Tuesday, April 16, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Beware the boomerang effect, it’ll get you too

Update : 19 Apr 2013, 10:01 AM

When you ask an already powerful state to expand its powers further, so as to pummel those you oppose, don’t be surprised if the state also decides to use that power against you.

Don’t be surprised when that state, to whom you gave a “free pass” on anti-people activity of the past few years (because this one time you liked its activity), uses that support of yours to harm both you and your opponent.

When you make lists of enemies, threaten family connections, wage individualised wars against bloggers, don’t be surprised when the state decides to do the same – only this time, against your own people.

When you burn newspapers because of a story, you lose the ground to oppose a future where Islamists (or someone else) may have the right to burn your newspapers.

Actually, they already did– remember that cat cartoon from a few years back? Now, next time something like that happens, our movements against such “offensensitivity” will have to come with a “but.”

I protest: “But…”

You forgot, for the sake of Shahbag, that only two months ago, this same government was authorising the use of pepper spray on a Communist party strike, and on a teachers’ rally at Shaheed Minar.

You forgot that this same government allowed new encroachment by some unscrupulous companies.

You blanked out that this same apparatus engineered a forced-ouster of Dr. Yunus, from the Grameen Bank.

This same managerial incompetence produced endless financial scandals – Padma Bridge, Hallmark, the current stock market calamity.

You especially forgot that this same government rode roughshod over the courts for four years.

They are now making a fiasco of these war crimes trials, chipping away at the legitimacy of a worthy project – justice for 1971.

You forgave all that because, just this once, they were doing something you wanted.

As a political orphan, you are hungry for any sign of affection.

“Ektu mathaye haat buliye din (just rub my head a little), please.”

What if the demands to ban a party, their blogs, their newspapers, result in the state using those same powers to ban your party (small as it may be), your blogs, or your newspapers?

One last thought. Remember those CCTV cameras that the government installed for “our protection”? A kind and generous state, making sure our Shahbag nights are peaceful.

Now that the crush of crowds has shrunk, those CCTV cameras are unnecessary, right?

They will stay on, watching each and every breath we take.

Shahbag’s repercussion, so far, has not been a more robust war crimes process, nor a weakened Jamaat-e-Islami. Instead, we have been gifted a heavily fortified, ruthless panopticon.

Increased state power is Leviathan. It is a Hobbesian beast that is no one’s friend except its own. This is boomerang. 

Naeem Mohaimemen's essay "We wish to inform you: a history of censorship in Bangladesh (1972-2012)" will appear in the anthology "Bangladesh's Changing Mediascape."

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