What would Bangladesh want to erase?

 Published in: The Daily Star on July 21, 2014
What would Bangladesh want to erase?

WE regret to inform you that we are no longer able to show you the following pages from your website in response to certain searches on European versions of Google,” says Google. In May, a European Union’s top court ruled that individuals have a “right to be forgotten.” Right after that order Google has been receiving 1,000 requests per day for the removal of search result links. So far Google has received 70,000 erasure requests for over 250,000 web pages. ‘Forget.me,’ (https://forget.me/), the site that manages reputational damage by offering to wipe clean any painful, harmful, irrelevant or excessive information, has reported to have 17,000 registered users who have submitted over 2,500 applications to Google.

If this nation of ours had a voice, would it have been able to appeal to the site Forget.me and write mails to Google and other search engines, and could it have been able to request for erasure as well? What are the recent episodes it would have wanted to be forgotten? What shames the soil and what would Bangladesh have preferred to be erased?

If Bangladesh could speak, it would probably appeal to erase the recent spate of alleged extrajudicial killings by security forces, the deaths after arrest occurring during “crossfire,” and the shootouts that appear to be killing people already in detention. With more than 150 people dying in pre-poll violence and with the frightening pattern of killings, with the number of extrajudicial killing standing at 2,216 between 2001 and 2013, with crossfire at 1,495 and with the number of deaths by torture at 299 during the same period, wouldn’t our nation have rested better without this record?

If Bangladesh could speak, it would probably appeal for erasure of the Narayanganj seven murders, including Narayanganj city panel mayor Nazrul Islam and senior lawyer Chandan Kumar Sarker. It would possibly also wish to wash away the names of Lt. Col. Tarek Sayeed Mahmud, ex-Major Arif Hossain and Nur Hossain forever.  The abduction and the seven bodies floating on the river are not what make Bangladesh proud.
If Bangladesh could speak, it would probably appeal for the expunction of the moment in history when World Bank cancelled its contract with the Government of Bangladesh for $1.2 billion credit for the Padma Bridge in 2012 on account of having sensed corruption.

What else would Bangladesh possibly want to forget? April 24, 2013, would be a prime day of choice. Deletion of what happened that day is what this nation of ours would want the most. Rana Plaza, the nightmare, took 1,128 lives and placed Bangladesh on the global map of shame. Along with Rana, Bangladesh would probably also wish for the expunction of the record of the trade-unionist Aminul Islam’s torture-ridden dead body being discovered from a road near Ghatail, and it would perhaps also appeal for the journalists Sagar-Runi murders to disappear from the search engines forever.

If Bangladesh could speak, it would probably wish for May 15, 2014 to be obliterated from the records forever. That was a day when MV Miraj-4 began its journey towards Shariatpur from Dhaka with more than 200 passengers on board and capsised and sank during a storm in Meghna near Gajaria, Munshiganj. At least 50 passengers died and many were missing in that tragic accident. But this isn’t new at all. In retrospect, the state would perhaps request for cancellation of all the data of all the 4,420 people’s death and 550 launch accidents over the last 38 years.

If Bangladesh had a voice, it would probably put its hands together and pray for oblivion of the incident in the search engines on the rape of Gita Rani, the 18-year old student of 12th grade from the Hindu Community on February 26, 2013 in Baintola village? Will this country ever be able to reconcile with this rape? How can this country ever come to terms with January 3, 2013, the day of the murder of the 28-year old Sheuly Begum from the little village of Anarpura…just because of dowry?

And shall we also forget Felani, the minor girl who was shot dead on her way back home in Kurigram with her father and whose body was dangling on the barbed-wire fence for hours at a stretch, whose killer was prosecuted but was pronounced not guilty? Shall we also request to forget the 3,800-kilometre fences that host murder every time Bangladeshi cattle thieves are caught in the Indian town of Khowai bordering Habiganj, and every time young men from Choto Vetkhali, a river village of 1,500 people sitting less than three kilometres from the Indian border, are captured and shot dead when they try and cross over?

If this nation had vocal chords, it would also have begged for a total cancellation of the records of fundamentalism from all the search engines attached to all the queries relating to this soil.

The wish list could stretch to Forever. Bangladesh could appeal to Google for erasure of many more incidents, issues, practice and people. But unfortunately just oblivion doesn’t help. Truth is that this country looks in the mirror every morning and responds to the global perceptions of its identity, which apparently seemed to be steeped in vulnerability and weakness. While a digital oblivion may help, our past is beyond erasure. And that is what’s wrong with history.

The writer is Managing Director, Mohammadi Group.

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