Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq was a former professor at the Bangla department of Dhaka University. He is a writer and social thinker. In an exclusive interview with Prothom Alo, he talks on the growing incidence of rape and violence against women, extrajudicial killings, free thinking, freedom of expression, politics and the overall social situation.
Prothom Alo: How is the country doing at present, in your view?
Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq: Both good and bad, but more bad than good. The people have lost their strength of mind there is no one to lead them. Bangladesh is turning into a country of rapes. Drug addiction is on the rise and so are road accident deaths. Extrajudicial killings in the name of gunfights and crossfire are also on the rise. The influence of the ruling party men and the police has increased. The judicial system is questionable.
All the state machineries including the administration are highly corrupted. The education system is not conducive to building the state and the nation. Politics is also extremely corrupted. The political parties have no political character. Moral degradation is causing everything to rot from within. There is decay in every facet of national life. The majority of the people believe the situation can improve, but no quarter is taking imitative to bring about change.
Prothom Alo: How is about the rest of the world?
Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq: All the nations and states have undergone internal and external changes due to the information technology and biotechnology revolution and also after the fall of the Soviet Union. The moral spirit of the people all over the world is on the wane. Globalisation is simply a higher level of imperialism. The US and its allied body G-7 control globalisation. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) implement the policy of globalisation. NATO force is being used in the Middle East in the interests of the US and its allies. Globalisation has nothing to do with brotherhood or the the love for humanity of which the prophets, saints, philosophers, litterateurs and poets have spoken.
The condition of all states is not the same. The US, EU and India are on the same path. Scandinavia is a bit better. Russia and China are independently pursuing their nationalist policies. The US, UK, France, Germany and Italy are continuing with their imperialistic policies, though are nationalistic when it comes to themselves. They have adopted a policy to drive away non-whites. Western civilisation is in a crisis.
Prothom Alo: Which problem do you consider most disastrous for us as a nation?
Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq: Rape, killing and suicide are being discussed all over. Many people are worried about the security of their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. If we closely look at different incidents in the country, Bangladesh is facing a crisis of civilisation.
Families, institutions, organisations, the education system, the judicial system and the administration are all decaying from within. Science and technology is being misused. Ethics and values are fast fading. Harsh sentences and punishment is being used to solve problems but this is not effective. There must be justice and punishment, not extrajudicial killings. Rules and regulations need to be amended to establish the rule of law. It is most unfortunate that the writers, researchers and litterateurs have no concern over the prevailing situation. There is no concern among the politicians.
Prothom Alo: Can you openly write what you think and feel?
Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq: I cannot. Writings can be published but not effectively. Teachers at universities cannot think or research freely. Political parties do not approve of free thinking. Those who are in the administration have limited scope to express their opinions. Student organisations have no scope to practise free thinking. Students and teachers from primary level to university are being kept busy with examinations. The Bengali nation is being turned into a thoughtless nation. The government is responding to the opposition and opposing views by filing cases against opposition leaders and activists and placing them in jail. The manner in which the government is clinging to power is unethical and in some cases illegal. There is no resistance. Facebook, TV channels and media outlets are strictly controlled either visibly or invisibly. The government is controlling the freedom of expression more strictly than the military rulers.
Prothom Alo: What is the consequence of restricting freedom of expression?
Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq: We want progressive views and thoughts. Therein lies the crisis. Intellectuals of Awami League express their views. Every time before the election they seek votes for the party. The clever ones remain silent after the election. Many of them work in various ways to keep the party in power. BNP has very few intellectuals. They are active for their party too. The intellectuals of AL and BNP offer no solution of the predicament of the people, the state or the nation.
Despite all this, there are important views in some books. If they want development, they should focus on that. Thoughts alone will do nothing, these must be pragmatic thoughts followed by action. Restricting freedom of expression will have bad consequences for the nation. One cannot have confidence in the intellectuals and prevailing politics.
Prothom Alo: How have we reached such a bad situation? Why did it happen?
Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq: That is an important question and the the intellectuals with conscience should explain this to the people and guide them about the future. This calls for comprehensive thought. This question cannot be answered in brief. I have written about this in some of my books.
The answer of the question has to be found in the course of events. The direct process of creating Bangladesh started through the six-point demand. AL led the movement. AL talked about democracy, but did not try to understand it. No efforts were made to understand the problems of leadership during the liberation war. Bangladesh is not advancing properly or normally since 1972. We take pride of the six-point movement but we don’t remember its limitations and flaws. We never think of learning from the history. We have reached here through the leadership of AL chief and prime minister Sheikh Hasina and BNP chairperson and former prime minister Khaleda Zia, the rise and fall of Ershad and Ziaur Rahman, the killing of Bangabandhu, the role of Khandkar Mushtaque, the role of Maulana Bhashani and NAP and the formation and role of JSD.
Now politics is all about coming to power and staying there. AL is very successful in such politics. The consequence of such politics will not bode well. It is hoped that AL AL will be improved. All political parties can try to improve their politics. Will the left parties remain static? Only a higher standard of national politics can lead to healthy and normal circumstances. We have to end our dependence on foreign countries and be self-reliant.
Prothom Alo: Do you think the shortcomings in our education have contributed to the decay in our society, culture and politics?
Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq: The discontent about our education is justified. This education system is not conducive to building the nation and the state. It is creating self-centred people who concentrate on improving their own lot. They do not think about the interests of the nation, the state and the people.
Prothom Alo: What is the way out of this situation?
Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq: The creative exam system has to be changed immediately. The public exams of class V and class VIII must be cancelled. Vocational education has to be expanded. Bangla language, Bangladesh history and civics have to be included as compulsory subjects. The syllabus, curricula and text books have to be improved. The education policy and education system have to be reformed in line with the policies of nationalism and complementary internationalism.
Prothom Alo: How to resolve the national crisis?
Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq: Many people have comes up with all sorts of suggestions and solutions, but I will not elaborate on that. These have not yielded any results.
A political party should be formed comprising committed people who will take initiative to resolve the national crisis. The party manifesto must have pragmatic commitment to solve the major problems of the people and to build the state and the nation. The party has to have farsightedness to win the support of the people. It has to proceed firmly with its pledges. People at present have no ethics, ideology or goals. Under such circumstances, everything has to be built anew. People in slumber must be awakened. If we can proceed in this manner, Bangladesh may then be a model state for humankind.
There must be separate efforts to solve different problems. There must be a social movement. Only a change in government cannot do. There must be new politics. We have to go forward with short and long term programmes.
Prothom Alo: Thank you very much.
Abul Kashem Fazlul Haq: Thank you too.
* This interview, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.