‘We Don’t Protest’

Khawaza Main Uddin | Update:

Unlike the sympathisers of the critics of corrupt and isolated establishments at the beginning of any mass movement in the past, ‘most intelligent people’ of our generation have proved they are cleverer.

Risking even a small thing in the name of upholding truth and conscience is, in their views, a foolish act, especially when they have the scope to fool the majority.

Accordingly, the Dhaka University proctor felt he affords to say he “doesn’t know” about the attacks on quota protesters by the activists of the ruling party’s student wing, Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), on the campus. No matter what others think of him, he knows they cannot save the prized post of AKM Golam Rabbani, apart from that of a professor!

And, an election commissioner named Rafiqul Islam has the luxury of making the statement that there is no definition of fair election when the recent civic polls were reportedly rigged and manipulated. His defence indicates the election commission he represents is either a party to the process or he himself is accountable to, not the people.

The university teacher might have ignored the Dhaka University Order that has a provision for termination for moral turpitude. The election commissioner, too, does not care what the people think of him after such a statement.

These are the persons who are the clients of the system. There are others who do not defy order of the day but seem to be smarter. They might say the election could have been better or terrorists have no political party. This obviously means they try to save face but side with the incumbents by tacitly supporting rigging or attacks on innocent youngsters.

Escapism, if it is so, has grabbed the society so much, many conscientious people and opinion leaders do not raise their voice publicly about the issues, which they are critical of, only privately.


Dissent of a few have also been seen on the social media platforms but they mostly expressed certain anger about the silence of many of those whom we in Bangladesh call intellectuals, or supposed conscience of the nation, who this time around have failed to protest at the assault on students and their arrest for the latter’s protest against a system they consider unjust.

It’s hard to believe the opportunists do not understand how the people rate them when conscience has been sold out for petty personal gains. They definitely justify their position, be it in their drawing room or in the office of the patrons.

Have Bangladeshis lost their path of showing democratic dissent that has shaped the country’s history -- its birth in 1971 and students’ demonstration of 1990?

Pundits had in the Western world of the 1950s debated on realism versus idealism and the subsequent decades up to the 1990s witnessed a seesaw or often an edge of the protagonists of realist paradigm over the idealists. Even at that tumultuous age, Henry Kissinger, who is widely considered a realist, described himself as a fatalist (in his interview with Oriana Fallaci).

Although socialism as a political ideology had fallen through the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, the world also saw a new wave of electoral democracy as an ideology.

However, the second decade of the 21st century brought a reverse trend, not just undermining aspiring democratic forces, but creating autocrats in the guise of democracy.

Germany-based Bertelsmann Stiftung has this year listed Bangladesh as a new autocracy, exposing the country’s deviation from its democratic journey that started through the 1991 elections.

Even if a civil society actor wants to avoid uttering words like politics and elections, s/he cannot keep eyes away from financial scams, extra-judicial killings and violation of human rights every day. But some influential ones do so.

By their omission or inaction, this kind of people has proudly proved they are very practical persons who read and pursue power politics far better than do idealists who fantasise with human rights and rule of justice.

They, unlike the adage -- ‘mother’s love does not change with changing circumstances’ -- may offer a villainous role model in society as the ‘winner of today’.

In keeping with the global campaign against tobacco, late professor Nurul Islam founded an organisation titled ADHUNIK (modern), an acronym for ‘Amra Dhumpan Nibaran Kari’ (We Do Prevent Smoking).

In the present context, those of us who do not protest at wrongdoing can form an organisation titled ‘Protest Avoiding Reclusive Animals of the Society’s Improper Technological Enterprise’ to “say no to any protest”. Its acronym may also be suitable for their masters’ understanding -- PARASITE.

* Khawaza Main Uddin is a journalist. He can be contacted at

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