Invincible Bangladesh: Soft Soil but Tough Land – A Polite Note to Indians

shafiq rehman amar desh 1.12.13

It is not 1971, but 2013

By Shafik Rehman

The date-expired PM Sheikh Hasina has been recently repeating that the election WILL take place in Bangladesh, but what she has not been saying is that the outcome of that election will have been decided in India. All the countrymen are eagerly wanting to know about the interference of India in Bangladesh. They have understood well that Awami League ministers and officials are actually powerless. Awami League GS Mr Asharf has remarked about the rumoured but secret meeting between him and his BNP counterpart Mr Fakhrul that he (Mr Ashraf) does not know any thing, only PM Sheikh Hasina knows everything. But in reality, Sheikh Hasina herself does not know anything now. Only people to have any idea is her backers in New Delhi. Orders are coming from Delhi to the Indian High Commission in Dhaka. Because Sheikh Hasina is not able to go to the Indian High Commission and because frequent meetings between her and the Indian ambassador can be embarrassing, hence on 11 November 2013 the high commissioner instead met with the son of Sheikh Hasina, Sajib Wajed Joy, who is an American citizen but holds political ambition in Bangladesh. Joy has been acting as the courier between the Indian high commissioner Mr Pankaj Sharan and Sheikh Hasina. As Joy had to go to USA suddenly for a period, the role of courier was given to Hasina’s sister Sheikh Rehana, who is a UK citizen but demands some state-honour in Bangladesh. The meeting between Mr Pankaj Sharan and Sheikh Rehana took place on 24 November and lasted for 90 mins. Meaning, all decisions are coming from Delhi to the Indian high commission in Dhaka, and those decisions are being implemented through Sheikh Hasina. This is the correct scenario and the reality of Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina’s father had surrendered to the Pakistanis on the night of 25 December 1971; likewise, Sheikh Hasina had surrendered to the Indians.

Hasina’s surrender to India: Asylum in Bhartinagar

Sheikh Hasina was visiting Germany in August 1975. After the death of her father, she took refuge in India’s Delhi, living in a ground-floor flat of a government colony in Bhartinagar. Sheikh Rehana was with her too. In the opposite flat lived Mr Sitangshu Das who was the editor of the influential the Daily Indian Express and a trustworthy person to Indira Gandhi. Mr Sitangshu and his wife spoke Bangla. He was the London reporter for the Indian Express during 1971 and used to live in Woodside Park in North London. At one time he was the president of the Indian Foreign Correspondents Association in London and worked as the Delhi editor later on. He wrote a biography of Suvas Chandra Bose which was meant to be turned into a Hollywood film. Because of such credentials of Mr Sitangshu Das, Sheikh Hasina was given his opposite flat. That was the beginning of Sheikh Hasina’s mentality of owing everything to India.

For 5 years the Sitangshu family took care of Hasina and Rehana, ranging from their daily shopping to introducing them to the town. In May 1981, President Zia arranged for their return to Bangladesh, possibly for two reasons. Firstly, Zia remembered Sheikh Mujib with respect, following whose call on 7th march 1971 Zia declared the Independence War with ‘We Revolt’ on 25 March. So, Zia wanted to end the refugee life of Sheikh Mujib’s daughters. Secondly, after Sheikh Mujib’s death, the Awami League scattered into various groups. The two major divisions were led by Mizanur Rahman and Abdur Razzaq. India is used to the ‘family politics’, so it wanted to impose that system onto Bangladesh as well, and hence planned to reorganize and unite the Awami League under Sheikh Hasina. With this target, the then Indian government asked President Zia to allow Sheikh Hasina return to Bangladesh. Pres Zia agreed. It is a matter of great shame that Sheikh Hasina repetitively gives thanks to the Indian government for its support to her throughout her life, but she has never thanked or appreciated what President Zia and Mr Sitangshu Das had done for her. Mr Sitangshu had an emotional attachment to Bangladesh since 1971 and wanted to visit the independent Bangladesh. He had expected that after her coming to the power in 1996, Sheikh Hasina would invite him to visit as a state guest, but he was never invited.

Sheikh Hasina’s attitude towards President Zia has been even worse; that of ingratitude as opposed to any sense of appreciation for his facilitating her return. Sheikh Hasina never went to show any condolence to Khaleda Zia afte Zia’s death. In contrast, after the death of Hasina’s husband, Khaleda Zia went to her residence to express condolence. In 1996 within a week of Hasina becoming the PM, she ordered her transport minister Anwar Hussain Monju to remove the connecting bridge to the grave of President Zia.

