ROLE OF CAPTIVE EDITORS AND CIVIL SOCIETY IN THE CURRENT CRISIS
ABDUL GAFFAR CHOWDHURY
I can see a repetition in the history of English journalism in Bangladesh. According to scholars, History repeats itself. First occur at tragedy, then arrives farce. The truth of this statement is going to be proved at English journalism at Bangladesh. Recently an editor of an English newspaper from Dhaka is frequently writing some reports by his own name. Everything is crude criticism of Hasina and her government under the veil of neutrality and the politeness of English. Recently a report made a hypocrite application to Sheikh Hasina in order to abandon the election program of 5th January. We will discuss later about the original target. Let us talk about the repetition of history first.
It is 43 years ago, in the era of Pakistan. On 1970 election was held through Pakistan, A very crucial crisis-negotiation election. The election would decide the fate of Pakistan. Whether Pakistan can regain its democratic identity and keep its unity or devastated under the claws of Army rule. That would be decided through this election. From East Pakistan Bangabandhu and his Awami league took part with six points demand, the Magna Carta of Bangalee and at west Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto with his peoples’ party.
No sooner the election-war started it was comprehended that the majority of Awami league will be inevitable; at that time Army rulers and the communal interest became hyper active to postponed the election, delay or to abandon the election. Even at East Pakistan, communal parties and some hardcore anti Awami leaders and media joined the conspiracy. Although Hamidul Haq CHowdhury and the newspapers of his observer group were supporters to the autonomy of East Pakistan, but they joined the conspiracy as they were hardcore Awami-haters.
On that time a hugely popular English newspaper at East Pakistan was Pakistan Observer (It was renamed as Bangladesh Observer after liberation), Abdus Salam was editor, he was one of the three famous editors along with Tofazzol Hussen Manik Mia and Jahur Hussain Chowdhury. He was uncompromising about the demand of East Pakistan and independent. But he had to abide by some limitations on publishing comments with the pressure from Hamidul Huq chowdhury, the owner of the Newspaper.
Role of Observer at election of ’70 was controversial. During that time as if to fulfill the wish of Army Junta, a devastating tidal wave and cyclone lashed the East Pakistan on the early November 1969. One million people died on a night. Coastal areas of East Pakistan became destroyed. By taking the opportunity, pro-Army Junta people of Rawalpindi at Dhaka and some favor seeker intellectuals and columnist demanded that for the sake of humanity and relief work the election should be delayed. In the streets of Dhaka slogan enchanted First humanity, then Election.
During that time Mawlana Vasani led National Awami Party (NAP) was a strong political party. Mawlana Vasani echoed Need food before elections. Otherwise election will be boycotted. At once, the propaganda began, without the participation of one of the biggest party NAP (vasani) the election will not be acceptable. So, the election must postpone for an indefinite time.
Against this publicity reply of Bangabandhu and his Awami league was, situation of Pakistan was in that state that, army government was not going to be tolerated even for a single day. The election must held in time. Only the people’s representative democratic government is able to take-care a quick responsibility to help the distorted humanity and the relief works. Therefore, delaying the election is not worth. Only the places, which are very much devastated, the election could be withheld and later on, a quickest possible time even on those area elections could be conducted.
Dhaka Based English daily ‘The observer ‘ started campaigning for withholding the election, Just like recently English daily has started. The editor of the Observer, Abdus Salam wrote numerous articles by his own name. In one of the articles, he compared Sheikh Mujib with King Canute and wrote that ‘ does sheikh mujib thinks himself like King Canute, on his order storm, flood and tidal wave will be stopped, Already a huge gorki ( sea tidal wave) has hit Bangladesh. Weathermen has alerted for another arriving shortly, in spite of that Sheikh Mujib wants to held election on time. He does not want to delay it. What does he think? Even the natural catastrophe will abide by his command?”
Despite of strong protest of numerous strong media and the then elite class people or civil society, army government did not have the courage to withhold the election. It was held just delaying a few days at month of December (1970). Election in some of the devastated area was held after a while.
During that period one day, I attended a government press briefing. Manik Mia passed away by then. I was working at the ittefaq. The then editor of ‘the observer’ Abdus Salam also jointed the briefing. An Urdu daily called ‘The pasban’ was published at Dhaka then. The bihari Editor of that newspaper was a very amicable man. He did not support the campaign of stopping or postpone of the election. During that period, a strong campaign was going on that, as a major party like NAP of Mawlana Vasani is not taking part of the election, it will not get legitimacy of total mandate of people. ‘The Pasban’ replied to that, ‘the door of election is not shut for any party. If Vasani NAP does not join here willingly, will it be wise to postpone a historic election, which will decide the fate of the nation for the whimsical decision of a party?’ I think, if ‘the Pasban’ would exist till date, they would write the same thing against the demand of BNP and the civil society to stop the election.
