1971 : Two memories of miracles
1971 was part of our life and even the concept of 1971 history as an independent issue was not clear to us. It was so close to our own life that we didn’t see it as history but a narrative of ourselves. We didn’t see us in that because history was always something distant and far away from ordinary lives, our kinds of lives. But soon things began to change. The big changer was the FF list. Suddenly a group of people began to claim to be FFs apart from the real ones. And then the government declared 2 years of seniority for FFs and conflicts grew along with the number of FFs in every sphere. It was a great boost to enmity resolution as well. Anyone could be accused of being a collaborator. That’s one reason why the weekly “Holiday” newspaper said that it was a “country of 65 million collaborators”. Once patriotism became a rewarding and paying activity and demonizing became easy, there was no shortage of ‘glory “ and the “glorious” as well as the treacherous and the guilty. However, it didn’t touch us and we never even discussed our 1971 life when we were DU students. To us it was part of life though to many it had become a way to gain a better life by fair means or foul. The man who ran from death I began to search for 197i history after 1977 when I joined the History writing project under Hasan Hafizur Rahman. It was a time when memories of many were fresh and people would often visit our office and discuss the war and how it affected them. People, from senior officers to ordinary citizens would drop in as if it was a sanctuary for memories. Many would speak on for long and sometimes would leave relieved. As if being able to speak was all they needed. I remember one very well. The gentleman was from Rajshahi and he lived near the campus. He was caught up in the events when the Pak army overcame resistance and captured the city in April. There were random killings and he was arrested and made to stand in a line of people who were to be shot and killed. After the firing the bodies were dumped into a pit and left to die. The amazing part was that he had not only survived but he was not even wounded. He gained his senses after a while, near the bottom of the pit under other bodies. Instinctively, almost immediately he began to clamber out of the pit shoving several dead bodies aside. He reached the top of the pit, climbed out and then began to run, not sure where to. But even in the dark, the Pak army noticed and began to fire at him. Luckily he came across a stream/nala and without any idea how wide it was he jumped. He landed on the other side of it, picked himself up and ran again till he could run no more. By then he was far away and safe. He took shelter in some remote village and survived the war hiding there. After the war was over he returned to the place of his untimely burial and found it had been marked as a “gono kobor”. When people heard his tale, many gathered around as if they were not sure he was still alive or a ghost. He then went to the stream which he had jumped and saved himself and repeated the feat. He couldn’t even reach half away. Years later, he was still wondering at his own miracle. Actually, this is common in situations of extreme stress. The body produces extra adrenalin and that makes extreme physical feats possible. And a good dose of luck really helps.At Jagannath Hall, March 25th night On the night of the 25th, after the Pak army had committed the massacre at the Jagannath hall of Dhaka University, they rounded up several other residents, both students and staff and made them bury the dead. After the bodies had been buried, they shot those who had done the work. Of those who had dug the graves, one was Kaliranjan Shil. He was a student and an activist of Chatro Union. As the bullets were fired, Kaliranjan lost his sense and collapsed and lay with the other diggers, some dead, rest dying. When he gained sense, he saw the dead still lying there and fled. What has always amazed me was that he returned to the Hall a few days later to do some urgent work. Not all are lucky like the miraculous escapee like him. One Rajkumari’s husband was a staff member of the Jagannath Hall and one of the grave diggers. He took a bullet. His family found him still alive and carried his body to their quarters nearby. He talked to his family members and said he wanted to see his infant son one last time. Rajkumari went to fetch the kid but when she returned with him, he was gone.
Teesta : New trigger for new regional conflict ?
Regional conflict situation may get a boost if India/ West Bengal goes ahead with the Teesta water diversion as per media reports. This will hurt Bangladesh's water share and in the process force it to seek whatever power it can leverage to offset the damage. And that means the entry of China in the game. As can be imagined, it will not be a pleasant addition and escalate the already tense situation in the region including Indo-China relations. Bangladesh is also being pushed on several international fronts including the Myanmar Rohingya issue. The situation in Cox-s bazar zone is becoming very difficult and is reaching a trigger point for wider violence. It's slowly going beyond the capacity of Bangladesh to handle the crisis. Since there can be no military resolution of the problem, it will require international intervention but that is not in sight. Since Bangladesh is being wooed by the US to distance itself from China, it creates an interesting balancing act scenario for all the parties concerned. However that opens up an opportunity for Bangladesh as well. If China doesn't deliver the support it needs, the US wins. And if India's Teesta plan goes ahead, India's better friend the US loses as China has already offered a Teesta deal to Bangladesh which may be considered more seriously then. It's tricky to say the least. The Treaty situation now Teesta is a stalled scenario as it's been 12 years since the move made by India/ West Bengal to divert more water to its hydropower plants and irrigation projects. Some of these projects have been there for a while new projects have been taken up. Meanwhile, Joint Rivers Commission (JRC), Bangladesh, has moved to lodge a protest with India. "India did not inform us about their move. We are going to send a protest letter to India expressing our concerns and mentioning how the move will affect the ecosystem of the Teesta downstream," said Mohammad Abul Hossen, a member of the JRC, Bangladesh. Indian newspaper The Telegraph on Monday reported that the West Bengal government decided to set up three hydropower plants in Darjeeling and two of them are likely to reduce the volume of water in the Teesta. Last week, the newspaper also reported that the West Bengal government acquired 1,000 acres of land to dig two canals and divert more water from the Teesta to irrigate farms in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts.' (Daily Star Bangladesh) Teesta water sharing agreement won't work Teesta water serves Bangladesh's North particularly between December and April. The 2011 Teesta Treaty was finalized in 2011 but couldn't be signed due to West Bengal CM's opposition. It lies unattended to since then. In 2021 Modi and Sheikh Hasina had agreed towards a quick resolution and a Framework of Interim Agreement on six common rivers was completed but without West Bengal CM's agreement, this has made no progress. Water sharing projects with India don't work very well so expecting the direct path to a solution seems unfair. Some of the realities are common for both which includes shortage of water. What West Bengal may be doing is a calculated risky decision assuming that Bangladesh won't be able to do much if West Bengal decides to act on its own. West Bengal is right that Bangladesh is not on the weighty side of the negotiating table and so the weaker of the two. It leaves very few options for Bangladesh except to turn to other levers including China. Point is, is Bangladesh ready to act or can it act given the current realities? China, US and Bangladesh That the decision is not a technical problem is important for all parties to understand. India has done well to manipulate the arguments in such a way to make it seem that it's Kolkata not Delhi which is responsible for the non -implementation of the Treaty. Indian writers have also raised environmental and related issues justifying the delays. However, these are Indo-centric and India's environmental sensitivity record is low and convenient as the Farakka barrage problem shows. China has proposed a 1 billion dollar project which India and its ally US have been opposing. For both, the issue is about regional influence and not the environment. That is understandable. However, Bangladesh also has a position which because of its weakness, including military, is not heard. This doesn't just apply in case of India which is a big power but even Myanmar who knows which way a confrontation will go should it happen. The US is emerging as the less useful superpower because it has bought goods but has not played any role in the regional affairs. It's unable to put pressure on India and is much better at dealing with weak states like Pakistan with which it has had many partnerships and political projects. Bangladesh doesn't fit into any of these bills and its weakness is no secret. It really has no options except to side with China. Dhaka's foreign policy observers say that China doesn't go beyond a point in siding with its allies. If a Teesta Treaty with China triggers a quasi-military reaction from India, China won't intervene. But is such a doomsday scenario realistic? However, the unknown appears more real. No matter what, a realistic and practical analysis of the China supported Teesta Treaty will become a necessity soon though not much will move before the elections are over.
