Feature Img
Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

Today we have with us, Mr. Hartal, the most discussed ‘personality’ in our life. We are going to have a conversation with him trying to know more about him and better.

Hello Mr. Hartal, and welcome.

Thanks.

When were your born?

March 11, 1948 in Dhaka when the language protests first happened. Since then I have been going strong.

What keeps you so fit?

Regularity. I am always there on the road. I am always happening in new ways. Everyone wants me.

Everyone?

Yes, Awami League, BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami … even Ershad.

Why do you think you are so popular?

Well, I am a product and there is a demand in the market. Let me explain. If every time you face a political problem, you end with a hartal. So you see my need? Problems are created because people want power without responsibility and loyalty to the constitution.

But what else can they do?

My point exactly. There is no point in discussion because this system doesn’t allow discussions. You are out of normal politics and that’s why I occupy so much of the space.

But isn’t Hartal a democratic right? Our leaders always say so.

You are an idiot! You turn to Hartal only because you have no alternative. You want no alternative. In the Pakistan era, I was very popular because during then there was no democratic tradition or option. You had a form of government which didn’t allow public participation. The laws were repressive and ultimately meaningless; Pakistan was never going to give you freedom and they didn’t as the example of March 1971 shows. The Pakistani political system had failed from the start and so I grew from strength to strength. Pakistan didn’t give you any right to Hartal, you reacted to the absence of politics. Don’t dilute my importance.

So are you suggesting we are some sort of a Pakistan?

I am saying that like Pakistan your political system never grew up. Use whatever little brains you have. Hartal can never happen when a political system exists. There is no consensual politics. Because it doesn’t, you have me. Think about this. Within two years of the passing of your first constitution, you had violated its basic principle of pluralistic democracy through one-party rule, had three military coups that ended with martial law and several amendments. Does it mean you want parliamentary democratic rule? But I feel very safe. The more undemocratic you become, the more there is demand for me. It’s a binary relationship.

But you know a lot of people die in Hartals, people suffer a lot…

Excuse me, don’t try to trash my name! In the last 42 years of Hartal how many people have died? Go and count if you want. One single Rana Plaza has killed more people in the entire history of Hartals in Bangladesh. This hype is all media produced because without these news what will they do? They have to survive. They are my good friends but I can’t let anyone challenge my reputation. Hartals are silly, stupid, useless acts but no more so than having parliaments which no one takes seriously because they never function and the opposition always boycotts it. And that keeps me going.

But what about our great political tradition of mass movements?

My history. It’s all about me. Think of the major movements. The Language Movement was a response to an illegal process because Pakistan wanted to deny the majority’s right to language. It led to my birth, remember? In 1969 the Agartala conspiracy trial was illegal because it accused Sheikh Mujib when he was not the leader of it. And it came at the final phase of a long and illegal rule of martial law of Ayub Khan. In 1971 March, Yahya Khan refused to hand over power to the AL even after they won the elections so we had massive unrest. It was the same with the 1990 movement. If there is an established legal process, rule of law, effective parliament, why would you need Hartal? Thankfully, none of that has ever existed in either Pakistan or Bangladesh, so I have a permanent job.

So are you saying that the present crisis is not the result of the Jamaat-BNP alliance?

It is actually but you have to add the AL to it. You don’t understand what a great pressure there is for these parties to maintain so many cadres and supporters. That is why politics is a substitute for economics. So they have to come to power, let the people make money and then go. The caretaker system worked for a while but it’s gone and the interim government has come in. But even that has not worked. Nothing will work because I am always there as an alternative.

But people don’t like Hartals do they?

So what?  Hartal is a “constitutional right”. Supporters are people too. Don’t complain when they say it is a democratic right. It’s also an alternative.

To what?

Politics that is governed by the rule of law. Without Hartals life would also be very dull. See the talk shows? They are somewhat an alternative to the parliament and don’t you all enjoy it? I have heard that they are now going to change the format. Now politicians will actually be wrestling with each other and talk shows will become even more fun.

Any final word?

Under the existing system, Hartal is here to stay. I exist only when law fails, constitution fails. Stop treating the political system like your mistress and I will go away. But that you won’t and so I will always be there. Thanks Bangladesh.

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Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist, activist and writer.

Afsan Chowdhuryis a bdnews24.com columnist.

30 Responses to “An interview with Mr. Hartal”

  1. Anwar A. Khan

    I had been to DMCH burn unit three times during the last last week. I don’t think I have ever seen a more depressing, awful scene in my life after our liberation war of 1971. I experienced people with massive burn injuries, groaning there and I don’t know how long its ghastly effect will pervade over there. I also don’t have the words to describe the horror, to describe the dreadful, ghastly, gruesome scene. If you see the burn injured people there, I am certain you will not be able to restrain yourselves from crying.

    Curse upon those mischief-mongers! Oh Lord, perish them.

