Sunday, January 22, 2012

Incumbents may not be worried, people are

THE statement of the local government, rural development and cooperatives minister of the Awami League-Jatiya Party government, Syed Ashraful Islam, on Saturday that the state was not worried about the killing and torture of Bangladeshi nationals by the Indian Border Security Force along the Bangladesh-India border is deeply disturbing. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Sunday, Syed Ashraf, also the general secretary of the ruling Awami League, said the ‘state cannot put aside everything and only think about what is going on along the border’ because such killing and torture ‘are nothing new… were there in the past, are now, and will be in the future.’ Incidentally, on the same day, the Indian finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, during a programme at the Petrapol land port in West Bengal, where his Bangladesh counterpart, AMA Muhith, was present, said there was no point in blowing the torture of a Bangladeshi national by BSF member out of proportion. The apparent similarity between the views of Syed Ashraf and Pranab Mukherjee tends to lend credence to the allegations of the AL-led government pursuing a subservient India policy.

Of course, Syed Ashraf may have told the truth when he said torture and killing of Bangladeshi nationals by the BSF ‘are nothing new.’ According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, some 1,000 Bangladeshis have been killed by the BSF over the past decade. The question to ask is why then the AL-led government is so eager to build, and brag about, friendly relations with the establishment of a country that is decidedly unfriendly and demonstrably indifferent to the interest and concern of Bangladesh. The question to ask is why then the key functionaries of the government, the prime minister included, froth in the mouth about turning a corner in the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India. The question to ask is why then they religiously refer to the empty assurances of New Delhi that it would not do anything detrimental to the interest of Bangladesh, when that is what it has consistently been doing since Bangladesh’s independence.

Perhaps, Syed Ashraf and his government may have forgotten the fact that the people took up arms against a theoretically much superior Pakistan army 40 years back and secured independence so that no one could bully them, so that no one could kill their fellows at their whims and wishes, so that no one could dictate what the state should worry about. Hundreds of thousands of people laid down their lives for a state that they hoped would worry about each and every individual within its geographical territory, worry about their life and death. Hence, the LGRD minister’s statement is more than irresponsible; it has made the entire country ashamed. It is all the more shameful when a significant section of Indian society has criticised and condemned their government for failing to rein in the marauding BSF members.'

The statement is also indicative that the AL-led government may be at its wit’s end in handling the state’s foreign policy. Hence, it seems, the incumbents would do well to call a national convention, involving politicians, academics, journalists, experts, etc towards formulation of a national strategy on the country’s dealings with India. Syed Ashraf and his government may not be worried about the excesses and atrocities by the BSF; the people at large are, and very much so.