Teesta : New trigger for new regional conflict ?
Regional conflict situation may get a boost if India/ West Bengal goes ahead with the Teesta water diversion as per media reports. This will hurt Bangladesh's water share and in the process force it to seek whatever power it can leverage to offset the damage. And that means the entry of China in the game. As can be imagined, it will not be a pleasant addition and escalate the already tense situation in the region including Indo-China relations. Bangladesh is also being pushed on several international fronts including the Myanmar Rohingya issue. The situation in Cox-s bazar zone is becoming very difficult and is reaching a trigger point for wider violence. It's slowly going beyond the capacity of Bangladesh to handle the crisis. Since there can be no military resolution of the problem, it will require international intervention but that is not in sight. Since Bangladesh is being wooed by the US to distance itself from China, it creates an interesting balancing act scenario for all the parties concerned. However that opens up an opportunity for Bangladesh as well. If China doesn't deliver the support it needs, the US wins. And if India's Teesta plan goes ahead, India's better friend the US loses as China has already offered a Teesta deal to Bangladesh which may be considered more seriously then. It's tricky to say the least. Also Read: 'Bangladesh keeping close tabs on India's plan to withdraw Teesta water for West Bengal' The Treaty situation now Teesta is a stalled scenario as it's been 12 years since the move made by India/ West Bengal to divert more water to its hydropower plants and irrigation projects. Some of these projects have been there for a while new projects have been taken up. Meanwhile, the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC), Bangladesh, has moved to lodge a protest with India. "India did not inform us about their move. We are going to send a protest letter to India expressing our concerns and mentioning how the move will affect the ecosystem of the Teesta downstream," said Mohammad Abul Hossen, a member of the JRC, Bangladesh. Indian newspaper The Telegraph on Monday reported that the West Bengal government decided to set up three hydropower plants in Darjeeling and two of them are likely to reduce the volume of water in the Teesta. Last week, the newspaper also reported that the West Bengal government acquired 1,000 acres of land to dig two canals and divert more water from the Teesta to irrigate farms in Jalpaiguri and Cooch Behar districts.' (Daily Star Bangladesh) Teesta water sharing agreement won't work Teesta water serves Bangladesh's North particularly between December and April. The Teesta Treaty was finalized in 2011 but couldn't be signed due to West Bengal CM's opposition. It lies unattended to since then. In 2021 Modi and Sk. Hasina had agreed towards a quick resolution and a Framework of Interim Agreement on six common rivers was completed but without West Bengal CM's agreement, this has made no progress. Water sharing projects with India don't work very well so expecting the direct path to a solution seems unfair. Some of the realities are common for both which includes shortage of water. What West Bengal may be doing is a calculated risky decision assuming that Bangladesh won't be able to do much if West Bengal decides to act on its own. West Bengal is right that Bangladesh is not on the weighty side of the negotiating table and so the weaker of the two. It leaves very few options for Bangladesh except to turn to other levers including China. Point is, is Bangladesh ready to act or can it act given the current realities? China, US and Bangladesh That the decision is not a technical problem is important for all parties to understand. India has done well to manipulate the arguments in such a way to make it seem that it's Kolkata not Delhi which is responsible for the non -implementation of the Treaty. Indian writers have also raised environmental and related issues justifying the delays. However, these are Indo-centric and India's environmental sensitivity record is low and convenient as the Farakka barrage problem shows. China has proposed a 1 billion dollar project which India and its ally US has been opposing. For both, the issue is about regional influence and not the environment. That is understandable. However, Bangladesh also has a position which because of its weakness, including military, is not heard. This doesn't just apply in case of India which is a big power but even Myanmar who knows which way a confrontation will go should it happen. The US is emerging as the less useful superpower because it has bought goods but has not played any role in the regional affairs. It's unable to put pressure on India and is much better at dealing with weak states like Pakistan with which it has had many partnerships and political projects. Bangladesh doesn't fit into any of these bills and its weakness is no secret. It really has no options except to side with China. Dhaka's foreign policy observers say that China doesn't go beyond a point in siding with its allies. If a Teesta Treaty with China triggers a quasi-military reaction from India, China won't intervene. But is such a doomsday scenario realistic? However, the unknown appears more real. No matter what, a realistic and practical analysis of the China supported Teesta Treaty will become a necessity soon though not much will move before the elections are over.
21st February: Is it about everyone or a particular class ?
