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     Volume 7 Issue 10 | March 7, 2008 |

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One Off

Shall we then Forget to Dream?

Aly Zaker

I was present in two different discussion sessions in one day recently. One of them was organised by the Centre for Alternatives and the other at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology. The first, happening in the R. C. Majumdar lecture theatre in the morning and the second at the auditorium of BUET in the evening. The first was titled “Small arms are no longer small” and followed the screening of a documentary film by the same name and the second session was organised on the occasion of the beginning of a debating competition entitled “Shall we then forget to dream?”

As I was returning home after the evening session I felt that, strange though it may seem, both subjects were bound by the same sort of thought of despair that we are subjected to now, in the past, and potentially in the future as well. This stems from a feeling of insecurity and seriously questions the ability of governance of the people in power in our country at all times. The documentary film started off with the killing in campus of Sony in a cross fire between two groups of students and went on to elaborate on the subject mostly through footage from documentary films on the bombing incidents at Chayanaut's Bangla new year function at the Ramna Park, at the Udichi function at Jessore, cinema halls in Mymensingh, at the public meeting of Awami League at Bangabandhu Avenue and interviews with some of the victims of these incidents, as well as the father of deceased Sony. So, my mind framed a natural juxtaposition the two sessions threw up in the matter of a day. Both, very painful and hugely loaded with questions to all of our sensitivity as thinking human beings. If what was shown in the documentary film be the norm in today's Bangladesh then would it be possible for us to dream? Nightmare yes, but dream? I dare say that, that would be well nigh impossible. We usually see in our dreams things that are pleasant and we live with them for days. But such nightmares that are realities in our lives would indeed drive all dreams beyond our reach.

If violence be so pervasive that we can't even dream about a peaceful, progressive and productive life then it should be dealt with in a manner that it puts to rest all those that rob us of our dreams. Now how can that be achieved? It may be pointed out that the world itself is in the grip of wanton violence. An analysis of this may be too exhaustive within the confines of this column but we can always take a look at the scenario prevailing in Bangladesh since 1975. We have been a victim of government-sponsored violence, each of which picked up some young men and gave them arms to go on a rampage and destabilise the society. Since then there was no looking back. Havoc ran amok. And since the people at large were forced to reconcile with the fact that they had little say in the affairs of the state they were reduced to squeak and gibber. All the blood that drenched our land during the war to liberate this country to enable people's power to rule was replaced by the very Pakistani tradition of the unquestionable power of the privileged few. The condition did not change even after the re-emergence of democracy. The high and mighty with political ambition even disenfranchised the voters at will. All this happened because we blatantly ignored the practice of democracy. People were never made to feel empowered. We all know this and have stopped fretting about it.

Behind the back drop of the film of the morning session when a question as desperate as “should we then forget to dream?” was posed in the evening, a thought came to my mind. What if the people in the campus, where Sony was killed had not scurried away, but instead had turned around to face the handful of rascals, and charged towards them? I am sure the culprits, even with arms in hand, would have been mortally scared and run for their lives. There are always more good people in the society than there are villains and all it needs is the will, valour and a genuine anger on their part to put an end to such misdeeds. We don't have to look far to see that all our great achievements have come because someone took the leadership and the people followed them. Together we can accomplish any great deed. No, we shall not forget to dream! We shall instead convert our nightmares into dreams.

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