THERE is no dearth of bogeys in Bangladesh – we have bogeys of militants, conspiracies, threats to national security, threat to democracy and civil wars. A combination of these bogeys have often been used by different groups of people at different times either to capture state power or to maintain a hold on state power or to consolidate state power or to divert public attention away from some prevailing economic, social or political problems.
More often, these bogeys have been used by governments to impose some form of repressive, totalitarian control on the people and resources of our state. Consider, for example, the fact that every time a martial law was imposed, threats to national security and sovereignty were invoked; every time the political parties wanted to get back to power, threats to and conspiracies against democracy were invoked and the emergency imposed on January 11, 2007 was on the bogey of civil war.
Events and incidents were initiated or instigated to create ‘critical junctures’ which were then used to cynically manipulate public perceptions of prevailing situations, spawning mass phobias, generating social and political unrests, ending in nothing more than a replacement of one group of people in power with another group. Such has been the scene of politics, government and governance in Bangladesh since its independence in December 1971.
The BDR rebellion of February 25-26 and the mass killing of army officers was one such instigated incident of creating ‘critical junctures’ and the Awami League government in power is using it for all it is worth, recalling every bogey – militants, conspiracies, threats to national security, threat to democracy and civil wars – to what end is difficult to understand or justify.
Lieutenant Colonel (retd) Faruk Khan, the commerce minister and now the coordinator of investigation, who ought to have known better, has started this whole train of bogeys by claiming that militants are behind the BDR massacres. To manipulate and enhance public perception of this ‘militant threat’ bogey, the AL government has gone to the limit of constructing bunkers in front of the official residence of the prime minister, allowing the media to freely take photographs of these ‘defensive’ measures and splash them across every newspaper and TV screen on March 17 and 18.
In recalling all these bogeys, the Awami League is missing out on the point that these are rationalisations ‘after the event’ of the BDR massacres. From 9:30am on February 25, when the mutiny started, to 8:00pm on February 26, when the mutiny ended, the mutineers were given sufficient time, opportunities and space to carry out all the massacres, looting, burning and raping because the Awami League failed to visualise the situation and take immediate measures to contain and mitigate the disaster. So much for the bogey of civil war!
As for the bogeys of militants, conspiracies, threats to national security, threat to democracy, etc, the point that the Awami League is missing out is: are these threats against the nation-state or against the AL government or against the person of the prime minister? If these threats are against the prime minister and the government, constructing bunkers around the secretariat and the prime minister’s residence are tolerable but if these threats are against the nation-state, as the Awami League confusedly wishes to imply, why is the government not constructing bunkers for every household of common citizenry?
Or are the 150 million people of this country not worth protecting? In either case, constructing media-friendly, photogenic bunkers are not going to deter ‘militants’ who hoodwinked the all-powerful DGFI, the Bangladesh Army and the absolute majority winning Awami League to carry out the massacre of army officers at Pilkhana between February 25 and 26. So, the ‘public’ is taking all these recalling of bogeys not with a pinch of salt but with a whole plateful of the stuff.
Most importantly, the Awami League is missing out on the point that recalling and raising bogeys will create uncertainties that will impact on our economy, which is already in severe difficulties. Investments both at home and from abroad will dry up, businesses, trade and commerce will decline further, prices and inflation will rise, making life and living for the populace even more difficult than it is right now. The ‘public’ is not going to view that with equanimity or tolerance and public support for the AL government is going to plummet, creating a renewed ‘loss of confidence’ in politics, government and governance – that’s not going to be good for the Awami League and democracy because the military might decide to once again invoke the bogeys of civil war and threats to national security and sovereignty and impose another martial law.
So, bogeys cut both ways and the Awami League needs to be very careful, indeed, about how it recalls bogeys.