Ripe for reform

Afsan Chowdhury
Thursday, April 12th, 2018
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The quota crisis is about jobs not politics of identity. Sadly, some ruling party loyalists have turned it into a different argument that is unseemly and unnecessary. It shows the capacity of contemporary politics to turn any topic into ugly politics.  However the quota is a reality which will always be a problems in a country where jobs for graduates are limited.


The quota is split into 2 groups. One is for the FFs and their descendants. The other are disadvantaged groups. One has about half of the total quota and the rest have the rest. It appears that much of the quota remain unfilled.  That means a revisiting of the quota system is needed. But what is the criteria that is being followed to determine who qualifies for what in relation to 1971 which essentially becomes a way of showing gratitude for what was done in the year of liberation. Is it inclusive enough to reflect correct history?


The 1971 category


The history of 1971 is  filled with many categories of people who have contributed to the independence of Bangladesh. While FFs were the fighters, they are not the only contributors. The names of other groups have come up particularly since the Dhaka University quota based disturbances begun in April 2018.   Three groups have been named.


Shaheeds: There are 3 million shaheeds as per the constitution now and their blood has contributed most to the freedom of Bangladesh. They are not only an iconic category but their number is iconic as well.  To deny their contribution is to deny the blood that bred Bangladesh. Its an emotional, political and ultimately a legal issue.  If shaheeds are the finest having given their life for Bangladesh, a role recognized by all since liberation, the logic of denying them the rights and ignoring their obligation tantamount to sacrilege and some would say betrayal of the spirit of 1971.


So having accepted that 3 million shaheeds laid down their life, the logic of expressing thanks through job and their quota for their children and grandchildren and descendants are natural and justified.  On what grounds do we reject their claim, if it is done so, must also be explained.


Women: Women suffered the most and contributed the most but their role has not been recognized for many reasons including the militarization of the 1971 history which has become a gendered expression of the war history. Since men mostly joined the armed struggle, gender bias has automatically crept in. Thus, violated women needed over four decades to gain recognition as FFs even though their role is often vociferously claimed by politicians as significant.


However, women also kept society going, served as shelters givers and suppliers of logistics often risking their life and body and many have suffered as a result of that in every form. On what grounds will their role will be ignored is puzzling unless one accepts that women made no noteworthy contribution to the liberation of Bangladesh.


Refugees: Refugees are another forgotten category in Bangladesh history. About 10 million refugees were forced to flee to India to save their lives and were victims of a great genocidal sweep that occurred in Bangladesh 1971.  This population played a major role as the size of refugees made Indian intervention inevitable which as part of the allied forces made liberation possible.


The other role the refugees played was in creation of global public opinion that was the greatest pressure producer on all the world forces and agencies including the UN.  Media focus on the plight of refugees made Pakistan look genocidal and India look generous that created the situation allowing a positive globally supported December intervention. One wonders why they have been ignored for so long.


Hindus: Is it possible that they have been ignored because most refugees were Hindus? As a community, Hindus suffered the most and bore the brunt of the genocidal attacks of the Pakistan army.  It was because of this that most fled to India and triggered a process that ultimately played a major role in the liberation of the country.


But Hindus as a community should also get a quota as they have become a backward community due to many reasons including lack of social safety that is rooted in 1971. So there should be quota for them in both categories. However, as dalits also are part of this community, separate arrangements must be made as is done for the adivasis.


The existing quota system is therefore inadequate and doesn’t reflect reality, not just of 1971 but of now.  The need for revising and reforming is urgent.

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