Sleepwalking to cliff edge? | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 06, 2015 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:57 PM, March 20, 2015


Sleepwalking to cliff edge?

THE US government has taken two exemplary steps in the wake of the brutal killing of Avijit Roy of Mokto Mona fame when he was returning with his spouse from Ekushey Boi Mela on Thursday last. First, it has flown out of a Dhaka hospital his critically injured wife Bonya Ahmad, taking her under the wings of a US hospital. Secondly, the US authorities are sending an FBI team to investigate Avijit's murder.

The promptness with which the US government is taking care of its surviving citizen and probing the hacking of Avijit to exact a bigoted vendetta underlines a two-fold message: One, they are discharging their responsibilities for their citizens; one may add though that was only to be expected, in keeping with standard norms. Two, here is a principle involved of a dark extremist conspiracy ending in brutal elimination of a freethinker. This is very concerning not only for the USA but the world at large.

The reason why you rehash the episode is to draw a lesson; look how deeply the US is caring for just a couple of its citizens, either alive or dead! You then compare this with our political leaders' insensitivity to burning, killing and maiming of their citizens in droves over the last two months.

Thankfully, one notices such devastating incidence of violence tapering off. The propensity to violence, however, remains so long as the bitter discord spews out of the mouth of a fire-eating dragon, if you like. 

Of late, Dhaka is seeing a spate in collective, intense and focused diplomacy. Travel and movement advisories have been issued to the citizens of representing countries as political equilibrium dips further  in Bangladesh. Quite naturally, the diplomats would have concern for the safety of their own citizens. Again, whilst our political leaders put their power struggle ahead of public interest -- people are being punished for no fault of their own -- the representatives of foreign governments air their grave anxiety over the killing of innocents in our country. It is humanity diminished.

This may sound a little simplistic to squinted-eyed people who are apt to impute motive even in a good gesture. Of course, countries friendly to Bangladesh have a stake in stable and developing Bangladesh as a hub of growth in a geo-politically sensitive region.

In diplomacy, what's kept unsaid is sometimes more important than what is said. The point worthy of note is this: Bangladesh is a 160-million Muslim majority country and unresolved political conflict has a potential to generate Islamophobia, an obsession with the West. Admittedly, we too have been perceptive of an incipient danger of radicalisation and extremism. More on the rather flawed surgical approach of the Western world to the problem, some other day. 

Earlier this week, when 12 ambassadors met Khaleda Zia on a persuasion mission seeking her cooperation to stem the havoc of violence, we thought the 'ruthless' mystery man Salahuddin Ahmed would not deliver his favourite notorious punch: a 72-hr hartal call till Wednesday. Particularly disparaging is his prolonging the ghastly serial up to Friday morning with ruthless continuity, albeit at the diktat of the party leader. 

A common thread weaves through the initiatives of the 12 ambassadors, 16 diplomats and the EU parliamentary delegation devoted to defusing tension. They implored both sides to reduce the distance between them through confidence-building measures thus paving the way for engagement. But can a dialogue be at all possible, far less entertained, with the blockade and hartal calls continuing? This rolls the ball in BNP's court to stop the shutdowns and then test AL's bona fides about its opening up to any meaningful communication. 

As if to signal a melting of ice between the two sides, veteran lawyer Rafiqul Haq, confided to Prothom Alo that in politics and judiciary a soft temper is discernible. Even after eight days of a warrant of arrest against Khaleda Zia and the court upholding it, this has not been executed. 

All this is considered a positive sign. American civil war time writer Ambrose Biera had quipped: “To be positive is to be mistaken at the top of one's voice.” Doubtless, it was a contextual statement; hopefully, this will not hold good in our situation.

Overall, politics is becoming a figment of imagination multiplied, part of a make-believe domain, as it were. 

Here you remember what Dickens wrote in Hard Times: “ ... Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else ... Stick to Facts, sir.” 

The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star

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