Dealing with Osmanistaan

Photo: bdnews24.com

So the AL chief has finally spoken. By officially declaring the Osmans of Narayanganj as patriots, the curtain of protection has been well and truly drawn across them. If anyone has ever wondered why the Osmans have been able to do what they have done so far, the answer became evident by the certificate provided by no less than the prime minister herself. They serve a purpose for which a price is paid.

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We were already on our way to forget the 7-murder in Narayanganj. Why then was it necessary for Hasina to lend this support to a man who has for years been considered the ‘ruler’ of Naraynganj whom nobody dared to touch? Is it because he needs protection now that the case findings are coming out or is it because she knows her friendship need to be advertised? It’s the declaration from the peak of power on politics and we have to accept that this is what politics achieves.

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The Naraynganj murder showcases two major pillars of the ruling class, crony based area control and RAB. Bangladeshi politics is still based on an urban ‘feudal’ system, under which certain people are given total control in return for total loyalty. Without this reciprocal arrangement, politics in Bangladesh may fail because the governance system based institutional politics doesn’t exist. Like it or not, politics is based on the many Osmans spread all over Bangladesh. In this case the PM expressed gratitude which has in effect significantly diminished any possibility of a fair  investigation into allegations that Shamim Osman was linked in some way to the Naraynganj affairs.

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Sheikh Hasina has defended the Osman family based on their political background. Not only were the family patriarchs involved in establishing the Awami League in 1949 but over the years have stood by the Sheikh family. In her personal memorial she mentioned many such events which are touching indeed. The praise may be genuine but giving this speech in such a crucial time, she made the task more difficult for the agencies involved in investigation and trial — if at all. To speak is easy but reticence from the PM could have served everyone better.

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The scenario unfolding is inevitable and obvious. Any society where criminals and thugs are almost at every level of power will always produce RAB or Rakkhi Bahini to contain them. This is because the failure of police is also an indicator that civilian administration has failed. In any society, the police are the enforcing face of civilian governance and whenever police fails, we enter into uncharted and violent governance seas. Borrowing people from the armed forces and making them the main pillar of enforcement also disables the very principle of civilian rule. And civilian police without impunity coverage can never compete and thus the entire civilian system becomes redundant.

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But both RAB and Osmans are linked with a thread in common perception that both are above rule of law, and sadly, both enjoy the support of the authorities. In that case, the verdict again is that of impunity for the privileged. And as the PM has mentioned, the price they have paid is political loyalty. That is where the problem begins.

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Our situation has not improved in the last 42 years since we became independent. We may be ashamed but it doesn’t show in our actions. We have produced two extrajudicial forces, had 15 amendments most of which are cynical and opportunistic, changed our Constitution like morning clothes, failed to produce a meaningful parliament, landed with a judiciary far from being perfect. These are anything but indicators of success of our political life rather are reaching a stage where politics ceases to matter to most people. If the governance doesn’t matter, it’s the state manager who stands to lose most as our past has shown many times but we seem to be oblivious to the danger we are walking into.

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It is in this context that the acts of the alleged RAB rogue members have to be looked at. If protection is being offered to a man who has a long list of accusations and is defended by the PM herself, other lesser beings will feel even better. After all, if the Osmans are all so good and nice people, why should others feel guilty? Patriotism of the right variety will have, as it always had, enormous licence. Obviously, by making a statement on the Osmans in the parliament, the message has been sent loud and clear.

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So how will RAB respond to this except insisting that they are no less patriotic than the Osmans and therefore must be given preferential treatment? And whereas the Osmans have rendered services to the state so have they and that is why they have more rights than the other. It is this political caste based state construction of Bangladesh that is making itself obvious. Anyone who doesn’t see this transition will not see that the country changing for long will change more. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So the opposition to the politics today is happening and that  is not coming from the BNP, but from inside the ruling class.

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None of the people involved in any way with the Naraynganj killing belonged to the opposition and that is probably the scariest part. Whether it’s Nur Hussain or the RAB, both were loyal to the ruling government. So the conflict is being created from within. One part of the government is becoming the opposition of the Government and that means no matter what the problems will remain. Sadly, without a proper system which doesn’t discriminate between the powerful and the powerless, we will have more of the same.

Source: Bd news24

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