Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 4 Issue 32 | February 4, 2005 |

   Cover Story
   News Notes
   Special Feature
   Straight Talk
   Food for Thought
   Slice of Life
   Time Out
   Dhaka Diary
   Book Review
   New Flicks
   Write to Mita

   SWM Home



of Apathy


It was just another average Thursday night. Families were holding post-Eid dinner parties and friends were having late-night adda sessions.

It was just another average Thursday night, until one by one, cell phones started beeping constantly with SMSs, phone calls pierced into the peaceful night, bearing bad news. In hushed tones, Bangladeshis all over the country conveyed what they had heard. There was a bomb blast on an Awami League rally in Habiganj and Shah AMS Kibria, former Finance Minister, was killed.

From a small street in Dhanmondi an old man shakily dialed his son's cell phone number, heaving a sigh of relief when he heard a familiar voice say hello.

"Come home," he pleaded, deaf to his son's protests that he was safe, that he was nowhere near Habiganj and that the bomb blasts had nothing to do with him and his friends. He insisted that his son come home immediately, something that he used to pride himself on never doing. Things were different now. How far removed from politics one was made no difference anymore. Bangladesh had done the inevitable. It had fallen even further, sunk even lower, gotten ten times worse. No one was safe anymore, no one was immune.

One would think that after the horrifying events of August 21, the people of Bangladesh would wake up and realise that this was not just about politics or the ego battle between the two women leaders of our nation. Rather, it was and is an attack on our nation's safety, its security, its founded belief of liberation. Unfortunately, after all the hype of protesting and rallying, the pomp and circumstance of foreign investigations and promises of justice, Bangladeshis went back to their daily lives of indifference. Perhaps people were to scared too speak out. Perhaps they were hoping that someone, somewhere would do something to fix the toiled and tattered mess that our nation has found itself in.

Sadly, but predictably, no one did. And the sensationalism died down because it wasn't relevant to us after a while. After all, people die every day. Bomb blasts, grenade attacks, assassinations, murders, riots are all a part of our everyday lifestyle. The collective attitude of the public was to remain indifferent and stagnant because it did not affect us in a big enough way.

Five months later an article came out in the New York Times by a writer named Eliza Griswold, claiming that Bangladesh was heading towards "the next Islamic Revolution." Indignation and outrage seeped throughout Bangladesh as people rebutted this statement, stating with full confidence that it was an unfounded accusation. With suspiciously impeccable timing the events of January 27 occurred, forcing all of us to regurgitate our protests. The question on everyone's lips is now, "Is Griswold right? Are we running headlong into the next Islamic Revolution?"

One has to wonder whether it is true. The people's apathy is a result of the government's pathetic attempt at arresting criminals such as the now world-famous Bangla Bhai, their continuous indifference towards the murders of activists, political figures, writers and journalists, and their accusations that Awami League had done this themselves, in order to frame BNP. But one cannot hold only the government responsible. It also has to be said that in the midst of her mourning and wiping tears, the leader of the opposition still had enough time and energy to use both bomb blasts as a great opportunity to attack the government and to stand on her soap box of discontent, finding faults in everyone but herself and those in her party. This is politics, one may say -- this constant playground fight between two elderly women -- but where does that leave our nation? At some point, somewhere along the line, one would hope that they would put aside their differences and try to make Bangladesh a stable and safe environment that encourages freedom of speech, religion and political ideologies. At some point, one would hope that both women would act like adults instead of two children in a sandbox, throwing sand in each other's eyes to see who can oust the other from their territory. I always thought that women would make better leaders than men, but these women prove me otherwise. They are just as bad because they cannot move past the my-husband/father-is-better-than-your-husband/father complex. Instead they raise long buried issues from the grave and harp on them incessantly.

The question is not really who is to blame for these atrocities, or what conspiracy is behind it. The blame-game has long proved to be inefficient and irritatingly redundant, not to mention hazardous to everyone. The real question is, where do we go from here? What do 60-hour <>hartals and rallies really do, aside from killing and injuring people, and causing even more upheaval and discontent? How can we enforce peace when our answer to violence and injustice is retaliating with even more violence and injustice? Fighting fire with fire is really not worth it at the end of the day, because too many lives are at stake, too many mothers are losing their sons, too many children losing their parents, too many people losing their loved ones. Too many random, innocent people are dying and all for what? Because Bangladesh has gone from a country of national pride to a country lacking in morals and human goodness. And we are all responsible for it because that small handful of people struggling to make a change is not strong enough without the support of the masses. Our lack of action is further pushing our country in the wrong direction and allowing terrorists and their likes to take the law into their own hands. It is not the government or opposition's problem anymore. It is ours because the situation in the country is affecting our safety and our security. It is not about the murder of a big politician whose name and face we only see in newspapers and on television. It's about our next door neighbour walking on the street during a rally and being attacked. It is not about an Islamic Revolution, it's about that little girl whose hands are blown off during a bomb blast by "revolutionaries." Our refusal to speak out against these injustices as a nation, is responsible for Bangladesh losing its way, and leading to chaos and anarchy.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2004