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Running barefoot through the city of Barbie Liberty and sexy grenades by Faruk Wasif, translated from Bengali

by Nayma Qayum for AlalODulal.org In the morning I saw four teenagers on the pavement across the street from Mohammadpur Central College. They wore the usual jobba-tupi, but no footwear. Those, they had lost in Motijheel, and could not buy another pair. Now, the four of them hold hands and walk the streets of an unknown city. They have figured out that this nations capital no longer belongs to them. A different day: during Ramadan. A group of madrasa students, maybe fifteen or twenty, crossed the SAARC fountain in Kawranbazar. In sodium hue of the evening streetlights, the kids, clad in crisp white, seemed almost otherworldly. It was almost as if we did not inhabit the same plane, us and them. The kids had attended an iftar party at Sonargaon hotel with their hujoor. Now, they were on their way back, walking behind the leader, holding hands to ensure that no one got lost in the crowd, or crushed by a car. They had no one but each other. They had come to Dhaka just like that, in hundreds of thousands, walking in lines, along with their hujoors. I dont know how much they despise this city, but they have now certainly realized that those who own Dhaka despise them. These kids are now travelers, homeless, all of them strangers. Fearful and insecure, are the products of poverty, hopelessness, and will-breaking Madrasa education. Accustomed to holding their ears in fear of their hujoor, they do the same when confronted by the police. Being orphans, they both fear and adhere by their hujoors as they would their own parents. See, if you show them love, they will adhere by you as well. But your secular heart has difficulty showing them love. Society has difficulty carving out a space for them, seating them next to your children at school. They are old-school enough to scream nauzubillah if made to watch little girls perform sexy item numbers on TV alongside your children. In our die-hard effort to protect our Barbie liberty of liquid modernity, colonial idea of progress and sexy consumerism, we might as well eliminate these children. We would have way too much difficulty taking up the financial and social responsibility of instead reforming Madrasa education, and uplifting these kids to the stature of your own children. That will also cause you some discomfort. After all, the poor would then hold degrees in par with yours, and dip into your job pool, and your share of goods in a land of limited resources. You might as well leave their emancipation to revolutionaries. For you, it is best to kill them. You could do it yourself on city streets, or support US drones in this matter. That will provide some relief for your class hatred. The world is round and ultra-secularism feeds ultra-right But what will you do with their leaders, the hujoors? Will you not need them? As the Savar massacre left Bangladesh trembling with fury and grief, who would have saved

garments owners if Hefajat had not stolen the limelight? When BNP was unsure of what to do, how would Madam have given the government an ultimatum without Hefazat? When Shahbag took the streets, how would Mahmudur Rahman have aided Jamaat without Shafi hujoor? And if AL tried to evade the pursuit of justice, could not ban Jamaat because of US interests, then how could they instill fear upon the nation without Hefajat? Along with Islamists, NGOs, garments owners and microfinance institutions are also enemies of womens rights. How much better is capitalistic, slave-labor patriarchy than traditional patriarchy? In order to avoid implementing womens rights altogether, you are now hiring the Islamic reaction. A particular class has created this countrys plundering elite, just like the Agradani Brahmins in Hindu communities. Agradani Brahmins carried the dead to the cremation ground, something Banedi Brahmans would not do. As religion shields the spiritual emptiness of bourgeois life, Madrasas are increasingly being established in villages. With foreign and local assistance, these groups have now grown as a class, though they have yet to identify themselves as such. Hefajat has used them in their attempts to create a theocracy. The League-BNP-Jamaat has turned them into cargo-bearing donkeys. Hefajat has opened up opportunities for BNP, Jamaat and the League alike. BNPJamaat used them to stop Gonojagoron. AL used them to create an alternative to Jamaat. We can now refer to the Hefajat, and ask the US-India-EU to save us from these fanatics. Ironically, those who will make this demand are the very ones that claim to be pro-Bangali nationalism, secularism and liberation war! When secularism becomes the intellectual and elite minority view, governments need undemocratic governing machines. The Turkish military and Egypts Mubarak are prime examples. Both the league and Hefajat are being used, though in different ways. Imperialists have emerged as saviors to the League-NGO-Corporate coalition. And using Hefazat, the imperialist coalitions are claiming to protect, and thus trying to mobilize the middle class. In this game, the Hefajat can emerge as both good and evil. They will be used and eliminated. They will be used to eliminate labor leaders, rebellious intellectuals, and real revolutionary leaders of workers movements. And then, the Hefajat will be killed in the name of secularism. With their murder, the impoverished will increasingly view the Hefazat as liberators of the oppressed, and the urban gentleman as the rajakar. To escape this radical Islam we can call upon the army or the FBI. However, if we keep walking North (left), we will have crossed over and started walking South (right) before we even know, because the world is round and ultra-secularism feeds ultra-right. In order to understand this game, let us go back to Motijheel on that very night. When Jamaat could not be stopped, Shahbag came into the scene. That uncompromising spirit of middleclass youth found their historical path. Shahbag instigate them unleashing their collective unscioncious and the Historic Bloc of 1971 once again re-emerged valiantly. However, their stage and passion ended up being hijacked from shahbag to on Bongobondhu Avenue. Instead, in the name of Shahbag, the new Astik-Nastik battle emerged. When Hefajat could not be stopped, govt. let BNP-Jamaat use them; they were

