Wednesday, August 26, 2009

There's dope in them thar hills!

As a nation, we are expert at being unable to predict and prevent trouble, and past master at regretting it - and of ourselves being the cause.

The government seems determined to pull out troops from the Chittagong Hill Tracts. One of the consequences of such a move will be acceleration in poppy cultivation.

According to a reliable source, poppy is already cultivated in Thanchi Upazila. The circumstances are typical: insurgency around a border area.

The Burmese government has, with considerable difficulty, reduced the area under opium in its border areas. There are reports that opium still finds its way into Bangladesh through the border.

One can imagine the impact that wide-spread poppy cultivation will have on Bangladesh. We will rapidly go from failed state to narco-state: every institution, including the army, will become involved. That means, there will be no remedy for the disease when it begins to spread. Unlike Burma, Bangladesh is, unfortunately, ruled by civilians – and very criminal civilians at that.

Poppy farmers will not include only hill people – Bengali settlers will be heavily involved, making it impossible for a democratic government to root out the evil.

And the evil will include the sale of opium and heroine outside our schools and universities. Opium creates its own demand: some of it may initially be given away free, or at dirt-cheap prices. Once sales take off, profit-taking will begin.
So, if we want to see our children addicted to heroine, we should support the government's lunatic manouevres in the Hill Tracts – in cahoots with foreigners who don't have to live here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mal Aria in the The Chittagong Hill Tracts

(Also see my previous article "Horace in the Hills" at

Late on the night of December 2, 1997 my mother received a phone call from an Awami League MP, Mrs. Chitra Bhattacharya, who is also a close family friend.
The message she had to communicate with breathless excitement was that the Peace Treaty with the PCJSS of the hill tracts had been signed. Her husband, Mr. Debesh Bhattacharya, was an ex-judge of the Supreme Court. How the pair could connive at such a massively illegal manouevre is beyond me.

1) The so-called treaty has a provision for a Land Commission under which all land disputes will be settled – without any scope for appeal to the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, thereby setting up another Supreme Court in Bangladesh; in effect, creating two countries. This violates the rights of all concerned – the hill people as well as the Bengali settlers – and violates the sovereignty of Bangladesh.

2) The so-called Treaty was rejected by a section of the people of the hill tracts – the United People's Democratic Front (UPDF), which, on my last visit, was far more popular than the PCJSS. I do not see how the PCJSS can pretend to speak for all the hill people.

3) The International Chittagong Hill Tracts Commission, a body set up in Copenhagen in the 1990s after the cold war ended to pressure the Bangladesh government to 'resolve' the hill tracts issue, has scant regard for the constitution of the country. They have devised a treaty that is ultra vires of the constitution, as I pointed out in section 1. This won't be the first time that foreigners have raped our constitution: in 1990, when General Ershad resigned, instead of the vice-president taking over per constitution, the Chief Justice, the supposed protector of the constitution, became its chief violator by becoming president – and then legalizing his action by an act of parliament. Henceforth, no one could be certain that, given sufficient international pressure, our apex court won't give in. This was how the international community hoped to bring about the 'rule of law' in Bangladesh. They repeated a similar manoeuvre on 11th January 2007. All the talk about the 'rule of law' and 'the people's rights' is just palaver.

4) Since the signing of the hopelessly misnamed Peace Treaty, over 200 people have been killed in violence between the PCJSS and the UPDF. The Commission insists there will be no slide in law and order after withdrawal of the armed forces: the events of the past years belie that possibility. Furthermore, settlers have put up road blocks to prevent the army from leaving on several occasions: despite these facts, the Commission insists there's nothing to fear.

5) One of the major sticking points in the implementation of the non-treaty, and one which nobody talks about, is the fact that the Bengali settlers are internally displaced people (IDP): they didn't voluntarily go to the hills to settle among the malaria and the jungles. Thus, they have to be rehabilitated as well as the hill people. This is something the PCJSS refuses to accept. No doubt, the Commission and our government will sell out the settlers for a fictitious and iniquitous peace that will be no peace.

6) The disrespect of the Commission for constitutional procedure is evidenced by the fact that the Commission insists there will be no violence if the army is removed from the hills – despite the matter being sub judice and that the High Court of Bangladesh has issued an injunction against troop withdrawal. Does the Commission feel that it is above the judiciary of Bangladesh? Clearly it does.

7) It is unfortunate that the so-called Peace Treaty has stirred up such a hornet's nest of constitutional matters. Whichever way the High Court verdict goes – and no doubt the issue will be taken all the way to the Appellate Division – the verdict will not please all parties. Such verdicts cannot: either the settlers and their supporters will be angry, or the hill people and the PCJSS will be disappointed. And the apex court will once again be discredited.

