Dhaka Courier

Surviving in a corrupt state without feeling too sad


I am always reminded of an FF friend of mine called Shahid who even in 1971 thought that once the war was over, there would be chaos and corruption. He was in a training camp which had its usual share of problems, nepotism and infighting. Although he came from one of the towns outside Dhaka, he had a national vision of you will.

He would say that there would be much disappointment due to these problems. “Just look at the camp. We are all here to fight for the country but even here we are fighting among each other. We are even deciding who can fight the war and who can’t. Things won’t get better after the war. It will get worse because there will be no enemy then and we shall all become each other’s enemy.’

What was shocking and sometimes considered funny by his friends was his frank confession that he wanted to die while the war was on. “I want to die and become a shaheed. I will have done my job and I will also not have to see the country after the war was over.” His friends would joke with him and call him “shaheed.”  He went about the business of preparing for any operation any time.

The banging clanging operation

By July- August the surge of refugees increased dramatically and several “reception camps” were opened in the area to process them to the refugee camps. It so happened that these camps were not far away from the border area and on the other side of the river bank was a Pak army outpost which often took lives by taking pot shots.  It was decided that an attack would be mounted against it. The plan was to create a distraction so that attention would be elsewhere as a joint Indo-Bangla force attacked.

So a hundred or so refugee camp dweller were set up as a’ “distraction team” and standing near a hillock next to the river bank, they began to make a ruckus. They banged on plates, tin canisters, wooden artifacts- whatever – they could lay their hands on. To this were added screams, shouts and loud abuses, often about the sexual life of the Pakistani ruling class members.

Shahid was leading this group with two sticks in his hand.  He was banging them together and shouting at the top of his voice. They were all at the bottom of the hillock but some under Shahid began to climb up. In fact he took to the top and exposed himself. And as he did so the Pakistan army found a target.

The joint operation was successful and the gun nest was silenced. Shaheed was silenced too but then that was his objective. It was to die in the cause of the mother land. That night after the janaza was completed, his friends crossed the river in the darkness and buried him in the soil of his homeland.

Shaheed didn’t have to see the mess that ensued for whatever reasons after victory day and continues. Regimes may change and come but crime and corruption goes on.   He understood his own people like few did it seem now.

Can hyper corruption be ended?

Fast forward to today and the news of one AL leader caught, another arrested and the third in remand and the fourth in hiding   and the fifth… the story after a month + has now become routine. It arouses much less interest than before because people see such corruption everywhere, every time and every day. More importantly, they have been seeing it for long. While everyone is very happy that a few have been caught but most believe that most politicians are not clean. The link between power and corruption is so deep that nobody can think of a governance system which is corruption free.

People ask why they were allowed to do what they were doing for so long? This is not a sudden discovery as many knew what was going on. So the point they raise is that these people as a group may have done something or are part of something which made them vulnerable and hence the crackdown on them. Having lived in a state where crime and corruption is an everyday matter, few believe that such cases of corruption can happen without protection. For some reason, the protection was withdrawn. And these people paid the price. Which is fine but what about those who are still protected and still corrupt.

The other point is that if the system is corrupt, how can there be any work which will be free from corruption. Most think that most government officers are corrupt and nothing will be awarded or passed without corruption. It’s so deep that even the ACC has a committee investigating corruption. If that is the case have we reached a state of hyper-corruption which can’t be fixed by arrests and raids but changing the nature of governance itself.

Most of these questions are asked without expecting any answers and in that state of mind lives Bangladesh 2019.

  • Surviving in a corrupt state without feeling too sad
  • Vol 36
  • Issue 17
  • Afsan Chowdhury
  • DhakaCourier

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