Swadhin Deshe Ouponibesik Bichar Babostha by Raahman Chowdhury

The judicial system in the Mughal period in India used to protect the interests of ordinary people. The Mughal rulers were well aware of the fact that the prosperity of the country depends fully on the large number of farmers and craftsmen who provide the lifeblood to the nation. It was, of course, not a modern system and without faults. But the basic objective of this system was to protect all including the weak and the marginalized from the tyranny of the powerful. This was until Robert Clive, a British officer employed by the East India Company, defeated Siraj ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal, at the Battle of Plassey in 1757.

The East India Company came to India in order to steal, loot and make profit as much as possible with little interest in protecting the native people. In order to perpetuate their system of exploitation, the British had to root out every native socio-political system that tried to put up a barrier to their mission of exploitation mixed with the new fervour of Christianity and colonial civilization. Little by little the British demolished the indigenous judicial system grown out of the Indian soil and implanted a system that was a mockery of justice at best.

Raahman Chowdhury, a distinguished playwright, essayist and researcher, has exposed to its core the judicial system prevailing in the country in his book, Swadhin Deshe Ouponibesik Bichar Babostha, which is published by Samhati Prokashan this year. The author has made a comparative discussion between the pre-British and British systems of justice and governance and shown the continuity of the British laws and rules in the independent Bangladesh and proved its anti-people nature and characteristics in the very name of delivery of justice.

This book has started with the present condition of the judicial system in Bangladesh. Many failures of this system are evidenced by statements articulated by some distinguished persons all of whom were at the top of the system at one time or another. Then followed the discussion about how dacoits originated in Bengal under the British rule. Next the role of the Permanent Settlement, initiated by Lord Cornwallis in 1793, in making people landless on their own lands has been discussed. The next chapter deals with the laws and rules made by the British for punishing the rebels and politicians who fought for and dedicated their lives to freeing India from the hands of the English plunderers. Again follows the discussion of the ill practices of breaking laws and making evil rules seen on and off in the independent Bangladesh.

In the chapter on the robbers and dacoits in Bengal during the British rule, the author has proved that the actual robbers were the British rulers themselves. The Bengali robbers and dacoits made so infamous by the colonial masters were in fact the Fakir and Sannasi rebels joined by the people who lost their lands and all belongings at the jaws of the British plundering. In the past two thousand years of Indian history, famines visited the country for 17 times, whereas the country saw large scale famines at least 34 times in only two hundred years of the British rule. Famine broke out in India just after five years of the beginning of the British rule and the last one occured five years before they left India, the Great Bengal Famine of 1770 known as Chhiattorer Monnontor being the largest of all with a death toll of one crore people, a third of the population.

In Conclusion, the author has stressed the basic problem of our system of justice, which the independent Bangladesh has inherited from their colonial rulers and maintains with minor changes to the old colonial laws and rules. This system of justice makes people feel outsiders and put lawgivers to the position of masters or even deities beyond the reach of any criticism. Raahman Chowdhury appeals to set up an independent system of delivering justice backed by the electing power and moral support of the people for the progression of democracy and pro-people governance to its full development.

Reading of Raahman Chowdhury's Swadhin Deshe Ouponibesik Bichar Babostha of nearly 300 pages is a journey through the pre-colonial and colonial history and seeing through the British objectives behind making most of their laws and rules. This books tries to give us a clear and thorough understanding of what a pro-people system of justice should be and how far we have to go to achieve it some day in the future. This book is an important addition to our serious-type discourse on justice and the judicial system of the country.

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