Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Quad scripsi, scripsi (2)

The other day I received an irate e-mail. It accused me of being 'indecent' and 'insensitive'.


Because I had revealed certain unpleasant truths about his parents – and said that they were 'alleged' lady and gentleman.

I'm sure he is right, being a sober, scholarly gentleman, soft-spoken and with good taste in his choice of reading and viewing material.

Let me review the facts regarding the 'lady' first.

I have known, and respected, Mrs. Chitra Bhattacharya since I was a child. They are family friends.

I remember her now as the MP during the rule of the Awami League. I remember it as though it were yesterday, the violence that preceded the election. For months, Dhaka city was besieged by the thugs, goondas and foot soldiers of the Awami League. The other thugs and goondas of the ruling BNP resisted them, as did the police.

Then what I had predicted three years earlier started – the state began to split. Some bureaucrats joined the opposition!

Anyway, Mrs. Chitra Bhattacharya was selected MP (women were not elected) by the triumphant Awami League. The preceding violence seemed not to have disgusted her at all. Au contraire. She served the party very loyally.

I remember one evening my mother received a call from Mrs. Bhattacharya.

The 'peace treaty' with the insurgent PCJSS in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) had just been signed.

My mother was breathless with excitement – she had caught the infection. I was utterly despondent. It was not because I did not want peace – but because the treaty was an eyewash. It stipulated that there would be a Land Commission in the CHT, which would hear all land disputes.

But its judgements in the disputes would be final – no appeal would be allowed.

Thus, in one stroke, the residents of the CHT were denied the right of appeal to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, and the country became split in two, with two ultimate arbiters.

This was absurd, and ultra vires of the constitution, and so to this day the treaty has not been implemented (it was signed in 1997). Indeed, the treaty caused a split among the Chakmas – the dissenting faction styled itself the United People's Democratic Front (UPDF). The two factions, according to newspaper reports, killed 200 of each other's members between 1997 and 2007. So much for the 'peace' in the 'peace treaty'.

A lawmaker should have known (and must have known) that this was a piece of skulduggery – indeed, Mrs. Bhattacharya's husband, Debesh Bhattacharya, was a retired supreme court judge. Wives in Bangladesh derive high-flying careers from their high-flying husbands.

No comments: