Where is Dr. Yunus?
The Nobel Laureate has been rather off the scene at home, and it was after a very long time that we read his comments in the media a couple of days ago made at a function organised by the Gana Shasta Kendra to honour some freedom fighters.
Perhaps there is reason for Dr. Yunus' reticence, because, as likely as not, what he pronounces has a good chance of being misrepresented, misquoted or distorted, giving the opportunity to his detractors to pounce on him. In Bangladesh it is not only wise to believe in the maxim that the dumb has no enemy but also to act on it.
I am sure, by God's Grace, Dr. Yunus is well and doing fine. And he is at the moment in the country. And when not in the country he is either delivering talks at various international fora on a range of global issues and of course on micro-finance, or social business that is catching up pretty fast internationally, or being received with honour by kings, presidents, and heads of governments, not only in the western world but in the four corners of the globe, cutting across languages, cultures, religions and race, who want to share his ideas and utilise his experience and expertise to better the lot of their peoples.
And while our lone Nobel Laureate is being bestowed with honours in other countries and deservedly so, he is being blatantly belittled and disregarded by his own. The loudness of his absence in all government and state functions since the time he was so unceremoniously forced out of his position from Grameen Bank, albeit through a court judgment, compels me to ask of his whereabouts. His absence at the inauguration of Bangla Academy Book Fair and other state functions, particularly the most recent one, the World Bengali Convention-2012, held between February 19 and 23 in Dhaka, has been very visible.
However, it was good to see that the main stage on these occasions was adorned by another illustrious Bengali, Prof. Amartya Sen. Prof. Sen has done our country a great honour in adorning several state-level functions in the last few months. And no one can have any reservation about that. He has made us proud as a Bengali. There are but a very few of his caliber as a scholar in the world, and one would find it hard to come across a more committed secular individual than he. In him we find a kindred soul who has spoken out for Bangladesh and publicised our achievements to the world. And we only honour ourselves by honouring Dr. Amartya Sen.
But the question is why our Nobel Laureate is being ignored? Is Dr. Yunus' absence occasioned by his equation with the prime minister? Is he being left out because she does not like him? The PM's feeling towards him is not a state secret, so clearly expressed publicly and in private. If calling someone a "blood-sucker" is not an expression of utmost contempt of the person that adjective is addressed to, then what is? And when the object of disdain happened to have made Bangladesh positively visible to the world, most of which associate only disaster, famine and poverty with the country, there cannot be a more pathetic situation than that.
I do not think Dr. Yunus' credentials are any less than any other Nobel Laureate's. Much as we found the spin doctors in the establishment, and some outside it too, run him and Grameen Bank down, preparatory to causing his exit from the Bank, his idea was, and still is, being replicated in more than a hundred countries in the world. The Bank had not only flourished under Dr. Yunus, the idea had won many accolades and the ultimate recognition of his work and of the Grameen Bank was the Nobel Prize.
While Dr. Yunus was given a bad name by some ill-motivated group in the country, nothing incriminating against him has been found. And even the government appointed enquiry committee has not been able to find anything to substantiate the allegations made against him. And the Norwegian government, a party in the particular issue, has exonerated him after conducting its own inquiry.
One can understand the constraints of the organisers of the state level functions, particularly ones that are graced by the PM herself. We understand that perhaps exclusion of Dr. Yunus from the guest list is a pre-condition for the attendance of the PM. One can recall the episode of the inauguration of the Asian University for Women where reportedly the Nobel Laureate's name was dropped from the list as the main speaker for some unknown reasons. We wonder whether that had anything to do with the fact that the PM was the chief guest at that function.
But what about the civil society and the private organisations? Admittedly, it is the organisers' prerogative to invite or not to invite whoever they like, but when private and intellectual bodies who are supposed to be the keepers of the nation's conscience kowtow to the government then we have much to worry about. Take for example the recently held World Bengali Conference? I am appalled and surprised to see the name of Dr. Yunus missing from the list of key-note speakers. While in no way demeaning those that are on the list, I dare say Dr. Yunus merits no less than those on the list, to be there.
We wonder whether the PM and her advisors are aware of the great damage being done to the image and prestige of the country because of her personal aversion to Dr. Yunus. His denigration at home because of that, while being accorded so much honour and dignity abroad, also sullies the image of the government and those that are leading it.
We should not forget that honouring a son of the soil who has done us proud is honouring ourselves. And by the same token we belittle ourselves as a nation by not giving him or her due honour.