Published:  12:24 AM, 08 November 2019

Of the absurd and the laughable

Absurdities sometimes add spice to life, especially ours here in this unfortunate country. In the world of politics, there are all those times when we must bear in patience the follies thrown our way by individuals who ought to have known better.

Think of the lies peddled by some academics a few years ago. Among them are former vice chancellors of public universities and naturally you would expect them to be emblems of truth and decency.

But then they ended up dishing out the lie that General Zia declared Bangladesh's independence on March 26, 1971. Having known all along that he had actually taken to the airwaves on March 27, this new bit of 'information' was truly a mockery of history. Why did these academics go along with this downright falsehood?

It is almost like asking why earlier cabals of Bengali academics went around spreading the lie in 1971 that the Pakistan army had killed no one in 'East Pakistan'.

You could, in a cynical mood, suggest that politics these days is all about absurdities --- and not just in our part of the world. Tony Blair and George W. Bush invented the absurd lie about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. And then they went coolly into destroying the beautiful country that was Iraq.

Blair speaks these days of his religious convictions. You watch him and think of the thousands that his search for Churchill-like glory pushed to premature death. Come to Donald Trump and Brazil's Jaor Bolsonaro. They do not think anything is wrong with the world's climate. Where have these people come from?

A particular absurdity we have been pelted with over the years is the claim that General M.A.G. Osmany was the supreme commander of Bangladesh's liberation forces. He was commander in chief. If he was supreme commander, where would you place Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam? Move on, to hear followers of Moulana Bhashani let you in on the thought that he was the first man to declare Bangladesh's independence, twice.

The first time was in 1957, when at Kagmari he uttered a loud, farewell-like 'assalam o alaikum' to Pakistan; and the second was in December 1970 when four days before the general elections he made it known that Bangladesh was henceforth a sovereign nation. See how adventurism is being taken for serious politics here.

And that is not the end of the absurd. The followers of the war criminals Golam Azam and Nizami claim that during the War of Liberation it was their fear of Indian or Hindu domination that propelled them into waging war in favour of Pakistan.

Ask them why such fears led to the massacre of their fellow Bengalis by their very own al-Badr and al-Shams. They will not answer. But there remains the far bigger historical absurdity for us here: the Muslim League claimed in the 1940s that Pakistan would be the homeland for all Indian Muslims.

In 1947, a bigger number of Muslims stayed back in India and a minority formed the state of Pakistan. There was another absurdity: Jinnah decided, in the infinity of his wisdom, that India's Muslims were a nation, not a community. That was quite something, wasn't it?

Moments before Bangabandhu was gunned down by soldiers in 1975, he telephoned the army chief for help. To our lasting shame, the general asked the Father of the Nation, 'Can you come out of the house, Sir?' It was absurdity at its height. Did he think Bangabandhu would scale some wall and flee to safety even as the bullets whizzed all over his residence? You reflect on such bad judgement and you ask yourself if we are not in such a terrible pass today because of such human inadequacies.

Turning to foreigners, American diplomats have with regularity felt elated at the Bangladesh's being a 'moderate Muslim' state. Why is their understanding of our history so poor? And who gave them the prerogative to decide that ours is a Muslim state, that it is not a secular republic? There, again, is absurdity for you.

There are people who speak gleefully of a 'sepoy-janata biplob' in 1975. For all we know, there were the sepoys all around. But the janata, the people? They were nowhere to be seen. And a putsch was passed off as revolution. Organised murder of freedom fighters was in the air.

The theatre of the absurd, yes.

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