Given the ominous cloud looming large, we in these benighted times find no way ahead, except soliloquizing the immortal lines of WB Yeats: "Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold ..." The Second Coming.
As citizens of Bangladesh, if we become a little critical, we find ourselves donning the garb of a nation that is ostensibly 'marching ahead'. But we hardly look into the inner recess of our mind to explore our penchant for oblivion, and the dormant self-destructive traits. The nation has yet to learn from history.
These words sound pessimistic and smack of apocalyptic ramifications. We cannot, indeed, avert a gloomy course, which is pre-destined to be filled with agonising moments. The words may appear to be a riddle to many. Can history be shaped before events occur? As civilisations have witnessed, history goes forward with things being unfolded along its unpredictable passage. In most of the cases, man has not been able even to decipher the symptoms of nations' victories or defeats, great achievements or decay.
But there are exceptions. The approaching sun-set of the Mughals or the British colonial rule in India, the crumbling of the Soviet empire and many other great turning-points in history were writ large in the events that had kept occurring in those spots for long.
Haven't we been able to read on the wall in the 1970s and during the Liberation War that the then state called Pakistan is headed for disintegration, with its eastern wing emerging as a sovereign country called People's Republic of Bangladesh?
So much for the winding course of history. Let us have a look at the present Bangladesh. What do we see? Don't we find the obvious signs of hard times lying ahead? All of us know the bitter truth. It is in the current confrontational politics, which emerged as a hydra-headed monster due to a lot of murky developments, that we ought to look for the roots of the maladies. Political vendetta or settling a score is nothing new to Bangladesh. The Bengalees are free of the vice of tribalism, which periodically rend asunder many Sub-Saharan African countries. Yet, apart from the greed of power, we have sharp political divisions. Of late, the divisions have appeared in all their savageries. Gone are the days, when our great leaders of vision nurtured lofty dreams centring the newly emerged Bangladesh.
To our great shock and disbelief, their dreams got smirched with blood, with them becoming martyrs in a little over three years of the birth of the nation. The Bengalees in their new-found independent and sovereign land discovered their march into the future getting lost in a miasmic haze. The mist was created by a satanic cabal, which had been out to engineer the veering of Bangladesh from its right direction since the nation was born.
The violent path that we have been thrown into was built meticulously in the very early days of the seventies. Of course, there were domestic and foreign players, the die-hard anti-Bangladesh forces, which found it hard to accept the break-up of Pakistan leading to the creation of Bangladesh.
The first victim of the anti-Liberation machinations, ironically, was the chief architect of our new nationhood --- Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Then the perpetrators annihilated Taj Uddin Ahmed, the Prime Minister of the Bangladesh Government-in-Exile, Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam, two influential ministers Qamaruzzaman and Captain Mansur Ali. The first phase of the attempts to maim Bangladesh was apparently over. Thus began the sordid and turbulent journey of Bangladesh. A few new-age political parties were sucked into the statecraft with a new message.
They, however, broke away with the basic principles, on which Bangladesh had been based. Many people welcomed their ideologies, which was only natural. For, many developing countries in the modern times have witnessed changes in the state policies. But things were messed up as dictatorial forces barged into the state scenario. The outward polish notwithstanding, the dictatorship at one time started eating away at the vitals of the country. With the anti-autocracy mass upsurge, its ignominious exit, and the restoration of democracy --- everything went fine, but for a short period though. In no time the country was run over by the dormant forces of the cabal. They lost no chance of driving a wedge between the two large political parties of the country, setting the stage for mindless confrontations including violence of all sorts. Since the early nineties, Bangladesh remained stuck in a virtual deadlock, politically.
In the recent days, it has taken the form of a schism --- the spectre of which has engulfed the whole nation. Bangladesh is now a sharply divided country. At times, it appears to be worse than tribalism. Being a homogenous nation, a future full of prospects had been awaiting us throughout the last four decades. But it was not to be due to our self-destructive traits.
To put it differently, the nation has long been in the grip of the much-feared socio-political anarchy, made worse by the re-entry of ultra-rightist, obscurant forces.
Along with political hostilities, the economy is passing through a lot of ups and downs. Global recession has added to our woes. The urban middle-class people are terribly panicked as they see no way out. The signs of resolving the political feuds are dissolving into a mirage. Scores of misgivings and bogeys keep haunting us. We find ourselves cringing in fear. Most of us cannot tell a friend from an enemy. The destabilising forces are everywhere under this or that guise. In its forty-year history, the country has never reached this dismal point of despondency --- not even in the post-1975 era.
The way things are unfolding, we can only point to the nation's political, social and moral bankruptcy only. Given the fact that this nation has gained its independence after a long political struggle, and a full-scale Liberation War, we couldn't but be optimistic. But due to obstacles to our path put by known and unknown forces, these days we have been compelled to wallow in chronic dejection. It may result in a national depression. To cite the cases of many Third World countries, they have ended up with a long chain of socio-political spasms, and even civil wars --- which we dread the most.
Then exactly what awaits us?
In a perverse way, we feel relieved. Our fate could have been like that of the agonisingly defeated Biafrans ('Biafran War', Nigeria, 1967-1970,) had not the Bengalees in the then East Pakistan risen up being fired by the craving for freedom. Besides being equipped with arms, the whole nation in 1971 was imbued with genuine patriotism that led them to engage in an all-out Liberation War against the brutal and repressive Pakistani junta and their local stooges.
What perplexes the conscious section of the people is how a spirited yet peaceful nation could be drawn into a vicious cycle of anarchy and intermittent political void. In mere four decades of independence, symptoms of decadence and pervasive rot have taken root in the nation's psyche. Nothing could be more tormenting.
The writer is a poet and