"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 onBangladesh, “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
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
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
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).