by M Chowdhuri
“Be careful of what you say” – is the common theme of all advises I have received from friends and families in my recent visit to Dhaka. Deserted streets of the capital, news of death and there was fear in the air; I could not help but feeling like the Erich Maria Remarque character Ernst Graeber in Nazi Germany. Since I don’t have any delusion about soldiers of any war, that “Graeber Syndrome” passed away soon enough. However, I could not stop wondering if what I am feeling and seeing is a Deja Vu from someone living in Berlin during the rise of Nazis.
This uneasy feeling kept growing with every passing day as I continue to witness how the government is controlling the media (social and otherwise), manipulating the nation with effective use of propaganda and amongst all these, the regime is steadily working towards what it wants with. And it is working to an extent. The regime’s ultra nationalist armies ( “GonoJagoron Moncho” and all) playing their parts with organizing colourful rallies, gathering, protests and actions keeps reminding me of the SA of the German Nazis, their elite intelligentsia with all its extreme dedication for the cause reminds me of the Ahnenerbe if the Nazis.
Last few weeks our national headlines reported, death of 100+ people in a time span of little over 3 weeks, various cities being “occupied” by the Oppositions ( as if we are in a middle of a war), questionable execution of a political personality and the law enforcement agencies preparing for assaults (and then the assault) in the “occupied territory” with the help of Chatra League, Awami Leagues student wing. During the same period, the regime also “re-elected” themselves by gaining majority seats in the parliament in a “voteless” election.
However, the regime did attempt diversions to everything above with staging events like 1) creation of the largest national flag, 2) National Anthem sing-off with 200 thousand voices etc. Apparently the nation “came together” as “one” and celebrated the “days of days” with pride. I asked one of my friends, if he felt in any shame in celebrating a victory that failed to establish justice and peace in the land if there was a pang of indignity in celebration when the nation is clearly in dismay; with pride he told me that I did not know what I was talking about and if I were there ( in the flag making event), I too would be “mesmerized” by the “unity of the nation”.
And that gave me clarity; The rallies, the mass gathering and celebrations has the power to create a sense of belongingness. And the current regime has been using this as a propaganda weapon for at least a year now. It all makes sense, this is why when an “issue” dies out, the so called GonoJagoron Moncho need to find another “issue” to keep ball rolling.
I once read a confession of a Nazi (Hans Grimdt) I read once, it goes like:
“It was my first time at a rally in 1935. …..The sight of tens of thousands people standing shoulder to shoulder with each other shouting Heil Hitler took my breath away. From that moment on, I love the Nazis”
I know a number of people (who were not used to be pro-Awami League) blown away by the calls of “Ditiyo Muktijuddho” describing their experience of the ” GonoJagoron ” festivities using similar words- the similarity of the experience is frightening .
Hitler and Goebbles operated in an all encompassing propaganda machine which included press (controlled), art, music, rallies, posters, radio, schooling and parades etc. A careful consideration of the propaganda machine of the current regime in Bangladesh will make you wonder if a modernized and more aggressive propaganda machine is in play. The greatest display of the neo-fascist mentality of the Bangladesh’s Awami regime is the example they made out of “Amar Desh” editor Mahmudur Rahman and other media (Diganta TV, Islamic TV), which is not very different from the strategy adopted by Nazi regime in Germany. I was particularly baffled by the ban on the Islamic TV- one of my friend ( who is a virtual spoke person of the GonoJagoron Moncho) explained to me that the Islamic TV (the fundamentalist Islamic people) promotes ideas that are “un bengal”. I ignored this as a personal view initially, but I was convinced when the Awami Intelligentsia decided to propagate the same ideas in national TV. This ultra-nationalist tactics is no different than Nazi tactics of labeling opposing ideas as “un-German” ( in a famous move, Joseph Goebbls disrupted the premier of the movie All Quiet on the Western Front on December 5, 1931 and later banned the movie as un-German).
And the Awami propaganda machine is somewhat successful in creating a group of people who, blinded by the Awami dogma are trying to fighting a battle which is long over. This same group of people stands by the regime supporting the massacre of Shapla Chottor in the name of progressiveness, shows absolute zero reactions to the arrests of fellow online activists in the name of peace and forgets to utter a single word of protest when the regime “re-elects” itself in a voteless election. This groups labels anyone against the doctrine as “enemy of the state” ( Razakar, Paki etc. etc.) with such conviction that renowned freedom fighters like Kader Siddiqi is not even spared. All in the name of democracy and liberation. What Awami propaganda machine does for the regime is exactly what Hitler dreamt his own propaganda machine to do:
“Propaganda tries to force a doctrine on the whole people… Propaganda works on the general public from the standpoint of an idea and makes them ripe for the victory of this idea.”
After Kader Mollas execution, I asked a friend if he was convinced of his guilt. His answer was,
“No, I am not. The excuse of justice should not stop us from eradicating the Razakars from Bangladesh ” .
Frightfully close to Hermann Göring declared on March 3rd, 1933:
“I don’t have to worry about justice; my mission is only to destroy and exterminate, nothing more!”