On Argument (essay)

(click above for essay)

“Two wise men do not contend and quarrel,
Nor does a scholar fight with a contemptible fellow.”

- Sheikh Sa’di

Sheikh Sa’di advises us not to argue: it is a futile endeavour, and levels the fool and the wise person. For the latter, it is best to agree with the former, or remain silent.

Friday, August 14, 2009

All for a few dollars

Suppose somebody makes me this offer: "If you give $100 to a poor person, I'll give you $200."

Would my action, then, be a moral action?

Yet that is exactly what western donors are urging us to do: to pretend to be altruistic, when we are being supremely egotistic.

A moral action must be performed by an agent who has no ulterior motive: otherwise, it is sheer corruption.

And that is what we are: massively corrupt, with the donors corrupting us daily.
Mind you, I'm not saying that the mere act of making money is corrupting: far from it. Trade and industry are dignified pursuits. The western donor corrupts us by making us seem altruistic, by making us lie to ourselves and to others.

The NGO-wallahs know, deep down, that they have been corrupted in the worst possible manner: the man who takes a bribe and does not pretend to be honest is far less corrupt than the donation-receiving NGO-wallah. Self-deception is the supreme corruption.

Then comes pride in your corruption: the command of so much wealth, the adulation of other members of society, the prizes received…all conspire to elevate you above the rest of humanity. We begin to take pride in our fallen nature, like Satan.

"Let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth." But our 'philanthropy' consists precisely in letting everyone know what we are doing – noble deeds, generous acts, all for the most selfish and self-centred of reasons.

The Satanisation of our souls is complete. We have sold away our most precious possession – and for what? For a few moments of glory? For a few dollars? In a cost-benefit analysis we would appear supremely idiotic.

The worst cases are those that exhort us to go against our own civilization: for a few dollars, they denounce our culture and our traditions, our sacred and our profane heritage…all for a few dollars.

Take Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB). Do we need to be reminded that corruption is evil by Berliners? Doesn't the Muslim ethical code serve the purpose? Why do we need an alien civilization to instill in us what we can learn better from our own? And aren't those serving the TIB corrupt to the highest extreme? They have given away not only their conscience but their very own heritage.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Nationalism - Across The Border

One evening, in a conversation with my father, he related how a close family friend had lampooned the Koran the previous day.

He had made fun of the Prophet (SA) and the Koran: he had ridiculed the fact that the Prophet (S) had several wives, that he had revelations….In short, Islam was nothing but puerile idiocy.

Some time ago, this gentleman's wife had tried to ridicule the Koran to my face by saying that the Koran mentioned slavery. I said, "So what? It discouraged slavery."

"But why should a holy book mention slavery?"

At this point I ceased to discuss the subject, for I was talking to one of the supporters of the Awami League and Sheikh Hasina, people impervious to reason and united by a virulent hatred of Islam.

This family was a special case: the gentleman was the brother of a certain army general who had been brought out of retirement to be army chief. The entire family (the children included) shared this hostility to Islam. Oddly enough, when the daughter studied in India, she did so at the Aligarh Muslim College, and lived on its premises. Take advantage of Islam whenever it suits you, I guess.

I have learnt that hardcore supporters of the Awami League share a hatred of Islam. It is necessary to join the club. It is like the hatred of capitalism that was required of card-carrying communists.

And, of course, there's the corresponding love of Hinduism and India.

One of my cousins became a bank manager and one of her first democratic actions was to order that all women employees must wear the saree, and no woman could wear shalwar-kameez: the latter is a Pakistani (so Muslim) dress, while the former is an Indian (so Hindu) costume. She and her husband are forever traveling to Kolkata and hobnobbing with the intellectuals there and inviting them over to stay at their house in Dhaka. When my family and I go over to their house, we frequently come in contact with a Kolkata intellectual. It is a nauseating encounter.

An artist confided in me that unless you were anti-Islam (not just atheist), you couldn't succeed in the fine arts in Bangladesh. It seems that the entirety of our practitioners of higher education has gone over to the Awami League.

Why this hatred of Islam? The fault lies with our nationalism. Nationalism usually glorifies folk culture and the ways of the masses: but the ways of the masses is inextricably connected with Islam.

So our nationalism is an ersatz nationalism, as all South Asian nationalisms are. It is merely a cover to loot the people.

My wife and I, out of a perverse curiosity, went to see a nationalist film at a local theatre: I think it was the Balaka. It was based on a story by Humayun Ahmed. What impressed me was the fact that not a single rickshaw puller or garments factory girl was present: the audience consisted entirely of 'ladies' and 'gentlemen'.

This is our 'nationalism': for the elite, of the elite and by the elite – and across the border!