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Requiem for a Shonar Bangla

  • Published at 03:07 am April 14th, 2016
  • Last updated at 04:34 am April 14th, 2016
Requiem for a Shonar Bangla
I am a Bangladeshi writer. Everything I have written to date, and everything I will be writing for the remainder of my ever-shortening life, will offend someone. I do not set out to cause offence. To be human, though, is to be free. Exercising this absolute freedom for a writer requires an objective pursuit of the truth, however uncomfortable, unpopular, or unspeakable, and rendering its broad spectrum for the world. Therefore, someone will always find something offensive about the most innocuous of statements. I have lamented inequality, condemned religious fanaticism and fundamentalism, criticised governments and political parties, and mocked democracy, capitalist greed, and faux liberals. I do not apologise for any of it. Never in the history of mankind has anyone been murdered by words or thoughts. Murder, lest we forget, is morally, legally, and humanly wrong. Perhaps that is why those in positions of power prefer virile swords to flaccid words, to extend their autocratic reign. The history of mankind is also littered with heroic tales of wars in the names of religion, but laughable noughts in the name of secularism and atheism. The body-count of these wars could populate this planet twice over, which makes the lack of killings in the name of no-religion, all-religion, and un-religion ridiculous and untrustworthy. An altruistic morality derived from humanity, critical thinking, and reason is inferior to a conditional morality decided by flawless divine words laced with promises of eternal redemption, peace, and riches. The latter requires obedience to blind faith, the former an open mind. In that battle, only one can be a lethal weapon for the insatiable greed of the power-hungry legions, while the other cannot be controlled. The infidels challenge authority, demanding equality and honesty. They do so without weapons of mass destruction, and therefore can neither be used nor trusted. Religion has been essential to the fabric of Bangladeshi politics since before the nation was born. Whether it was the Islamic identity trumping the geographical and cultural one, or preferring unification to self-determination, a portion of the population was opposed to a broad worldview, progressive values, and freedom. Independence did not consign that school of thought to the scrapheap. Instead, military dictators pumped the ideology full of steroids and made it into a political force. Successive governments since have repeatedly had to sympathise with fundamentalism and rely on its potency to ascend to the throne and cling to it. That is why the form a purportedly secular government takes is to support constitutionally mandated intolerance, prevent freedoms of speech, thought, and religions from being exercised, and acquiesce to the inhuman demands of Islamism. If Bangladesh is a place where the investigation of a murder sets out to determine whether the victim said things he or she should not have -- in other words, if he or she had not been murdered, the state would punish the person in a similar vein -- during an authoritarian government that continues to paint all non-supporters as religious fundamentalists, one wonders what the country will be like when real fundamentalists establish their despotic rule in the fertile land of extremism. The current government’s woefully disguised attempts to cling to power by suppressing freedoms of speech and thought, and oppressing dissent, means it panders to barbarians, gets in bed with them. We have allowed our existing and aspiring politicians to believe that they cannot only get away with murder, but make it legal. By doing so, we have harvested a strain of totalitarian politics from which we cannot escape. This government is a representation of the dark hearts residing in every single Bangladeshi, whose indifference and inaction has given ringing endorsements to the unlawful and the illegal. The next one that comes -- and there will be a next one, there always is -- will oil the oppressive machine this one has created, make it more efficient, and force us from our knees to our bellies. The moneymen and so-called liberals will support that new one, expressly and impliedly, as they do this one, all the while casting a glance over its shoulder to the next big score. Not a soul wants to force the system to change for the better, because only the faith of the faithless -- the unshakeable belief in freedom -- is foolish enough to forsake personal gain for the greater good. I am a Bangladeshi writer. I am a humanist, an existentialist, an absurdist. I do not draw blood with my words, the activism of an avowed pacifist. I do not force my thoughts or existence on anyone else. I welcome similar treatment to what I mete out, for the cerebral quality of human beings is what sets us apart from barbaric beasts and allows progress. Discourse should beget discourse, providing the building blocks of civilisation. Somewhere along the way, Bangladeshis forgot this most basic truth about the human race. We are to blame for feeding bigotry, intolerance, and violence, for celebrating and justifying inhuman acts to make them palatable, acceptable, legal. I will be silenced one day, not by a corrupt government or a single-minded extremist, but by Bangladeshis who allowed those two to mate and breed.