By Rubana Huq August 19 – One would expect the concept of “terrorism” to convey the same meaning for all in this country. It is not quite the case yet.
For most people like your columnist, anyone committing acts of extreme aggression and cruelty is a “terrorist”. For me, the incident of a10-year-old boy being bludgeoned in the head with a crowbar after being accused of stealing fish is terrorism. For me, a 12-year-old allegedly who suffered the brutality of a compressor hose pumping air into his rectum and ultimately tortured to death by a former boss for joining a competitor is terrorism. For me, a13-year-old tied to a pole and beaten to death by men who accused him of stealing a van and the circulation of a cellphone video equals terrorism.
The fourth incident that happened forty-eight hours back of a 16-year old being swatted to death in Hajaribag because of apparently having stolen a laptop is terrorism. In a span of a only a month, Rajon from Sylhet, Rakib of Khulna, Rabiul Awal of Barguna and most recently, Raja Mia from Hajaribag have all become victims of terrorists who we fail to spot early on while all of them run loose till it’s too late to rectify reality. Frankly the incident of 40 school children of Bhuiyara High School being subjected to attacks in Chandpur and now being admitted to Kachua Upazila Health Complex for having protested the assault on their teacher for not giving in to an extortion attempt by young “leaders” who had demanded Tk 15,000 for observing national mourning day programmes, is also an example of terrorism.
Your columnist also sees no justification in calling terrorists “unidentified assailants” when they hack secular bloggers like Niladri Chattopadhyay Niloy, Ananta Bijoy Das, Washiqur Rahman, and Avijit Roy to death in a country where ironically 90 percent of the 160 million people are followers of a religion that teaches utmost tolerance and upholds the concept of peace.
While we watch police spotting and arresting the accused, one also needs to reconcile with the fact that there are many corporate terrorists that run free in this soil. Hallmark Group, which just had Tk 1700 crore written off by Sonali Bank, and Bismillah Group which also swindled Tk 1174.46 crore using names of fake foreign buyers and forged documents, are no less than terrorists who terrorise and hold the financial sector hostage. According to the Finance minister 2-3 percent of the country’s total GDP (almost Tk 450bn) is swallowed up by corruption while political unrest adds to another one percent (Tk 150bn). Yet, despite his admission, in July this year, 15 large business groups defaulting on repayment of loans of Tk 12,500 crore, applied for restructuring their debts under a Bangladesh Bank policy issued in January to aid top defaulters on the grounds of prolonged political crisis. Once again, groups, which submitted applications for restructuring loans below Tk 500 crore, will not be considered for getting the restructuring advantage as the policy is issued only for borrowers of loans over Tk 500 crore.
After restructuring, these groups will be allowed to borrow up to 50 percent of the last approved amount for demand and current loans and 60 percent for term loans. The loans will be classified as special mention account and banks would maintain provision at required rates with the additional one percent. This prompts your columnist to quote Noam Chomsky at this point. Chomsky wrote: “It’s ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by huge corporations. What kind of freedom is there inside a corporation? They’re totalitarian institutions – you take orders from above and maybe give them to people below you. There’s about as much freedom as under Stalinism.” To put it simply, corporate terrorism is one of the worst forms of terrorism a nation can experience.
Day before yesterday, while I remembered 17th of August 2005, bombs exploded close to a shrine in another Asian capital, Bangkok, right at the centre, killing at least 16 people and injuring more than 118. That triggered further memories from10 years ago, when on the same day, in a span of half an hour, around 500 bomb explosions occurred at 300 locations in 63 out of the 64 districts of Bangladesh. A terrorist organisation, Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) claimed responsibility for the bombings with the association of another terrorist group, Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami. In Dhaka starting from Bangladesh Secretariat, the Supreme Court Complex, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Dhaka University campus, the Dhaka Sheraton Hotel and Zia International Airport, the bombs went off everywhere. At least 115 people were injured. When 7 bombs exploded at about 11:10 am at Biswa Road, rickshaw driver Rabiul Islam was injured and finally succumbed to death while school going Abdus Salam, only 10 years of age, died when a bomb exploded outside his house in Savar. Thankfully, the main perpetrators of the bombing, Bangla Bhai and Shaykh Abdur Rahman, were executed by hanging in 2007.
But that is no reason for us to assume that their ghosts have all disappeared. Terrorists walk in our own shadows, within our own frames and network. We may continuously convince ourselves about us being free from the clutches of the terrorists, but the truth is we are subjected to terrorism in multiple forms on a regular basis. Whether it’s the terrorists assaulting school kids, beating children to death, hacking bloggers, robbing financial institutions, raping women or planting bombs at public places, they all wear the same ugly hat of evil. By not defining them aptly, by not identifying them from within our own selves, and most of all by denying their existence, most of us are indulging in lies, which are getting bigger by the minute. One of Hitler’s closest associates and most devoted followers, Joseph Goebbels, ironically spelt the truth for many of us to pay heed to:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it…for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
Let this never happen in our soil where each one of us, including the highest authority speaks the same language in the case of handling terror. Let terrorism never assume the proportion of a deceiving reality while we ourselves trick ourselves into believing that we are all safe from terror. We are not. Therefore, while we redefine terror amongst ourselves, the war must go on.
The writer is Managing Director, Mohammadi Group. This article has been originally published in The Daily Star, Bangladesh on 19 August 2015.