Dr Hossain’s legacy is unquestionable. This is the first part of a two-part op-ed
This is not an article. It is an anatomy of an article in a newly published English language newspaper in Bangladesh.
It is not a write-up in the way write-ups are meant to be. It is an observation of how low journalism can get to be in Bangladesh, when brazen and blatant partisanship comes into media reportage and editorial comments.
It is not an essay as such. It is somewhat of a comprehensive study of the many ways in which Dr Kamal Hossain -- constitutional adviser to Bangabandhu, law minister in Bangabandhu’s government, chairman of the constitution-drafting committee set up by the Constituent Assembly (Gano Parishad) in 1972, foreign minister in Bangabandhu’s era, and Awami League candidate for the nation’s presidency in 1981 -- has come under assault from elements whose sense of history, whose understanding of politics, whose respect for individuals -- have always been questionable.
Not many weeks ago, a former judge of the Supreme Court “revealed” to the country that Kamal Hossain had been a collaborator of the Yahya Khan junta during Bangladesh’s War of Liberation. An expatriate Bengali journalist accused him of having betrayed the family of the Father of the Nation.
And then there are those who will inform you, without batting an eyelid, and without anything of substance in their arguments, that Kamal Hossain was in the happy company of his in-laws, free, in 1971, even as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman confronted his tormentors in Mianwali during the nine months of the war.
Today, Kamal Hossain has offered up a new reason for his detractors to flay him with. And that happens to be his leadership of the Jatiya Oikya Front. And what is lost in this new criticism of this eminently respectable individual is that, while there may be reasons to take issue with him over his new role in politics, attempts to undermine him for his past -- and those attempts are based on absolute untruths amounting to defamation -- are a sad indication of the levels to which intellect has declined in this land.
Let us go back to that new newspaper’s tirade against Kamal Hossain, for it is a piece which brings into question not the career of the man under attack per se, but the very historical and moral sense of the individual who wrote or was constrained to write that pamphlet. And pamphlet it was.
The newspaper informs us that Kamal Hossain is known for his mysterious role in 1969, 1970, and 1971. Bengalis were dying on the streets but where was Kamal Hossain?
It is appalling that the newspaper, and its writer, do not know that Kamal Hossain was, in 1969, Bangabandhu’s defense lawyer in the Agartala Conspiracy Case before being conferred the role of constitutional adviser to the future Father of the Bengali Nation at the Round Table Conference in Rawalpindi.
It is inconceivable that the newspaper is not aware of history, or is deliberately pushing the truth under the rug. And the truth is that in 1970, Kamal Hossain was part of the AL, mapping electoral strategy for the party.
And the writer of the article does not know where Kamal Hossain was in 1971? Shouldn’t he have done some research? If he had, he would know that Hossain was there, right beside Bangabandhu and the other members of the AL team, at the critical negotiations with the military regime and the Pakistan People’s Party in March. Kamal Hossain was the man who handled the legalities relating to a possible transfer of power on behalf of his party at the negotiations. And the newspaper and its writer do not know? Or have they chosen not to remember?
Of late, a section of individuals, among whom are journalists whose media professionalism and political loyalties badly get blurred, has been trying to float new propaganda against Bangabandhu’s trusted law and foreign minister.
He was, it is being said in sinister whispers, merely one among many members of the constitution drafting committee set up by Parliament in early 1972. They will not look at the historical documents, for those documents note that Dr Kamal Hossain was the chairman of the committee, and so played the foremost role in the formulation of the constitution.
The tragic part of all this war against Kamal Hossain is that his accusers, without comprehending their folly, undermine Bangabandhu himself every time they cast aspersions on the man he trusted to give shape to the constitution. How much lower can partisanship go?
The concluding part of this article will be published tomorrow.
Syed Badrul Ahsan is Editor-in-Charge of The Asian Age.