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বাংলা
Dhaka Tribune

Disaster capitalism in Bangladesh

Update : 29 Nov 2015, 06:18 PM

The logic of the “war on terror” script continues to wreak havoc across the Third World. On the one hand, the screams of pitiless war by drone and proxy armies and clash of civilisations are played out on the bodies of Muslim citizens of Europe and America.

On the other hand, in the third world, power groups who in the past have latched on to whatever force was useful, have now fastened onto a so-called “Islamist” identity as a way to gain money, arms, and supplies.

 From whom do they gain their orders and support? Are the controllers only here, inside, or far away as well? Is it too conspiratorial to suggest that the same forces that claim to be fighting these forces are also in some ways responsible for their birth?

No, there doesn’t have to be a direct link from the first to the Third World, from bank to pocket.

It can be simpler: When you make the war on terror a lucrative business, you are inaugurating the age of what Naomi Klein dubbed “disaster capitalism.”

And such a form of capitalism has enthusiasm on both the side of demand (state power, overseas and here) and supply (de-territorialised forms of power, under whatever “flag” is useful).

 It is endlessly documented that the age of WOT has allowed war profiteers, both Western and local partners (client state and its disciplinarians) in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, to reap millions in the shadows of the endless war.

War is big business, and the WOT is the most profitable business in the history of modern warfare. On one side are states that requisition funds for this war and take away rights from citizens, and on the other a shadowy “transnational force” defined by the state. All the hallmarks of cabal capitalism and price-fixing.

 A profitable business like McDonald’s has to expand and open new franchises. It also needs new customers. And capitalism’s genius is that customers appear from thin air; they make themselves appear. Even if they don’t exist, if you speak their name enough times, they will exist.

 Each group of victims of recent Islamist attacks is a non-entity in Bangladesh with no long history of any tension (or even engagement) with any so-called Islamist force.

The most nonsensical category of all is “blogger.” Blog is a technology; if it was a definer of a community or ideology, then the larger communities of Bangladesh would be Facebookistan, Whatsappiliya, and SMSdesh.

As for “atheist blogger,” this is a fiction. The number of vocal atheists could always be counted on one hand, and their elevation to importance was only because someone decided to kill four of them (and then call them atheists posthumously) in order to fire the first salvo in this new franchise war.

Imagine the frustration of Western journalists when they arrive pell-mell to Bangladesh and can’t find any “atheist bloggers” or even any “bloggers” to interview.

This is because there was never any particular affinity with this identity, and whoever had any with the second group has realised that participating in interviews only fans the flames.

“Foreigners” were targeted next so as to widen the circle, and so non-ideological was this process that the second victim was a Japanese small agricultural businessman who had converted to Islam.

Speaking of “foreigners,” a Japanese couple was attacked in a robbery two weeks ago, and this week a Japanese woman was killed in what smells like a robbery by people close to her. But because neither of these fits the drama of the “Islamist” hit, they became non-news instantly. Because violence is non-news.

Contract killing is a business now in Bangladesh, which has no ideology. Only in a few dramatic cases like the seven floating bodies of Narayanganj did the chain of investigation lead somewhere (leading to the same RAB that is to be our saviour against “terrorism”).

The Sagar-Runi double-murder (with brutality that rivals any of the so-called “Islamist” killings) is unsolved and will remain so forever.

The shooting of a political mastan captured on CCTV in Dhaka, unsolved. Murders happen all the time, as both state and citizen vie with each other for the tools of violence.

And in a porous nation, there are no boundaries, the chain (and weapons) of violence runs through everything.

 Bogra is known for yogurt. It is not known for a Shia population. The overall Shia population in Bangladesh is so microscopic (less than a digit in the census) that tensions with them are not even possible.

Thursday’s shooting inside the Shia mosque, as well as the earlier Hosaini Dalan bombing, borrows directly from the Pakistan script, itself an unimaginative borrowing from elsewhere.

But borrowed and unimaginative as it may be, it works to destabilise the country. And after some time, the reality that does not exist will become real.

Carry out enough false attacks on minority communities, and they will flee the country -- they won’t care about what master game is going on (I imagine asylum applications to Europe and America by self-proclaimed “atheists” are on the rise, and Shias will be next).

 After Bogra, Prof Ali Riaz wrote a note on Facebook where he says that if either the government or opposition attempts to gain political mileage from these events (as has already happened with the mutual blame-passing), the price will be paid by the citizens.

He means the citizens of a destabilised and ruined country, as has already happened with Pakistan.

And he probably knows (though he does not say) that if a total breakdown comes, most of the members of government and opposition probably have a safe route out of the country.

It will be we, the citizens, with nowhere else to go (or who do not wish to go), who will be left holding the burning map.

Prof Ali Riaz, in his writing, seems to be carrying an almost utopian wish that facing this dangerous new turn, for the first time since 1990, all political forces may unite to face this danger together. Will they listen, or will they let things fall further apart? 

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