By Q M Jalal Khan
As the current state of affairs stands, there is no water sharing between India and Bangladesh. Only India would have the right to have it all (just as Sheikh Hasina also would have it all in terms of her authoritarian accumulation of power and control with no democratic transition to the popular opposition BNP). In his book A Broken Dream: Rule of Law, Human Rights and Democracy (16 September 2018), former Chief Justice S K Sinha writes:
The black chapter is that it [India] is behaving as ‘big brother’ with us instead of being an ‘elder brother.’ It has diverted waters from all the rivers flowing into Bangladesh causing serious environmental and ecological imbalance in our country particularly in Northern Bangladesh. The balance of trade and commerce is also lopsidedly in favor of India and these have caused much anxiety among most of the people. It has been purposely and intentionally supporting a government which has no respect for democracy, rule of law and human rights. Corruption is rampant, forced disappearances of citizens by security forces are a regular feature, and violation and discrimination based on gender, religion, affiliations are persistent. The government is run largely with the support of the security services. Terrorism is increasing daily and the more the government will depend on the security forces as a tool to remain in power, the more terrorism and fanaticism will rise. People cannot be ruled with the help of security forces consistently violating the civil rights of the citizens. No autocratic government can rule the country for an indefinite period. Unless democracy and the rule of law are established, the sentiments of the people will keep rising against the tyrannical government and it will go against India as well, because India is seen to be propping up an autocratic government for its own interests […] All that was possible only due to the weakness of the opposition political party, the support of a neighboring regional superpower and the judiciary’s [weak? partisan?] role. Everybody assumed that there would be fresh elections within two years. But all assessments proved false due to the unconditional support of the neighboring powerful country, India.
Justice Sinha “has urged India to support the rule of law and democracy in his country, saying the Indian government should not ignore the will of the people by backing the ‘undemocratic’ and ‘autocratic’ Awami League-led government.”
An article from the Chatham House, London (a think tank aligned with the British intelligence, MI5) refers to the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas by the un-neighborly Myanmar and several other issues created by the inimical and unfriendly India against Bangladesh – water sharing, non-tariff barriers, border killings, Chattogram and Mongla ports, NRC (National Register of Citizens) of Assam, terming of Bangladeshis as “termites” and “infiltrators”. It mentions: “Bangladesh is India’s eighth biggest export destination with US$8.8 billion exported in 2018, and the fourth largest remittance source — worth US$10 billion in 2017. Deteriorating relations also undermine India’s attempts to deepen security cooperation with Bangladesh to tackle cross-border insurgent groups in its north-eastern states.” The article issues stark warnings, “Bangladesh risks becoming subjected to its neighbors’ majoritarian impulses with no long-term solutions in sight. This would be an untenable situation in an already sensitive part of the world.”
As referenced above by both Justice Sinha in his book and the Chatham House article, there is a serious contention over the issue of water sharing between the two countries. However, it is the same way that Hasina, as her incompetent and unimpressive Foreign Minister Abdul Momen declared, would gladly maintain a subservient “husband-wife” relationship between the violently sectarian India and the communally peaceful Bangladesh. The most undiplomatic top diplomat of Bangladesh, Momen would not see that India is strangulating Bangladesh over the non-supply of onion – an important cooking ingredient – as Modi would also strangulate Hasina’s Bangladesh over the non-sharing of the essential water of the common rivers.
It is the same Momen, most inefficient as he is, who would describe the influx of illegal Indian immigrants as normal and logical because Bangladesh was high on development with plenty of jobs to offer. It is the same Momen who said he did not know much about the illegal and immoral Indian push-in of Bengali-origin people into Bangladesh. It is the same Momen who abusively describes his critics as “pagol-chagol” (as mentally deranged as the bleating goat) as his elder brother, who was Hasina’s Finance Minister, used to dismiss his critics as simply “rubbish,” both in turn described by them as the two “khabish” and “rubbish” ministers, derogatory terms for those known to be bad and evil. It is the same Momen who said that the number of the dead and oppressed Bangladeshis returning from Saudi Arabia was merely a few as if no number, no matter how small or big that may be, would ever matter to the weak and hopeless Momen.
Faiyez Taiyeb Ahmed is right when he says that the coastline of Bangladesh, its water resources, and its people are placed at the sacrificial altar of foreign interests by its all-surrendering Hasina government in Dhaka. Barrister M B I Munshi in his book The India Doctrine, refers to many upstream dams built by the aggressor India to keep Bangladesh under its tightening noose and threatening stare. A small section of the affected (with the exception of the Hasina-led Awamis that have presumably been bought over by India into silence) are protesting that India has been violating International Law by putting up “goddamn” upstream dams in as many as 54 rivers running through Bangladesh but now dying and drying out, to the disaster of the land and people of Bangladesh. To repeat, the “great neighbor” India is maintaining “friendly relations” with Bangladesh by controlling the water of those joint rivers flowing into Bangladesh and thus choking and strangulating Bangladesh.
All those over fifty rivers flowing through Bangladesh are dying due to the adverse impact of such an upstream dam called the deadly Farakka and about 130 cargo ships got stuck due to the shallow waters of the Jamuna. Late Ahmad Sofa, one of the leftist intellectuals of Bangladesh, details the multiple deadly aspects of the Farakka dam for Bangladesh. One of the many disastrous consequences is that about nine and a half crore people (95, 000, 000) of Modi-Mamta-India’s bosom friend Hasina’s Bangladesh and its mother nature are being routinely deprived of their due water share for their basic needs.
