There are times when one doesn’t know how to begin. Well, alright, let me begin like this: I was hardened by Catholic school. Hardening by a Catholic school is like hardening an unfertilized egg. Despite years of work, we get something utterly breakable, crackable, fragile. Something penetrable, cookable. Something end-able.

Two kids died in Bangladesh because they were run over by buses, and that’s not the worst of it. No, in that part of the globe, things get much worse.

There are times when one doesn’t know how to begin. Well, alright, let me begin by stating what is confirmed: After the inadvertent killings of two innocent kids, the students of Bangladesh were lost. Only the students, mind you.

No one else cared. For the rest of the populace, the incident was a tide of daily whatevers, attracted by whatever gravity available on the day.

The students, wanting harsher law enforcement against public transport drivers and better treatment of the victims’ families, raised an apparently peaceful protest. The student wing of the ruling political party, Bangladesh Chhatra League, barbarically cracked down on the protests by beating and shooting the protesters, abducting and allegedly raping women, and invading homes.

People bled in broad daylight. Women were, in fact, threatened and abducted. Some of their bodies were found later. And yes, they were found with apparent signs of sexual assault — that was the only uncertainty, and one which I’m willing to forego, given that the rest of the violations are enough to condemn agents involved in this ordeal.

Local agencies were mandated by the Bangladesh government to report the violent crackdown as fake news. The cops were instructed to maintain a state of inaction, which means their power to stop student-wing atrocities was limited. The Information and Communications Minister announced that the attacks were feigned.

So, all in all, alleged gross violations of liberties include: 1) Violence against peaceful protests, 2) Abduction, rape and murder on an organized scale, 3) Cover-up by a government, and 4) Enabling of a political student wing’s atrocities by a government’s mandate of law enforcement inaction, effectively creating a Purge-like culture for political goons.

A Change.org petition was started to brand the Bangladesh Chhatra League a terrorist organization. Leave aside for a moment the fact that the student wing’s cruelties were not ideologically motivated in the least, and that its agents are merely boys following mummy’s orders, which means the group doesn’t for one moment get the indulgence of being branded “terrorist”. Instead, focus on the ineffectiveness of the situation. A Change.org petition isn’t nearly enough — what’s needed is legislative change.

It’s hard for me to blame the country’s Prime Minister for instability. Of course, it’s hard for the country’s citizens to blame her as well, but for entirely different reasons. Perhaps it would be easier for me if I had more conviction.

Well, here it goes nonetheless: The ruling party is working with an inherently unstable state; Bangladesh isn’t suffering from a rut of instability; it’s been limping with instability since its inception, wading through a phantasmagoria of coups and counter-coups, cowering at every turn, permanently in panic mode. The most recent coup attempt was a mere six years ago. It didn’t materialize because Prime Minister Hasina was tipped off by India’s Research and Analysis Wing.

The Bangladeshi ruling party is and has been working with a mess for a long time. I can’t truthfully say I’d be able to work with such a mess without plunging my hands into filth.

But there comes a point where I must make a conscious choice to say “Stop”. I understand perfectly your means-to-an-end approach, Bangladesh. But by mutilating your means, you’re sacrificing your end. Jinnah would be proud.

With the drafting and approval of a new Digital Security Act earlier this year, some ambiguities in Bangladesh’s previous digital security laws were eliminated, most notably those in the dreaded section 57 of the ICT Act. But the problem is that the new act isn’t doing too great either.

The decadence we’re seeing here is due to a government placing its faith in the wrong political apparatuses — don’t rely on student-wings. Rely on the press.

Bangladeshi government, you’re scared of the press’s check on you. But here’s the thing: You should be. You’ve got that part right. What you’re getting wrong is that you’re trying to eliminate that fear instead of letting it incentivize you.

Live with the fear, make it your friend. Let the fear drive you to make your laws less ambiguous. Let the fear drive you to carefully redesign law enforcement. Let the fear make you carefully consider business and stock market regulation.

The more structural problems a country has, the more cautious it has to be allocating resources. Bangladesh, trying to preserve the peace by cracking down on dissent won’t get you peace. Trying to achieve long-term stability by making these apparently short-term sacrifices won’t get you long-term stability. You’re wasting your resources. Let the fear make you handle your resources more carefully.

I haven’t even delved into Bangladesh’s structural problems, which are the hardest to address. They require their own article. As do the topics of the country’s legislative ambiguities and law enforcement incapabilities. I’m no stranger to ambiguities in the law — my own country, India, has plenty of those. There, I’ve said it. If my family disappears, you’ll know who to blame.

Seventh grade was when I left that Catholic school. Maybe if I stayed, I’d know how to finish;. More importantly, maybe I’d know how to begin. But I’d rather flounder on than go through Catholic school again. I’m sure Bangladesh would agree.

Tagged: bangladesh


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