It’s generally held that Ekushey February is the mother moment of Bangladesh history. It is celebrated nationally to produce the cultural meta imagination of state building called Shaheed Dibash. It;s as much a cultural event as it’s a memorial to the national identity surge that ultimately birthed Bangladesh as the Bengali state. And that is also seen as a fitting rebuttal to the other nationalist surge which supposedly birthed the previous state seeking aspiration, the Muslim state of Pakistan. Mingled into all this is the collateralization of political domination through culture. Politics in most if not all spaces look for the legitimacy that will push it from the realm of political sociology to that of political theology. In that process, Ekushey has become the Big Bang of our state making theology of history. Why and how did that happen? A long history of political claims The class origins of cultural movements are less studied in our world. Over time, such movements are deified and in the process placed outside scrutiny. Cultural events therefore are seen as a fundamental phenomenon that ultimately ends with claims and credit of state making. This has also been the case of Ekushey. But who did it and why is not asked. As a sacred issue, it becomes a historical trigger beyond question and remains less examined. Ekushey signifies the primary marker that became the trigger of history which in turn produced 1971. In the end, the claim of 1952 is actually about who owns the state that 1971 gave birth to. Cultural identity is used to describe qualifications regarding the ownership of the state. State ownership qualifications State identity markers are multiple and sourced from all dimensions of society. They are from race, ethnicity, language, faith, territory, class clusters etc. Every person carries several of these markers so it becomes a contest of proving which marker is dominant historically hence has the right to claim ownership or dominance. One purpose of single markers is their unifying role in a nation-state making project. It’s necessary to unite them under one meta banner of uncontested "sacred" identity markers ignoring or diminishing other markers. This has been observed in South Asian history consistently. Establishing a “nation-state” exclusive to one identity allows effective denial of diversity and rights of others even when the demand for a state began with resistance to denial. Hence the culturalization of politics has become a very important exercise as it defines controlling political state management schemes. Thus they are not "cultural" in its commonly understood sense but act as an aid of political control of a class or group. Cultural processes have no objective of controlling but its political users do. The process of amalgamating both cultural and political is therefore critical to achieve this. Ekushey as the ultimate national icon fulfills those objectives. Socio economics of state making identities Such icons have dominant and subsidiary characteristics. Their proximity to the socio-economic space is important in understanding the semiotics of the event and its purpose. Ekushey also needs to be interpreted by tracing its location, participants and ultimate iconization. Ekushey is a dominantly a protest movement that began in the Dhaka city as a reaction to the marginalization of Bengali in state institutions and economic accessing system including civil service exams. Its leadership came from the elite educated minority. This narrative established the dominant identity defining the aspired for state. It was this class’s main issue but was projected as the meta national issue of all. Bengali identity was projected as the dominant construction of the national liberation movement and described as the prime marker. In the process the bearers of the elite “salariat” class became prime interpreters of the state objective as well. Language loyalty meant discarding religious identity. Pakistan was considered "Islamic" and Bangladesh was considered "Bengali" hence it was projected as a either or situation. In reality, putting two identities from different baskets made little sense but it was not a cultural issue but political. So it became a vehicle for state making nationalism. That both were present in Bangladeshis were ignored for the moment in striving for state making by the middle class Ekushe based leadership. 1971 politics of state making 1971 shows that the most robust resistance to Pakistan came from the peasantry who had little to do with cultural markers like language and religion as they were dominated by agriculture not formal state institution based official employment or urban cultural activities. They had little education so language mattered even less. They, to put it mildly, were not “Bengali nationalists” They had no discernible socio-economic stake in the language issue. Current research shows that the peasantry interprets the world differently from the middle class and produces and follows their own historical streams. What is also clear is that a state is not a monolithic interest or identity driven project but one which encapsulates many ideas and identities. If that is so, the search for the nature of the state and its actual identity must continue instead of settling for a single class’s version of history, culture and more importantly politics. Read more: Research is vital to preserve, revitalise and develop mother languages: PM
No room for confusion over whether the president’s post is profitable or not
The Awami League candidate Md Shahabuddin was elected unopposed in the recent presidential election. Shahabuddin is a former commissioner of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). According to the ACC Act, no commissioner shall be eligible for appointment to any office of profit in the republic after retirement. Now after Shahabuddin was elected president, there has been a new discussion on whether the position is “profitable” or not. The constitution does not say anything about whether the post of president is profitable or not. But it has been debated before and in 1996 the High Court ruled in a writ petition that the post of president was “not profitable”. Awami League nominated former Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed for the president after coming to power in 1996. Challenging the matter, it was said in a case that after retiring from the post of chief justice, one cannot sit in any profitable position in the state. According to the law, the Election Commission has expressed its opinion on whether the post of president is “profitable” or not. “The post of president is not profitable. This is a constitutional position. In that case, there is no legal obstacle to Shahabuddin’s assumption of the office of president.” “The court has already given a decision about a retiring chief justice. A former commissioner will be held to the same standard… Md. Shahabuddin’s election to the presidency is valid,” Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Kazi Habibul Awal said on February 15, 2023. As per the judgment, the current president-elect, even though he was an ACC commissioner, has no legal bar to assume the presidency. When the Election Commission selects nomination papers of candidates for the post of president, it takes the decision considering the law. Read: Controversy over President-elect unexpected: CEC The law clearly states what is meant by the term “profitable”. In the case of posts of profit, it is said that if the government has more than 50% of the money in an institution engaged in the work of the republic, then the appointment will be called a “post of profit”. The president’s or the prime minister’s posts are constitutional. Since they are constitutional posts, they do not come under the definition of “profitable posts”. If there is not more than one candidate, and after selecting the nomination papers, if it is found that the nomination papers are correct and valid, then he/she will be declared elected at that time. There is no need to wait for it to be withdrawn. The Awami League nominated Md. Shahabuddin on February 12. The Election Commission (EC) announced him as the next president on February 13, as he was the only candidate for this post. The current president Abdul Hamid’s term expires on April 24. When the World Bank removed itself from the Padma Bridge project on false allegations of corruption, Md. Shahabuddin – as an ACC commissioner at that time – proved that there was no corruption in the project. Because of his role, the allegations were proven false in Canadian court, and Bangladesh’s image was restored. As ACC Commissioner, Md. Shahabuddin gave courage to PM Sheikh Hasina. Awami League under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina has been in power for more than 14 consecutive years. Sheikh Hasina’s visionary decision-making was again demonstrated during the nomination of the new president. A president is the symbol of unity and sovereignty of the country. That is why she chose someone eminently qualified for the president’s post. Read: BNP maintains silence on President-elect Shahabuddin After Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina assumed office in 1996, she nominated Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed as president to keep the presidency above party identity. That nomination was an exceptional decision then. The election of a president without party affiliation was widely applauded. Leaders and activists received a message on what will be the form of party nomination. She also gave a message to political parties and civil society who are “concerned” about the elections. The next national election is a big challenge for the Awami League and the government. By choosing a man experienced in politics, administration and law as the head of state during that election, Sheikh Hasina has once again demonstrated her statesmanship. The message is: she still has more surprises in the bag. Hiren Pandit is a columnist and researcher.
