“Bangladesh’s economic growth is ‘astonishing‘, especially when the global economy is facing a downturn.”
Kaushik Basu, Chief Economist, The World Bank – to bdnews24.com
The World Bank writes on Bangladesh, “Bangladesh has sustained an impressive track record for growth and development. In the past decade, the economy has grown at nearly 6 percent per annum despite frequent natural disasters and the fuel, food price and global financial crises. In the past two decades, poverty was reduced by nearly one third whereas life expectancy, literacy and per capita food production have increased significantly.”
I am a regular writer and blogger, now blogging for over six years. I write on everything that clicks. Yes, I do follow norms of a democratic country and don’t offend others whenever I write some sort of criticism or a satirical peace. A healthy dissent is a must for any democracy. And whenever there is good by the System, it also reflects in my writings. Plainly, I am very much part of the System, not anti to it, and like countless others, my concerns are basically about its well-being.
And even amidst raging debates on culture of tolerance and ‘communal Vs secular Vs casteist Vs caste-free politics’, India continues to remain a bright spot for expressing dissent. Yes, the state here regularly errs like Tamil Nadu on October 30 arrested a Tamil folk singer and activist for ‘allegedly’ writing songs maligning TN CM J. Jayalalithaa. But such acts attract widespread criticism and public outrage, amply represented in mainstream and social media – like we always see – like we are witnessing with writers, scientists, historians and filmmakers returning their awards to lodge their protests.
That is not the situation elsewhere, especially in India’s neighbourhood, more especially in Bangladesh with a considerable Hindu population and a shared culture with Bengal and Assam in India – based on language and geographical continuity.
We know Pakistan is not a secular country and we don’t expect reforms words like ‘freedom of speech and expression’ even to be heard there, in a socio-political atmosphere regulated by its military. Maldives is a dictatorship. Bhutan is friendly monarchy. And these two are very small countries – by population and by their geographic spread.
That leaves Bangladesh – on the table – a country with around 16 crore population – a country that shares land border with India – a country that owes its independent origin to India – a country where Hindu are still being hounded, as we can find from countless reports – a country where Hindus used to be over 30% of the population when India had given it a new, sovereign identity in 1971 – a country where Hindu are below 10% of the population now.
Like India, Bangladesh, too, has significant minority population – with added advantage of one language and one script.
We are rightly worried about growing audacity of fringe voices and growing culture of intolerance in the country. Moody’s, in fact, yesterday warned prime minister Narendra Modi that ‘India risks losing global credibility’ due to such incidents.
But Bangladesh, with a deep rooted culture of intolerance and religious fanaticism, continues to grow economically – in fact, at an astonishing pace, as Kaushik Basu says.
Yes, India and Bangladesh cannot be compared. India is a country and market of global stature now while Bangladesh is still seen as a chaotic nation with widespread malaise of poverty.
And any praise of Bangladesh should be seen in this context only – because, in spite of a prevalent culture of religious bigotry, the country has been able to reduce the number of poor significantly – and that is thanks to sustained economic growth – something, that makes it an ‘astonishing success story’ – irrespective of the context behind Mr. Basu’s words.
That doesn’t absolve society and administration of Bangladesh of their religious crimes.
Bangladesh has always been a hideout for anti-India terrorists – operating on religious lines – or working against the interests of India – HUJI or ULFA or others. And irrespective of the fact that India liberated Bangladesh, its successive governments have fuelled anti-India rhetoric back home.
And Bangladesh has had a history of minority persecution.
With a significant minority population, Bangladesh needs a secular culture but that is a far cry – highlighted again by the spate of murders of bloggers and publishers – who take a secular line in their work.
Yesterday, a publisher-blogger was hacked to death while three others seriously injured. Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent took responsibility. The slain blogger was publisher of another secular writer-blogger Avijit Roy who was hacked to death by religious fanatics this year in February, an attack that left his blogger wise seriously injured. Today, another Bangladeshi publisher got death threat for publishing many ‘so called atheist’ books.
The spate of attacks that began in February 2013, is continued unabated. So far, some seven writer-bloggers have been killed and many have been attacked brutally, surviving somehow the assaults. Writing on secular and rational lines that doesn’t fit in the schemes of hardliners and fanatics is bound to attract life threatening threats.
And so far, the government of Bangladesh has hailed to take any significant step in controlling the extremists – in spite of over 30 months since the first murder of a blogger in February 2013.
Bangladesh may ‘astonishingly’ reduce poverty with a sustained economic growth in the past decade, but it cannot go far in addressing the problem holistically – with more vocal religious fanatics and more hostile religious extremists on the prowl – and growing in strength.
What holds true for India – about the culture of intolerance – holds true for Bangladesh as well (or for that matter, any other country).
Featured Image Courtesy: MuktoMona Website
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/