In the media recently, there was a suggestion – perhaps tongue in cheek – that foreigners ‘enjoy’ hartals. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The current situation of non-stop ‘oborodh’ and ‘hartal’ is annoying, depressing, and frustrating. Nearly all foreigners are in Bangladesh because of the work that they do. They may be diplomats, businessmen, teachers, development workers, or volunteers. That they cannot go about their daily work safely is frustrating. They are witnessing huge losses, death, and destruction all around them. Losses of income and losses of future opportunities. Losing opportunities of assisting Bangladesh’s development.
In Bangladesh, the poorest are suffering the most. The daily labourers who live from hand to mouth, be they construction workers or agricultural workers, are not getting as much work as usual. Farmers cannot get their produce to market and in some cases are not even lifting the produce from the field. Garment factories are not receiving as many orders because the buyers are hesitating to place orders if delivery schedules cannot be guaranteed.
In 1971, while coordinating OXFAM’s refugee relief programme in India covering about 600,000 Bangladeshis, I saw many refugees arriving in the refugee camps with severe burns on their bodies. In most cases, the burns were caused when the Pakistan Army and their collaborators set fire, usually at night, to whole villages. Now, nearly 44 years later, Bangladeshis are burning Bangladeshis, their own countrymen, to death in buses, trucks, and trains. Over the years, in spite of confrontational politics, Bangladesh has developed and progressed so much since Independence. Why are some leaders wanting to press the self-destruct button by ordering and encouraging terrorism?
I can still see a golden future for Bangladesh, but if terrorism is given a chance, I see nothing but darkness. Everyone should join hands to ensure that all countrymen and women and children prosper in ways that are clearly possible.