In violence which takes hold of Shahzadpur, Sirajganj, because two factions of the ruling party have reached the definitive conclusion that the solution to their conflict lies in the barrel of a gun, a working journalist takes a bullet and dies.
And he dies, needlessly, at the hands of the Awami League. Two factions of the party, driven by greed over the possession of land, have pushed this journalist to death.
This is not the Awami League we saw in the 1960s and in the nine months of the War of Liberation.
The chairman of an upazila, a significant local leader of the Awami League, thinks nothing of going for questionable glory through walking across a ‘human bridge’ comprising the backs, shoulders and hands of schoolboys and thereby putting an entire nation to shame.
This is not the Awami League which once had the inspirational light of Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Tajuddin Ahmad shining on it, and on the country.
The leader of the Chhatra League flies to a district town on a helicopter and is welcomed in all the good cheer which comes of adulation from supporters and followers. This is not the Chhatra League of Tofail Ahmed and Nur-e-Alam Siddiqui, of Obaidul Quader. It is not the Awami League affiliate Bangabandhu would be proud of.
The police drag journalists into their control room, beat them to a pulp and feel little of embarrassment or contrition at their behaviour. The Home Minister tells the country jostling and pushing and shoving between policemen and journalists are not uncommon. He then has second thoughts and informs us that he is studying the facts behind the incident.
This is not the response we expect from a party, from a government which led us to the expansive landscape of liberty all those decades ago. This is not a condition we are comfortable with, for it is a state of denial we are pelted with day after day. This is not the Awami League as it once was. This is not the Awami League as it ought to be.
Local leaders and workers of the Chhatra League in a village beat up the headmaster of the local school because he does not succumb to demands for one of their own to be employed at the school. The humiliation is heaped on the teacher in the presence of his students, in public and in broad daylight. The shame of it reduces the headmaster to loud weeping.
This is not what we expect of the Chhatra League. This is not what the Chhatra League did in the times gone by. This is not behaviour we expect the Awami League to condone. This is not what we saw in the old days of democratic struggle, when respect for citizens was a moral principle with the Awami League and its followers. The Father of the Nation would not sit, would rise to his feet when teachers came calling on him. For Bangabandhu, every teacher in Bangladesh was his ‘Sir’.
This is not the image we spot any more. There is not any more the grandeur of old when in these fraught times ruling party cadres think nothing of launching physical assaults on teachers.
The Food Minister has questions over an import of questionable consignment of wheat hanging over him. He has not answered them. He remains in government and will not go and has not been asked to go. The Disaster Management Minister knows of the disaster his son-in-law contributed to the making of in Narayanganj through the murder of seven innocent men. He does not think it proper to resign. And he is not shown the door. Moral responsibility, the taking of it, has been pushed under the rug.
This is not the Awami League as we have known it. This is not the party which saw Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury resign his ministerial position in the 1970s, which went through the pain of seeing Tajuddin Ahmad walk away from government when asked to by his leader, his Mujib Bhai.
The leaders and workers of the Awami League and its affiliated organizations, in their tens of thousands, converge on the streets to celebrate themselves and their good deeds. The nation’s capital collapses into chaos mode, with nothing moving for hours on end. But that does not worry those who should be worried. Away from the clogged streets, divorced from the agonies of citizens trapped in limbo, they speak of themselves, of their deeds.
This is not the Awami League which soared, in the process of history-making and touched the skies, long ago. That Awami League, the old one, is gone.
Our children score exceedingly high marks through their GPA and Golden GPA attitude to examinations. They go ecstatic with their results; their parents and teachers glow in pride. The education minister is happy.
The textbooks brim over with errors. Dissembling is what is resorted to explain away the blunders.
This is not the Awami League we experienced in government in an earlier phase in time. This is not the education structure we need the ruling party to foist on the nation.
Education gets hit, imperceptibly and yet loudly, through the incorporation of medieval ideas in school textbooks. Modernism is thrown out the window, piece by little piece. And this happens with a putatively secular political party in command and in control of the government.
This is not the Awami League which once spoke of a Bengali Magna Carta in the shape of the Six Points. This is not the Awami League which vowed, in the fire and fury of war, to create a secular people’s republic and indeed ended up presiding over the rise of that cherished republic of dreams and hopes.
This is not the Awami League which once showed us brilliance shooting forth from our desired Shining City on the Hill.
In this month, when national honour was the pledge that came with Ekushey in February 1952, when emancipation was the promise ingrained in the Six Points as they were enunciated in February 1966, when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became our Bangabandhu in February 1969, we the people wait for the good old days of idealism and hope to return.
It is idealism and hope once kindled in us by the Awami League. That is the Awami League we wait for, again.