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The Financial Express
Swasti Lankabangla Swasti Lankabangla

A paean to our indomitable youths


Young people are chanting slogans at a protest meeting in Dhaka	—FE Photo Young people are chanting slogans at a protest meeting in Dhaka —FE Photo

Through the ages the very concepts of 'defiant youth', 'dissension', 'iconoclasm' etc have been causing dread to a section of people. In almost every society, they veritably find themselves ensconced in secure and well-protected cocoons. Be they monarchic rulers, dictators or ill-advised democratic leaders, ripples of youth's outburst make them feel edgy. As a universal rule, opposing any so-called sacrosanct system has been inherent with the youths. Since the dawn of civilisations, they have opposed repressions unleashed by the ruling and privileged classes, as youths have stood by the oppressed. Perhaps, the young are blessed with a sensibility not seen in any other age-group. Although it lasts for a short duration, it brings about massive transformations in a society. During the occurrence of radical changes, humans prepare themselves to go through phases of turbulence. This scenario has been common since the earliest of revolutions. After all, many in society cannot accept changes brought to many prevailing systems.

Few in France have ever thought of revolting against the centuries-old monarchy. But young radicals in the late 18th century France did not conform to the orthodoxy of worshipping all royal decrees. They discovered an obsolete and worn-out system in monarchy which had been manipulated extravagantly to oppress the people. The nonconformist and radical youths rose up in revolt against the monarchy and their sidekicks. As had been witnessed in many other revolutions, the 1789 French Revolution, however, also witnessed excesses --- mostly in the form of unnecessary violence and killings. Guillotines were used frenziedly to behead the cohorts of the fallen royalty.

Advocates of protest and changes do not hesitate to disapprove of these excesses. Many of them brand these acts as the work of saboteurs. Similar spectacles were encountered during many 20th century revolutions, notably the 1917 October Revolution in the Tsarist Russia. The protagonist of the socialist revolution - Lenin, had been brought under critical scrutiny in the post-socialism Russia. So were his Bolshevik comrades Stalin, Trotsky et al. At the same time, the 'neo-reformists' emerged as relevant to the post-socialism Russian society. Detractors, however, continue to highlight the collateral anarchies of all revolutions. In reality, the smear campaigns of the later times haven't yet been fully successful to belittle a particular period's noble causes championed by revolutions; be they armed rebellions or today's street movements for social, economic and political reforms. Revolutions or protests thrive on the participants' moral integrity.  In spite of being picked as a minister in Fidel Castro's post-revolution Cuba, the itinerant Latin American rebel Che Guevara had never nurtured any ambition to rule a country. He has been indisputably recognised as one the purest of the 20th century revolutionaries, a rebel par excellence.

The days of armed revolutions to correct social ills are over. But the indomitability of youth in bringing an end to injustices has not died out. Although various types of moral erosion have detracted from youth's inner strength, many still keep themselves above the time's crass consumerism. These youths are spiritually rich, do not hesitate to become vocal about their dissident views, and readily come forward to back a noble cause. Temptations for easy life couldn't overwhelm this class of uncompromising younger generations. Bangladesh can take pride in these youths, whose number is on an unabated increase. Most of these younger generations were born long after the independence of the country. They have learnt about the 1971 Liberation War through books and the audio-visual media. Yet many of them uphold the spirit of the great war of freedom like the Freedom Fighters did in 1971.

It goes greatly in favour of the nation that the youths feeling proud of the Liberation War and its martyred and living heroes haven't failed to declare themselves committed to the message of the war. Since the country's bloodied birth, few movements and upsurges extolling the noble causes of the people and society could bypass the committed youths. Whenever there were injustice, oppression and discrimination, the youths didn't sit idle. The movement of 1962 demanded the annulment of an Education Commission Report skewed towards the students in the then East Pakistan; the street demonstrations in the mid-1960s had the 6-point demand as the leitmotif; it eventually swelled into the great mass upsurge of 1969 and 1970 --- the latter finding Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the helm of a nationwide movement. It was the youths under the leadership of Sheikh Mujib who had impeccably shaped it as the prelude to an armed and all-out Liberation War. In spite of the spontaneous participation of the people of all ages, it was the youths who had played the major role in the 9-month Liberation War.

In the period immediately after the war and the couple of later decades, the youths of the newly independent country remained busy providing support to the framework of building an exploitation-free Bangladesh. In fact, Bangladesh eventually came into being as a nation-state riding on the spirit of youth. In reality, the onus of visualising such a Bangladesh lay with the nation's supreme leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his trusted co-politicians. These senior and experienced leaders found a lot of nonpartisan, yet politically conscious, youths in the streets backing the nation's future socio-political course. There were ambitious elements, as well as fifth columnists, who tried to misguide the masses by charting ultra- and counter-revolutionary paths. Eventually, these reactionary forces had to leave the dais --- but not until they had inflicted losses to the newly independent nation.

The youths' vocal stance and the proactive role in every socio-political movement amply proved that they had indeed overcome many hurdles. They portrayed themselves as being integral to all types of reformative and protest movements. The trend began with the anti-autocracy movement spanning the late 1980s to 1990. A different face of the youth upsurge began being discovered in the second decade of the 21st century. The forces that spurred these protests were the youths and teenagers who rallied against a few critical issues involving society. The country has lately been rocked by youth protests against a social scourge, now becoming chronic. It is random defilement of socially weaker women coupled with sexual violence targeting children. Over the last three decades, the menace has plagued society to such an extent that the image of Bangladesh turned out to be one that befits a nation where savagery rules the roost. Few societies are completely free of this menace of aberrant behaviour resorted to by a section of males. But those are isolated incidents. In Bangladesh, the sexual violence against women and female children has veritably assumed the proportions of a pandemic. Youths must have been watching the fast declining turn of the violence. Now that the scourge has crossed all limits, both educated urban male and female youths came out into the streets in streams. The only demand: Free the country of the monsters in human face. The Prime Minister has taken the issue quite seriously. Earlier, she reacted sharply to the human-induced monstrosity and ordered amendment to the relevant Act to facilitate capital punishment for the persons proved guilty of sexual abuse crimes. As part of a remarkable development, President Abdul Hamid on October 13 issued an ordinance on the amendment to the Women and Children Repression Prevention Act. The ordinance has incorporated the provision for capital punishment for rape. The PM was unsparing in her definition of the males guilty of this heinous crime. She called rapists simply 'beasts'. "The rapists are (like) beasts as they exhibit their inhuman nature affecting our girls," she said.

It's a great irony that in whole nature, it is only the humans who have been committing this vile act, at times in orgiastic pleasure. Rape is an unknown practice in the worlds of animals and insects. Man emerges as the most evil of all creations of nature when it comes to carnally oppressing a woman or a female child. Thanks to the unified street campaigns launched by the agents of youth, the incidence of the ghastly crime of rape might eventually witness a radical decline. Credits, thus, go to the ever-vigilant spirit of youth.

shihabskr@ymail.com

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