Sunday, October 9, 2011

urban shalish

While the press and others decry the actions of the rural shalish, nothing is being done to give voice to the victims of the urban shalish.

I refer here to the 'committees' formed in the new apartment buildings: give a person a gram of power, and they will exert a kilogram of force. They will usurp the legislative as well as the judicial function of the republic of Bangladesh, just like the rural shalish.

I refer to an ongoing battle of wills between a harmless provider of education to ten-to-eleven-year-old tykes in an apartment in Dhanmandi. It is a time-honoured practice to provide education to children. The poor man has neither used a signboard nor ever used the address of his residence for advertisement purposes. Needless to add, he and his wife do nothing illegal or immoral: they have been peacefully, and with the tacit consent of the community, been carrying on this activity for eight years.

It is to be observed that almost every other building in Dhanmandi has a transponder on its roof: a contract is signed between the all-powerful committee and the phone company and the commercial activity goes on unnoticed. Teaching (and health-care) are not commercial activities: neither a student nor a teacher is 'customer'. The entire ethics and economics of the sectors are different.

The omnipotent committee have, after eight years, suddenly decided that this harmless gentleman, who abides by all the rules, must leave the building, or refrain from the legitimate pursuit of earning his livelihood: this is a contravention of his fundamental rights as a citizen of Bangladesh - the rights to domicile and earning a legal livelihood.

Yet, alas, no NGO will come to his aid: they are focused on the villages. But I prophecy that the day will come when these committees will have to be dragged before the courts and forced to abide by the laws and the constitution of Bangladesh.

These committees will be poking their nose into whether you are married or not or merely 'cohabiting', whether you drink on the premisses, who your girlfriends are, whether you are mentally ill, and so on into your most intimate life.

John Stuart Mill observed that the tyranny of public opinion is as much tyrannical as the tyranny of a despot, and John Locke maintained that it matters little to the individual if he is tyrannized by a king or by the majority. I urge my compatriots to resist this new tyranny that threatens to stifle our liberty as surely as any action by any despotic power.

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