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HISTORY WORKSHOP

Politicians write and rewrite history to score partisan points. The ruling coalition in Bangladesh seems to be scripting its own history of the new nation. It is hard to explain otherwise why it enacted a piece of legislation to drop the honorific “Bangabandhu” that long preceded the name of the country’s liberation war-hero and first president, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. This attempt to dislodge him from the nation’s historical memory would be a culmination of the demolition process that began with the assassination of the leader in his own house 27 years ago. This is bad politics and worse history-writing. The entire exercise is yet another manifestation of the personal animosity between the two leading women of the country’s politics. For the prime minister, Ms Khaleda Zia, anything to diminish the memory of Mujibur Rahman is a weapon against his daughter and opposition leader, Sheikh Hasina Wajed. The prime minister would do anything to enhance the historical status of her husband and another assassinated president, Ziaur Rahman. Ironically, Ms Wajed had done much the same thing, while she was prime minister, to rehabilitate her father’s name and legacy in official history and administration, denying other national leaders their rightful place.

Bangladeshis must be utterly disappointed with this battle between their leading political families. It has nothing to do with the people’s concern over the two major problems facing the country — lawlessness and rising unemployment. Yet another controversy over Mujibur Rahman has come at a time when the opposition, the Bangladesh Awami League, is crying foul over the government’s decision to use the army to round up criminals. Ms Wajed’s complaint that the supposed anti-criminal drive is aimed at her party-workers has already raised the political temperature. She could now accuse Ms Zia of going back on her post-election promise of ushering in the “politics of reconciliation”. This is not a good signal for a country where indefinite strikes and parliament boycotts had crippled economic activity until recently. By unnecessarily meddling with history, Ms Zia may have provoked another spell of confrontational politics.

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