External Affairs

Pearls in the Same Necklace of Terror

If you do not demand truth and accountability, if you love to live powerless lives, then please know that men caged in darkness, distrust,and fear cannot fight. They can only die.

People react near the Holey Artisan Baker after Islamist militants attacked the upscale cafe and restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh on July 2, 2016. Credit: Mohammed Ponir/Reuters

People react near the Holey Artisan Baker after Islamist militants attacked the upscale cafe and restaurant in Dhaka, Bangladesh on July 2, 2016. Credit: Mohammed Ponir/Reuters

Right from the start, whenever I had said it: I was either scolded by some or I became the enemy of some.

I asked, why would Bangladesh not get attacked? Is even the head of government or leader of the opposition safe?

Now, citizens of powerful nations have died in Gulshan in Dhaka. The grandchildren of the top four industrialist families of the country have died. Those whose lives were taken by crossfire, machetes, bullets, swords now include the majority and the minority.

Try to recall the contribution of those who created a mountain of division through goading suspicion: Muslims towards Hindus, Hindus towards Muslims by conducting numerical analysis of the dead.

A few years back, the killers started to attack from the lower rungs of society. They tested the reaction of society by killing people from various levels. They have observed that we get further divided.

They have noticed the reaction of the government: and found a blame game; they have seen the bravado of lies; with unimaginable success they became sanguine.

They checked the reaction of the opposition: and realised that they would not shoulder any responsibility; they are looking for opportunity.

They detected the reaction of the security forces: and recognised that they were busy at hiding the truth. They act like a powerful mafia network. They make money by ‘disappearing’ those opposed to them. They were reassured by seeing the soiled hands of the justice system.

They considered the reactions of the people. In their blissful glee, they have found that there is no such thing as the ‘people’: all were suspended like urns from their own date-trees of  ‘opinion’ and ‘clans’ – flimsy, without a strong base, immobile.

Incidents happened. With each incident, they became stronger, grew in numbers, found further support and security.

Then, they got the courage for a big target like Gulshan. On this occasion, for the first time, they came out in the open. They noticed that no one was watching them, only seeing their shadows. As if they were were dictating what or how much truth the government would tell.

If up until now, civil society was compromised, in Gulshan the scraps of Brand Bangladesh have been lost. No one would invest or would like to do business in such a dangerous country, with such reckless institutions. No one would hire migrant labour from such a country. Which fools would like to bet on the future of such a risky country?

And those that are our neighbours and big brothers will be happy. This country will dance to their tunes.

We have brought ourselves here. Now, at last we need to think about how we have come to this. Think of all the twists and turns since the military government of 2007, from the Bangladesh Rifles mutiny of 2009 to this week’s Gulshan killings, are they not pearls in the same necklace?

Faruk Wasif (bagharu@gmail.com) is a poet and essayist based in Dhaka; this essay is translated from Bengali by the War on Error writers collective.