Published:  01:02 AM, 23 July 2017

A tale of tribulations under autocracy

Notes from a Prison Bangladesh by Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir. Published in 2010 by Social Justice Publishers, USA

Mahfuz Ul Hasib Chowdhury flashes inquisitive light on the price paid by a famed politician and a  veteran scholar for the sustenance of democratic values

Political leaders across the world throughout history have paid high prices for adhering to their respective ideologies. Politicians, particularly those with ironbound devotion to their ideals and to the principles of ethical uprightness, have been subjected to immense trials and tribulations, psycho-physical torture and inhuman maltreatment in both previous and recent history.

There are lots of political leaders who succumbed to injuries received through physical assaults under repressive regimes while there are many politicians who survived the brutality of tyrannical governments and illustrated in memoirs their gruesome experiences gathered while undergoing imprisonment. Actually people's struggle for establishment of good governance, justice and endeavors for building up sound state mechanism all the time faced tough obstacles. The instances of humanity and benevolence we can see around us have been materialized through the sacrifices by devoted leaders and statesmen in different countries since time immemorial till today.

These thoughts dawned on my mind while I was going through Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir's memoirs which he wrote recalling his precarious days inside the four walls of prison at certain stages of his political career as portrayed in his movingly written book Notes from a Prison Bangladesh.

This is a voluminous book containing 430 pages which bear the woes and hardship this veteran politician and esteemed scholar had to go through by languishing behind the bars in 2002 during the regime of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and then once again he was arrested and placed behind bars when the army-backed caretaker government ruled the country during 2007-2008. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir has a brilliant professional career and his political profile is highly enriched too.

This book also refers to sycophants who change colors and tunes to keep pace with political turnarounds. Fraudsters and lackeys are often found gripping fair-weather opportunities to serve their own mean interest and such tricky people don't hesitate to switch from one ideology to another for personal or political gains. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir described some political tricksters of this nature who emerged during the reign of the caretaker government which imposed a state of emergency on Bangladesh during 2007 to 2008.

Hundreds of politicians and businessmen were arrested during the caretaker government which was directly backed by the military forces. As a result a process of depoliticizing the country was initiated which placed the entire nation in the middle of deep suspicions and uncertainty. People of Bangladesh had fought valiantly during the Liberation War of 1971.

Following independence the people of the country demonstrated over and over again on the streets of the capital Dhaka city and other parts of the country for the establishment of democracy, human rights and freedom of speech. The 1/11 government was a massive blow to the Bangladeshi people's democratic spirit and the prevalence of free press. Moreover, indiscreet torture on politicians and businessmen during the stint of the 1/11 government still haunts us. The advent of 1/11 should be remembered by the country's people and leaders as a vital lesson reflecting what may happen if political stalemates cannot be resolved through dialogues. At the same time, another essential point is that intimidation and repressive approach to governance is no how a healthy scenario to prevail in any civilized country, this book suggests.

Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir did not give up his reading habit even while he was living inside prison. We find in the book Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir was reading books like The Rising Tide by Jeff Shaara. This book is based on the history of World War II. In another part of Notes from a Prison Bangladesh we find Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir was going through Craig Nelson's book Thomas Paine.

Thomas Paine was the pioneer of philanthropic thoughts in America during the 19th century and his philosophic ideas have shaped the principles and visions which have formulated the basis of governance and development in the western world. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir loved reading Clarence Thomas' book My Grandparents' Son too. This shows Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir is fond of reading books by eminent authors and he has obtained a great deal of knowledge from the books he reads and this habit has expanded his political intellect too. Moreover, books gave Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir some solace in the middle of the agonies and solitude that enclosed him during his imprisonment.

Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir also recalled memories from his student life and from the perilous days of 1971 while the glorious Liberation War was going on. Being a devoted believer in the spirit of Liberation War, Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir looks forward to the materialization of the dreams with which the war was fought under the charismatic leadership of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir's book Notes from a Prison Bangladesh contains references to French Revolution and American Independence War. This is a reflection of the author's honor for the combat of civilians in different countries for the sustenance of equal rights and social integrity.

The book Notes from a Prison Bangladesh contains eighteen chapters like Kashimpur Jail, Investigation and Arraignment, Prosecution Witnesses, In Hospital, Solitary Confinement and so on. This book is a warning bell for all people who love Bangladesh about the severe consequences that strike the nation's destiny when amity and mutual understandings between different political parties fail to prevail.

It's quite natural for conceptual dissimilarities to exist between the viewpoints of two or three political fronts but all parties should have equal concern for the betterment of the country and sometimes certain instances of flexibility need to be shown by political parties to avoid deadlocks.

Muhiudding Khan Alamgir is a celebrated economist too. He acquired his PhD in Economics from Boston University, USA. He has authored a good number of books on economic, historic and political issues. Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir's image embodies a blend of academic excellence and political sagacity.  

The reviewer is a literary analyst for The Asian Age

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