    Their principal leader, that lady, is a voyeur because she loves to enjoy watching other people’s sufferings; otherwise those dreadful occurrences would not have happened.

    The government should act faster with brute force so that these evil forces can be laid down soon to put an end to this horrible situation.

  2. Ishita Hoque

    Dear Author,

    You have condemned hartal in a satirical way but I don’t think this is enough. Write against the so-called hartal and the so-called blockade in rudest and crudest language so that these deadly weapons can be thrown away deep down to the Bay of Bengal from where these ferocious animals can’t come back to our life again.

  3. Bashar Hamid

    What is going on in the country in the name of hartal + blockade, one would shudder to think even. Our words fail to condemn these kinds of heinous criminal activities being caused by by BNP and its associates since long. Last evening, 19 innocent people on board of a bus received severe burn injuries by hurling petrol bombs by those miscreants. Are all these meaning politics? Why should these innocent people suffer to get their demand accepted by the government?

    We express our strong resentment against this dastardly act.

    The government’s duty is to protect its people from such extremely wicked, deeply criminal activities. The government should not show any sort of mercifulness as a consequence of being lenient or tolerant to these heinous acts ( it has already shown enough leniency in this regard). It should cage those bloody leaders including Khaleda Zia and her cohorts to punish them; consficate their wealth and properties to compensate to the victims’ families. Without all these strict actions, we do not see any chance of bringing peace back in the country

    Regards.

    All Students :

    Zinat, Nabendu Chakma, David Das, Srabanty Barua, Nikhil, Masum, Animesh Khisha, Sanjit, Shakil, Minu, Moriom, Shushil Garo, Rea, Jakir, Badrul, Samir Barua, Antony, Jalal, Bashar, Shisir Shaozal, Nandita, Mahmud, Nasir, Bernard Sarkar, Ashish, Mohiuddin, Amalendu Khisha, Rajib Ali, Reza, Arunima Dutta, Shuvashis Dewan, Munir Mohiuddin, Jhony Gupta, Masuma Khaled, Apurba Khan, Nishita Chowdhury and Chitra Sengupta, Nishita Hoque, Abir Ahmed, Zoglul Ahmed, Nuria Hosein and Abida Islam.

  4. Mufti Abdul Hye Bukainogori

    Hartal, agnisonjog, bomabaji, jan-maler khoti ettadi maney BNP abong tar shojogeyder ei noirajja ar shoijjo kora jaena. Goto char bochorar tader karjokalap dekhley taderkey dubritto chara ar kichui bola jaena. Khomoter jonno tara pagla kukurer moto hoye gechey. Tara ja korchey, takey konomotei rajniti bola jaena. Tader shomostho kormonkando voyonkor sontrashi abong manusher jonno moha oshini sangket. Koto manusher jibon choley gelo; Koto manush marattakbhavey ahato hoye katratchhay. Ei durbrittoder ar rehai deoa uchit noy. Sarkerer uchit taderkey druto ainer autai eney shomostho khotipuron adai kora. Abong taratari eibaparey shorboshaki neog kora.

  5. Ishita Hoque

    We have been suffering and groaning since long because of the so-called blockades and violent hartals. Why should our common people suffer with serious burn injuries by the power –hungry devilish hartal callers? Why should they die having no faults of their own?? Why shall we, the general public, having no political affilations be made hostage for their heinous crimal acts??? Look these ‘sub-humans’ even do not have any remorse for their criminal and deadly offences. They are now threatening for more blockades, shutdowns and the likes in the coming days. It is clear that they will not come around. So, tougher action against them is a dire emergency need of the hour to fix them.

  6. Students Group

    Mr. Afsan Chowdhury : Thank you very much for presenting such a nice piece.

    “Black will not take any other hue.” Dialogue, peace, truce, amity – nothing such good gestures, shall be able to deter Khaleda Zia and her gang from committing heinous criminal acts causing an incalculable amount of sufferings to us ‘in the name of so-called hartals.’ These ruffians are threatening more destructic activities ‘in the name of hartals’ in the coming days. So, they must be stopped using brute force without further delay. Not that only, all kinds of losses, damages and the like so far occurred due to their wicked actions shall be realised from Khaleda Zia and her gang after confiscating their wealth and properties to distribute the same to the affected familities and affected organizations/authorities and they must be put in the lock-up and handed-down due punishment. This is only the right option to prevent them from committing any such further crimes.
    We are getting impatient and losing our temper and we don’t know what to do and what shall we do? Enough is enough………………..
    Rini Abdullah, Nahid Pasha, Mukul Ahmed, George Basak, Motiul Islam, Niloy Chowdhury, Amrita Sarkar, Deepak Barua, Nandini Chakraborty, Monira Islam, Senjuti Karmakar, Mollicka Amrin, Shahid Hamid, Mohsin Ahmed, Abanti Sarkar, Priscilla Parveen, Noman Ahmed, Shamsul Arefin, David Gomes, Ashalata Sarker, Niru Mohsin, Sanjit Khisa, Dipankar Chakma, Manashi Khan, Nitish Garo and Ritu Rahman.

