The General Elections on December 30th represented a radical hope of returning to a democratic process, a democratic culture, and a democratic system in Bangladesh. But what happened instead was an unprecedented establishment of authoritarianism and the death of democracy – all in full view of the Bangladeshi public and its global supporters. For those wanting the country to function as a self-reliant democracy based on equal rights, the recent election will decrease their hopes. Human development and creativity cannot develop parallel to a societal and political structure that has collapsed under the weight of authoritarianism. And if there is such authoritarian control and obstruction of the development of proper social and creative thinking, then there can never be any meaningful development of democracy, human rights, social equality, and other values. Human, economic, and social liberation cannot be achieved under these circumstances.
Recently, a young Bangladeshi blogger who had sought asylum in Germany died unexpectedly. We have been assured from PEN Germany that this is not a killing, but the possibility of suicide has not been ruled out. We sincerely hope that if there is anyone involved in this death, or if proper medical treatment and support was deficient, that justice will be served through appropriate investigations and due process.
Exiled writers and artists face enormous challenges adjusting to new expectations and systems, and finding jobs. We have seen that exiled writers/artists are unsure how to ingratiate themselves to local authorities and that this causes significant misunderstandings. Local authorities have the power to ease transitions and promote successful integration. We think local politicians can resolve these challenges quickly by promoting the values of cultural empathy and patience. We look to politicians to set a positive tone for society.
Our articles in Issue 12 address many aspects of these themes. Some articles show how fear threatens democracy, freedom of expression, and human rights: in Kashmir, where land and communities are pawns in larger political games; in Bangladesh where political dissent among the civil society is silenced, and where the struggles that led to Bangladesh’s independence in 1971 continue to surface as intolerance and the violent suppression of secularism and religious minorities. Other articles implore us to work toward a better community together by taking responsibility for the environment and for future generations; by being empathetic to the concerns and experiences of those living among us who have fled violence. There is much we can learn about humanity by welcoming the diversity of experiences among us, by treating each other with dignity. There is also a dire warning about the increasing racism in Denmark, a trend that can be seen in other European countries as well. Fear of others and desire for power go hand-in-hand; both are toxic to our global society.
With this issue, Shuddhashar publishes an article in Norwegian for the first time. Our goal is to increase the number of articles in Norwegian. In each issue of Shuddhashar, we will try to publish articles in English, Bengali, and Norwegian languages for our readers.