Hero Alam's crusade goes on
So this guy Hero Alam, a bad singer, an even worse actor with a scruffy look is riling up the establishment like few have done before. They call him “uncouth, uncultured, lower class, uneducated “and the rest but his admirers don’t seem to care. He has become a hate figure to many particularly of the shushil class of Bangladesh’s urban elite who see everything wrong with what he represents or his persona does. But they can't stop him in any way. That’s what hurts. The closest they came to was when he was taken in and told by the police not to sing those songs which offend shushil sensitivities particularly of the Tagore variety. Apparently, several top notch shushils and singers had complained about his music to the police. He was released but after he had to promise to follow musical rules framed by the police of all forces of law and order of the state. One is lucky that it was not RAB which took him in. Luckily US sanctions were in place. A thorn in the flesh That arrest turned into a mishap for the establishment as social media lit up and Hero Alam himself went on various social media chat shows and described his situation and experience. It was ludicrous to say the least to get the police involved in the matter by the government. If bad music is a law and order problem, speeches and jokes often used by many political leaders should keep the police busy for many hours everyday. Sadly, worse followed for the establishment. The singing matter ended there but the next thing one hears is that Hero Alam was trying to stand in the parliamentary by-elections. Lot of jokes later, when the results came out, it showed that Hero Alam was beaten but narrowly, by less than a 1000 votes. The candidate who won, was a non-entity at the national level but Hero’s loss became bigger news than JSD’ candidate Tansen’s victory. Since Tansen was an AL supported candidate, people did the usual electoral math and concluded that Hero Alam was forcibly defeated to keep him out of the parliament. Of course manipulation was denied by the EC who also tried to sound a touch dismissive but worse for everyone concerned, Hero Alam came out looking better than ever. And people believed Alam’s words rather than the EC’s. Read more: Hero Alam: Making shushils and politicians uneasy It seems something bigger is going on around the person and his ‘antics’ than singing and voting. This ‘uppity ' man from somewhere outside Dhaka and the rural backwoods , with an uncertain profession, a slightly sleazy love life, and headline grabbing skills has made the establishment look rather silly and downright cloddy. As if that isn’t enough, someone gifts him a microbus and Alam donates it which no one does. And all this before he even makes it to the House. The establishment hits back UNB reports says that the Highway Police fined Ashraful Hossain Alam aka Hero Alam for speeding on his way to Chunarughat upazila from Bogura in Habiganj on Tuesday. He was fined Taka 2500. He had gone to Narporti village in Chunarughat to receive a microbus from the Abdul Jabbar Gaucchia Academy Principal M Mokhlichhur Rahman who announced it on FB as a token of his esteem and standing in the election. In response Hero Alam received the car and then announced it would be used as an ambulance or to ferry dead bodies to graves. The police move was one of the worst examples of taking an action which smells of vindictiveness. In a country where ministers think nothing of going the wrong way in their official flag flying car in high traffic of Dhaka, bikes use the pavement as a sub-road and cars park on pavements making it impossible to use, the concept of traffic rules violation doesn’t even exist. And in that ecology, a speeding ticket doesn’t even qualify as a joke. So why is the establishment so worried about him? The rise of the under class Hero Alam signifies the rise of the underclass, both as individuals and through cultural idioms. The monopoly which the shushils enjoy in terms of deciding what qualifies as proper particularly in culture was first threatened by the rise of the rural religious cultures. Apart from politics, Hefaozot’s Dhaka siege showed that they were rising and could travel down both physically and socially. However, It’s easy to dismiss the waz crowd or the Hefazot and Tabligh culture because they occupy a religious hence alien space to the “modern and secular” shushil culture which includes political parties and clusters too. But this is where the Hero Alam threat is pushing them. He is not alien in terms of cultural form to the urban elite or shushils all over Bangladesh. Hero Alam may do it badly but he does whatever they all do in their common space. He sings their songs, mimics their heroes and icons and even womanizes like them. One may dislike him and most shushils do but one can’t dismiss his cultural form because it’s the same as that of the shushil elite. Hero Alam and his tribe are coming and may soon overrun the shushil monopoly which is why so much anxiety pervades their camp. But his horde is probably unstoppable going by the way history has gone. The underclass may prevail over the fancier sounding and looking class. And that is what it's all about.
