According to online surveys of various newspapers, nearly 85 per cent respondents agree with former chief adviser Justice Habibur Rahman’s claim that Bangladesh is in the grip of gamblers. Yes, democracy in the country is again poised to land in such a position where people have become something of a plaything in the hands of mighty and the moneyed. They are the mighty ones because we rally behind them and most of them are moneyed thanks to the money we decided to keep in their keeping.
However, we should not forget the fact that we are living merely on their mercy. Their orientation as well as temperament towards people implies nothing less than this. Feudalism became history centuries ago. But, is it an overstatement that our leaders still deem the country to be their fiefdom and the people and resources of the country to be their spoils? So, they are at liberty to treat the masses however they feel comfortable.
They have, however, unity in diversity and that is in the job of exploiting common people. Interestingly, tedious platitudes are their weapons for which we fall consistently. They claim to have the license and wherewithal to save our sovereignty, democracy, liberty, religion and what not. Would you mind my saying that many of them might well be the forerunners in fleeing the country once sovereignty and territory of the country is assaulted by some mighty forces?
Most of our leaders remain heavily guarded by cadres. The masses find it difficult to even approach them. Their sons and cadres extort us heavily and many of them enjoy a good portion of the booty. Their sons and cadres grab people’s property at will. They are to be regularly greased for public services especially in getting allotment of lands, ration, etc. Their relatives and cadres claim to ensure jobs for the unemployed ones in exchange of money and rob many of everything.
Their cadres unleash reign of terror in their localities and beyond. Their cadres assist in killing and call it bluff when it comes to nabbing the accused ones. They even nurture and back up militants to supplant law enforcing agencies. What a civilised cum democratic polity has been presented to us by our champions of democracy! Should we stop short of calling it tyranny personified in the name of nurturing nascent democracy?
They come to power, they lose power and they again come to power. We often get slightly cross with them at their perceived negligence for us. We at times exude our frustration and anger. They use their guiles to assuage our anguish. They again dish out promises. We resolve to teach them a good lesson. However, our determination evaporates before it is mature. Another election approaches and we again crowd the polling booths to vote for most of the seasoned impostors.
They brutalise our hopes and aspirations and pile up assets. They keep on deceiving us and we continue to believe in them all in the hope for betterment of our lot. We look to them in such a servile manner that our lot hinges upon their sweet will. Actually, previous observation is true to some extent as we rely upon them to rule the country and repose in them all our trust and hopes.
Whenever we are faced with a difficulty, we start entreating them with folded hands and they tend to relish our predicament. When misfortune befalls us even for their faults, they remain more interested in justifying their false position than in mitigating our sufferings. They also invariably resort to innovative jokes to laugh off our miseries.
To be precise, most of them can stoop to anything for getting their ends fulfilled. Even after such hammerings, we are not reluctant to worship them because they are the messiahs (!); but, their brand of democracy has by now become so heavy that we are persistently being bruised under it. We are gasping for breath but no respite seems in sight as there seems to be no escape from their ever-expanding grip.
The questions haunt me whether their pervasiveness is a necessary evil. Can’t we really trigger a change in their nature? In fact, we can and we can do it exceptionally well. I believe the people hold the key to bringing the derailed leaders and incumbents to their knees. Our independence is hard-earned and so is our democracy. Democracy has provided us with the very weaponry whereby we can make them mend their ways.
Coming out of the stereotyped absentee landlord role, we can very well assert ourselves to be as real owners. For that to happen, however, we have to grasp the true meaning of democracy in that it is not just consigning power from one group of suckers to another. We will also have to be ruthless in dumping the tyrant leaders while being unswerving in nurturing and promoting the good ones.
Kazi S M Khasrul Alam Quddusi is the chairman, Department of Public Administration, University of Chittagong.