KULDIP NAYAR WRONGLY SNIPES AT HASINA
Kuldip Nayar the veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human right activist, former diplomat and Rajya Sabha member and an author is an accomplished person.
Newspaper readers in this subcontinent and abroad are acquainted with his writings. He is revered and widely read. He also has his own critics as any other person of his kind. Born in Sialkot of present day Pakistan in 1923 not many people of his generation are as active as is Mr. Nayar. At this age he writes columns and op-eds for over 80 newspapers in 14 languages including in two leading Bangladeshi national dailies, the Sunday Guardian (India), The Statesman (India), The News (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan), Dawn (Pakistan).
As a for his political belief he is known to be left of centre school of thought, jailed during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency Rule and does not believe in hiding his disliking for Indian National Congress politics and Mrs. Gandhi. It was during Janata Dal’s rule in India he was chosen as a member of the Rajya Sabha and had a stint as a diplomat in London. In his writings he does not pretend that he has any special liking either for Awami League, Bangabandhu Sk. Mujibur Rahman or his daughter Sk. Hasina. He loves sniping at them on any pretext. In his autobiography ‘Beyond The Lines’ he even managed to confuse Sk. Mujib with Sk. Abdullah (page 219). He makes regular trips to Bangladesh, interacts with his readers, seems very approachable and is open to criticism.
On June 18, 2015 Mr. Nayar summarised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in a commentary written for the Statesman published from Kolkata headlined ‘A shot in the arm for Hasina’. His comments were not only harsh and misleading but were based on half truth and wrong perception. According to Mr. Nayar, Modi’s visit to Dhaka was mistimed and to him it seemed that the visit was undertaken to ‘shore up the sagging image of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He (Modi) has only heightened anti-India feelings because New Delhi is not seen as neutral’. He terms Sk. Hasina’s rule as authoritarian and thinks Sk. Hasina flouts the Constitution and accepted norms. He mentions the recent City Corporation polls held in Dhaka and Chittagong and strongly condemns what he says the incidents of stuffing the ballot boxes by party workers.
Mr. Nayar goes on to write ‘no doubt Modi’s visit has given a shot in the arm to secular forces against the burgeoning influence of fundamentalists, led by Jamiat(sic)-e-Islam’. Mr. Nayar does not seem to be happy about it. He also thinks that Sk. Hasina suppressed the dissent of the opposition in a cavalier manner and doubts about her credentials. He thinks Sk. Hasina humiliated Bangladesh’s first Foreign Minister Dr. Kamal Hasan (sic). He mildly criticises the BNP for boycotting the national election and draws analogy between Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule and the current rule of Sk. Hasina. Mr. Nayar also criticises the people of Bangladesh and writes that they have lost the vigour of expression which the nation once had.
He fires shots at Sk. Hasina saying that ‘no one else is to blame except Hasina. She is herself extinguishing the flame of democracy and …she has effaced the lines between right and wrong, moral and immoral. In the atmosphere of Hasina representing a dictatorial figure, Mod’s visit was all the more unfortunate….He (Modi) preferred to placate her even though the people of Bangladesh were disappointed because they expected India to give some sign that it is not happy with the way Hasina is functioning.’ He writes (and rightly so) that ‘people of Bangladesh were expecting some agreement on the Teesta waters. But foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s statement was unhelpful because even before undertaking the journey to Dhaka she said that Teesta was not on the agenda during the current visit by Modi’.
Reading between the lines in Kuldip Nayar’s commentary it is clear that he is unhappy with how Sk. Hasina and her government is running the country. Why he thinks Sk. Hasina’s image is sagging is anybody’s guess. If Sk. Hasina’s image is sagging then whose image is glowing, is a million dollar question. He never mentions anything about the fire bomb war against the innocent people of Bangladesh by BNP and its Chairperson Begum Zia and widespread atrocities and arson committed by its allies Jamaat-e-Islam that killed more than two hundred people in 2013 and 2014. Mr. Nayar conveniently forgets to mention anything about the corruption and misdeeds of Begum Zia’s two sons and how her government was instrumental in aiding the North East Indian secessionists and militants to smuggle modern weapons to India through Bangladesh.
Where did Sk. Hasina flout the Constitution and the accepted norms are not mentioned in his writing. Rather by holding the national election on January 5, 2014 Sk. Hasina upheld her Constitutional obligations. If Mr. Nayar believes in the Caretaker system then he is wrong as the provision in the Constitution was declared ultra-vires by the Apex Court of the country as it contradicts the basic structure of the Constitution.
As to Dr. Kamal Hossain there is no evidence that Sk. Hasina ever humiliated him rather he was given nomination from Awami League in the Presidential election of 1981 against BNP’s incumbent President Justice Abdus Sattar. Dr. Kamal Hossain who is ‘chacha’ to Sk. Hasina shaped his political career under the shadow of her father and his most remarkable achievement was the drafting of the 1972 Constitution. After Pakistan army’s crackdown on March 26, 1971 while Bangabadhu was arrested and taken to the then West Pakistan, Dr. Kamal Hossain and his family also were either taken or travelled to West Pakistan.
His going to West Pakistan and stay there is shrouded in mystery according to many but Bangabandhu had a special liking for him. When Bangabandhu was released Dr. Hossain travelled with him to London and came back to Bangladesh with him to become countries first Law Minister and not Foreign Minister as Kuldip Nayar wrongly mentions. When Bangabandhu was assassinated on the fateful night of August 15, 1975 Dr. Hossain was abroad as the Foreign Minister and when Sk. Hasina who with her sister Sk. Rehana was also in Europe at this time requested Dr. Kamal Hossain to call a Press Conference in London to let the world know what exactly happened on that fateful night, he politely declined to do so and later on took up an assignment at Oxford University. Still Sk. Hasina nominated him to contest the National Election in 1991 which he conveniently lost.
After the election of 1991 he distanced himself from Awami League and formed his own political platform, Gonoforum which turned out to be a one-man party. Currently he is conceived as a close confidant of Begum Zia. Kuldip Nayar’s assertion that Sk. Hasina has humiliated Dr. Kamal Hossain is based on misconception, which from person of his stature is not expected.
As to the recent City Corporation elections perhaps Mr. Nayar is not aware about the leaked telephonic conversation between a Senior BNP leader and a party worker how they planned to thwart the election. Sk. Hasina has shown zero tolerance towards militancy and terrorism. If that is perceived by Mr. Nayar as authoritarian be it so. His belief that the people of Bangladesh has lost the vigour of expression which the nation once had is far from true and in 2008 the people, especially the students of the country has shown that they can rise up to the occasion and boot out the illegal usurpers to state power. The people did not respond to Begum Zia’s call to unseat Sk. Hasina was simply their display of apathy towards Begum Zia’s violence ridden politics.
Though the current government has its own failings and there are ample room for improvement in the governance it must be acknowledged that currently the people are much better off than any time in the past. Mr. Kuldip Nayar had an axe to grind against Sk. Hasina and he did it in his own way but people in this country know better. Kuldip Nayar who whose name is respected by the newspaper readers in this country is perhaps being fed with the wrong dose of information. Modi’s visit to Bangladesh was never mistimed and during his maiden visit to this country he has made new friends. His visit has not heightened any new anti-Indian feeling in this country. The people in Bangladesh only expect that all the problems with India that still needs to be solved would be solved at the earliest.
The writer is an analyst and commentator.
JUNE 19, 2015