TO say that one is aghast at the language used by politicians is an understatement particularly when they come from an aspirant to high position in the country's politics. Such remarks are suggestive of a person possessing a puerile substance between the ears. Tirades against one whose role in our politics and the birth of the country is beyond question, and that which has earned him the honorific of Bangabandhu and Father of the Nation, is not only unwarranted and unfortunate, but it also demeans the person who is making them. That, however, does not mean that Bangabandhu is above any kind of criticism. One is entitled to criticise his policies and his politics, and so is Tareq Rahman, but that should not cross the bounds of civility nor be laced with venom that one noticed in some of his comments with regard to Mujib. And I would like to think that my feeling is shared by most of the many that do not belong to any of the two 'gharanas'.
Having said that, one is constrained to point out that the ruling party has contributed, very significantly, to the round of ugly rhetoric that one wishes not to have heard at all. If uncharitable remarks are being hurled at Bangabandhu the Awami League also must share a part of the blame for it. Listening to invectives spewing from leaders of the two parties leaves one with very little hope for any civil interaction, let alone serious engagement and discourse, between the two. One notices with anxiety, too, that the intensity of the tirades grows in volume and filthy contents during some particular months.
Come the month of August there is a race on the part of the leaders at all levels and of different cadres of the Awami League to endear themselves to the party leader by frothing in the mouth in extolling the late lamented Bangabandhu. While that is only to be expected in a political system which is one-person centered, what causes further deepening of the inter-party animosity, and consequently the political atmosphere in the country, is the accusations, counter accusation and in general the attempt to run down one another in such despicable manner.
One must admit that there is a question mark about Zia's alleged remarks and actions following the assassination of Mujib, and there are allegations of his complicity in the killings. Let history be the best judge particularly when the man is not there to defend himself. But we have noticed with awe the vile and derogatory manner in which Begum Zia and her family have been attacked and the entire lot painted as being the murderers of Mujib. Filth begets filth and unfortunately it is the public that has to bear such a situation.
However, the culture of ugly rhetoric is not new. One has heard the leaders of ruling party not in the very distant past using vile language against public figures. Even the country's Nobel Laureate was subjected to the most disparaging remarks like 'bloodsucker'. And the floor of the House was defiled by MPs from both sides, and the women members outdid their male counterparts in this regard, using the filthiest language against the late leaders of the other party. What was most disquieting to see was that instead of reining in the errant MPs they were commended for what they did.
Unfortunately such behaviour has rubbed off on the society, particularly on the newer generation of politicians. Little wonder that political discourse has degenerated into exchange of most abusive language that only the Bangla vocabulary can describe in one word -“galagali”.
Some feel strongly that if the BNP has resorted to vile language it is partly because the party has been gradually divested of the avenues and opportunities to express dissent. Frustration at being prevented to hold rallies, spurious charges against a large number of their cadres, including many senior leaders, random arrests and incarceration have caused the pent up anger to be expressed in the manner that the party has done verbally.
The behaviour of some of our politicians admits of no excuse. When will this practice end? When can we expect our politicians to talk with deference about their counterparts? We need more sophistication in our politics. And for that there is need to change. Unfortunately, Bernard Shaw's advice that we must reform society before we can reform ourselves does not apply to our situation. It is the politicians who must change themselves first if they want to change society and the country.
The writer is Editor, Op-Ed and Defense and Strategic Affairs, The Daily Star