Feature Img
REUTERS/Andrew Biraj.
REUTERS/Andrew Biraj.

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.

Julian Francishas been associated with relief and development activities of Bangladesh since the War of Liberation. In 2012, the Government of Bangladesh awarded him the ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour’ in recognition of his work among the refugees in India in 1971 and in 2018 honoured him with full Bangladesh Citizenship. In 2019, Julian has also been honoured with the award of the OBE for services to development in Bangladesh.

3 Responses to “Hartals are not enjoyable at all!”

  1. Ashequl Islam

    In Bangladesh, the poorest are suffering the most. The daily laboureres 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 specially milk,vegetable 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.

    The above stanza is your but very crucial to think.

  2. Syed Imtiaz ALI

    I am sure it was not meant literally. And if really so, it was a blooper, uttered with utter disgust at the paralysis and work-stoppage it brings with it! Why foreigners? NO ONE enjoys ‘hartal/s’. It is SCARY and it paralyses everyone and everything. It is a curse better avoided and resorted to other popular means.
    However, Long Live Democracy!

  3. Golam Arshad

    Julian my distinguish friend I do agree with you: Hartal. And Oborodh! Are totally counterproductive. It is Mind Boggling for you and me, the Ruling Party, opposed any Dialog! The BNP should NOT have called a NATION WIDE BLOCKADE. What is the FEAR of the RULING PARTY? Do they think sitting for A Dialog is in itself accepting Defeat! The barrage of cross hitting in words between both Parties, triggered bewilderment and frustration. It is a matter of grave concern, and the Nation is at the verge of conflict. The Two Parties could resolve without any mediator if they decide! We the people Pray for Peace! We the People vouch that maximum restrain from any type of deadly confrontation avoided for the sake and safety security of the PEOPLE.

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