given the permission for a gathering. We should ask how did Jamaat-Shibir manage to utilize Qaomi Madrasa students as their shield? They wreaked havoc in Bogura, Joypurhat, Shatkhira using villagers. This is the their strategy since the conflict have started. Putting Hefajat students in Shapla chottor, Jamaat-shibir workers created a barricade, and implemented Khaleda Zias plan of insurrection. They thought they could get away with it. But people are not stupid. Why would they fight a battle that was not their own? The flurry of Hefajat workers did not scare Dhakas subaltern. These people were members of their community in the village. For the poor, they were not strangers. Some even rejoiced seeing the `spirit of Islam', it was as if the whole city had turned into Eidgah. However, no one could, in their wildest imagination predict not the middle class, and not the poor that this would turn into Karbala. But there was a plan. The sheer efficiency of the events that transpired at Motijheel required skills. All aggressors the Jamaat-Shibir, or another force came well prepared, well equipped. When the sun came up, they disappeared leaving behind the dead, some orphaned Madrasa students living on societys periphery. They lack the resources and know-how required for a fight in an unknown city. But in the world of Madrasas, in their locality they are martyrs. While in Dhaka, they leave their shoes and run, or begging mercy shamefully. BNP-Jamaat-League did not lose No one in present political equation lost not BNP-Jamaat, not the League. Perhaps, being threatened with removal from power, the government had no choice but coercion. BNP, in an effort to hide the massacre of 71, is seeking to establish that massacres happened everywhere and govt, also deliver some. In the meantime, the government is feeding their desires in trying to convince the public that this is the battle zone of 1971; you either support us, or the war criminals. Motijheels events have now thrown Hefazat into the camp of Jamaat. Madrasa students, marching into the city with national flags, and now prey to this game, will run to Jamaat for protection and revenge. Rural Islam has now been overtaken by bourgeoisie Islam. A non-popular Jamaat may, for the first time, receive popular support because of these Madrasas. The rural intellengia of qoumiclass will work as a mediator between Jamat and the bulk of madrasa people. Perhaps, many supporters will end up joining militant groups. Motijheels experience will erase their fear, make them desperate. The feeling of being outcast may lead them to occupy public sphere. That resentment would instill the desire to establish hold over their country. If they see law is against them, then they will try to abandon legality of their action. They also will adopt illegal measures. Jamaat and militant networks are more than ready to absorb them. The war on terror machine will enthusiastically use them to create a terror-situation in this part of globe. Without them how could they justify their presence here? Who else in this world need most a secular democratic country, except Bangladeshis? Who makes up these Jamaat and militant networks? Jamaat is the United States favored party in Bangladesh. JMB was created by US-designated Minister Babar. US Embassy staff had repeatedly met with Bangla Bhai. Even this time around, US-

designated Minister Hassan Mahmud associated with Hefajot; US embassy staff met with these groups. Creating a Muslim reaction is easy using these groups. India is a friend of the war on terror. Islamic militant presence in their country and region certainly does not harm the legitimacy of the Hindutva ruling class. If such a presence does not exists; they will go ahead and create it. Imagining a new 'Bongobondhu' This is precisely the design that Bangladeshs opponents need for the future. They will trap the so called secular group in their web. The League is under the impression that they will not survive without a second liberation war, but the game has changed. Any possible future liberation war is likely to be against India. Numerous factors contribute to anti-India sentiments dead rivers, wire fences, border-killing, transit trucks and ships. Such has been Bangladeshs fate for centuries, surviving the domination of Delhis rulers. Once the trials are over, citizens will turn to their real problems (for this reason, it was extremely important for the trials to have been completed). The conflict of the Bangladeshi nation-state vs. multinational prison of India will move to the forefront. At that point, if the left cannot take leadership then communal forces will occupy the frontline of anti-India politics, as they have succeeded once transforming the class struggle of Bengali-muslim peasuntry against the Zamindari congress into a communal struggle in 1947. Perched against them will be the pro-Indian sellers of the liberation war. However 1971s victory does not guarantee a future win by virtue of chanting the same slogans. Pakistan has died, India has grown, Bangladesh will awake and seek a new `Bongobondhu'. If the new Bongobondhu is not a chauvinist, he will have to gain the trust of the Hindu-Buddhist-Christian-Adivasi communities, and to return their land and self-respect. He has to bring back homeless, migrated Hindu communities. He has to transform Bangladesh into a heterogeneous, multinational, multi-religious and multilingual democratic society. An absolute majority of Muslim population is as bad as a parliament of absolute majority. Religious state is non-state, and state religion is non-religion The new Bongobondhu has to adopt inclusive secularism. In other words, separation of religion and the state will allow religion its own independent state in society, and the state the ability to independently serve all groups. We have to understand: When religion becomes the state, we compromise the sanctity of religion, and when the state becomes religions weapon, the former loses legitimacy. So clearly, the new Bongobondhu will not rise from the Islamists. In that case, who remains? No one. One cannot rely on current political system and ideologies. Nor can one depend on the isolated, consumer middle class. Only a people-centered left force outside of the Bawami (Awami Left) and Bawani (BNP left) can provide a viable alternative. We have to develop such a force, or create it from scratch. Politics does not rise from books. Politics grows among citizens.

