A time to stand shoulder to shoulder

by SM Shahrukh
Let us remember the little boy during the festivities, and take a moment and look deep within ourselves, make an all-out search for the humanity that seems to have lost its way in the rat race of life and our demons of avarice
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The monsters of Sylhet still haunt us — the crying, pleading, dying face of Rajon is all over social media. Talk shows are already decrying the tattered moral fabric of the country. For once, such an incident, which is not very rare in Bangladesh, has not been swept under the rug. Life is cheap in this country of teeming millions, and the lives of the poor, cheaper still.

Even though corporal punishment in schools had been declared illegal by the Honourable High Court in 2011, where the court observed that “such punishment is a clear violation of children’s fundamental rights to life and liberty,” it has not gone totally out of practice, especially in madrasas and orphanages.

Medieval practices of torture are still quite rampant in these institutions. A video of two little girls being abused is now circulating in social media. The incident happened in an orphanage in Barisal — the girls were not even 10 years old.

In the meantime, our political culture continues in the same vein with allegations and counter-allegations, verbal thrusts and parries continue, even during the rather solemn occasions of an iftar party. Iftar parties, in the month of Ramadan, have become the dais for political rhetoric up until the azaan sounds, and then you’ll find some participants take a break to gorge themselves.

Ramadan is also the month when the rich of the society donate a part of their wealth (the size of the donation dictated by religion) to the poor. And we have had disasters in that area too. 27 poverty-stricken people (23 women and four children) died in a stampede as Zakat clothes were being distributed in Mymensingh.

“Why did these people of a lower middle-income country become so desperate for some cheap saris and lungis?” has been asked. Well, it is true that the country has come a long way from the dire poverty of the 70s and the 80s and the country is now wealthier than before; people have more purchasing power and the villagers also have better standards of living. But the number of poor is still substantial, and they are not yet able to say: “We don’t want any donations.”

After a month surviving the rigours of fasting, a big portion of city-dwellers are headed home, availing any mode of transportation on offer. People living in cities still refer to the remote village from whence they hail from as “home” and will do so forever. This homeward journey is fraught with many hassles and tribulations and one is always on tenterhooks as to possible road accidents or riverine disasters, leading to more untimely deaths.

With such a huge population on the move and with transportation systems unable to accommodate and cope, such fears are not unfounded.

However, we can only hope that a disaster like the Pinak 6 capsize last year, and the subsequent loss of lives, would somehow be averted this time. I wait and scan the papers with trepidation.

Eid after the month of Ramadan is the biggest festival for Muslims. It is a time for fanfare, a time to be close to ones near and dear, a time for catching up since the last Eid. People stand shoulder to shoulder in the early morning of the day in prayer and hug each other at the end. People try to eat “better” on the day, but many poor people have to depend on hand-outs from the well-off for a good meal.

Children in colourful clothes in the streets, children holding their parents’ hands or holding on to friends, flying balloons, enjoying ice-cream sticks with a skip in their steps, are a joy to watch. The day’s festivities belong mostly to them.

Not for Rajon though. He fell into the grips of some beasts and his constant cries for help fell on deaf ears, and all he heard was the laughter of hyenas. Let us remember the little boy during the festivities, and take a moment and look deep within ourselves, make an all-out search for the humanity that seems to have lost its way in the rat race of life and our demons of avarice.

We have to deal with these demons in our minds, and as Carl Jung put it: “Our heart glows, and secret unrest gnaws at the root of our being. Dealing with the unconscious has become a question of life for us.”

Have a happy Eid everyone — Eid Mubarak!

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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