Let us back to the government press briefing. On that meeting the editor of ‘the Pasban’ asked salam, ‘salam vai, manik mia, Jahur Hussein chowdhury and you are regarded as the awaken soul of East Pakistan. Manik Mia is no more today. If he would be alive today, he would not have supported the campaign to stop election to please Military Junta or for any other reason, why are you supporting that?’ The incident took place a long ago, yet I can clearly remember that Mr. Salam made a sigh and told him, ‘you are an editor’, but an independent one. You yourself is the owner of the newspaper. Manik Mia also was the owner of ‘The ittefaq’. You can express your opinion independently, but I am a captive editor. A guillotine always hang upon my head on a thing rope all the time, can I always express my own opinion independently all the time?’
After 43 long years the words ‘captive editor’ uttered by Abdus salam is being remembered after reading the report of the editor of a popular Dhaka based English daily whereby he requested Sheikh Hasina to stop the election. He is also not the owner of the newspaper. He might have partial ownership, but he is a paid editor. Situation is changed now, not only the guillotine by a thin rope is hung over the heads of this sort of editors but also many sword of benefits stays with them. These are large NGO, Large business, funds of fundamentalists and huge finance and favor of the global imperialism. There is a tendency in Bangladesh recently to deposit the soul, intelligence and honesty at their feet. Not only a handful of captive editors but also a whole range of captive civil society is established in Bangladesh.
At the beginning of the write up, I mentioned about the repetition of history in our English Journalism and talked about the occurrence of tragedy, following farce. The campaign to stop the 1970 election was failure, but the election brought a tragic result. The military Junta of Yahiya denounced the election result and committed a massive genocide. On the other hand, the campaign of stopping the 2013 election will be a failure. It will become a farce and that farce is also causing bloodshed for people. The captive editor and the captive civil society are not at all watchful over the issue.
Amazingly, after 43 years another English newspaper is just echoing the words uttered by a Dhaka based newspaper then. The 1970 election was a fate decider for the Bengali Nation and Bangladesh. The question was whether Bengal will be a sovereign democratic country or oppressed under the religious fascist Junta of Pakistan. Just as he current election (2013-14) has the historical value as it decides whether Bangladesh will exist as a sovereign and democratic country or carrying the flag of religious fanatics and become Taleban state like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Hence, become a perpetual killing field, to stop that the only antidote is the election of 5th January. This should not be withheld at any excuse.
The logic showed to stop 1970 election were, the relief work for the devastated area will be hampered and bloodshed will occur with the proposition of Vasani NAP boycotting the election. Election centers will be under siege and a major calamity will arrive throughout the country. On 2013, the English daily has the same logic. The election will not be participated with all parties. Election boycott of BNP will cause bloodshed. Election will not get legitimacy. The country will be ruined.
However, The captive editors are unable to comprehend that massive bloodshed is going on before the election. That has been done by BNP-jamat and BNP is boycotting the election for some trivial demands. That thing is overlooked by civil society. Recently so-called Sujon, Transparency has arranged some seminars whereby Rehman Sobhan, Debapriya Bhattacharya and some other key persons of the civil society were present. Amazingly the logic they presented to stop the election is extremely similar to the logic of the editor of the English Daily. It is not very difficult to understand that the source and the supporter if these logics are same.
On this seminar, Rashed Khan Menon stated a brilliant quote. He replied against the holdup of election ‘the election may be delayed, but can anybody (civil society) guarantee that BNP will join that belated election? Editor of that English Newspaper has no answer to this question Of Menon. Recently he is talinkg part on talk – shows frequently.
Editor of this English Daily and civil society before asking to stop the election should have asked BNP to stop massive killing, arsons and terminate all the relations with war criminal, terrorist Party Jamat , comes back in proper democratic way of politics and then If required ask government to uphold election . On the contrary, they are alleging government for all the malevolence and surrendering themselves to the demand made by politics of terrorism and anarchy.
They should have known that the next election of 5 January is not a regular election of a normal time. This is not a fully democratic election. This is an election to free the democratic process from the attack of anti liberation force jamat-shibir. The election has many limitations, but to save the secular structure of the nation current government has no other option. Definitely, Hasina government will not want to rule the country over next five year. When the crisis period of the country will be over, when the terrorism of fundamentalism will be abolished, the spirit of liberation war and democracy will be safe and back to normal condition another election will be held soon ( within six months or a year). Until then, by the name of god, captive editors and captive civil society please stop this fake cry for the greater sake of the country. Otherwise, they may be termed as ‘extreme un-friend’ to the country in history, and that day is not far away.
JANUARY 04, 2014