We have sidetracked to the above two examples of Hasina’s ingratitude, to show her personality traits. Hasina’s main characteristic is ‘political opportunism’. This show of opportunism is being displayed even today. Hasina boasts that she observes prayers and reads from the Quran regularly. But this is the same person accused of massacring unarmed Muslims at Shapla Chattar. She joins with the Tablighi Ijtema from her office through video conference – from a distance of 20 miles; but she has no problem travelling 2,000 miles to Makkah for photo shooting for political opportunity. For the same reason she has started adorning the hijab these days again as she had done just before the 1996 elections.

After the death of President Zia in May 1981 and the army coup in Feb 1982, India-trusted Ershad came to power. At that time India did not want to install Hasina in power for two reasons. Firstly, Hasina was still a learner in politics, and secondly, the army was at that time anti-India and respectful to Zia. The Awami League led by Hasina gave support to Ershad during his 9 years in power. India came to the decision in 1990 that the BNP led by Khaleda Zia had been resurging and rising, so to thwart BNP India must abandon Ershad, who had become much hated by then, and to install Hasina in his place. So, in December 1990, goodbye President Ershad!

But India did not have the chance to welcome Hasina as the new PM in 1991. Khaleda Zia was the unexpected election winner. India had to wait another 5 years to install Hasina and Awami League in power. Awami League started the demand for the caretaker government at the next election and for this it allied with Jamat-i-Islami holding secret meetings and synchronized agitation, leading a campaign of arson including burning the newly built rail stations; 173 days of strikes. Although the Awami League came to power in that election, for its desired absolute majority aiming to change the constitution it had to wait for another 12 years.

The 2008 election was designed in Delhi:

The outcome of the 2008 election was designed in Delhi. Indian govt had informed its embassy in Washington about that decision who in turn notified the American government about that. At that time Hilary Clinton was the US Secretary of State. The American government gave its support to the design of Delhi and congratulated the fraudulent outcome of that rigged election. This secret deal was exposed during a telephone conversation between Hilary Clinton and Hasina that took place on 16 January 2011. Part of the transcript of that conversation is below:

Hilary : Madame Prime Minister, I thought I would not have to go that far. But, unfortunately, I was wrong. I hope you know as much as we know, how your government came to power. Don’t forget that we helped you by congratulating you after the election, terming it as free and fair. You know Prime Minister, how this election result was pre-arranged at the behest of our good friends in New Delhi. We acted the way they suggested to us. And please don’t forget that Gen. Moyeen, who brought you to power, now in the USA and perhaps, we now know, more than you could possibly imagine.

The full transcript of that conversation is now online on facebook. This transcript is important to understand how deep Hasina’s relationship with India is.

Not Ordinary, but Obsolete:

Since then for the last 5 years, Hasina’s appreciation towards India has grown deeper and her allegiance to India has become more solid. Because, firstly, India provided her with all important advice and guidance during the BDR mutiny in 2009, which Hasina survived. She managed to get rid of the BDR and keep the army under control at the same time. Secondly, she secured full diplomatic support from India in portraying Khaleda Zia and BNP as extreme Islamists in the International Arena. Her main support came through her Foreign Minister Dipu Moni in this. According to the diplomatic sources, Dipu Moni became the foreign minister despite having no background in Awami League or in BD politics, mainly due to her husband Dr Tawfiq Nawaz’s India connection. Who is this Dr Tawfiq Nawaz? He is a lawyer, much older than Dipu Moni. He is a successful lawyer but not famous. He became successful as a flutist and known within the Indian High Commission. He used to host regular flute concerts in his residence at Ispahani Colony near Ramna Thana where Indian flutists attended regularly. His young friendly wife, Dipu Moni, was known as a good hostess. Unexpectedly when she was made the foreign minister many old Awami League leaders thought Dipu Moni became a minister out of nowhere. But this is not totally out of nowhere. She already has had good Indian connections through her husband. This only solidified in 2009. After becoming the foreign minister she started behaving like she was over the moon, flying for most of the time and spending 600 days abroad during the term.

Tawfique is know for performing his concerts wearing white clothes, but his mind is relatively black and his relation with many members of the civil society is complicated. His relation with Dr Muhammad Yunus, Dr Kamal Hussain and Sir Fazle Hasan Abed was never courteous. Hence, after Dipu Moni’s departure from the Foreign Ministry, the Awami League has been propagating that Tawfique Nawaz was the man behind harassment of Dr Yunus. But this is only a propaganda in order to save Hasina from the wrath of America. The diplomatic arena is well aware that it was Hasina’s own personal jealousy and vengeance that caused Dr Yunus so much harassment and insults; removing Dr Yunus from his post and passing the govt ‘s plan to take Grameen Bank under her control.

