Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The interim government’s get-tough-policy with academicians just fizzled out

A.H. JAFFOR ULLAH

I took time out from writings because it was too painful to watch the downward journey of my motherland with Fakhruddin, the crony of Bangladesh military, at helm. However, I was watching the drama being played in Dhaka by none other than the top leaders of the illegal (unconstitutional) government backed by the military establishment of Bangladesh.

The military was mightily upset when students and professors of Dhaka University became vocal over the presence of a military camp right inside the campus. The military was finally booted out. Thanks to the spontaneously generated protest session in which outsiders also joined the professors and students. The teachers from other campuses notably from Rajshahi University also joined the protest movement. This was too much for General Moeen and his lieutenants. They were defeated unceremoniously and when the press published the famous photo of a retreating officer while a protester kicked him in the butt all hell broke loose in Kurmitola cantonment. General Moeen had to take valium to soothe his nerve.

To teach the professors a lesson of a lifetime, the military had the police arrest a few professors. They humiliated the academicians by huddling them with common criminals, denied handing medicines, and did not even allow family members to meet the arrestees. The so-called “free” court of Bangladesh passed judgment in favor of the government. The professors from Rajshahi were convicted by the “independent” court. And now on the face of a growing resentment in the civil society the government backed down. Fakhruddin and his gang engineered a presidential clemency as a face saving technique. The government thought by awarding the clemency this illegal government’s stature will be enhanced.

The proof that this government is run from behind by the military is so obvious. The government sent members of DGFI to meet the family. Why DGFI? Any of the civilians who are serving in this unconstitutional government could have gone to Rajshahi to meet the family members of the “convicted” professors. What was the deal DGFI had in their sleeve? Did they think that the relatives of the professors will cringe in fear by seeing a few muscle men in army fatigue? Time has surely changed. Wake up fellows! This is the age of the Internet. Those days of Ayub Khan, Gen. Zia and Gen. Ershad do not exist any more.

I request everyone to analyze the entire sequence of events with objectivity. This un-elected and extra-constitutional government who is now managing the country somehow is directionless. Do you care to know that the military boss (General Moeen) gets more attention in the press than the Chief Advisor or the president? The military four-star General who engineered his promotion pronto after grabbing the power is a shameless fellow. He pretends as if Bangladesh is his paternal property. He took the cues from General Musharraf. I will not be surprised to hear that in near future General Moeen will run for president. Let the dust settle. Everything will be clear in good time.

The nation is drifting in the ocean of uncertainties. The economic growth was stunted since January 2007. On top of it, the monsoon-led flood and cyclone Sidr had plunged the nation into a state of hopelessness. The inflation of commodity prices had escalated so much so that ordinary people simply cannot afford many necessities of life. People cannot protest against the repressive government that has incarcerated more than 250,000 people. The newspapers in Bangladesh stopped mentioning about the plights of these people who are rotting in jails.

The government’s scorched-earth policy did not work with the academicians. The professors are valiant heroes of the nation. Their family members did not agree to the terms laid down by the DGFI bosses. Therefore, to end the stalemate Iajuddin, the master bungler of Bangladesh, had to come up with the “presidential clemency.” I hate this sort of pardon. Why? In the first place, the professors of Dhaka, Rajshahi, and Chittagong Universities did the right thing. University teachers are the conscience of the nation. If they would not have protested against the repressive government, then who would.

The government in this case simply caved in by engendering a laughable presidential clemency. The government was too coward to execute the judgment handed down by the kangaroo court. It thought if the professors are put in jail to serve the sentence, there may be more demonstration allover the nation.

This repressive and unconstitutional military-driven government has not yet learned the proper lesson. Historians will not treat them lightly either. All the major players in Bangladesh in respect to governance such as Fakhruddin, Mainul, Matin, Moeen, Iajuddin, and the rest will be mired in infamy. Mark my word.

In the meantime, Bangladesh’s downward journey to abyss is continuing. It is a sad testament that 150 million teeming people have no democratic rights whatsoever. The rest of the civilized nation could care less for the plights of the people. I characterized this government an oligarchy from the very beginning. What looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, is a duck. This is a repressive and autocratic military regime with a civilian façade. Make no mistake about it. #

A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans, USA