Creating skilled manpower for a ‘Smart Bangladesh’
The government has set a target to build a ‘Smart Bangladesh’ by 2041. Work has already started towards this end. About one crore Bangladeshis are working abroad in different countries of the world. About 7.6 million of them have no job training and the remaining have received training in any of the four categories of technical education, languages, computers, and driving. Among the expat Bangladeshis, the number of doctors, engineers, teachers and degree holders in vocational education is quite low. Various developments in technology have brought about revolutionary changes in the economic, political and social structures of the whole world. Now the global value of technical know-how is easily understandable. It is possible to increase the inward remittance from the manpower sector several times. The fourth industrial revolution is now coming to the fore in the world. Keeping this in mind, the government is developing skilled manpower. People of the country should be more skilled in technical and tech-based education and training, so that they can keep up with the changing world. Skilled manpower can contribute to the development sector of the country. Changes in our education system is needed to create a more skilled human resource. Higher education institutions can play a major role in this regard. That is why reorganizing higher education is imperative to survive in an increasingly competitive world. Realizing this need for skilled human resources, the Ministry of Education and the University Grants Commission have started reorganizing the education system with the aim of developing manpower suitable for the fourth industrial revolution. Bangladesh is continuously connecting with the global economy. Our communication channels are: export, import, investment, and temporary migration. Bangladesh’s imports are much more than exports. Therefore, increasing investment (foreign) in the country and exporting manpower are the main means of strengthening the economy. Foreign investment will increase only when the country has sufficient resources, such as mines or land, capital, or manpower. Unskilled manpower does not encourage foreign investment. In this case, only investment will be made in labor dependent sectors. In countries where labor skills are high, there is also more foreign investment. The same is the case with manpower exports. Workers are needed abroad. However, the demand for skilled workers is constantly increasing. Skilled workers earn about 10 times more than unskilled workers. The skill of the worker depends on the quality of education. So, changing the quality of education is important, and it will not be possible to change the education system through conventional thinking. The fourth industrial revolution is giving a new dimension to human civilization. The processes and possibilities of this revolution are already being widely discussed worldwide. Discussion is going on in our country too. Through this discussion, the prime minister and the adviser on information and communication technology are working tirelessly to create awareness among the people and make Bangladesh suitable for leading the fourth industrial revolution. As we know, the fourth industrial revolution is a fusion of physical, digital and biological spheres. It is difficult to separate these three. What is the result of this? What kind of changes are happening in society? This results in intellectualization, human-machine interfaces, and the merging of reality and virtuality. To prepare us for the fourth industrial revolution, emotional intelligence, physical intelligence, and social intelligence must be introduced. There are a few things we can do to prepare this generation for this unknown future. Information is a powerful element of civilizational change. The technological upheaval of the fourth industrial revolution is everywhere. This revolution is causing drastic changes in the world of thought, production, and service delivery. People’s lifestyles and the nature of the world are changing too. Artificial intelligence, robotics, the internet of things, virtual reality, 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies are part of the revolution. The scale of this revolution, technology-based modernity and its associated complex system are also presenting a major test for the ability of the governments around the world. This is especially true when the government is committed to inclusive development by “leaving no one behind” in light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sustainable development, reducing inequality, safe work and responsible consumption and production are key challenges to implementing and achieving the SDGs. Platforms like 'Kishore Batayan' and 'Shikshak Batayan' have been developed in collaboration with a2i to make education easier. As technology has become accessible to every citizen of the country, tech-based services are being made available to marginalized groups. Technology has become a trusted medium in all citizen services and lifestyles. In response to the fourth industrial revolution, the information technology sector of Bangladesh has emphasized various infrastructural developments, including the development of skilled human resources. Bangladesh is striving to be among the top 50 countries in the United Nations e-Governance Development Index in the next five years. Five initiatives of ‘Digital Bangladesh’ have been internationally acclaimed. They are Digital Centre, Service Innovation Fund, Empathy Training, TCV (Time, Cost and Visit) and SDGs Tracker. With the help of information technology, young people are building small and big IT firms, e-commerce sites, app-based services and other organizations. Besides, some major achievements include Bangladesh's first satellite in space. If the data protection law is passed, foreign authorities including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter will be forced to have offices in this country and keep the country's information in local data center. Creating awareness among the people is going to make Bangladesh suitable for leading the fourth industrial revolution and creating skilled manpower. Reskilling, upskilling and deskilling methods should be kept in mind. Existing learning programs should be accompanied by other digital-based systems, such as e-learning and online learning systems. That is, educational programs should be designed to develop technically skilled manpower. We have to follow the technical education model of different countries including Germany, Japan, Singapore, Australia, China, South Korea, and Malaysia. The technical education rate in Germany is 73 percent. It is necessary to adopt a master plan to raise the education rate to at least 60 percent in the country. Countries like Malaysia, Singapore and China have developed technical education at the root of their development. In preparation for the fourth industrial revolution, the Bangladesh government is going to include coding in the school curriculum. Investment in information and communication technology infrastructure in schools has increased under the Digital Bangladesh project. But the reality is that the education system of rural Bangladesh has not yet prepared our children and youths for the fourth industrial revolution. The rate of participation and use of technology has increased but the quality has not changed. Uneven technology investments are difficult to sustain in the context of such a fragile public education system. It will further increase social inequality. Public technology investment in health, education, and trade is pushing Southeast Asian countries towards the fourth industrial revolution. Malaysia has been able to achieve great improvement in the field of education within just one year of technological reforms during the pandemic. There is hope. Recently the five-year plan for the 'National Artificial Intelligence Strategy' has been undertaken by the government. But without solving the root problem, these plans will not bring much benefit. Bangladesh has not developed enough human resources with innovative knowledge, high skills, deep thinking and problem-solving skills. Therefore, the government has to hire experienced and skilled consultants from neighboring and other countries in various development projects and foreign investment areas. According to economists, more than 5 billion dollars are going out of the country due to this. Bangladesh's increasing progress and success in socioeconomic development is globally recognized. Bangladesh's agriculture-based economy is gradually changing to an industrial and service-driven economy. On the other hand, the most rapid change is happening in the technology sector. Japan overcame all natural odds by converting its population into skilled manpower. This example from Japan is most relevant to us. If we can convert the vast young population of Bangladesh into skilled resources, it is not impossible for us to become a developed country. Our curriculum is not very coherent with the kind of knowledge and skills required in the industry. Bangladesh is still far behind in artificial intelligence, IoT, and blockchain technology. Hopefully, the government is giving importance to three things as the basis of the fourth industrial revolution. These are: development of the industry through innovation, creation of a trained workforce, and the conservation of the environment. The implementation of this announcement by the Prime Minister requires massive public-private joint ventures. Only then will we be able to reach our desired goal, we will be able to build the “Sonar Bangla” of Bangabandhu's dream. Our Ministry of Education, National Skill Development Authority, Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority, and Hi-Tech Park should unite and take short, medium and long-term plans for the development of technical education with the understanding of the fourth industrial revolution wholeheartedly, and the government should increase the development budget in this sector. Otherwise, we will lag behind in the competition and face challenges in attracting foreign investment. Information technology has brought a new dimension to the economic activities of the country. The convenience of financial transactions as a result of mobile banking has made life easier for common people. Advances in information technology have led to a proliferation of startup culture. Women are also involved in information technology. The presence of women entrepreneurs is increasing. There are about 20,000 Facebook pages for shopping in the country. Work is going on efficiently. This is how our beloved Bangladesh will move towards Smart Bangladesh. Hiren Pandit is a columnist and researcher.