Tawfique’s uncordial relation with Dr Kamal Hussain has become a blocking issue against Hasina’s election plans. Dr Kamal, leading a group of 6 prominent personalities, has met with President Abdul Hamid and voiced against any election under Hasina. This has provoked Hasina to say various insulting remarks against Dr Kamal at a meeting on 28 November such as, “If Dr Kamal is a prominent extraordinary person, are we too ordinary?” In response, one prominent person remarked that “Hasina has made an accusation, but no self reflection; she has displayed anguish, but no deep thoughts; in reality, Hasina is not becoming an ordinary, she is on the path of becoming an obsolete.”

Tawfique Nawaz’s influence on Hasina can bring another disaster for her. Tawfique has disagreements on BRAC Bank with the BRAC founder Sir Fazle Hasan Abed. Some think that Sir Abed might be the head of any caretaker government in the future. But Awami League might oppose Sir Abed because of Tawfique’s influence.

For the above reasons, the insiders within the Awami League ponder what is the source of Tawfique Nawa’s influence? The answer is: India.

After a year of coming to power, Sheikh Hasina visited India and signed a treaty in 2010. This was the first written official deed of their long term affair, which was never discussed in the Bangladesh Parliament. Some say this treaty is a ‘political kabin nama’ (marriage deed). Authorized by this treaty, India has been taking advantage of transit through Bangladesh. Closing down 16 bridges within Bangladesh and blocking the flow of the Titas river at two places, India has been transporting its machineries to Tripura.

Indian businessmen started coming to Bangladesh in groups, Sheikh Hasina posing with them with broad smiles. This new Indian influence has displayed itself most blatantly on the official jersey of the BD Cricket team with the SAHARA logo; this is the logo of a controversial Indian company and which is also the official logo of the Indian cricket team. Bangladeshi tigers put on those jerseys like some rats. Bangladeshi footballers are worried: will they also one day have to put on logos belonging to some other Indian companies like TATA, Reliance and SAHARA? The Bangladeshi public becomes more worried when our ‘rubbish mouthed’ Finance Minister says that Bangladesh and India should have the same currency. Those used to seeing Sheikh Mujib’s picture on Bangladesh currencies wonder, in the near future will we see photos of Gandhi on our currencies?

Has the Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina sold out to India to such an extent? 

Taking advantage of Hasina’s weakness, Indian investors begun to take over the Bangladesh garments industry. Indian executives started filling the top position in this sector. They have brought in their wives too, occupying many Bangladeshi jobs. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult for Bangladeshis to reach the top positions. After that, some Indian entrepreneurs set their eyes on Bangladesh’s housing sector. Some of them have gone to Sheikh Hasina claiming that Bangladesh was their ancestral home, some explaining dreams of urbanisation to her. Luckily, Indians were not that successful in this sector. Not because of any action of the Awami government, but due to the organised fierce opposition by the local REHAB. Similarly, our local film producers have thwarted the Indian plan to show Indian films freely.

Mission Possible, Mission successful:

After failing to dominate the Bangladesh housing and movie sector, Indian aggression in the Bangladesh economy slowed down for sometime. They then concentrated on dominating the political sector even more. Sheikh Hasina’s govt has come forward to support them in this. Although Awami League and Jamaat allied together for the caretaker govt in 1996, Awami League has re-invented the Independence War after 40 years. Sheikh Hasina, who was absent in the first Independence War, declares the ‘Second Independence War’. She divides the country with the theory of ‘Pro and Anti Independence’. In the name of trial in International Crimes Tribunal, she carried on declaring verdicts and punishments. Her government passed new laws with backdating effect to pass even more severe punishments. This was the worst incident of injustice and an unprecedented case in the history of justice. Rightly, Amnesty Internation, Human Rights Watch and others have criticised such actions severely. But the Indian intelligentsia and the media became euphoric so much so that the singer Sumon Chatterji welcomed the ‘soldiers of the second Independence War’ in February 2013 by sending poems and songs from ‘West Bengal’.

It can be said that February 2013 was the peak point of Indian political and cultural influence in Bangladesh. Indian politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi and their diplomats and intelligence officers in Dhaka came in the mood of celebrations. What was not possible in 1971 during the reign of Sheikh Mujib, became possible after 42 years in 2013 during the reign of his subjugated daughter. Mission possible, mission successful!

