Friday, March 12, 2010

when criminals prosecute

So, we have something else to look forward to after the recent hangings: a trial for crimes against humanity on the part of 'collaborators' in the 1971 civil war. Never mind that those who rape and murder these days are seldom brought to justice: what were crimes in 1971 have become mere peccadilloes today.

We have the moral high ground: we were the victims in 1971; all we wanted was recognition of our nationalist aspirations and fair play, but we got a bloody nose instead. Heinous indeed!

Then, after we achieved our nationalist aspiration, we were immediately and rudely confronted with the nationalist aspirations of the Chakma people: how dare they?

Of course theirs was a bogus nationalism, just like ours: Bengali nationalism was a super-duper elite phenomenon having nothing to do with the people. The Chakmas speak Bengali just like we do ('Chakma', Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition). So what was their beef? They weren't being persecuted, just as we weren't persecuted during our ersatz nationalist longings. When one bogus nationalism meets another, what happens?

"What the Pakistanis did to us," observed my late uncle, Major General M. Khalilur Rahman to me, "we did to them". Indeed. And western donors were content to let us do so during the cold war.

But it will be retorted by Bengali nationalists that we were merely trying to preserve our territorial integrity: well, so was West Pakistan. Besides, the Chakmas didn't want to secede, like we did: they 'merely' wanted autonomy, albeit on grounds of fictive ethnicity, closely resembling our fictive nationalism (indeed, the nation-state has failed throughout South Asia, according to Stanley J. Tambiah).

One wonders why the Chakmas have raised no demands for a tribunal to try crimes against humanity committed in the hill tracts. One fears that their leaders have sold out just like ours.

So, we do not have the moral high ground anymore. We are as guilty as any nation trying to preserve its territory, from Abraham Lincoln to Indira Gandhi....

Let's just stop pretending otherwise.

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