Hero Alam: Making shushils and politicians uneasy
It doesn’t matter that Hero Alam lost by less than a thousand votes to a JSD candidate supported by the ruling party. Not many people know Tansen(JSD) outside his area but Hero Alam is a national figure, like it or not. He had a serious encounter with the law enforcers a few months back when police hauled him in and told him not to sing certain songs. His stocks rose more after that. This scolding for singing is possible only in Bangladesh where the police are better as music critics than catching thieves and other assorted criminals. Hero Alam does many other things and was up and running after a few weeks of slowing down. And then he went for elections. After a lot of drama over his nomination seeking, he finally managed to make it to the polls. What his running mean His election was covered by national media but the serious and shushil media never paid much attention to him as a proper candidate. He was a “clown” candidate. But then it’s inevitable. Hero Alam is neither shushil nor a political elite. That means neither AL or the BNP and their underlings. Like it or not, Hero Alam belongs to the people much more than conventional politicians do. Some people of the “serious” type may see him as a joke but he is not so to the voters as the numbers show. And that is the problem for many. The establishment can’t tolerate him but the people can. And that is why he nearly won. Or maybe as Hero Alam has said, “he was made to lose.” Read more: Is Hero Alam the problem or social media ? Some in the Opposition are saying that it was a fixed election and shows that EVMs are all under the control of the EC and all that. But the Opposition are no different from the ruling party because they have their own shushil brigade and Hero Alam is just not that. The rise of the underclass as politicians BD politics is run by shushils and politicians, basically the middle and upper class alliance. And Hero Alam is not that. He belongs to that segment of society which has emerged after 1971, the vast rural sea. The “crudeness” of his cultural behavior shocks many because it’s so “peasanty” , uppity if you will. He has no “sophistication”, no “slickness” and his Tagore songs are not like swans in a swoon. But that’s what he is and without fear. He signifies the growing strength of the underclass which is very established economically and is now knocking on the doors of the ruling class. There should be many reasons to feel anxious when he has come so close. Hero Alam’s victory would have been too much and prayers are being said in appropriate places that he failed. He may also have been forcibly failed, as the candidate has said. Media reports that there was a Hero Alam wave among the voters. But that’s another matter. What matters is that he has arrived and there is a definite sign that the underclass is finally putting pressure on the traditional conventional ruling class .
The Triumphant Return of the Greatest Bengali
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returned to the conquered country 25 days after independence of Bangladesh - on January 10, 1972. There is no such homecoming in the history. Homecoming is not just a come back to 'sweet home,' a return to the country, the soil of the country, and the people after a lifelong struggle to finally return to the firm hope of building a dream-Sonar Bangla (Golden Bengal). Waiting for 28 days (9 months 12 days) to return home as a winner, while in the prison in Pakistan it was either death, or freedom. No, not death; Sheikh Mujib made the independence of his men and motherland after about 23 years of struggle, and a total of 13 years of imprisonment. He faced execution twice (1969 and 1971) but survived to implement the country's independence. When the Bengalis was united for independence at the call of Bangabandhu, the Pakistani military launched a brutal attack on the night of March 25, 1971 on the independence-loving Bengalis and arrested Bangabandhu from his Dhanmondi residence on March 26 at 1.20 pm, shortly after he declared the independence of Bangladesh. He could have escaped if he wanted to. But Bangabandhu was not such a man. In an interview with British journalist David Fraser, he made it clear: 'I thought it is better I die and at least save my people who love me so much. I am their leader, I will embrace death if necessary, but why should I escape? 'However, after the victory of Bangladesh, on international pressure Bangabandhu was released from prison on the morning of January 8, 1972. After his release, he returned to the country on January 10, 1972, via London and Delhi. When the plane carrying Bangabandhu touched the runway of Tejgaon Airport that afternoon, countless crowds greeted their undisputed leader with cheers and sky-scraping 'Joy Bangla' slogans. Bangabandhu went to Suhrawardy Udyan (then Racecourse Maidan) straight from the airport, where he one day urged millions of Bengalis to jump into the freedom struggle. There, he congratulated the country's people in an emotional voice for snatching victory in the bloody liberation war and called upon all to dedicate themselves to rebuilding the war-torn country. Read More: Bangabandhu’s Homecoming Day today As soon as he returned to the country on January 10, 1972, getting him back alive millions of Bengalis welcomed him at the historic Suhrawardy Udyan, where once he called for independence ten months back. He firmly called upon people, "If my people are killed again, then my request to you is: 'build fortress in every home'. In his words, the desire to liberate the motherland has fascinated the whole nation, provoked, 'Remember, since we have given blood, we will give more, by we will surely liberate liberate the people of this country, inshallah.' He emphasized, 'The struggle this time is the struggle for our liberation. The struggle this time is the struggle for our independence.' After returning to the country, the father of the nation started tidying up the country. In the beginning, he gave his focus in formulating the state policies- the principles on which the new country Bangladesh would be governed. Mujibbad gave a remarkable imprint of the life, culture, and heritage of the land and people of the country in politics, gifted with his political experience, wisdom, foresight, and the uniqueness of independent Bengal. He was not unaware of the plight of ordinary people in the war-torn country. He expressed his determination to alleviate their suffering as follows: "From today my request, from today my command, from today my order, as a brother-not as a leader, nor as to the president or as the prime minister, I am your brother, you are my brothers. This independence of mine will be futile-if the people of my Bengal are not fully fed on rice, this independence of mine will not be fulfilled-if the mothers and sisters of Bengal do not get clothes, this independence of mine will not be fulfilled-if the mothers and sisters of this country do not get clothes for the protection of their modesty, this independence of mine will not be fulfilled-if the people of this country, the youth of mine, do not find employment or do not get jobs." Read