Noted Bangladeshi writer, historian, scholar, secularist, translator and Professor at University of Dhaka Muntassir Mamoon visited the eastern Indian city of Kolkata last week to attend an event. On the sidelines of the event, he shared his views on the current political scenario in his country with the Indian media.
Recently, renowned Bangladeshi psephologist Shamsul Arefin said that intellectuals or eminent members of the Bangladeshi civil society are secular and progressive, and majority of them is backing the Sheikh Hasina government. However, only 20% of the Bangladeshi voters belong to this group, added Arefin. In this context, Mamoon said that a section of the greater civil society has always remained silent….even they didn’t oppose the military rule in the past. He also said that the intellectuals might help the ruling Awami League (AL) come to power again, but their silence in exciting political atmosphere was surprising.
Mamoon recalled that artists and scholars used to express their views openly in the 1980s (after the War of Liberation). They supported the AL through their creation (poems, songs etc.). According to Mamoon, they might not back all the decisions made by the AL, but provided the basic support to the party. He is of the opinion that their overall loyalty is undoubtedly unquestionable. Intellectuals made their political stand clear by playing an active role in the recently held International Bengali Literary Conference in Dhaka.
Meanwhile, Mamoon, who won the ‘Ekushey Padak’ – the second highest civilian award in Bangladesh – in 2010, admitted that a number of AL members are ‘victims of self-satisfaction’ as the party is in power for more than a decade. He advised these members to change their attitude as soon as possible, saying: “We have to consider the overall picture – the economic development.”
PM Sheikh Hasina
The Dhaka University professor showered praises on the Sheikh Hasina government for taking several important steps in order to improve the socio-economic condition of the country. He said that the AL should highlight this overall development in order to win the upcoming Parliamentary Elections. Mamoon claimed that Bangladesh not only maintained 7% economic growth, but also managed to reduce the number of poor people. The extreme poverty rate stood at 41% in 2005. Now, it has come down to 22%, he stressed.
The South Asian nation, which has managed to produce 16,350MW of power, is able to supply electricity to 83% of households. Moreover, Bangladesh received USD 2.65 billion in gross inflows of FDI (foreign direct investment) between July 2016 and May 2017, stressed Mamoon. He once again urged his countrymen to promote the ‘story’ of economic development.
Mamoon noted that there has been a remarkable rise of the middle class people in Bangladesh in the last 10 years. “We should not forget that the military, and not the AL, started the case against Begum Khaleda Zia, the leader of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP). The AL wants she should be brought to justice,” he insisted. Asked why the BNP is maintaining silence even after a Dhaka court jailed Khaleda for five years because of her involvement in orphanage corruption case in the second week of February, the scholar said that the government strengthened security ahead of the verdict and the opposition party lost its popularity mainly because of its ‘destructive’ activities in the past. Also, the Jamaat ‘militants’ didn’t co-operate with the BNP this time, he added. Mamoon further said that Khaleda realised the importance of the civil society members and their attitude. So, she told her party workers to show restraint.
Before leaving for Dhaka, Mamoon expressed hope that Bangladesh and India would maintain cordial ties in the coming years.
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