  7. Nihat Shiper

    A light satirical article. Good reading and thank you, Mr. Afsan, for the piece. But in the present time this can’t be termed as hartals; simply these are all criminal activities carried out by the miscreant like politicians; new addition, so-called blocakade also belongs to the same category; and as such, these are all anti-people and anti-state acts which shall be ruthlessly suppressed to bring peace back in the country.

  8. Akteruzzaman

    The only pain is losing the election and becoming the opposition party. The opposition is treated like a ‘zero’ and an enemy of the government. Why not give some more power and privileges to the opposition. Give some ministries to the opposition. Increase the seats of the opposition in parliament by calculating total proportionate votes. Increase the power of the parliamentary committees.

  9. Arosh Ali

    it is wonderfully written just reflect with reality in the field, i wish our idiot politicians found time to read it.

  10. jamal

    Hartal Mia, apnar din shesh. Mr Oborodh is here. Aro bhoyonkor, aro shoktishali.

  11. inmol

    this was an interview with the most powerful of all.how did you manage to get his appointment is beyond me, given that he has been so busy, so on demand lately.

  12. Umme

    40 bochore onek kichu bodlalo, onek raja moharaja elo gelo. kintu hartal ke keu dur korte parlo na.

  13. omar

    Ei jibon ta amader katbe hartal er dapot dekhe dekhe. gonotontro kono din ar matha tulte parbe na.

  14. YMC

    Afsan Chowdhury, please show us the way!! How can we get rid of this curse – Hartal.

  15. Indrani

    Mr Hartal is absolutely right. There is no law in the country, so hartal will always be there.

  16. abdul

    bhai hartal mia ke ektu jigesh koren ei dui netrir ottachar theke kobe mukti pabo.

  17. Hasina

    You have out done yourself yet one more time. I loved every bit of your satire, brilliantly expressed or may I be so bold to say hartal ” exposed “. Can’t wait for your next write up!

  18. Golam Arshad

    “Bravo” All in Praise of HARTAL! Correction Afsan in the SIXTIES it was then named “Strike”. Hartal replaced “STRIKE”, and more so it came into being after 1971. Prove me WRONG if I am not RIGHT! In the SEVENTIES, BANDH was the mode of public agitation in Kolkata and elsewhere in India. It remain so in India TODAY. Under grim duress we are NOW embracing Hartal vis a vis Blockade to vent our agitation.I wonder, why Hasina having over two third majority in Parliament refrain from banning HARTAL. It is a SMART WEAPON deployed to hit hard the Government! Excellent write up with a joist of wit and humor!

    • Sultan Sharif

      Are you against hartal having seen all these deadly activities conducted by Jamaat-e-BNP in the recent times? Do you support banning it?

      • Golam Arshad

        Sultan: Absolutely! 100 per cent in support of banning Hartal. Question is: Will our Honorable Prime Minister
        secure a FULL CONSENSUS with OPPOSITION in BANNING HARTAL! Till date both MAJOR PARTIES I.E., BAL AND BNP played HARDBALL in pushing HARTAL. Hope sanity and amity prevails!!

      • Sultan Sharif

        Thanks Mr. Arshad. Let us build up strong public opinion against hartal and blockade. Let us also mobilize strong public opinion against the war crimes criminals who are now in the cages so that the judgments delivered by the ICTs are executed as quickly as possible.

      • Maulana Abul Kashem Jalalabadi

        Politicians prime duty is to ensure their citizens’ security at all levels whereas look at the bloody bugger politicians! What are they doing! Can any human-being do all these brutal activities in the name of blockades and hartals? They have just stood against their own innocent people and against their country. Shall we wait for any longer to give them any chance to continue this dreadful kind of violent activities? It is the government’s duty now to crush those so-called leaders, from top to bottom and to give us some respite from these horrible acts. We want that immediately.

  19. Imtiaz

    এটা সরকার বিরোধী আন্দোলন নয়, জনগণ বিরোধী আন্দোলন। যে আন্দোলন সাধারণ মানুষের ক্ষতিসাধন করে সে আন্দোলন গণমানুষের আন্দোলন হতে পারেনা বড়জোর দলীয় আন্দোলন হতে পারে।

  20. Akhtar Shah

    Very cleverly put. The irony is, these are all well known/worn out facts that are completely and arrogantly (as they have’PUBLIC MANDATE’) ignored by the very people who know better. Great pity!

  21. Shah Jawad Shamir

    hilarious!!! i guess the whatsoever politicians wont even understand a bit reading this article!! bravo

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