By Kamran Reza Chowdhury;
On Friday, I went to a butcher’s shop at the Mirpur-1 kitchen market to get meat of genuine khashi (he-goat). The butcher agreed to slaughter a nine-kilogram khashi in front of me provided I bought half of whole lot. As the butcher was about to remove the hide, another customer, at best 55 years old, came to us to buy genuine he-goat. Watching a khasi slaughtered, he showed interest in buying six kilograms of meat.
“How much…?” he asked me. Taka 650 per kilogram was my reply. “Are you speaking the truth? I am a teacher. What do you do? Don’t cheat me; I am from Gopalganj”, the man told me, though in an apparent innocuous tone. “I am a buyer like you; how can I cheat you?,” I told him. I was little bit vexed and did not let him know that I was a journalist.
The butcher, from Makinganj district, did not like his expression ‘I am from Gopalganj’. He came to me and said that he would befool the teacher. I disapproved his idea, but the butcher was firm to cheat him to show that nothing would happen to him if he cheated a man from Gopalganj, the place that presented Bangladesh with Father of the Nation and the current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
What the butcher did was he mixed throwaway fats and cheaper liver and lung with the meat and collected the full payment.
Why the teacher, out of context vaunted that he hailed from Gopalganj? This is because a good number of people, during Sheikh Hasina’s rule, proudly publicise that they are from Gopalganj, specifically from Tungipara, the Prime Minister’s parliamentary constituency.
The opposition BNP’s campaign that Sheikh Hasina has been running the country with the ‘Gopalis’ (people from Gopalganj). This much hackneyed Gopalganjism has created a false myth in the country that all the people of Gopalganj had connections with the Prime Minister.
I raise the teacher’s Gopalganj identity at the outset to relate this issue with the Awami League’s latest council. A newspaper report said at least sixteen leaders from the greater Faridpur district were given berth in the Awami League central committee. Faridpur, Gopalganj, Madaripur and Shariatpur districts comprise the greater Faridpur. Induction of so many leaders from a particular region would escalate the Gopalganjism among the opportunists and bring in bad name for the Prime Minister and her government.
May be the 16 leaders deserved the posts at the central committee of the ruling party, but such move would certainly give the opportunists more free hand to exert their influence on the police, administration and other organs of the state for personal gain, making the people from other parts hostile to Gopalganj.
Many people make false claim that they hail from Gopalganj. For instance, a superintendent of police (SP) and upzila nirbahi officer (UNO) from Tangail district, two weeks ago, went to the ruling party whip, Iqbalur Rahim, to lobby for something. The SP out of context told the whip Rahim, who hailed from Dinajpur, that he was from Gopalganj. But bad luck for him. Brother of a senior Awami League leader of Gopalganj district, S M Monjur, was present there. “Where in Gopalganj?,” he asked the SP who claimed that he was from Tungipara. As Monjur made more questions on his forefather’s origin, the officer then stumbled and replied, “We have shifted to Dhaka much earlier. I cannot tell you the detailed address in Gopalganj”.
The whip and others present there smiled with the intention of demonstrating that they were caught telling lies.
After getting elected Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, in 2009 arranged an indoor meeting with the reporters, who had been covering her programmes as the Awami League president. No matter whether she was the Prime Minister or the Opposition leader, she regularly inquires about the persons who serve her. In 2006, she personally pulled me up at her Sudha Sadan residence as I was unable to stand up for some trouble.
At the meeting, Sheikh Hasina inquired each of the reporters about their family and personal questions. One of the reporters, with a depressed face, replied that he was from Noakhali. But his next sentence was very interesting. “Netri (leader), according to Hinduism, people get rebirth. If that was true, I would pray to Almighty Allah to make me the son of Gopalganj”. Mentionable, the reporter was a Muslim, not Hindu.
One of my best friends from Moksudpur of Gopalganj district, Khairul Bashar, does not claim in public that he hailed from the Prime Minister’s district so that he does not belonged to the group of the liars and the opportunists who cash on Gopalganjism.
The BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia, once told in public that she would obliterate Gopalganj from Bangladesh map if she became the Prime Minister. But is she and her party was free from such districttism. Of course not. The people from Bogra and Noakhali got upper hand during the BNP’s rules. The BNP founder Major General Ziaur Rahman was from Bogra and his spouse Khaleda Zia from Noakhali. In all elections participated by the BNP, Khaleda Zia’s candidates swept the polls in greater Bogra and Noakhali districts. Between 2001 and 2006, Khaleda Zia’s party was known as Bogra-Noakhali Party (BNP) instead of the original Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
The political leadership of the two parties should seriously consider the regionalism that brought havoc in Pakistan. The majority of the people in the united Pakistan were marginalized by the strong sense of regionalism—specifically Punjabism. The Punjabis dominated the Pakistan army, administration and business while the 56 percent people in the erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, were under oppression. Bangladesh comes into being for unthinkable level of discrimination and exploitation caused by narrow regionalism—Punjabism. Still the Punjabis dominate the whole Pakistan.
We should not forget that the people from all districts enjoy equal rights according to our constitution. The behaviour of our parties should not be such that the people from other parts feel excluded or secluded. This is because we the Bangladeshis are homogeneous and social cohesion is our strength to march forward. Narrow regionalism erodes social cohesion.