Is it a monster time?

Farooque Chowdhury | Published: 00:00, Oct 12,2019 | Updated: 00:36, Oct 12,2019


Students of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology hold a candlelight vigil on the campus on Wednesday seeking justice for the slain Abrar Fahad. — New Age/Sony Ramany

A STUDENT of the top engineering education institution of the country has been murdered. Beaten to death, with blunt weapons. Without mercy. Without kindness.

And what words can we conjure to respond to such brutality? Nothing?

Pain has silenced all words. An unbearable silence has taken over us, rendering us numb and speechless.

No word can tell the pain that today overwhelms citizens’ hearts. It is not possible to express our pain.

The calculation Abrar, the murdered student, was trying to conclude before his murder is the mathematics of our mourning. It is of our pain, of our hatred, of our disgust, of our refusal and of our rejection. It is still unfinished. It is yet to be concluded. But it has to be concluded.

It is impossible to imagine the scene of a human soul being beaten to death. Imagination can only draw a picture of a student with his attention fixed on the notes on his reading table when his classmates enter his room and ask him to go out with them, but not beyond that. The next murderous hours are impossible to imagine as those are unbearably painful.

Who is to blame for this murder? Is it time? Is it the system? Why such murder? Why such indifference, such apathy to life?

Beating to death is difficult. Only a beastly mind can perform the grisly job. Human beings do not bear beastly minds.

And it was a human life. Life is inviolable. But life was made lifeless. And this act was done in an educational institution.

Does education not teach love and tolerance? Does education not teach being engaged with debate? Does education teach being busy with murder? All citizens know answers to the questions. But still the answers are to be searched.

How long this search shall continue? Is it time-indefinite? No, time-tomorrow shall produce the answer.

The problem is with a part of the time. That part of the time appears a monster. It considers nothing, but self — self-aggrandisement, self-promotion, self-interest, self-gain and self-satisfaction. And that time is part of a perspective composed with an economy and a politics, a society and a culture, an ideology and a set of values.

That part of the time is so overwhelming that the good part goes silenced and is inactivated. That part of the time is so overwhelming that indifference to life turns a brute truth.

Thus, go values, considerations, senses, rights and wrongs — indiscriminate, worthless, useless. All go on the altar of greed and audacity, gain and brutality. Whoever loves justice and fairness appear hapless, blind and dumb. It mirrors a part of the time.

It is mirrored in a part of politics, in vital parts of society. It spreads its tentacles everywhere, with differences only in form and appearance, sounds and fury, posture and position.

It, thus, devours itself. But before it devours itself, it demolishes many — many lives and many loves, trusts and hopes, many institutions and many arrangements.

The institutions and arrangements that it demolishes are essential for its survival. It is, thus, suicidal. But it does not care! It is so ‘wise’!

From where does it stem? From an economy, from politics, from the dominating interests it stems up. None of these care about this attitude and practice as if this is the survival mode. But the ‘survival’ mode is not the survival mode. It is a suicidal mode.

Any matured mind can identify the suicidal practice. It is not even helpful for production system if someone gives up all humane considerations and runs only for profit.

It is not even helpful for governance if someone takes into consideration only the question of rule.

Ruling the masses of people is not possible with such a move, which itself is suicidal.

And masses of people are not void of conscience. All the time, the masses of people consult their conscience. At times, they remain silent and at times, they rise in fury. The difference between silence and fury is almost impossible to identify. Until now, no mathematical model has been invented to measure that minute of difference. This dynamics does not get lost from a matured mind. This Bangladesh is the evidence. Anyone can recollect the early March days of 1971, the dawn moments of our glorious war for liberation. An entire people, rare in the world history, engaged with peaceful, non-violent, non-cooperation movement, were assaulted with a fully-fledged genocidal military campaign. And the people resisted as a single body. Only months ago, this people expressed their rights through ballot, a piece of paper. Months later, they rose in one body. None imagined the resistance; none imagined the dynamics that the following months witnessed. This is one sort of dynamics of people.

A superficial analysis of the murder incident would not help anyone. Serious political questions will emerge if political aspects are raised to find out the situation leading to the incident of murdered by beating. And the political aspects are not narrow and partisan, but broad and encompass all the dominating interests. This, murdered by beating, is not the way to deal with dissent. This murderous approach is suicidal.

Serious organisational questions will also emerge if organisational aspects are enquired. There is the question of organisational discipline.

What is leading to failures in imbibing a section of activists with values of life and democratic practice? Modern education does not teach brutality. Then, how have such brutalities pervaded a section of activists? And such or similar brutalities are not recent development in Bangladesh educational arena. It began decades ago. Campuses witnessed similar brute acts.

It is time for political leadership to initiate a search with similar questions if not the questions mentioned above.

Brutal practice by a section of activists has not cropped up overnight. It has crept in; and it was a gradual development. It is not the case of a single organisation. Organisations of different colours have practised this over the years. So the question requires an answer: Why is violence needed to deal with dissent?

Some quarters may blame student activism for this murderous incident. But it is not student activism. It is non-student act, which is opposite to student activism. Student activism has to be defined. Student activism has to be oriented if a part of this strays away from its designated path.

It is now being told by a quarter that student politics should be proscribed. But is there any guarantee that educational universe will be free from violence with saying goodbye to student politics? Is it possible to make any area of life free from politics? Politics in one way or another gets generated in all areas of life. It only changes its form, appearance and sound. That is the character of politics. ‘Making campuses politics-free’ is another politics; and this politics helps anti-democratic environment and politics, which is not congenial for the pursuit of knowledge. Anti-democratic politics fosters the cycle of violence, authoritarian environment and sectarian ideology; and the free pursuit of knowledge is not possible in that anti-democratic environment. Chapters of human history and countries bear witnesses to this claim. That is a dangerous, anti-human politics.

Rather, a democratic environment in the arena of education has to be fostered. Moreover, progressive, democratic student politics has a role to play there. Only that politics — progressive, democratic student politics — can wipe out barbarity of all colours. Violence and brutality would have been absent had there been a vibrant presence of progressive, democratic student activism. History bears many evidences of this claim. Progressive, democratic student activism cannot shed off self-responsibility — its failure to build up its organisation. ‘Obstacles made’ is not the answer to the failure.

The reaction of students on campuses and in different parts of the country to the murder incident is part of student activism. This part stands for life and non-violence. This is not monstrous. So, it cannot be claimed that it is only a monster-time. The time is like Poet Achintya Kumar Sengupta’s proclamation: Pran achhe pran achhe — life’s vibrant there.


Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.

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