But this Indian celebration did not last for long. The Bangladesh public, oppressed from January 2009 to March 2013, were looking for a way out to freedom.

The first Independence War lasted for nine months. The Shahbagh second Independence War lasted for two months. Despite Sheikh Hasina’s well wishes, media mongering, supply of biryani packets and mineral water, the boasts of some youths ended within two months.

After February and March 2013, the third Independence War begun in April 2013 in which at least half a million religious peaceful people took part from the far corners of the country. This third Independence War has begun its 9th month in Dec 2013, and now the whole population of the country, tired of Awami League’s oppression and misrule, are part of this third Independence War, looking for their way out to freedom.

The new ID of the Awami League:

After the second largest peaceful gathering of the Hefazat on 5th May 2013, various agencies of the government mounted a serious attack in the early hours of 6th May on unarmed sleeping members of the Hefazat. Huge number of people were killed or injured. News of hundreds and even thousands being killed spread throughout the country. The PM denied such massive casualty afterwards, but her denial was meaningless. The government shut down Diganta TV and Islamic TV while on air broadcasting live from the scene. This has made the impression that the government was trying to hide the truth. The countrymen believe that the Awami League is an anti-Islamic government that can massacre hundreds of peaceful unarmed religious Muslims without hesitation. Until now the Awami League was known as a pro-Indian party. After 6th May, the new ID of Awami League is as an anti-Islamic party. From now on, this is the ID card of Awami League.

As a result, a gloom and doom has descended on the Indian High Commission in Dhaka. Indian officials from Delhi to Dhaka have got a massive shock. They have analyzed the flaws in their false daydream. They have come to the decision that for the moment Sheikh Hasina must be kept in power by any means. Even after the expiry date, the atmosphere for a rigged election must be prepared by keeping Shekh Hasina in power and the MPs in their seats. The target is: to ensure another massive victory for Awamileague in the 2014 election. As The Economist had exposed that India spent bags-full of money to ensure Awami League’s victory in 2008, this time in 2014 India will spend trucks-full of money for the same. For this goal, India has begun their most shameless and naked interfering activities; such blatant open interference in Bangladeshi politics by India is for the first time, and the person responsible for this is Sheikh Hasina.

The naked shameless interference:

At the beginning of such naked and shameless interference by India, one of its army generals, GOC of Eastern command, Lt General Dalbar Singh came to Bangladesh leading four others on 22 September 2013. They met the Bangladesh army chief Iqbal Karim Bhuiya, aka IKB, and chief of the Bangladesh Navy, Vice Admiral M Farid Habib. They also visited some important and sensitive military institutions and installations during this visit.

It may be a sensitive issue to draw the army into this discussion, but we have no choice. Sheikh Hasina, her son Joy and the Chief Election Commissioner have been repetitively drawing the army into the current political turmoil. If they can try to draw the army face to face against the people, then we have a responsibility to discuss this issue and avert such a situation. The army is not a guardian of Sheikh Hasina, Joy and Awami League only, the army is a guardian for the whole nation. Our military forces received assistance from the Chinese and the USA in the past, what can they expect from the Indians? Only orders and advice.

The Americans are already annoyed with Hasina because of her purchasing arms from Russia. Russians are also worried whether Bangladesh can pay the money as the schedule of the loan nears. The Russians can remember that after the Ershad era, new PM Khaleda Zia refused to take the planes he had bought from UK and also raised questions about the high price of some earlier planes Mr Ershad had bought. The Russians can also remember that when Sheikh Hasina in her first term signed a commercial contract of buying old mobile phones and electricity installations, Khaleda Zia had cancelled that contract after she came to power. So the Russians are worried whether they will receive their money from this arms sale. Khaleda Zia herself has not said anything about it yet, but her advisers have said that they will scrutinize whether such an arms deal was necessary for Bangladesh at this moment, whether the price was reasonable, and whether anyone had received any commission from this deal and how much. Also whether it was essential for Hasina to visit Moscow during the deal.

This may be a minor issue for the Americans, but still an issue. They are also annoyed about Hasina’s visit to Belarus right after Russia and meeting with its President who is known to the Americans as a drug smuggler. The Americans are getting involved in Bangladesh’s current politics because of two reasons mainly:

1) The Awami League’s actions against the Islamists might be counter-productive. Because of mass killings of the Islamists and cynically joking about those killings by Hasina, many Islamists can go underground and choose armed struggle. That will be a bad news for the Americans. Because there are half a million Bangladeshis in America who might get involved with Islamists gone underground in Bangladesh. In That way, Bangladesh can become an exporter of terrorism. Although the Americans have condoned the government’s massacre in Shapla Chattar and leaned towards the Awami League for that, now they are worried that the actions by the Awami League against the Islamists can become counter productive and cause more radicalisation.

