Golam Rabbani Nayan Bangalee – Fighting for Electoral Justice in Bangladesh.
Golam Rabbani Nayan Bangalee – International Social working working for ensuring social Justice.
Golam Rabbani Nayan Bangalee – International Social working working for ensuring social Justice.
Golam Rabbani Nayan Bangalee – A tortured human rights lawyer in Bangladesh.
Golam Rabbani Nayan Bangalee – Fighting to ensure voting rights in Bangladesh.
Golam Rabbani Nayan Bangalee – victim of circumstances.
Golam Rabbani Nayan Bangalee – founding philosopher of Social Politics and founder of School of Leadership.
A tortured human rights lawyer in Bangladesh “Elections brought a curse in his life. The redemption rests also with election.” – He is by heredity associated with national and Local body elections. His mother has been an elected representative of the people for the last 20 years. The Youth Forum, the organization that he formed, has been an Election Observer for the last 20 years and enjoys much reputation from all quarters. His team were conducting election campaigns to make people conscious of free and fair elections and voting for qualified candidates.
Election is a process through which people can choose qualified leaders and thus ensure accountability. To save democracy from the clutches of unscrupulous political leaders, it is imperative that the election is conducted free and fair and devoid of application of force by vested quarters. When he was engrossed in research on labor law he encouraged the laborers to form trade unions and framed and propagated different election principles. I nursed in me an unquenchable thirst to frame election principles for National and Local Body elections and application thereof. When there was CareTaker Government he led a delegation to discuss our 10 point demand and election principles and bargain with the Election Commission led by the Chief Election Commissioner Dr. Shamsul Huda and the Election Commissioner Brig. General Sakhawat Hossain. They promised to work with us and conduct a free and fair election. We told the CareTaker Government that it will not be moral to conduct elections under the Caretaker Government for long. So, it is the best policy to hand over the reign of the government to the elected persons. He was terrified over the running election practice and culture prevailing in the country.
A leader with strong principles and high quality is now the call of the hour to resist the widespread corruption in election, unbridled use of black money, and ruthless application of force by political thugs, and using the administration as well as the law enforcing agencies with the promise of awarding them undue privilege once elected. Most regretted that those who research on election laws and election process are not aware of the adoption of dirty politics of the political parties, the business done (money transaction) in nominating the candidates. They only observe with pleasure the open game playing of the nominated candidates and the voters during the month long election campaign. As a conscious citizen and an organizer with high expertise and experience on working with the laborers and youths of the country, He decided to go deep into the election turmoil by running for office (elected representatives of the people) and thus get a clear picture of the A to Z of election.
I shall dig deep on the Strength, Weakness, Advantages and Threats (SWAT) involved with the performances’ of a leader working for the development of his electoral constituency. This brought terrible curse in my life and consequent disaster. In 2011 I ran for the office of the Mayor. The election expenditure that he bore was never thought of by me. The most horror that I witnessed is multidimensional.
The ruling government and its political party nakedly interferes with the conduction of the election by threatening the Election Commission of dire consequences if they do not comply with government directions, using the weapon yielding party hooligans to terrorize the voters instructing them not to appear in the polling centers to cast votes, forcibly enters the polling booths and cast votes in favor of the ruling party candidates, and to refrain the other candidates to refrain from election campaign under direct threat of fearful reprisal which include the wife, sons and daughters of the candidates.
The participation of the administration and the law enforcing agencies was so naked and brutal that they even filled up the ballot boxes with ballot papers with seals on the election symbol of the ruling candidates, and at last declared the ruling party candidate as elected. I was not only a witness of all these horrifying experience but I turned a victim of physical torture while campaigning. this is not the end.
The ruling party hired hooligans, searched door to door for whoever they thought voted for me, ransacked their houses, maltreated them and their sons and daughters. Many of them were arrested by the law enforcing agencies on concocted charges. Being a popular candidate I was subjected to constant watch, treats of abduction, arrest and torture beyond imagination, and pouring real wrath on my family members including my wife and my mother. My children were so terrified that they could not sleep for a number of days and screamed in sleep as if they were being killed. He had no alternative but to run away to save my life and the life of his wife and children.
A life in exile is never a pleasant life even if the new environment is much more comfortable with safety and total security. Yet I think only a free and fair election devoid of any interference by any quarter including the government and its agencies like administration and law enforcing agencies can ensure a good government and good governance. The situation in the country is that no Member of the Parliament (MP0 wants that any prospective MP candidate enters or lives in his constituency. To participate in the election is a far dream. The continuous practice of being elected by using all sorts of unfair means including uncontested (applying ruthless force so that no other aspirant dares to submit candidature with the Election Commission), forcing the contestant aspirant to refrain from conducting election campaign, terrifying the voters not to come to the polling stations has made the ruling party candidate so bold and carefree that they adopt every aggressive measures and deny any aspirant to come to the constituency. If anybody dares he is either abducted and killed or sent to hospital with multiple injuries.
