Bengal psyche, our politics and football World Cup

18 December 2022

A. R. Farrukh Ahamed :
'Khela hobe (Game to be played)' frequently uttered in many party meetings by the Awami League secretary Obaidul Quader is now the most-talked-about political prank in Bangladesh. Though such game is not new in the country, this time in patrolling the power for the next national election, it gets extra attention as political rivalry between the Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has almost reached its peak. However in Bengal psyche, for a trifling matter making division among its own people has become very common. When we enjoy any international football event, we easily divide ourselves into two groups like Argentina and Brazil.  Bangla daily Prothom Alo on 14 December reported, almost 12 people have lost lives in a month due to 2022 World Cup football madness. They died in clashes due to arguments over football, falling from the roof while pulling the flag or being electrocuted, and suffering from heart disease while watching the game. Most of them are teenagers and young adults. Besides, at least 27 people have been injured in clashes in different districts due to disputes over the World Cup Football. All of the victims are supporters of Brazil and Argentina, two rival teams in world football.
Thus making divisions among fellow men is one kind of our emotional structure. Since the very inception of our country, we have been dividing ourselves into many groups like Abhani-Mohamedan in sports, in politics Awami League-BNP, Bengali-non Bengali, freedom fighter-Razakar, Bangali-Pahari (tribe), Bangladeshi-Bangali, in religion Muslim-non-Muslim in Sunni Majhabi-Lamajhabi and so many others we can cite as examples. We can divide ourselves so easily without proper reason. It may be an inherited weakness successfully rooted in our mental obsession during the colonial period of the British Raj. The English wanted us to divide for their political interest, and now we are dividing ourselves without any proper cause in the absence of any foreign rule.   
Once we united in 1971 as we found a common enemy in the brutal rule of Pakistan. But very soon we lost the opportunity of unity thinking that our people are not ours. We gained a country free from Pakistan's occupation, but did not achieve the freedom to be united. Leaving another vacuity to us, our enemy surrendered not to us. The India-going freedom fighters after returning started to look for enemies among their fellow men who stayed within the country. We then divided ourselves into pro-Indians and anti-Indians. After the tragic fall of one-party rule in 1975, we lost out nationality to Bangladesism in the process of self-identity. We lost our liberalism to extremism.  
The division is more acute among the people in the field of economy which further stimulates us to be more fragile as a nation. The state ownership of the resources after the independence is considered to be valid in the sense that it protected the wealth and properties of a newly born war-torn country. Unfortunately, the private sector has not flourished as it deserves after 51 years of independence. Though the real estate and the manpower sectors demonstrated the bullish features of the economy in the 1980s, true industrialization remains a far cry to date. Only the RMG sector has provided employment for uneducated youths, especially the female workforce, but we failed to establish the industries for the employment of thousands of university graduates who are the central force of state-making. Now the burning talk is about the transition of state mechanism for good governance. The de facto opposition BNP who remains out of power almost for 15 years, now realizes the importance of good governance in running the state, though its founder distorted the universal character of our constitution mostly by martial law gazette defying the basic democratic spirit. BNP now demands the cancellation of some amendments to the constitution. How can we certainly hope that the main spirit of our constitution of 1972 will be restored on the basis of 4 principles that provided our constitution a truly democratic character?
BNP along with other opposition allies is going to present 28 point charter of 'State Transformation' next week as reported by Manob Jamin (14 December 2022). The report said, a new type of social contract based on mutual understanding, inclusive of all opinions and paths, as opposed to the politics of vengeance and revenge, will be adopted for a new kind of political pledge. A National Conciliation Commission will be formed for this. The electoral party will introduce a neutral caretaker government system to restore democracy and suffrage. Article 70 of the Constitution will be amended to ensure the freedom of expression of opinion of members of Parliament. The executive powers of the President and the Prime Minister of the government will be balanced. The powers, responsibilities and duties of the executive department, legal department and judicial department will be harmonized to establish the balance of state power. A 'bi-cameral' legislature will be constituted comprising eminent academicians, professionals, political scientists, sociologists and people with administrative experience. The existing "Election Commission Appointment Act" will be amended to establish an effective Election Commission. Barring EVMs, the use of party symbols in local government elections will be abolished, including ensuring voting through paper-ballot at all centres. A 'Judicial Commission' will be constituted to reform the present judicial system. There will be a separate secretariat for the Judiciary under the control of the Supreme Court. On the issue of impeachment of Supreme Court judges, the earlier 'Supreme Judicial Council' system as described in the constitution will be reinstated. As per Article 95(c) of the Constitution, a 'Judicial Appointment Act' containing specific qualifications and criteria will be enacted. Justice will be ensured to all persons directly and indirectly involved in all extrajudicial killings, indiscriminate killings in the name of crossfire, disappearances, abductions, rapes, and brutal physical torture, cruel and inhumane crimes committed in the last one and a half decades. An 'Economic Reforms Commission' will be constituted comprising of expert economists, experienced bankers, corporate leaders, and people with administrative experience. Based on the principle of 'Religion is the belief of an individual's own where the state belongs to all', every citizen can enjoy the full right to practice his/her own religion.
It is not our unjust expectation that most political parties should not carry the ideology of division further. We need a country of ours, need a nation of 'We'.  In line with the SDGs, our political agenda should have the commitment of 'no one is left behind'. We should have suffrage as we enjoy it like our forefathers since time immemorial. The enemies of democracy must know that we do not support killing our brother for illegitimate group interest.

(The writer is a researcher).

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