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    Volume 11 |Issue 49| December 14, 2012 |


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Whatever Happened to Our Rights?


Today is the day we are commemorating the loss of hundreds of our most brilliant men and women who were taken, blindfolded, tortured and then murdered in cold blood. Their crime was that they were intellectuals and their killings were a way to cripple a nation that had dared to fight for its right to be free from oppression. The motive behind the massacres was clear, it was a known enemy we spontaneously abhorred and fought against.

What could be more heinous than March 25th's Operation Searchlight – a witch hunt to find university teachers and students and then kill them in a wave of mindless mayhem? What could be more treacherous than to repeat this 'operation' two days before the imminent victory of the oppressed, slaying the most promising doctors, professors, journalists, writers, engineers, artists and individuals from other professions? There was no valour in such premeditated murders, only the cowardice of bullies who had to show their overpowering hatred for a people who spoke a different language and had become too rebellious for their own good.

December is therefore a month of mixed emotions. It is when we celebrate our victory with splashes of green and red but it is also a time of mourning for the millions of martyrs who gave up their lives so that we could breathe the air of a free nation.

Photo: Zahedul I Khan

But this December we are not left to celebrate victory, mourn our dead heroes and demand justice for their murders. This December we have been held hostage by apparently our own people. Oborodh, Hartal, pre-hartal violence – these are the words we, a free and democratic nation must endure at age 41. We are in no position to say no to these 'spontaneous acts of protest supported by the entire nation'. We do not have the choice to defy a phenomenon that means utter destruction, meaningless violence, loss of precious hours of work, education, and income. Neither do we have the means to protect ourselves when so-called 'political activists' swoop on us and hack us to pieces just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The barbaric murder of Biswajit Das is symbolic of what our leaders have done to this country that was born out of sacrifice and glory. A young tailor who was probably still basking in the glory of Bangladesh's winning of the cricket test series the night before, was on his way to work when a swarm of frenzied cadres attacked him from all sides with sharp, lethal weapons leaving him bleeding to death. It was apparently a case of mistaken identity – they thought they were killing a rival group member! Images of this gruesome crime will haunt us and eerily remind us that this is what we, the ordinary citizens of this country are going through – being hacked on all sides and left bleeding.

The murderers have been identified as members of the ruling party's student wing Chhatra League – their photos have been published and eyewitnesses have identified them. But leaders of the CL have denied that these thugs belong to their party. Meanwhile the opposition has claimed Biswajit to be one of their own – despite the fact that his family has said the young man was in no way involved with any political party. Thus our political parties are playing the same noxious game of waiting for body counts to strengthen their political stance and denying responsibility for murders committed by their thugs.

So where does it leave us, the public, the people whose only democratic right seems to be confined to casting a vote once in every four years for one party or the other. A party that will promise the moon in their manifestoes but deliver only disappointment and despair.

Two days from today we will go through the motions of celebrating our victory from oppression, racism and economic deprivation imposed on us by a foreign power. But will we forget the images of a blood soaked Biswajit as he desperately tried to save himself from a bunch of blood-thirsty hyenas? Can we forget the blaze of buses and cars being set on fire, sometimes with people inside them, in the name of political protest, the sight of motionless bodies (including policemen) on the streets after being beaten to a pulp?

In helpless confusion and trepidation we ask ourselves: Who is the enemy now?


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