Movement Kolkata Women To Inspire Dhaka Women
Muhammad Quamrul Islam :
A Bangladesh national vernacular daily on February 7, 2020 carried out a photo of an impressive silent protest procession of women in Kolkata at the call of Trinamul Mahila Congress. The mouths were closed with posters displayed at chests by participants demanded No NRC, No NPR, and No CAA. It goes without saying the these issues also touch people living in Bangladesh, which cannot go unnoticed by Dhaka women leaders belonging to political parties and NGOs, who're so vociferous on different issues to get coverage in TV channels and print media.
Of course, they mostly come from foreign funded NGOs, Post Bangladesh phenomenon. The local leaders are- bipartisan university teachers, retired bureaucrats, former advisers of non-party Caretaker Governments, advocates, physicians, politicians and other professions. They are supposed to be voluntary members, claim so; but in reality they're not and lord over staff arbitrarily that is an open secret. Each Committee is oligarchic and there is no change of 'voluntary leadership' in elections to Executive committee. Insiders say, politics and NGOs are mixed and messed up for which neither volunteerism nor welfare is upheld except seeking publicity, personal aggrandizement and tours abroad.
Another Dhaka national vernacular daily January 30, 2020 carried news Indian famous actress Puja Bhatt has sharply criticized anti-Muslim Citizenship Law. She said in no way this law can be supported. This division cannot be accepted. It is time to unite and protest united. The greatness of patriotism lies in having differences of opinion. Continuous movement against CAA and NRC by students has made it known, ruling party actually has given us an opportunity to unite. To remain silent is no solution. She does not support CAA and NRC as it is breaking her home.
It means the partition-independence of India by British rule in1947 thru subdivided and porous borders has not solved problem, rather solidified it in sovereign borders that only gave posts and positions high enough to some politicians as ministers and ambassadors abroad with little or no benefit to the multitude who were hoodwinked to partition in the name of religion on both sides of the divide. It created Kashmir issue and India-Pakistan two wars centering Kashmir and third one for denying the right of majority party elected to Parliament to assume power as per democratic rules and procedures in Pakistan at the Centre.
The history is Bengalis north-eastern region did not want partition in whatever way British dispensed independence in India and stuck to Greater Bengal till the last moment of partition declared by Lord Mountbatten. Meanwhile, British Cabinet Mission Plan's offer of federation with three groups in India were acceptable to all, which was deemed as best solution by respected leader of India Maulana Abul Kalam Azad who could not see the light of the day for the intriguers who sabotaged for selfish agenda in each side. It led to tragic migration of Hindus and Muslims between two sides, refugee problem, land grabbing, obstruction to free movement, free flow of rivers and so on, a human disaster indeed still persisting; more in Bengali speaking area notwithstanding emergence of Bangladesh in the eastern wing of Pakistan at heavy cost of lives including sacrifices of the women in the spirit of Bengali Nationalism and social emancipation.
But, that spirit was lost in no time as opportunists in refugee camps in Kolkata and bordering areas during liberation war 1971 seized no opportunity avail foreign sympathies, leave for West settle there instead of thinking post war politics, administration and reconstruction of Bangladesh. Various interests contrived in camps and communists hidden in mainstream parties came up with struggle after independence between pro-liberation force and anti-liberation force, which led to confrontational politics blaming each other persisting today that made them beneficiaries and the multitude suffering.
It was further facilitated by geo political situation, free market and globalizations since 1980s that looked for vast reservoir of low cost labor and expand international market chain that was readily available in Bangladesh. That largely explains demographic dividend by wage earners remittances from Middle East countries and low cost garment workers contributed to economic growth of Bangladesh, accelerating till to date. But, comparable democracy, education and moral fiber have not been put in place at par with bordering Indian state of West Bengal and seven sister states. The University campus lost the past glory and remain dipped in party politics by ordinance 1973 forced by teacher leaders then, which my teacher Prof Rehman Sobhan on Economic Growth paper in MA Final 1960-61 may testify if the authority approaches him. He said in class that politics not economics is the important determinant of economic development, which theory has not lost relevance, we feel. NGOs cannot be the substitute.
True, Constitution of People's Republic of Bangladesh 1972 provided for temporary provision of 15 reserved women seats in Parliament by indirect election of MPs for 10 years due to expire in 1982 under then post war conditions. But that expiry of provision didn't materialize after the tragic killing of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib in 1975. With each regime change the tenure and number has been increased by constitutional amendment. Now the genuine women activists exclaim the number at present stands at 50 reserved seats by indirect election which is against democratic norm including democratic India. Parties may be asked to nominate certain number of women candidates to contest election, but not reserved women MPs who are deemed as the sets of jewelry in Parliament and so on.
Against this, the reserved women seats in local government institutions in Bangladesh provide for direct polls where voters cast vote in respective constituency and polling station as in Dhaka City Polls 2020 just concluded. As such if grass roots level women can do why not the higher levels of society. Insiders say,it is to provide for the privileged and families of small parties in alliance who have no electoral base, which cannot be deemed as democracy. Let the indirect election reserved women seats in Parliament omitted in the spirit of Mujib Year 2020.
(Muhammad Quamrul Islam, writer, economist, advocate and columnist)