Living in anarchy
A man’s eye falls out of its socket as the bandage is removed. The sight pushes his distraught wife into unconsciousness. His son, petrified, cries his heart out at the eerie scene before him.
Screaming men and women cause a near stampede as they try getting out of a bus set afire by motor cycle-riding bomb throwers. Many of them get terribly burnt in the process, raw flesh gaping out of their sizzling wounds. Many others suffer burns on diverse parts of the body — arms, face, neck, shoulders. As they are wheeled into hospital, beds are conspicuous by their scarcity and doctors and nurses are at a loss on how to cope with the casualties.
The body of a public transport vehicle driver, wrapped in a sheet, lies on the grimy floor of Dhaka Medical College Hospital. The tragedy causes uncontrollable tears to well up in his helpers, boys in their early teenage. They might as well have lost a father and, with him, their hopes of survival.
Across the country, the cries of new widows do not move the heavens. A poverty-stricken mother comes all the way from a distant village to be beside a thoroughly bandaged, almost unrecognisable son. She bursts into tears. A criminal hurls a petrol bomb at a woman’s head. She dies after hours of agony. The image of her weeping daughter moves citizens everywhere. It does not move those who have set this violence into motion.
Outside the capital, ruffians and brigands tear out, in the interest of “credible elections”, railway tracks with not a thought to the safety of passengers on incoming trains. Moving buses come under attack. Individually owned cars are cheerfully mutilated into objects that speak of a country at war with itself. The blockade, or aborodh, has turned into a game of the macabre sort. There are all the tell-tale signs of its mutating into terrorism, of the kind that afflicts and has afflicted nations not ours.
Students in schools, colleges and universities keep praying and hoping the blockade politicians will give them enough of a break for them to finish their on-going classes and examinations. That wish turns out to have been misplaced. Education, in the face of bombs and stones and arson, has gone comatose. Ask the blockade engineers. They have a single answer: let there be a caretaker government first. Education be damned.
The economy is as good as dead. Businesses are in intensive care, with no sign of a recovery soon. Business leaders, having consistently urged a proper political solution to the crisis, have given up. Soon, as seems likely, Bangladesh will be a lost cause in the global economic scheme because the production of goods has taken a back seat to the manufacture of chaos.
Not a word of regret or contrition on the deaths of citizens, on the troubles afflicting the country, comes from those who call the general strikes and the blockades.
The leader of the opposition speaks of a “movement” going on until the government concedes the demand for a caretaker government. She does not appear in public. Neither do most of her party colleagues, who are on the run from the police.
The acting secretary general of the BNP makes the outlandish claim that those who have died in recent days were victims of police attacks. He has no time to explain how the police and other security forces have been throwing bombs into moving vehicles and killing innocent citizens. But he has time enough to get on a motorbike, head draped in helmet, to get away after a gayebana janaza before the police can come after him.
Day after day, night after night, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi of the BNP pushes blockades down the throats of the nation, with nary a thought to the sufferings of people. People, of course, matter little. Citizens die on the streets. Those who have called for demonstrations on the streets are nowhere to be seen. Fakhrul Islam Alamgir promised to cripple the country once an election schedule had been announced. He has kept his promise. Politics has been replaced by anarchy.
The ruling Awami League, like the opposition, remains unmoved at the ballooning tragedy. It cheerfully picks up opposition politicians, hauls them to court in triumph and demands that they be placed on remand. Humiliating elderly leaders is what it does. A bus burns on the streets. Former ministers are charged with having ignited the flames even as the criminal elements in its own yard, having played havoc with tenders, share markets, etc. remain untouched
Partisan cheers are heard as the ruling party announces the names of its nominees for the general elections. Some of the more notorious of party members — with their record of intimidation, alleged links to murder, corruption — have come by party tickets. How notoriety helps democracy is not explained.
A sense of complacence overwhelms the ruling circles. The lesson seems to be simple: let the opposition carry on with its mayhem, let the nation and the world count the number of the rising dead, let disgust with the opposition hit the peaks — and then all will be well. Meanwhile, a whole country drifts.
The realities, in the end, could well turn out different. The facts on the ground bear all the signs of impending disaster.
The state of Bangladesh is in a state of anarchy. Democracy has gone fugitive, morality has died a slow death, politics has come to mean an unbridled race to seize the corridors of power.
The gods are in their heavens; and everything is wrong with our world.
Principles have been twisted out of shape, in the way the lives of citizens have been twisted into images of horror and blood and death — in a land that once was a proud victor in a twilight struggle for liberty and pluralistic expression.