Taking Our Pettiness Abroad
AASHA MEHREEN AMIN
|Before they hugged?
A long with their sometimes, unreasonable addiction to deshi food and unwavering attachment to deshi sensibilities, Bangladeshis also take with them their deshi politics, when they decide to live in foreign land. It may be an admirable trait to be proud of one's culture and to try and preserve it in an alien environment. But bringing back unsavoury political squabbling from the motherland will hardly earn brownie points for the immigrant Bangladeshi craving for acceptance.
The last display of unpatriotic and rather embarrassing behaviour was when US-based Awami League (AL) and Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) 'activists' got into a brawl at JFK airport in New York. The Prime Minister, along with her huge entourage, had come to attend the general assembly of the United Nations. But instead of being united in their welcome of their home country's premier, our compatriots managed to start a street-like political scuffle with the characteristic punching, pushing and kicking after some of them randomly cried “Catch the Razakars”. The comical side of the incident was that when the police came in after news of the ruckus spread, the two rival groups in true slapstick style, pretended to hug! The police no doubt, were baffled and probably put it down to 'some kind of tribal ritual'. If they had been cleverer, the brawlers could have said it was a welcoming dance routine for their Chiefness.
Later, the BNP activists held a protest rally in the parking lot claiming that the PM had left through an alternative way to avoid the blockade. Hello, what did they expect? A hug?
Sadly, this is where the comedy ends and turns downright tragic. It is indeed a tragedy after all, that no matter which corner of the earth Bangladeshis go to (and they seem to have reached practically every nook and cranny) they will form unproductive political factions so that they can engage in destructive political mudslinging or cause some trouble whenever a particular group's leader is in town. This is homesickness taken to the extreme.
The PM, this time has been awarded for a significant reduction in child mortality during her tenure, an achievement which fulfils one of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). Surely this is something all Bangladeshis should applaud. But it is almost certain that those in the BNP-Jamaat camp did not put their hands together this time around. The same would have happened if the BNP Chairperson had been the prime minister and had been awarded, only this time it would have been the expatriate AL supporters looking glum and pretending it was no big deal. Thus we have managed to spread our petty political squabbling all over the globe.
In fact, quite a few years ago when it was the BNP Chairperson who was the PM and attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at Coolum Australia, there were little groups of AL 'activists' shouting anti-government slogans when the PM arrived in Sidney.
True to their brothers and sisters at home these immigrant Bangladeshis hold on to their hatred for their countrymen in rival political camps as tenaciously as their Green, Blue or Red cards. Members of the USA AL and Jubo League have accused the BNP-Jamaat alliance of conspiring against them to create chaos. Meanwhile the secretary of the BNP Central Committee of International Affairs (whatever that may be) resorted to the usual refrain of accusing the PM of “tarnishing the image of Bangladesh by inciting her activists to attack a peaceful gathering of BNP supporters”. Why the PM would want to embarrass herself on foreign soil by being in the middle of a scuffle among her own countrymen the aforementioned secretary Komoruddin, would probably be unable to explain.
(R) thedailystar.net 2010