On the other hand, there are Indian-engineered devastating floods coming down the common rivers such as the Teesta and the Brahmaputra causing untold misery to the people of the low-lying Bangladesh almost every year. Not to speak of the other times, July 2020 alone saw almost a third of Bangladesh deeply inundated with millions of dwelling houses going under water, causing immense suffering to the people affected, especially in the countryside. It is a huge crisis. According to Euronews.com, “More than three million people across 21 districts are affected by the monsoon flooding in Bangladesh. They have been left marooned with lost crops and livelihoods since the 23rd of July. Meanwhile, more than 7.5 million people across the country are at still risk of flooding.”
International Farakka Committee (IFC) “demanded steps for decommissioning of all harmful structures on rivers, including the Farakka and the Gazal Doba barrages.” It said that “the cycle of flood and drought is increasingly becoming destructive in Bangladesh because of disjointed and unsustainable management in the upstream of transboundary rivers, and the collapse of dams and barrages due to their inefficient management.” All this adversity due to India’s political game lasts and continues under the watch of the all-giving Hasina so that India can easily conspire her return to power again and again. She comes up with her so-called development plans to perpetuate her despotic designs and shatter her opponents in tatters. There is no mistake that her development talks are an eye-washing propaganda, a scam, a scandal, opening the floodgate for corruption. In her Bangladesh, development on high-interest international loans means keeping some powerful countries and organizations on her side and creating backdoor opportunities for the corrupt to smuggle and embezzle under her watch at the expense of the quality or completion of the projects that hardly matter to her and people in her regime.
When there was nothing about the sharing of the much needed Teesta waters during one of Hasina’s trips to her master-key India, nothing about the joint river commission meetings, nothing about the continuous killings of the poor Bangladeshis by India at the border, nothing about the huge trade imbalance between the two countries, and when there was everything as only the much-befriended India wanted, satisfying 90% of its interest, her trip was described as an utter failure by the opposition BNP. Referencing the Indian daily The Hindu on the Teesta issue, Syed Munir Khasru writes how Bangladesh became hostage to Indian local and provincial politics.
With the geographical and geological changes over the passage of time made controversial and complicated by the selfish political agenda of the neighboring countries, the glory of the landscape of Bangladesh has been in steady decline to the extent that the once wild and full-flowing Padma, like today’s India-caused waterless Teesta and Atrai, is not there any more. The landscape features which were once a great source of charming beauty are now conspicuous by their absence not only in that part but also the other parts of Bangladesh. The Padma, probably alluded to in the river-imagery of the (wrongly chosen) national anthem of Bangladesh, is now dry and empty of its nourishing waters, running low owing to the regional geopolitics. At present its beauty and glory are a thing of the past, as thought to have probably been referred to or described in many famous patriotic river songs. Isn’t it better for the Padma and all the rivers to be full and overflowing (and thereby sometimes even destructive) than going dry and destructive? Unfortunately, about 50 to 80 out of 435 small and big rivers of Bangladesh as sung about in those songs have been dying due to environmental pollution and geopolitical reasons caused by the “friendly fire” of India. Even then Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud would not deny the un-neighborly reality created by the “step-brotherly” India.
India looted 2,700 crore taka worth of arms and ammunition right after the end of the war in 1971. Despite the 1974 agreement, India did not hand over the Tin Bigha corridor to Bangladesh. It stopped sharing the upstream river water right from 1975. As a result, the lower stream of the Padma is drying out into a toilet tank. Production of about 200 crore taka worth of agricultural produce per year has stopped. There is a trade imbalance of about 20,000 crore taka due to Indian imposed tax/tariff complication. Despite protest, India is building a dam at the tip of the Tipai River that is likely to cause a desertification of 16 districts inside Bangladesh, including Sylhet. Bangladesh gives 3,000-4,500 crore taka to India to let Indian channels air in Bangladesh whereas Bangladeshi channels are not allowed in India. During the last 44 years, thousands of Bangladeshis have been killed at the border. Indian cultural aggression, its unbridled interference in the internal politics of Bangladesh, and its exercise of unnecessary overhead influence have rendered Bangladesh helpless by India, which has been exploiting Bangladesh for the last 42 years in the name of helping the latter during its liberation war. Only a few days ago, India kicked out Bangladeshi journalists saying, “Bangladesh passport? Not allowed. Are you Bangladeshi citizens? Get out.” Even then the shameless Bangladeshi Indian-loving politicians, journalists, and intellectuals continue to slavishly worship India.
Q M Jalal Khan is author of Bangladesh: Political and Literary Reflections on a Divided Country (Peter Lang, 2018) and Bangladesh Divided: Political and Literary Reflections on a Corrupt Police and Prison State (Peter Lang, 2019), in addition to numerous other publications on literature and culture. After disengaging from many years of full-time teaching abroad, American-educated Dr. Khan is currently on the adjunct faculty at an institution of higher learning in North America. His recent work, “Sheikh Hasina’s Brutal BNP-Phobia and Her Scandalous “Midnight” Power Grab Through Vampire Vote Dacoity and Villainous “S/Election” Rigging With an All-Time High Record of Humongous White-Collar Corruption” has appeared in Balland (ed), Bangladesh: A Suffering People Under State Terrorism (Peter Lang, 2020).
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, born in New York City and currently based in India. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Climate Change in Literature”, edited by Morve Roshan K., Southwest University, China and Niyi Akingbe, University of South Africa, Pretoria.