(Small updates and links included since first published)
Muhammad Jafar Iqbal writing in Prothom Alo a few days back. I usually read his columns on the day they come out, but this weekend has been too busy for that. Besides, it looked like another impassioned plea against war criminals by a man who lost family members in 1971, so I thought that could wait. It looked like that until section 3, para 2.
There Dr. Iqbal says this:
"Television channels have been sent a memo from government agencies. That memo contains the names and phone numbers of a certain brand of intellectuals. The tv channels have been instructed to invite at least one guest from this list for each of their talk-shows. I was outraged to see the list. If some newspaper were brave enough to publish that list, then the people of this country would be outraged as well. Most of the people on the list are extreme right-wingers. If this is indeed the ideology of the current government, then it is not hard to guess where Mujahid or Shah Hannan are getting their courage from."
Interesting. Right after the DU riots, talk shows were cancelled for a month as everyone remembers. They resumed under certain "informal guidelines" that included:
D. Inviting the same guest repeatedly is to be discouraged.
E. Enough care should be taken in the selection of guests for talk shows. Noted thinkers, intellectuals, academics, and businessmen can be invited. Panels of guests should comprise people of various ideals.
There is no mention of a "guest list" in the guidelines of course. On a sidenote, it is around this time too that certain Islamists (not Jamaat necessarily) suddenly found their voice and clamoured for the arrest of an innocent cartoonist, putting even a pro-free-speech advocate like New Age on the backfoot. They brought out processions on the streets within a month after students were clubbed black and blue for doing the same.
Back to this guest list. There has been talk of a list of "approved" guests for a while now on the Bangladeshi blogosphere. Till now however, everyone thought that this list consisted more of the pro-CTG variety people than the anti-Muktijuddho/"rajakar" type of people.
If MJI is right, the question that badly needs to be asked is this: can the CTG not find enough ideological/intellectual spokespeople in Bangladesh from among pro-71 people?
Truth is they can, it's not hard at all.
The question then becomes more ominous: why then are they not doing so? And who is sending out these lists with these snakes on them? And why?