The prehistoric age is over. After the Stone Age came the Iron Age and swords were invented. There were knives, cleavers, machetes and more. Now you put your helmet firmly on your head and take up a bare sword. You rush to the battlefield, but this time you have to come under a system. You will have a general above you and you will be a member of a force. When your general commands you to take up arms, you will immediately lift up your sword and don your helmet. He will bark out, double march! You will march forth with your fellow warriors.

In front of you are the child rebels, school children. They are demonstrating for safe roads. You pounce on them with your sticks and stones. Or perhaps a group of journalists enter the scene. They are the main enemy of the commander, that is, of the country and the people, just as a thermometer is the main enemy of fever. It is because of thermometers that there is fever. People get to know how acute the fever is, so all thermometers in the kingdom must be destroyed if fever is to be dispelled. Similarly, to dispel the city's fever, break the journalists' backs. Beat them, thrash them.

You will beat up children. You will assault the anti-quota guys. You will repeatedly beat up journalists. What will you do in your spare time? Sit at home and twiddle your thumbs?

The triumphant cries of the helmet force fill the skies. The journalists cry out that they have to be caught and tried. At night you take off your helmet and celebrate. You can join the journalists, demanding that the helmet force be caught and placed on trial. Then you roar in laughter. Who will catch you? You are telling the thief to steal and then saying the thief must be caught. But, no, nowadays they don't do that even. They say there hasn't been any theft anywhere. Anyway, how can they catch the thief? He was in a helmet.

You will beat up children. You will assault the anti-quota guys. You will repeatedly beat up journalists. What will you do in your spare time? Sit at home and twiddle your thumbs? Or will you study physics and chemistry, integral calculus, differential calculus? Oh, you are a clever boy! You can't do that! You will go out. You will hustle the hawkers, collect toll, spread a reign of terror around the market.

All actions have equal and opposite reactions. You will be 'used' once a year to beat up journalists, the rest of the time you will sit and study Newton's third law. So won't you apply this law? Won't you apply the first law? If a body is at rest or moving at a constant speed in a straight line, it will remain at rest or keep moving in a straight line at constant speed unless it is acted upon by a force. If force is not applied from outside, but encouragement is given, and you are set in motion, helmet on head, stick in hand, how will you stop? So come along, two salesmen in New Market have had an argument. Let's go to stop them. A fight has broken out. Come along.

Oh, my country, my power, my leader, my guide, my party, group and league -- bring them back, return our innocent youth.

Before the New Market clashes, who knew there were so many bricks in Dhaka? Helmet force, get ready! Take up your swords. Attack! And the attack is on.

You have no idea who you are attacking. He was never your enemy. He never harmed you, he does not even work at New Market. He is a courier service delivery man. He has come from outside the area. Perhaps he was delivering a parcel to you. Hack him, hack him! Oh, poor Nahid. His bride still has henna on her hands. They were married just six months ago. His wife has written with henna on her hand, 'I love you Nahid'. You are hacking him. Why? How is this possible? Were you not nine months in your mother's womb? Did your father not call azaan upon your birth? Did you not love your young brothers and sisters? Did you not recite nursery rhymes to them? Are you not a human being? You certainly were a human being. But at the time of the attack, you were a part of the helmet force. Your work is to hack, slash. From head to toes, Nahid's body is covered in knife wounds. The circus tiger is out of the cage. He has tasted blood and will listen to no one now!

Will you be arrested? Will you face trial? Maybe, because when the caged tiger emerges and begins to kill people, the ringmaster of the circus will try to trap it.

But what will we do? We send our dear offspring to college and university to become worthy human beings, not members any helmet force. Our students should be carrying books, pens, tools to help the struggling masses, Eid gifts. Instead they are wielding knives, swords. When we sent them to college, we have dreams of them graduating with that mortar board on their heads at their convocations. Instead, they wear helmets.

Oh, my country, my power, my leader, my guide, my party, group and league -- bring them back, return our innocent youth.

* Anisul Hoque is associate editor of Prothom Alo and a writer.

* This column appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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