power over Europe:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The dark smoke or cloud that rose over Europe in 1930s and ‘40s has reappeared in a much thicker, deeper and denser manner in today’s RSS-and BJP-ruled India as well as the abominably and abhorrently Modi-fied and horribly omnivorous Hasina’s Bangladesh over the last fifteen years. It is true Adolf Hitler and his Nazi forces killed many out of their misleading extremist rightist, racist and supremacist political ideology but they thought they were made to suffer by unjust economic policies imposed on them by other European powers, particularly England and France, following the defeat of Germany in WWI. It follows that Hitler and Germany were carried away by a sense of deep patriotism far from being financially corrupt.
By contrast, fetid and fascist Hasina and her gangs are completely immersed in moral and financial corruption looting and robbing the country right and left and top to bottom, compromising the sovereignty and independence of Bangladesh with the neighboring fanatical, fundamentalist and communal India (Bharat/Hindustan). And all those are in addition to their committing overwhelming and unlimited oppression, repression, politicization of their crimes and criminals and criminalization of democracy, freedom of speech, opposition politics and patriotic opposition politicians. Political observers have rightly dubbed Hasina, in utter reproach and repugnance, as the “Mother of All Mafias” and have appropriately termed her as a “prime monster” and “crime minister.” Decades ago, they did the same with her father, who was described, with anger and hatred, as a third-class administrator and a “Banga Shatru” (“enemy of Bengal”) for killing democracy and imposing dictatorship in 1975. They described the country during Sheikh Mujib’s nearly 4-years of misrule and mismanagement as “a bottomless basket.”
It was no wonder that Mujib’s political assassination on 15 August the same year was warmly greeted, in fact, with a plethora and an abundance of glee by people galore from all quarters – masses, military, elites, administrators, students, academics, intellectuals, and even the people of his own party, who hurried to hurl horrible names at the dead Mujib – that he was an oppressive Pharaoh, that his body be dropped in the Bay of Bengal, and that he deserved to be hanged hundred times still not to be cleansed of his sins and wrongdoings. They also immediately flocked to join the new short-time but highly welcomed government of the befitting and beneficent President Khandoker Mushtaque Ahmed, one of Sheikh Mujib’s closest lieutenants and one of the earliest to lose trust in his own leader Mujib (see Section 1.12 Bangladesh: Father of the Nation? in Bangladesh: Social Media Outcries Against the Awami Fascism: Writer’s Republic, 2022, pp. 357-392).
Thus, Mujib’s party men were his own nemesis orchestrating and unraveling his undoing for the sake of bringing a necessary end to his macabre and malicious “RakkhiBahini” maladministration and the evil excesses committed by some of his party and family members impacting the entire nation in a dire and deadly way. Mujib’s misdeeds made many opposition members (like Motia, Inu, Rob, Taher) call him names in protest even when he was alive, before 15 August.
The country saw a new dawn under President Ziaur Rahman, perhaps the finest, ablest, and most popular and glorious leader she saw, to date. Unfortunately, the wheel of fortune kept turning to see his tragic assassination in about five years, to be followed by his treacherous General H M Ershad, who had to be overthrown, after about nine years, by a mass movement primarily led by President Zia’s young, able, and impressive widow Begum Khaleda Zia. The country saw another two golden dawns under her – an unsurpassably popular people’s leader, like husband like wife– as it witnessed a flourishing democracy with peace and stability. However, those promising periods were marred, time and again, by the utterly ruinous, venomous and villainous Hasina and her Awami League, full of sinister and subversive elements. As a consequence, the Zia eras of neutral and nationalist clean politics, both earlier and later, were completely eclipsed and overshadowed by multiple backdoor entries into power by Hasina and her Awami goons and gangs, particularly since 2008/09.
The rest continues to unfold a horrendous history of fascist Awami butcheries and brutalities that have already ruined the country and turned it, deeply and disastrously divided as it is due to an all-out process of grave and grievous Awami criminalization, into a police and prison state with all the state/government organs and apparatuses– executive, legislature, judiciary – cynically and excessively abused and exploited by the hyena Hasina. She has been engaged in her categorically catastrophic anti-state and pro-fascist policies of oppression, repression, persecution, discrimination, destruction, criminalization, demonization, elimination and annihilation. Installed by a communally-driven India that is immersed in the fanatical and fundamentalist Islamophobic Hindutva, soaked and suffused with Muslim blood, the horribly and heinously Modi-fied Hasina is thousand times worse than her father and her clownish crony that was the late Ershad. The severe and shocking atrocities committed by her, especially since 2009, and her monstrous mafia muscles and coteries know no bounds! Help wanted from any quarter – mass upheaval or the military takeover or the united political opposition movement — to have her and her corrupt and corrosive and rogue and carnivalesque regime ousted in no time!
Chowdhury’s publications are charmimg, refreshing and rewarding as they are lucidly written with a wealth of firsthand and eyewitness information accompanied by an incisive and penetrating analysis. They are sure to make a qualitative difference in one’s political understanding of Bangladesh.
Q M Jalal Khan, PhD (USA)
- Bangladesh: Social Media Outcries Against the Awami Fascism (2022)
- আওয়ামী ফ্যাসিবাদ: দেশপ্রেমের বিদ্রোহী পংক্তিমালা (Awami Fascism in Bangladesh: Patriotic Verses of Rebellion), www.amazon.co.uk/আওয়ামী-ফ্যাসিবাদ-দেশপ্রেমের-বিদ্রোহী-পংক্তিমালা/dp/1800682638; www.horoppabooks.com/product-page/ আওয়ামী ফ্যাসিবাদ: দেশপ্রেমের বিদ্রোহী পংক্তিমালা (May 2022)
- Bangladesh Under Awami Tyranny (February 2022)
- President Ziaur Rahman: Legendary Leader of Bangladesh (2021)
- Bangladesh in Bondage: Tarique Rahman, SQC, LB, and Other Essays (2021)
- Begum Khaleda Zia: People’s Leader of Bangladesh (2020)
- India’s Hegemonic Design in Bangladesh (2020)
- Bangladesh: Reflections on a Divided Country (2018)
- Bangladesh Divided: Reflections on a Corrupt Police and Prison State (2019), and
- Bangladesh: A Suffering People Under State Terrorism (2019).