Friday, August 31, 2007

Where is our Peace Nobel Laureate

Where is our Peace Nobel laureate at this trying time?
Shabbir Ahmed

The news of Bangladesh recently getting inundated by monsoon flood had received wide coverage all over the globe. However, many people outside Bangladesh do not know that in some parts of country the floodwater has not yet receded, fully. Many organizations including the political parties thus came forward for relief operation. While watching a talk show in a television channel a few weeks ago, I observed that the discussants were inquiring about the relief efforts of the only Nobel Laureate of Bangladesh, Dr. Muhammad Yunus. One of the discussants expressed his unawareness on the role of Dr. Yunus and the Grameen Bank on helping the flood affected distressed people. Another discussant expressed his hope that the Nobel Laureate was most probably helping the flood victims through his organization in a silent manner. I tend to believe like the latter discussant about his (Dr. Yunus’) help for the flood affected people. Especially, his Nobel Prize winning bank could help immensely by reducing interest rate and providing easy loans to the needy and poor people in the flood affected areas.

We all know that Dr. Yunus got the Nobel Prize on "Peace" even though we did not see him in any peace-making mission be that in Bangladesh or in abroad at any time in the past. It might be true that his Grameen Bank programs are bringing economic stability resulting in peace of some kind in Bangladesh. Now that he is a Nobel Laureate on "Peace," it is expected that he does contribute more to the peace and stability of his own country, which is going backward with time due to the lack of these factors.

In last six years, Bangladesh went through a series of turmoil under the misrule of the fundamentalist Jamaat-i-Islami and Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP). In particular, a number of intellectuals were tortured (namely Prof. Muntasir Mamun, Journalist Shahriar Kabir, et al.) and killed (namely Dr. Yunus of Rajshahi University, Principal Muhuri, et al.). One prominent politician and intellectual named Mr. S. A. M. S. Kibria was brutally gunned down. A terrible grenade attack was carried out on Mrs. Sheikh Hasina, who critically survived but a number of leaders/workers of her party including Mrs. Ivy Rahman were killed. Many conscious people observed Dr. Yunus’ silence and indifference to all these heinous incidences. We did not see him writing even a note of protest and speaking against these crimes. It is not true that Dr. Yunus is a kind of silent person because after winning the Nobel Peace Prize and after expressing his eagerness to join politics, he bacame very vocal. He gave statements and expressed his concerns on almost every day. At one point of time, he labeled all politicians as corrupt. It was not true though. In fact, the politics has been made difficult for the honest politicians by the military dictators (Gen. Zia used to say boastfully on making politics difficult). Disregarding all the complex factors, Dr. Yunus became very critical to all the politicians in general. It was not right from a person, who was seen as a symbol of pride by all Bengalis including the politicians of Bangladesh.

It is true that the people of all walks of life wanted to see him as s source of inspiration for peace in Bangladesh . For this to happen, it is a natural expectation that he would be vocal with his sincere protest against any oppression on the people of Bangladesh by the powerful quarters. When the military-backed government of Dr. Fakhruddin was demolishing the shanty town in Dhaka, the Peace Nobel laureate remained very silent as if nothing of that sort ever happened in the capital city. The recent torture on the students by the army and the resulting violent condition deserve his attention. Especially, the Gestapo style arrest of a number of university professors and tens of thousands of cases against the students will lead to more unrest in Bangladesh in not so far future. No peace can prevail by creating dissatisfaction among students and academicians in Bangladesh. The history does not indicate this. In particular, we read news of torturing the students in many parts of Bangladesh and we are getting news of torturing the professors under custody. As a Nobel Peace Prize winner, we expect strong words from Dr. Yunus against the oppressive steps taken by the present government. But sadly he decided to remain silent.

The people of Bangladesh are fortunate that they have a Nobel Peace Prize winner in their country. So far, we have not heard anything from the Nobel Laureate. While a good number of conscious intellectuals expressed their concerns and protested in clear terms on the oppressive steps taken by the government against the students and university professors, we see Dr. Yunus very happily meeting the chief advisor and giving advice to the people for keeping patience over the next fifteen months. Instead of hearing concerns from him, we are hearing the same from others. Bangladesh has still many conscious intellectuals like Professor Kabir Chowdhury, Professor Anisuzzaman, Professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Professor Ajoy Roy, et al., who did not maintain silence after watching the arrests of the university professors.

A peaceful condition can be attained when we all will raise our voices and protests against any oppression. I hope that the Nobel Peace Prize Winner Dr. Yunus will come forward to protest against the oppressive actions on the students and academicians taken by the present government. His words will carry weight, which is urgently needed for ensuring future peace and stability in Bangladesh. If however he remains reticent, one would be tempted to draw a very negative opinion about our sole Peace Nobel laureate. Let us earnestly hope that Dr. Yunus will finally break his silence and he will make his presence known to the nation at this trying time by taking side with the oppressed professors/students of Bangladesh.

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