If you’re reading this in the country in which it was written, you are reading words which have been very carefully chosen, to reflect a certain political climate, a certain censorship, both from the self and otherwise.
It speaks of deep-seated problems within our nation: The cowardice of writers, of journalists, of publishers; the chokehold on the freedom of speech, the power of corporations and individuals, the government’s fingers, long and foreboding, reaching across the nation and tickling it into submission.
It speaks, rather clearly: Stay within your limits. Say what we want you to say. Otherwise …
Otherwise what exactly? I suppose a writer can find himself in not the most comfortable of situations. Maybe in the confines of a four-walled gaol, beaten, tortured, or worse? I suppose there can be cases of sedition against eminent renowned journalists. Perhaps, if it boils down to it, death? Or worse: A nameless disappearance?
On a completely unrelated note, of course, educational institutions have always been at the heart of social revolution. Dhaka University’s role, throughout history, as the crux of societal and political upheavals, is well-known and documented.
It is where the young blood of students boiled with the fervour of justice, seeking to right the wrongs of those who chose to oppress them, and their nation. They found, in the likenesses and brotherhoods and sisterhoods forged from sharing a common room, class, or field, a fight worth fighting for.
Hunched over moth-ridden beds in dorms, in hushed tones in libraries, over clandestine meetings in the park, anger-fuelled ideas, passion erupted in the form of protests and demonstrations. These protests and demonstrations would eventually, in some instances, lead to the birth of a country.
What flamed this fire of rebellion? What ignited this flame to begin with?
Could it have been seeing their fellow students, family members, friends, be treated as nothing by the powers-that-be? Could it have been the narrative that the media chose to weave from the wools in front of their very own eyes?
Can it be that when governments, bought and sold by corporate giants, pander to their financial masters, it seeks out an unsung rage in the student who stands defiant, with no money, no power, only heart?
Nowadays, though, our overlords are cut from cleverer cloths.
Instead of aggression, they use soft words and subtle tactics. Instead of heavy-handed repercussions, they offer deals which seek to appease all sides concerned.
Oppression is oppression, be it at the end of a barrel, or at the end of a pen.
Perhaps when countries aren’t straining under the weight of overpopulation, when economic progress hasn’t made oppression seem like a mere fly on the wall, a revolution, however small, can be in the making
Such conditions are further exacerbated by the apathetic nature of the surrounding masses. Perhaps when countries aren’t straining under the weight of overpopulation, when the hearts of men and women aren’t ruled by the capitalistic needs of the individual, when economic progress hasn’t made oppression seem like a mere fly on the wall, a revolution, however small, can be in the making.
But, unfortunately, that is not the country we find ourselves in. You can either pander to those who hold power, through words and actions yellowed by your bias. And if you wish to be a rebel, and still have your skull attached to your body. If problems with powerful figures and entities must be addressed, it must come forth through the cowardice of omission, through vague phrases which serve little to solve the problem.
Whatever resistance there is, real resistance that is, one that seeks to upset the status quo, will be quashed, much like Rampal, much like certain other protests that have sprung up, unhappy with the way things have been progressing.
As one writer recently pointed out, protests in Bangladesh have become “a-dime-a-dozen.”
Is it that people are so happy with their lives that they’re desperate for something to complain about?
Or is it that these small factions, of environmentalists, of sex workers, of students, springing up, voicing their outrage at apparent injustices within, are representative of cracks in our system, dying to be fixed and ameliorated?
Time and again, though, they are quashed. Time and again, these end up on our newspapers as stray incidents, somewhere in the middle, hidden underneath another woman in another corner of the country getting raped, another new story about how much we’ve progressed as a nation.
Soon enough, though, each of these will be forgotten. Each, ineffectual as they were in changing us, will wither off into half-whispers of remembering. Each will lay hidden underneath our festering ignorance, away from plain sight, away from the yellowing sun.
SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @snrasul.