It is rather strange how men who have lost ministerial berths in Bangladesh can, post-cabinet position, sometimes give vent to their bitterness. Only weeks ago, it was Rashed Khan Menon who loudly proclaimed the questionable nature of the general elections last December. Note that he said not a word about the manner in which the voting took place as long as he was part of the Sheikh Hasina government.
And now we have Mashiur Rahman Ranga, another non-Awami Leaguer who served in the pre-December 2018 government, coming forth with all the bitterness he could muster not just against the ruling party but, in effect, against the people of this country as well. At a time when an entire nation recalls the supreme sacrifice of Noor Hossain on Democracy Day --- and that is 10 November --- in the struggle against the authoritarian regime of General Hussein Muhammad Ershad, Ranga chose to describe the young martyr for democracy as a man addicted to yaba and phensidyl.
That was a bit rich, coming from a man who in the Ershad years was a staunch loyalist of the dictator and was one of the chief operators of a political party which had no qualms in suppressing, or trying to suppress, the movement for democracy in the country through the better part of the 1980s and all the way till the fall of the regime in December 1990.
Ranga happens to be among those men who not only helped perpetuate the stranglehold Ershad exercised on the country but was also an instrument constantly used to undermine the democratic aspirations of the people in the near decade in which his leader kept the country in his grip.
Ranga has not only belittled Noor Hossain but has also 'enlightened' the nation on the manner in which Dr. Milon was killed toward the end of the Ershad regime. In his view, as unsubstantiated as it is preposterous, it was the BNP which killed Milon. Go for a parsing of his statement. He would like us to believe, seriously, that the Awami League murdered Noor Hossain and the BNP killed Dr. Milon. As for the Jatiya Party, it remained an innocent bystander as the country was being destroyed by the followers of Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia! In Ranga's view, Ershad was the great man bent on saving the country, but the AL and the BNP would not let him do that.
One wishes Ranga had said what he has said now about Noor and Milon when he was part of the Sheikh Hasina government. That would have been a measure of his political courage, if you can call his current behaviour an exercise in courage. But it is not courage. It is impudence of the most malicious kind, for it is a deliberate attempt to twist the history of the anti-Ershad movement to nefarious purposes. It is a blatant and brazen move to whitewash the illegitimacy of the regime Ranga and his associates served loyally. It is a move which does not wash in the eyes of the nation.
The history of the 1980s in this country is a glorious episode in time owing to the concerted and resolute struggle put up by the 15-party alliance led by the Awami League and the seven-party combine headed by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to push the Ershad regime from power. We do not forget the atrocities --- and they are not just the murder of Noor Hossain and Dr Milon --- perpetrated by the regime in the near decade in which it held sway over the country. When a truck rides roughshod over students and leaves them dead, when policemen fire at demonstrators on the instructions of an illegal government, when a military ruler sanctions the formation of a political party by the assassins of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, when Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia are subjected to relentless persecution, when politicians are lured into joining the Jatiya Party and once their usefulness is over are cast aside, it is sinister darkness which holds the country in its talons.
Mashiur Rahman Ranga has, by his comments on Noor Hossain and Dr Milon, done us all a favour, though. He has reminded us of the venality that was the Ershad regime and the Jatiya Party. He has made us remember the time when he and men and women like him never thought that the sun would set for them, never believed that the power of the people would storm their citadel and send them scurrying for cover. The brutal breaking up of demonstrations, the smell of teargas on the streets, the endless curfews were of little effect in containing the popular march for democratic rights.
In the history of post-liberation democratic struggle in Bangladesh, it will be the names of Noor Hossain and Dr Milon that will remain engraved on hearts and minds and stones and in the pages of textbooks. It will be the dictators and their political sycophants who will be remembered for their role in undermining the constitution, in destroying values, in putting up ugly barricades on the road to decency and to the growth of a sophisticated political culture.
Mashiur Rahman Ranga must know that he cannot ever win his war against Noor Hossain. That young martyr, the phrases 'gonotontro mukti paak' and 'shoirachar nipaat jaak' inscribed on his perspiring, healthy, strapping back and front, won the war against him and his kind long ago. Noor Hossain and Dr Milon, in death, renew our lease on life --- for they were addicted to democratic struggle. That addiction is ours too.
The writer is Editor-in-Charge, The Asian Age
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