The inspiration of this piece arrived from Martin Luther King Jr. and his exceptional oratory, “I have a dream.” In the aftermath of Martin Luther King Day in the US, I felt these words would be both timely and appropriate. Martin Luther King Jr., renowned civil rights activist, understood the power of words and the importance of speaking out against injustices to affect change in society. Your humble contributor hopes that these words shaped by the rhetoric of our celebrated muse, may encourage you, dear reader, to speak out against the insufferable injustices that the common citizens of Bangladesh have to endure, irrespective of faith, hue, and political affiliation.
About two score years ago, a great man, in whose eternal debt we reside, signed the Constitution of Bangladesh. This historic decree came as a tremendous beacon of hope to the millions of Bangladeshis who had been seared in the flames of injustice and barbaric violence. It presaged a new era in the chapter of our nascent nation, which sought to eviscerate the tempestuous dark night of oppression and discrimination that had dominated the lives of our fellow countrymen for decades.
But forty years later, the people of Bangladesh remain shackled. Forty years later, the life of the common citizen of Bangladesh is still incapacitated by the brutality of mindless violence. Forty years later, the Bangladeshi lives in a ditch of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of economic prosperity. Forty years later, the Bangladeshi is still hounded by the elements of the population who butchered his fellow brothers and sisters. Forty years later, the common citizen of Bangladesh finds himself a stranger in his own land, harangued by cocktail wielding activists and insouciant public authorities. And so your author writes today, to dramatise a shameful state of affairs which can potentially poison the future of our country for generations to come.
In a sense, this is a demand to cash a cheque. When the founders of our Republic wrote the glorious text of our Constitution, they were issuing a promissory note to every Bangladeshi, present and future. This note was a binding promise that men and women of all religious faiths, political affiliations and hue will be “equal before law and entitled to equal protection of law.” It is blatantly obvious that Bangladesh has defaulted on this binding promise, in so far as the common people are concerned. Instead of honouring this hallowed promise, Bangladesh has given its citizens a bad cheque, a cheque which has bounced from the bank of justice, marked “insufficient funds.”
We must refuse to believe that the bank of justice does not have sufficient funds to meet our demands. We must refuse to believe that the funds from the great vaults of opportunity of this nation have been frittered away. We must refuse to believe that our dreams have to be mortgaged to the draconian demons of oppression and coercion for us to survive. And so, we have to stand together and cash this cheque, a cheque that will bestow upon us the riches of freedom from violence and discrimination, and the security of untainted justice.
We must all unite to remind Bangladesh of the crucial urgency of Now. There is no time to bathe in the luxury of apportioning blame or to take the tranquilising drug of deference. Now is the time to realise the promises of democracy. Now is the time to emerge from the dark and dejected valley of political violence and instability to the sunlit path of rule of law and institutional independence. Now is the time to lift our nation from the poisonous marshes of abuse and corruption to the higher grounds of brotherhood and sisterhood. Now is the time to make justice and equality a reality for all citizens of Bangladesh.
Overlooking the urgency of the moment, would prove to be lethal. The bleak winter of fear and discontent of the common citizen of Bangladesh will not pass until it is brushed aside by the spring of freedom and equality. Two thousand and fifteen is not an end, but a beginning.
There is something that all people who seek the palace of justice must keep in mind. Two wrongs do not make a right. In the quest for attaining equality and freedom, we cannot rely on wrongful deeds. Such acts will taint the noble quest and impede our true goal. In the quest to quench our thirst for justice and security, we must not succumb to the Faustian chalice of bitterness and hatred. Dignity and discipline should be our navigational tools through the dark forest of misinformation and injustice. We must reject physical violence. Whenever, the establishment tries to impede this quest through sponsored violence, we must unite and rise above the plane of violence and meet our oppressors with the force of our soul and determination.
We must walk together. When we walk, we must make a solemn pledge that we will march until we inexorably reach our goal. And we cannot turn back.
People will ask us: “How long do you intend to walk?” To them we reply: “We shall walk as long as the citizens of Bangladesh are the victims of unspeakable horrors of police brutality and political miscreants.” We cannot stop our march when, heavy with the fatigue of our travails, we cannot congregate at a place to share our views. We cannot stop until our basic right of participating in the democratic process are protected by the executive as well as the judiciary. We cannot be satisfied until the executive and the political elite are held accountable to the people for their actions. No, no, no! We cannot stop our march until justice rolls down like water.
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, dear reader. Even when we face insurmountable odds of surviving and flourishing today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream that was rooted in our fight for existence from the brink of extermination, although it may have become mired by the petty differences of the people who govern our nation.
I have a dream that one day Bangladesh will rise up and achieve the ideals upon which it was conceived.
I have a dream that one day all the children of Bangladesh will obtain unbiased education at the terminal of knowledge.
I have a dream that one day on the corridors of the Parliament, the Members of Parliament (MP) of the governing party will be able to have a meaningful conversation about economic policy with MPs of the opposition party.
I have a dream that one day on the Hill-tracts of Chittagong, believers of different faiths will be able to live in harmony and feel safe from any kind of oppression.
I have a dream that one day on the hills of Sylhet, sons of former Zamindars and sons of former proletariats will work with one another to develop ingenious solutions to intractable problems.
I have a dream that one day at the Lok Shobas before general elections the constituents will elect their representatives on their abilities and their proposals to improve the quality of life of the people.
I have a dream that one day the world will study Bangladesh as a county to emulate our approach to smash the manacles of poverty through creativity and innovation.
I have a dream today!
It is a dream that crystallises from the inherent resilience and the desire of the people of Bangladesh to take on insurmountable odds and tame the beast of chaos with our sheer will and perseverance.
I have faith in the indomitable strength of the citizens of Bangladesh. We can achieve unimaginable, great goals if we put our mind to it. Change is an undeniable fact of the universe. It is about time that we took it to heart and implemented it.