Sunday, December 16, 2007

When Violence Worked

What does the advocate of nonviolent change say? It doesn't work, nonviolent struggle is more powerful than armed conflict? This sounds good, and there are many historical examples of when nonviolent struggle achieved some desired goal, when nonviolence triumphed or violence; but Bangladesh is not one of those places. Gandhi was all well and good for driving away the British, but it was violence, it was mass uprising and guerilla-style warfare which won Bangladesh its independence. And what do you say here, when violence worked?

The problem is two-fold, mass demonstrations were part of what invited a crackdown by the Pakistani army, and once the army was on the loose, they were killing all of the intellectuals, looting and raping at will. And it was in this scenario that mass uprising and insurgency won. The Freedom Fighters overpowered the much better trained, and well-equipped army. So the Freedom Fighters won, and Bangladesh was created, on the back of a short, and brutally violent civil war.

Now why do I bring this up, well today is Independence Day in Bangladesh. Today the populus celebrates their freedom from Pakistan over 30 years ago. And how do they celebrate? They celebrate with a military parade, not only attended by the military and police force, but also by the school children in the city. To witness these children, saluting and marching in formation similar to that of the soldiers was a painful sight for me. Why must these children be taught the way of the gun at such a young age? Why must they be forced to imitate soldiers in school?

This display of military regalia was fascinating for me, the outsider, from a nation with a professional army. The whole procession seemed closer to a reenactment from World War 2, with vintage firearms and full procession, closely resembling footage of the German Army. On this independence day, the celebration is on the military defeat of the Pakistani's not on the power and strength of Bangladesh, which I feel is a tragedy. But how do I advocate for peace in this context? This is a question to which I have no answer. A question, like many others, which will continue to stretch my views and my understandings of peace and of conflict. What do you say, when violence worked?


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