Shamaruh Mirza writes on the imprisonment of her politician father
‘BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was also arrested this week, after attending a gathering organised by his party…. However, there is no evidence Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir has advocated for or engaged in violent acts. These arrests represent clear violations of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.’
The news excerpt is taken from Amnesty International’s web site published on January 8.
This is just one excerpt from the numerous news items and reports published on the national and international media in the last couple of years that points out the despotic and arbitrary maltreatment meted out by the government to opposition political leaders including Fakhrul Islam, the acting secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
Being a daughter, the unfairness of this repeated abuse and his resulting suffering are deeply personal to me. But I have been trying to rise above the emotions and anger to see the issue from a detached concerned citizen’s perspective. I realised that something is greatly amiss in the conventional narrative of his recurring misfortune. I also realised he actually represented ‘The Oppressed Bangladesh’.
The 69-year-old acting secretary general of the main opposition party in the country, who is a former minister, started his career as a teacher and widely regarded by his students as an epitome of pragmatic and amiable personality — why is he subjected to such harsh treatment? Even his critics acknowledge the mildness of his manners, which they mock as a great liability in politics; so why is he targeted repeatedly? Is it only because he is opposed to the AL government? Is it only because he is also the face of common man in Bangladesh? He is liberal, freethinking and at the same time deeply religious in personal sphere, just like the common man in the country. Therein lies the fear that discomforts the political power establishment. He believes in inclusion, not exclusion. Like the commoners. This is why extremists abhor him. This is why extremists abhor Bangladesh.
His unceasing advocacy of progressive politics since his student days attracts the ire of extremists. His unfaltering promotion of the primacy of democracy and fair justice unnerves the so called ‘pro-liberation’ radicals who do not have any confidence on the people of Bangladesh to deliver their monolithic utopia and revenge fantasies.
All of these extremists are afraid of the image of moderation and civility that Mirza Alamgir commands among the common people. The AL government and these extremists fear moderation, interaction and compromise more than anything else because they thrive on hatred and division.
Apart from the personal anguish in his sufferings, the thing that troubles me more is the thought of the family of policemen, bus travellers whose loved ones lives were cut short so brutally. I do not know whether how the cases against my father will be resolved in the end but those families will probably never know who were behind those heinous deeds.
This writing is not only about Mirza Alamgir. There are thousands out there who suffer worse than him. All the people who have vanished without trace, we cannot imagine what their families are going through. We cannot say how the three young daughters are faring mentally whose father was hacked to death in broad daylight because he was elected chairman by huge popular vote. We cannot imagine how the parents pass the night whose sons spend the whole night in paddy fields, bushes or trees so that the nameless squads will not be able to get them for at least one more day. We cannot imagine the feeling of the family whose dear one was chased to the roof in his own house by the police then thrown down to gruesome death right on the hard concrete of their own courtyard. We cannot imagine the suffering of the family whose dear one went to a political procession and came back as a lifeless body ripped apart by bullets. We really cannot imagine what thousands of families of the opposition political activists are going through in this country!
And yet, the oppression continues. Thousands of BNP activists are behind the bars; hundreds disappeared without any trace, many are killed. While I was writing this article, I saw JSD (ally to the Awami League) leader asking law enforcers about BNP-Jamaat men ‘Shoot them, if baton does not work’.
Then I got the news of Riaz Rahman, BNP chairperson’s adviser and the former state minister for foreign affairs, being shot by gunmen in the capital.
Amidst such hopelessness, I dream of justice and tolerance. I believe democracy would out survive us all just as my father did in his youth. The sonorous voice of Dylan Thomas inspires me to dream — I feel the urge to fight for what is just as my father would — and I utter the same words as Dylan Thomas would, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.’
Shamaruh Mirza is working as a regulatory scientist in Australia after finishing her PhD and post-doctoral research in life science.
Source: New Age