More: Anne de Henning’s rare photos of Bangladesh’s birth, Bangabandhu to have Dhaka exhibit Dec 15-24 The drafting of the constitution reflected the idea of local, and not the imitation of other developed countries. The views of the people were reflected in the constitution; 98 recommendations were adopted on the basis of public opinion. Bangabandhu always emphasized the will and needs of the people first. In just nine months, Bangabandhu presented the nation with one of the world's best constitutions, which was adopted by the National Assembly on November 4, 1972, and came into effect from December 16 (Victory Day). Speaking on the constitution in the parliament, the country's architect said: "This constitution is written in the blood of the martyrs. This constitution will survive as a tangible symbol of the hopes and aspirations of the entire people." It is unknown whether anyone else in history got a chance to speak about the passion and love that Bangabandhu expressed at the people's reception at all levels. Emotional Bangabandhu said at that auspicious time; my Bangladesh has become independent today. "My Bangladesh has been independent today, my life's desire has been fulfilled today, the people of my Bengal have been liberated today. My Bengal will remain free. Today I won't be able to make a speech. The way the sons of Bengal, the mothers of Bengal, the peasants of Bengal, the laborers of Bengal, the intellectuals of Bengal did struggle, I was imprisoned, was ready and waiting to go to the gallows. But I knew that they could not suppress my Bangalees. The people of my Bengal would be liberated." Read More: ‘Intense, fragile, powerful’: Forbes effusively lauds Paris exhibit on Bangladesh’s birth, Bangabandhu Sitting in a dark cell of a prison (multiple prisons - Karachi, Faisalabad) and dreaming of freedom, he was not sure he would return to his beloved motherland alive. "I did not know I would return to you", fascinated by the motherland, Bangabandhu uttered. "I have come. I did not know I was sentenced to death by hanging. A grave was dug for me beside my cell. I prepared myself, I said I'm a Bangalee, I'm a man, I'm a Muslim-who dies once not twice. I said, if death comes to me, I'll die laughing." Although Bangabandhu was imprisoned in Pakistan from March 26, 1971 to January 8, 1972 (9 months and 12 days), obviously he was alive in Bangladesh's consciousness and liberation struggle, and inspired them for nine months. He was the President of the Mujibnagar Government and the first President of the country. In his physical absence or absence, the four national leaders conducted the Mujibnagar government i.e., the war of liberation, by embracing his ideals, thoughts, and consciousness. Although he was in prison in Pakistan, he was not unaware of the atrocities that the Pakistanis had inflicted on the Bengalis in the nine-month war. Mentioning that 3 million people have been killed in the war, Bangabandhu aggrieved, "In the Second World War and also in the First World War, such a number of people, such a number of common citizens did not die, were not martyred, which happened in my 7-crore people's Bangladesh." While in prison in Pakistan, he was never disturbed or intimidated by the thought of execution. His compassion for the country was expressed in his speech: "I told just one thing, I have no objection if you kill me. Please return my dead body to my Bangalees, this is my only request to you." He was a prison, but he believed that no one could keep the Bengalis in suppress. Bangladesh would be independent. And so he prepared in his mind about what to build an independent country. That is why he did not have to hurry or take time to concentrate on the task of building a Sonar Bangla, including the drafting of the constitution in the earliest possible time. The ruthless Pakistani military could not kill this great humane-the leader of the seven-crore Bangali. But he had to give his life in the hands of his 'loved' ones, in the plan of the very own traitors, while the chief mastermind Mushtaq sent the cooked the sand duck to Bangabandhu's home just two days ago (13 August). Who knew that this 'lovely' feast was also an exercise in plotting to assassinate Bangabandhu! By killing Bangabandhu, the murderous circle silenced his dream of Sonar Bangla. The Bangladeshi forms of politics that he has formulated in this country taken from the soil and people's lives was also blocked. When the people of Bangladesh, under the leadership of Bangabandhu, were determined to transform the country into Sonar Bangla in a democratic state system with a secular mindset of the 1970s, they stopped that progress by killing him and went back to the 'religion'-centric social divisions like the 1940s. Read More: What Was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's Childhood Like? But the killers did not know that Bangabandhu could be killed and could not be kept suppressed (dabay rakha). He was, is, and will, always be. That is why the people overthrew the then military government in the late 1990s, overcoming all obstacles and bearing his secular mentality. He has always been equally popular, no matter whether his party is in power or not. For example, in a 2004 BBC poll, Bangabandhu was elected the greatest Bengali of all time (then the BNP-led government in power (2001-2006)). In 2005, the High Court quashed the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution and ruled to restore the 1972 constitution, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2010. Meanwhile, since 2010, people have rallied in various places, including the capital, to restore the 1972 constitution. In this favorable environment, the government led by his daughter restored the main provisions of the 1972 constitution in 2011. In addition to any emergency of the Awami League, Bangabandhu is still more relevant and influential in any crisis of the nation. As long as Bangladesh, so long Bangabandhu. In fact, Bangladesh and Bangabandhu are synonymous. On the question of Bangabandhu's relevance, Bengali economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen recently stated that 'Bangabandhu and his ideals are still relevant'. He further emphasized that Bangabandhu's philosophy and ideology should be imitated in the conflicting contemporary world, especially in South and South-East Asia. Bangabandhu's need for secularism and religious freedom in resolving ethnic and religious conflicts not only in Asia but also in the Western world is undeniable and socialist democracy is essential to build an exploitation-free society. The country lost its genuine architect and friend- Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib a quarter century ago. But he was, is, will be in the arteries of Bengalis: "As long as Padma, Meghna, Gouri, Jamuna flows on, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, your accomplishment will also live on." Read More: Ideals of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Can Inspire the Young Generation Dr. Ala Uddin, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Chittagong. Email: [email protected]
Why hasn’t the UN recognised 1971 Bangladesh Genocide yet?