We have an amazing people. They have created a nation from scratch, from landlords servitude and from natural disasters. An energetic youth has recently become apparent. We have felt their presence at Savar recovery, at Shahbag, and at Shapla Chottor also. A strong capitalist class has now emerged, whose aspirations are to compete, not with the Marwaris of West Bengal, but with the Indian Bourgeois. A large working class has developed, both in the country and abroad. Our farmers can endure everything and Bangladeshs food security is their sole contribution. The urban youth, too have immense potential. Much will be possible if non-resident Bangladeshis too turn their attention to this country. But before anything else this destructive game of Islam vs. liberation war has to be stopped. 1971s antithesis versus Bangladeshs real thesis 1971s thesis involved the countrys liberation through the political unity of oppressed Islam and a secular middle class, against/from oppressive Islam and the US imperialist alliance. Previously, India and Russia were allied, now we have enemies, no allies. We have to make allies. We can win the support of the Indian people, and the global community. But for that, we have to reformulate our thesis. At present, Bangladesh is being pushed towards a dangerous plot involving Islam and liberation. Do not push the religiously sensitive Muslims towards war on terror complex through Jamaat camp in an effort to confront oppressive, or Imperialist Islam. Separate Jamaat from this group. Seek justice for 1971. Put a clear stop to Jamaats ongoing games. But you have to also stay democratic, respect the rule of law, and keep the citizens by your side. Just remember, you are the judge and they are the insurgentrevolutionaries. A boomerang effect will occur if your work for justice, governance and leadership is not reasonable enough. The bodies turning up in various places do not come from Mars. These citizens belong to villages, neighborhoods, madrasas, and colleges; they live with other members of society. These communities will count bodies. They will seek justice, and we have to answer them. Failing to do so will make 1971s antithesis victorious. Bangladeshi society still suffers from a sense of two-nation theory. Rival political camps are now creating two nations drawing on these Bengali and Muslim identities. This has to be stopped immediately. These false-consciousness of fake nationalisms are attempts to hide the weakness of the state, and character of the ruling elite. Even if the middle classes have failed to comprehend this, the hard-working poor have not. Not being able to locate bodies, they have once again blocked Savar streets, but BJME has spent their hard-earned wages on Hefazat. Now, they want their salaries, they want bodies, they want justice. Shahbag did not yet demand justice for their murders; the crowd in Motijheel did not mention their names. This country does not just belong to Bengalis and Muslims; this country belongs to the people of all hues. And people are no longer willing to become dead bodies. The 21st century has offered so much freedom to the world. Bangladeshis are now desperate for a taste of this freedom. Everyone has but one life, and we have just one country. We are unable to buy a second home abroad with plundered money.

The Treaty of Westphalia Today, we need a peace agreement like the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the war between Europes kings, Europes communities. The treaty brought sovereignty, but not democracy. With time, democracy accompanies freedom. But here in Bangladesh, freedom can only survive with democracy. The first condition for our Westphalia should be minimal democracy, the regularity of elected rule. Secondly, European secularism was not against Christianity, they uphold secularity in state affair keeping distance from rival Christian communities. For Europe, abolishing state religion did not mean abolishing religion itself. What this meant, was that the state will not support Protestantism or Catholicism as a state religion; and religion will retain its role in society. We have to remember, this is the secularism that wanted to free Europe of Judaism and Islam, and it still does. In Bangladesh, both the secular and Islamic forces want a state where a diversity of opinion cannot exist. The dominating strategies of both groups exhibit fascist undercurrents. What's the problem if atheists, leftists, Islamists politics can compete each other? Before that war criminal should be punished. Conflict should be resolved through persuasion not by coercion. We cannot view the Secular vs. Islam problem as rootless intellectuals do. A religious person can also be secular if he does not desire a theocracy. At the moment, key political conflicts center on the issues of caretaker government and justice for war crimes. The people are concerned with survival. Let the government implement a caretaker government. They can then claim to have given the state an opportunity for democracy, and the people an opportunity for justice. Citizens can then finally survive. We still have time. This is the only path that can save the government, and the country. We can later fix this Islam vs. secularism debate. But before that, let us give those four teenagers the opportunity to return home safely.