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November black, November bright

Published : Sunday, 11 November, 2018 at 12:00 AM Count : 1220

While browsing through a pile of old papers, documents and books inside a newspaper vendor's dirty and crammed shop at old Dhaka, this writer suddenly stumbled across an old newspaper. Given the lead news reports published in it, he picked it up with unending curiosity. It was 1975's November 8th issue of the now defunct, The Bangladesh Observer. Only the front-page somehow managed to survive the ruthless tests of time. Yes, it's the image of that carelessly left away page that has been displayed above. That November was perhaps the most brutal and agonising November in Bangladesh's history.

Let's take a flashback of events occurred in November of 1975.It's been less than three months that the country's architect and founding father -- Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib had been cruelly assassinated along with many of his family members. Blood of the four murdered national leaders inside Dhaka's Central Jail hadn't dried up as yet. A series of military coup and counter -- coups snatched away the lives of a number of renowned freedom fighters. Following three and half years of organised chaos, law and order situation of the country had hit the rock bottom. The country practically existed without a government for three days. A toddler three year old Bangladesh was made to bleed by a handful derailed army officers and power-hungry pro-Pakistan corrupt politicians.

Economically, the country's GDP growth dropped at a shocking minus 4.1 per cent. Per capita income was a meagre USD 272.75. The national budget placed by then Dr Azizur Rahman stood at a measly Tk 1, 549. 19 crore.

The value for inflation, GDP deflator (annual percentage) in Bangladesh was an unimaginable 80.57 per cent. The foreign exchange reserve in November of 1975 stood far below a billion dollar. Whatever was earned was earned primarily by exporting jute that lacked a proper infrastructure. The private sector then was somewhat a non-existent term. 

On the political front - following a successful coup d'état and bloodbath - Major General Ziaur Rahman proclaimed himself deputy martial law administrator. Chief Justice Sayem was made the Chief Martial Law Administrator. Chiefs of the three services were accordingly tamed and bought. The country's helpless judiciary could do little other than issue orders in tuned with military's demands. The country for the next 15 years would be governed by two military dictators leading the country's future towards an abyss. 

That black November, in fact, led the whole country towards an uncertain future. There was little hope as the country was running without a leader and a vision. Many prominent leaders and activists of the Awami League then had gone into hiding. Some of them were compelled to remain silent, and a few like everywhere else in the world chose to change colours coupled with their political loyalty. In course of time, the disgraceful indemnity ordinance was passed.    
    
The couple of dictators, until they were assassinated and thrown out of power, were ruling the roost. Ultimately the gun-barrels dictated the horrific rule of law, but only for a specified time. 43 years later, all those fears, pains and miseries in today's Bangladesh appear to be wiped out for good.  That November today, as the month progresses, speaks of a different economic and political reality. Only what remains unchanged is the sweet arrival of winter in November.

As this writer went through the front page reports of that Bangladesh Observer's inauspicious political developments of November 1975, he was hugely overwhelmed to mark the differences between the two political and economic realities of two separate times of one nation. It's no coincidence, but it's the re-affirmation of the truth that we as a nation have drawn valuable lessons from bitter and bloody experiences of our black November.

Appointment of a so-called CMLA, otherwise chief martial law administrator is unthinkable today. The military top-brass has more important professional obligations to execute other than illegally assuming state power. Today the Bangladesh Armed Forces, the three services collectively, are a systematic, disciplined and internationally reputed regular force.

Despite repeated shortcomings, democracy has been restored since 1991. And following the announcement of the 11th JS polls to be held on December 23, we want to believe that we are capable of determining our political future. 

And economically, we are one of the first 50 economies in the world. Our GDP growth has been a steady 6 plus per cent over the last decade. Our foreign exchange reserve is the second largest among the SAARC countries. Our per capita income has crossed over USD 1600. In spite of deficits, the budget for the fiscal years 2017-18 is some 399 times more than what it was in 1975-76. Despite poor governance and limitations in some areas, our vibrant private sector continues to boom. We not only produce and fulfil our agro needs; we also export the surplus amount to other countries. 

In international economic forums, the country is often branded as the new 'Asian Tiger'. In the gentleman's sport cricket, the tigers have sprung up as a fearsome opponent to reckon with internationally.   
The prickly and barbed journey from that November to this one has been a bumpy one. Yet the ghosts of those Moshtaque and Zia and in the likes of them keep haunting us. We don't desire to wake up in a November morning and pick up a newspaper bearing the similar type of news reports published on that black November. Coupled with public participation, our pro and anti government politicians must prove to the rest of the world -- we can and we will choose and elect our political leadership. 
 
Political disputes, disagreements and differences in opinion will always remain. Also it doesn't matter whether you are a loyalist and supporter of the party in power or not. What really matters is that Bangladesh will never be ruled by any sinister syndicate, be it a military or non -- military in nature. The black November is history today, and this November only shines brighter. We are passing through another suspenseful November -- pacing quick towards the upcoming JS polls in late December. The government, EC along with newly formed political alliances are busy for determining the country's political future for the next five years. Future MPs are busy filling nomination forms.

To cut a long story short, many years later the country appears to be back on track. Especially, BNP must stop to present their polls related disagreements as a storm in a teacup. That said -- it must re-emerge by tearing up its military image that paved the path for General Zia to assume power illegitimately in black November.  
Collectively, it's up to all of us to make this November a brighter and a memorable one filled with peace, harmony and tolerance. On that note, November, November burning bright.

The writer is in charge of the editorial section



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