Bangabandhu’s Appreciation- Dipu Moni’s Disinterest
In his short interlude in New Delhi on the 10th of January, 1971 the gallant Father of a new nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was thankful for the refugees India had accommodated, during the 9 month liberation struggle of Bangladesh. After nine months of incarceration, Bangabandhu made his first public speech in Delhi. He warmed up the chilly winter of Delhi by articulating his gratitude: “Bangladesh shall never forget what India has done for our downtrodden people. I am personally thankful to Mrs. Gandhi. My 7.5 crore people are thankful to Srimati Gandhi and the people of India. I know the people of India are also poor and under pressure, yet they managed to shelter and feed my people, we will remember this eternally. I believe in secularism, democracy, socialism. Bangladesh is shattered and I am assured that all those who believe in freedom and democracy shall move forward to rebuild Bangladesh. I am often questioned, why are you and Mrs. Gandhi so similar ideologically? I answer it is similarity in ideology, in ethics and in the quest for world peace.” Today, this speech is repeated through all telecasting mediums. Nevertheless, frequent repetition has not helped the country come to practice this quest for world peace.
Genocidal activities have been taking place in the Rakhine (Arakan) state of Myanmar bordering Bangladesh in the South-East corner. Though the violence is communal in nature, it cannot be denied that the Rohingyas have been subject to persecution for years. Imposition of Martial Law in the Arakan State is an act of impunity as the state-led military apparatus have track-records of committing brutalities against both the groups. In this light, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reminded Bangladesh of its obligations under international law, to open up the borders to save lives. Human Rights Watch and other international groups have asked Bangladesh to comply with conditions to generate peace in the region.
Although, Bangladesh has allowed Rohingya refugees to take refuge in the past, the Foreign Minister has asked border forces to maintain vigilance. She also reiterated that trans-border spill overs shall not be allowed and refugees are not of “interest” to Bangladesh. Bangladeshi authorities have pushed back boats of refugees and photographs show many of refugees bleeding or plain exhausted from the flight. Bangladesh representatives, namely Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni both often retell the Bangladesh foreign policy of “Friendship to all, malice to none.” It is clear that those who fear their lives in the Arakan province are subject to malice orchestrated by this isolationist policy of the government of Bangladesh and negating any prospects of world peace.
It can be debated, whether such obstruction to entry of the Rohingyas is due to a matter of friendship. More recently, the Maritime boundary fiasco has been arbitrated for Bangladesh at a UN tribunal. Shortly after the elections of 30th December, 2008 the PM elect had told a press conference that she “demands” the immediate release of Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi. The Bangladesh Prime Minister and her entourage had visited Myanmar in December, 2011 and signed a number of cooperative deals. However, Sheikh Hasina did not find it important to meet Pro-democracy leader and Nobel Laureate Daw Aung Sang Suu Kyi while in Rangoon. Thereby, it might be questioned if the government is on the side of the military junta of Myanmar or the people of Myanmar and its elected representatives? So much for Bangabandhu’s quest for democracy.
Questions remain and debates on international law may be contended in court by lawyers. However, the stance of the Foreign Ministry, violates the stance and notion of Bangabandhu. We might be forgetting the help somebody else had bestowed upon us, as our lives were at the hands of the military and their junta apparatus. Not to mention those responsible for atrocities are being tried at the moment. The father of the nation believed in achieving world peace. If we cannot allow innocents to find solace and life within our boundaries, what credibility do we as a nation have in resting as actors of world peace as the subjugated remain dying?
We are the most densely populated country, we are very poor and we face many other challenges. Can we really not adhere to UN help at least temporarily house the refugees? Bangabandhu understood the restraints of India. He called for eternally appreciating the efforts of the Indian people in accommodating Bangladesh refugees. Today, we are at relative peace and the Rohingyas are in vain both at home and in our borders. Since, we had been in a similar situation as the Rohingyas during our struggle, let us at least appreciate the irony of denying privilege to the vulnerable.
According to Bangabandhu, Mrs. Gandhi and himself matched in ideology and ethics. However, is our Foreign Minister and vis-à-vis the government following the footsteps of our father?
Saad Quasem, a concerned citizen of Bangladesh
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