He presented here the tale of two constituencies –
1) Dhaka 16 and (2) Comilla 11. Comilla 11 is his birthplace and he has very close contact with the people there. Dhaka 16 is the place where I live and work and the people there take me as their guardian. Both these places have a close bond with me and I have a firm base here as a popular leader.
The elderly people, the laborers, the youths and the local media want me to run for office as a Member of Parliament or Mayor. For the last ten years the Ministers, the MPs and the ruling party leaders and activists have tried to kill me. But somehow their master plan came to my knowledge and I could escape the attack. They know well that if I fail to get elected it will be easy to eliminate me . But if he, facing all their opposition, gets elected then he will be in a position to save himself from all their nefarious designs. That is why he said, “Elections brought a curse in his life. The redemption rests also with election.”
My Movement not to national- go grass root Journey from Urban to Rural M ost people grow up somewhere rural, in a village or a town, before coming to the ‘big city’ to spend the rest of their lives.
Most people live the quiet life first, and often find it a struggle to adjust to how the city life blends in so many and so much together. I, however, did quite the opposite. My situation was different. I grew up in the city. I was used to the noise, the smell, and I did not even realize it all. I was born and raised in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is the country’s capital city. It is where I got educated. It is where my professional career started. It was where I lived my life. And now, I was thinking about going somewhere small, to leave behind the chaos, and come to a place that would be quiet, calm, and serene. Of course, it was more complicated than that.
The scale is smaller, but the rest of it is anything but. Village life might seem simple on the surface, but if anything, it can even be more complex. In my country, in Bangladesh, there is a saying. The proverb goes something like this that village politics is critical, complicated, that we should avoid it as if it is contagious. In a way, I wanted to see what this life was like, how village politics worked, and why people avoided them so. In 2003, I went to Falgun Kara, my village, where I would go on to spend more than ten years there. It was not long before I came to realize that the village politics that had gotten such a bad reputation for so long in my country was nothing more than that. The people had given it a bad name; whether it was people in the villages or the cities—that I did not know. It was not simple by a long shot, nor was it easy, it was just different. After all, village politics were politics, and when is politics ever easy? In the end, village politics was no more than a brand name given to something. Regardless, this type of politics was important in those villages. In a way, the importance of both city and village politics is largely the same in how it is treated by its people. Political views were strong at times of election. People voted for their leaders, and people complained about them. At least, that is how I thought it to be. It was there, that I decided to become a politician. I wanted to partake in all those political activities that would help the people, and make the village better. I wanted to go and find as much social work I could, and I turned more and more towards social politics. I wanted to think about my country, too, but for now, I wanted nothing more than to learn about this quaint village, and the culture there. It ended up taking quite a chunk of my life there; that I spent so long there it felt like a whole lifetime. At first, when I arrived there, I did not know what I would expect. I had only ever known city life so far. The first thing I did notice, though, was the quiet. It was always quiet. It was too quiet. So much so that I got restless. I had gotten so used to the noise, to the din of the city, that it was difficult for me to find peace in a place where there was no chaos. The sound of the vehicles, the noise, the people, the smell, the air; it all had become so familiar to me that I had drowned it out. The air there was clean, the people far apart, yet closer together, and the life there was simple.
When I was there, I introduced myself to everyone, and spoke to as many people as I could. It was my village, sure, but this was my first time there. My father had been there, my grandfathers, and their fathers and grandfathers, too. All I had to say was that ‘My name is Golam Rabbani, and I am here to work for you.’ I spoke to the most dignified people there, the social leaders, the educated and literate people. I spoke to the children in the school there. Everyone in my family, my father and forefathers, they were bought up in this same school. I was invited to the primary ground of the school where all the students and teachers gathered, and I told them what I wanted, my vision for Falgun Kara. There were at least six hundred people in my village. I asked them aloud, ‘Are you ready to accept me or not?’ I did not sugar coat anything or draw anything out. I told it as it was, direct and to the point. There was no beating around the bush. It got people confused, but it was noticeable. People weren’t used to hearing politics and politicians like that. Not only that, but the people did not even know why I would be interested in bringing social politics to this place, much less politics at all, even to help them. If they had been optimistic, cautious optimism was prevalent across the majority of them. There was much work to be done there. Even for Falgun Kara, there was hardly any connection with the rest of the world. Even the surrounding villages did not have any roads to connect them, no construction in between to show the advent of civilization. There was nothing in between but grass, dirt, and sand. Even if someone went to work far, there was no road to guide them. There was not even a dirt road there. Of course, seeing all this, someone else might have asked someone else, or even themselves the question that is it worth it to run here, to expand their political sphere. The answer, of course, would always be yes, but not everyone would see it that way. The one thing I did know that helped me decide was the fact that this village was under the Municipal Corporation. I had to talk to them, and tell them that we could start there, with a clean slate. I told them I could build up this project with supervision, smoothly, and systematically. Luckily for me, they agreed. I was born and raised Bengali, but I told them that I am an American and I want to become a political candidate, a representative of this village, of Falgun Kara, and they agreed. Of course, since I did work for the Red Cross, none of what I said was false, either. That would become the next ten years of my life. When I desired to be a candidate, the election commission there had already declared the election date for the votes. Now, to become a candidate after the fact—after declaration—would be difficult. The die had already been cast, so to speak, and I had to be a voter to be eligible for candidacy, even for a dispute.
