The system redux

 Published in: The Daily Star on May 13, 2015
The system redux

THEY had pink in common. The girl in my office and the girl in the newspaper picture both were wearing pink. On top of that the girl standing right in front of my table also was called Pinky. Her story was a grim one. Her husband beats her everyday with a big rod and won’t let her leave. Pinky leads an accursed life where her marriage wears the big label of abuse and where her husband forces her to beg and borrow from friends and family every time he needs his dose of Yaba. Pinky is a supervisor at one of our factories, who simply wanted me to help her change her address of residence so that she could just walk away from her husband once and for all. Her money is not her own. The phone banking that we have introduced does not benefit her as her husband has control of her phone and she has no privacy. He knows how much Pinky earns, what she craves for and how to stop her. While I promised to save her, she eventually looked at me in utter helplessness and asked, “How will you protect me if he attacks me on the road?” I don’t have any answer to that. How can you, me, or us protect thousands of them out there? One can’t effectively do any of it unless we are supported by the system.

Now comes the crucial point. Which is the system that protects us? Is it the same system that turns into an ineffective mechanism every time an Avijit Roy is brutally murdered while walking back home from Ekushey Boimela? Is it the same system that raises its boots on Ismat Jahan in pink kamiz out in the open day, whose pictures were all over print and social media two days ago? Is it the same system that cannot bring a just closure to an incident of assault that happened over twenty-nine days ago? Is it the same system that ironically assaults and attacks protesters who want justice to prevail? Unfortunately it is. It is indeed the same system that picks and chooses its priority and aligns itself with powerful blocs. It is the same system that picks and chooses to react with either utter callousness or with speediest action as and when required. It’s the same system that decides priority on an as-and-when needed basis instead of treating it as its sole duty. Therefore, a young woman in pink, amongst the other 32, is ruthlessly beaten up and admitted to hospital; therefore Avijit dies while cell phone cameras click around him and his wife and police turn a blind eye.

While we watch and read about the tales thousands of trapped Bangladeshis being rescued from the waters, while we hear ghastly details of them being stuffed into fish drums for hours and being transported to big trawlers, while we hear about drug lords like Zafar Majhi who has turned Ukhiya Uapzila into one huge area having 13 trading points for yaba, we gape in disbelief at the utter inefficiency of our system to track and arrest social injustices. It seems as if we have been sold to the system for good or for worse, with no escape.

Somehow, something has gone wrong within the system. A few of us sit on the fence, picking issues, writing about them and engaging in talk shows in the media while the system moves on unaffected. So, sitting on the fence is not particularly commendable either. A young female MP approached me the other day and introduced herself to me in one breath: “I am Ms…., a Member of Parliament from…., a victim of the August 21st grenade attack.” I was taken aback by her introduction and wondered why she would even add the last bit about her having suffered the bomb attack. But then as I made eye contact with her, I gradually understood her pride. She was out there suffering the splinters on her body; I wasn’t. She was the one who believed in an ideology and offered her life; I hadn’t. So, while we celebrate our roles as sideline critics, we also ought to come to terms with the fact that one can’t bring about any change without being part of the system.

A “breaking news” just surfaced on my screen as I end this column. Ananta Bijoy Das, a blogger has just been murdered. Four people chased Ananta down in Subid Bazar in Sylhet, stabbed him indiscriminately and killed him. Ananta is the third blogger to be killed after Avijit and Oyasiqur this year. For how long do you think we will have to wait to track their assailants down? For how long will the Sagar-Runi case hang for lack of closure? Does it really take three years to identify the culprits? I guess not. It also seems that cyclically and systematically the system collapses and hops back on an ineffective machine just to be on tracks again, without promising accountability, vision or justice. But then that is the system. And the system never changes as we all are enslaved by self- interest and considerations, which ultimately ends up defeating the entire concept of public good.

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