September 08, 2007

As the Dust Settles - Ditiyo Khondo

(I deliberately held back on this post because I could not get my thoughts in order. I publish it as I wrote it then - raw, incomplete and ill-thought-out - because otherwise it will outlive its usefulness if any to myself and the reader. This was my attempt at summarising the consequences of the madness we saw during those ten fateful days of August. Madness both from the students and from the government. Where those tragic events leave us in terms of civil-government relations and more importantly civil-military relations, only time will tell.)

Let there be no doubt: Evil Forces and political hot money by themselves cannot explain the magnitude of these riots nor the speed at which they spread. Discounting inflation, the bulldoing of slums and the eviction of informal businessmen/women from the pavements is not only an insult to people's intelligence, but promises to trap our national discourse forever in "juju-ism": where we cannot take responsibility for our own actions but must forever find someone else (some omnipotent juju if necessary) to blame. A state is not built on paranoia.

Let there be no doubt in anyone's minds either about the fact that there was definitely fishing in troubled waters. This is the kind of opportunity that our political parties - especially when they're not in the government - wait for. And if they decided to mobilise their agenda through DU professors, who aren't exactly non-partisan angels, then so be it: arrest them and investigate. What I don't understand are the following:

1) How does this justify the indiscriminate beating of any and all DU students as a meaningful policy to keep the peace? Shouldn't there be at least a debate here about collective responsibility/punishment? And more importantly, some considerations about the effect on an already strained relation between civilians and the military/government?

2) How does this justify the harrassment of media personnel and censorship of the media as meaningful policy to keep the peace? I don't think I need to elaborate on this any more than I have previously. I will just say that the free flow of information reduces uncertainty. Uncertainty breeds discontent. Also, as noted previously, the BBC was not censored.

3) The BBC was not censored. If Bangladeshi governments were really worried about their "bhaabmurti" - instead of using it as a tool to de-legitimise its critics - then it would let Bangladeshi news outlets to control the story, not some foreign media outlet.

Oh yeah, I know what you're thinking... it's because our media constantly bitches about the government....well look at what the BBC does to their government.

Has anyone ever heard of a government fall because of too great a flow of information? No seriously, ONE example from media censorship advocates will do. Just ONE!

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