Seventy-five years after the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide came into force, one of its glaring failures has been not recognising the 1971 Bangladesh genocide and the 2017 genocide against the Rohingyas in Myanmar. This not only saddens us in Bangladesh, it also upsets many who have followed large scale massacre of human beings in various parts of the post-colonial world. Polish Jewish refugee lawyer Raphael Lemkin coined the word “genocide” in 1943 to describe the killing and destruction of people. The word is derived from the Greek “genos” (people, tribe or race) and the Latin “cide” (killing) against the backdrop of the Holocaust, that Winston Churchill said was a “crime without a name”. But Churchill’s double-standards remained the enduring feature of Western standpoint on how they look at a genocide or large scale engineered deaths. Churchill, the British “hero” who guided the Allies to victory in World War II and who attacked Hitler and the Nazis over the Jewish Holocaust, has been held responsible for triggering the Bengal famine that led to 3 million deaths in what was then undivided Bengal, the largest province of British India. Read more: 'Recognising the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971': ICSF welcomes US Congress initiative Madhusree Mukerjee, whose “Churchill’s Secret War” created waves and rattled many a British colonial apologist, has gone on record to equate Hitler’s extermination of 10 million Jews with Churchill’s presiding over the death of three million Bengalis through a famine orchestrated by policies linked to the British war effort. On December 9, 1948, the international community formally adopted a definition of genocide within the 1948 Convention – essentially enshrining the message of “never again” in international law. Rachel Burns of the York University questions whether the convention has achieved what it set out to do and focused on three of its key areas of failure. · First, the very application of the term “genocide” is applied too slowly and cautiously when atrocities happen. · Second, the international community fails to act effectively against genocides. · Third, too few perpetrators are actually convicted of their crimes. Read more: Declare Pakistan army action in 1971 ‘Genocide’: US congressmen introduce resolution Burns points to the many genocides that have occurred since the 1948 Convention and its ratification in 1951, and then points to the only three that have been legally recognised – and led to trials – under the convention: Rwanda in 1994, Bosnia (and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre), and Cambodia under the 1975-9 Pol Pot regime. Burns refers to the widespread killing and displacement of Yazidi by IS and of Rohingyas in Myanmar which are ongoing and recognised by the UN as a whole, but are yet to be officially recognised as genocides by some individual states. Similarly, 13 years after atrocities took place in the Sudanese region of Darfur, criminal investigations continue but no official charges of genocide have been made under the convention. Political scientist Adam Jones names the genocides committed under Saddam Hussein against the Kurds in 1988-91 in Iraq, and the genocide committed by West Pakistan forces against Bangladeshis in 1971. “And the list of ‘genocides’ that might fall under the UN definition is frighteningly long. The International Criminal Court is investigating several states in which human rights violations and war crimes ‘may’ have occurred,” says Rachel Burns. Read more: 1971 genocide: Need to work together to get recognition from UN, says DU VC As a passionate and patriotic Bangladeshi, I would like to argue that the UN should prioritize recognising the 1971 East Pakistan genocide against Bengalis for three reasons: · The number of people killed in then East Pakistan by Pakistani forces (regular army and collaborators) between March and December 1971 far exceeds the numbers of victims of the three genocides recognised by the UN. Nearly 3 million Bengalis of all faiths were massacred by the Pakistani forces. In comparison, 1.5 to 2 million deaths occurred at the hands of the murderous Khmer Rouge but these deaths were over a four year period between 1975 and 1979. Between 500000 to 650000 Tutsis were massacred by Hutus during the Rwandan civil war between April and August 1994. And the Balkan genocide casualty toll never crossed six digits. · The genocide in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was not just limited to random killings but involved both targeted murders (of intellectuals to leave behind a brain deficit) and also largescale rapes (nearly 300,000) of Bengali women as well as arson. · This genocide was carried out by the Pakistan army – and not by militias – which has since been designated by US and NATO as an “useful ally in the war against terror”. Read More: Chitra erosion threatens mass grave of 1971 in Magura A recognition of the 1971 East Pakistan genocide by the UN is not only important for the global body to regain its credibility and effectiveness but also to expose a military institution which is seen as of much strategic value in the West. The West has been fooled, somewhat willfully, into believing that the Pakistan army is useful in fighting terror in Afghanistan. There is enough evidence now to suggest that the Pakistani generals were always running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. They were allowing US and NATO a springboard for anti-Taliban operations but were also allowing Taliban safe shelter, training and weapons in Pakistan, without which the Taliban would have never survived, let alone emerge victorious to take over the country. The least the West, especially the US (which is very vocal about human rights violations in Bangladesh now), can do is to take the initiative to officially recognise the 1971 East Pakistan genocide. They should stop fooling their own citizens and taxpayers about the role of the Pakistani army in the war against terror. By recognising the 1971 genocide, they can hold the Pakistan army accountable for denying Bengalis the right to life during the Liberation War. Recognition of both 1971 East Pakistan genocide and the 2017 Rohingya genocide will help call out and expose two evil military institutions who threaten democracy and dignity of life in our part of the world. It is high time the West stops chasing phantoms and does its bit to punish mass murderers in our region. Otherwise, their sermons on human rights just ring hollow. Read More: Brave Women Freedom Fighters of Bangladesh’s 1971 Liberation War Seventy-five years after the UN Convention, Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel’s “never again” for genocide remains “a prayer, a promise, a vow” but also a frequent reality. And their frequent recurrence owes much to how many genocides have gone unrecognised and unpunished. Tarana Halim, an actress and lawyer, is a former Bangladeshi minister. She is now president of Bangabandhu Sanskritic Jote, a front for cultural movement against radicalism. She is also a member of Awami League central committee.