I was a voter in my city, Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, within City Corporation. It was a urban area, not a rural one, so I had to get my voter Identification card changed as well. Then, I had to appeal to the election commission of the president of the US then, which at that time was Obama. Through that appeal, I would make it clear that I am a candidate. Without a local election taking place, if I had to contest in this one, I had to be a voter of the area, which was Falgun Kara. Having a voter ID card and a registration number was crucial to contest. Without it, contesting in the election was not possible. All that took a toll on me.
That was village politics. If I would get any more complicated than this, it would easily fill ten books, and even then it would have been difficult to explain. The long and short of it is that village politics is a thing of extremes. It is either really good, or something really ugly. The thing about village politics is that misinterpretations happen en masse. People are closely knit together in villages, and if one misinterprets your views, chances are that others notice and think about the exact same thing.
As many people there are in cities, the people are so different that division does not stand out. In one way or another, all differences blend in together. In rural areas, such as in my village, there is often a uniform thinking. You will hardly find too many people different than others in villages and rural areas. So when I said something that they could misinterpret as something else, such as to not prioritize building a mosque, but to prioritize building education centers, the people could easily call me blasphemous. Like I said, village politics was a thing of extremes.
So, I had to be smart about it. I told them not to build a mosque for five hundred people when only a few dozen could attend, but I also said to put the resources into teaching the children the Holy Book. That way, there would always be something gained. There was one village with almost no electricity, and where it was, it might as well not have been. One particular homeowner had his transmitter stolen, and despite filing a report with the police and inquiring multiple times about when it will be fixed, there was no progress made there for quite a while.
So I had to step in and pay out of pocket to get a new transmitter so that the homeowner would have electricity, and would not have to live out his nights in the dark. It was like that just about everywhere. I formed a united trust unit that would help with things such as that, ignorance and delays from the government in that village, and help with the rest. I thought that so much development and focus was given to urban areas and none in rural areas, and I wanted to do so much more there. There were disabled people I could help, senior citizens I could provide for, and others as well. There were hardly any children there, just about all of them had gone to the city, but there were still quite a lot of vulnerable people in that village. I divided my work for all of them. I had to help them separately. Some were suffering more than others, but the suffering was there. Most could hardly afford much, and had no jobs. Those disabled were worse off. So, I started small. Tasks to help those people earn a bit of money to feed themselves.
My politics took a side step there, and the focus was on social work. When it came to help people, organize events and initiate projects with my National Youth Forum of Bangladesh, I did not include politicians there. But, of course, politics was still a focus of mine. I wanted to make sure that the difficulty I faced in running for office would not be faced by others again. The rule of law had to change here. Politics was no less of a puzzle. Corruption was running rampant. Everyone was made a voter, even those that would be deceased. There were quite a few changes to be made there. Politics was still a maze for me, rural village or capital city.
I had to get Anwar Chaudhary from the High Commission of the United Kingdom involved, who supported the National Youth Forum of Bangladesh and its projects. One day, he came to the NYFB and told us that we had to talk to the Election Commission, and so I talked with two Chief Election Commissioners there, who helped us organize voter awareness. My intention was not just for Falgun Kara, but for just about any rural area surrounding Falgun Kara I could reach. I wanted a neural election, free of fear and corruption, which was far from the norm at that point. The people in power there would feed off the people through these elections.
They would appoint people for candidacy against others that may as well been a brick wall. They already knew who would be elected well before the election would start. I faced these issues, and as much as I would want to say otherwise, I lost. Of course, I still had a legacy to keep there, at Falgun Kara. I wanted to keep a legacy here that would make my time here in politics worth it. That, was still to come.
Golam Rabbani Nayan Bangalee – Fighting for Electoral Justice in Bangladesh
Golam Rabbani Nayan Bangalee – International Social working working for ensuring social Justice