2) To save the Grameen Bank:

Much earlier than this, when the USA embassy in Dhaka was asked whether they are taking orders directly from Washington or through India, the embassy replied that it takes orders directly from Washington. But after the Indian interference in Bangladesh has become more and more clear and open, the American embassy started to directly link up with India.

Diplomatic Tornadoes:

[Translator’s summary: Rehman describes many recent diplomatic initiatives and interferences by Americans and Indians and concludes that the Americans (even American diplomats of Indian decent) have understood the Bangladesh problem more accurately and are in the right. But the Indians have never understood or tried to understand the problem correctly, and instead arrogantly neglected the feelings of the Bangladeshi population and is only pursuing an aggressive agenda for its narrow interests.]

Indian Dementia:

Indians are suffering from a serious dementia. They have forgotten that this subcontinent was partitioned in 1947 and the people of this country willingly decided to become part of then Pakistan based on religion. In 1971 the same people again fought and became independent based on political grounds. But that does not mean that they have forsaken their centuries-old religious identity. This means the 85 percent of Bangladeshis who are Muslim will remain as Muslims for centuries to come. The Indians must understand that it will be impossible to change their religious identity using non-communal or secular masks/agenda. Bangladesh is not a new political map like Bosnia, Macedonia, Croatia, Kazakhstan, or Tajikistan. What became the map of East Pakistan in 1947 is the same unchanged map of Bangladesh now. The population of this country is ethnically Bengali and religiously Muslims, the Indians must accept this separate independent identity and originality of this population.

In recent years the Indians have lost the moral authority to lecture others about non-communality. Many Indians are ashamed that in 2014 an extremist Hindu fundamentalist named Narendra Modi might become the new Indian Prime Minister; a man who has been refused an American visa since 2005 for his involvement in violence against Muslims.

If the Indian diplomats in Dhaka and their masters in Delhi realise the flaws in their position and consequently withdraw their support for the date-expired PM Sheikh Hasina, only then the relation between the two countries can start to heal. May we remember that only a few days ago the Indians were saying that they want to have relations with the country, not with any specific party. They have a chance to prove such a statement on 4 December when the Indian foreign secretary visits Bangladesh. They must realize that, the extremist Hindu leader Narendra Modi might become the next Prime Minister even after having massacred so many Muslims in the Hindu dominated India; but Sheikh Hasina can never win another fair and free election in the Muslim majority Bangladesh after having massacred so many Muslims.

It may be very relevant and timely to quote from a famous Hindu writer Okkhoy Kumar Moitra. In his famous ‘The History of the Bengal’, he writes,

“The soil of Bangladesh is soft, but the land is tough:

[Translator summarised]

In this land, the influence of soil is greater than that of men. There was no shortage of attempts to change this unique independent land into the narrow society of the aborigines/occupiers again and again, but those attempts failed because of the influence of its soil. The population of this nation has remained as unique/independent as ever. But those who tried to change this people, they themselves gave up many of their own tradition and became part of this population. When the [Hindu] saints were preaching against sea journeys, the Bengalis were already traveling by seas to many lands and conquering businesses. Bengalis have established a unique style of culture in every sphere of lifestyle and education. In order to understand the Bengalis, it is not enough only to read books and theories about them. You must know their tradition and core beliefs. Even though they descended from the aborigines, but the Bengalis did not follow the aboriginal traditions, instead developed a new unique culture. It may be possible to win them with arms, but it will be impossible to change their beliefs and traditions with force. But in that circumstance, it might be the opposite, impossible for the winners/occupiers to retain their own customs and traditions. Bengalis have developed their culture through a very slow process, it is impossible to identify its beginning. This unique independent culture may have started from a central point, but now has developed into an ocean in the land.

Bangla is an independent original language. Their culture is independent and unique too. Bengalis did not follow other ethnic people of India. Even though the Bengalis are described as weak in modern literature, but in truth they are a brave, freedom-loving, independent minded undefeatable and unconquerable people. They have changed religion from time to time, but never agreed to live under occupation. No one, whether the Pathans or the Moghuls, succeeded in conquering them fully. Even the English never defeated them in the battlefield and ruled over them entirely.

Other parts of India were defeated militarily, but the land of Bangala was never defeated militarily.

[originally published on December 1 2013]

Leave a Reply