The problem in front of the great Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci in the fascist prison was the “problem of sustenance of capitalism” in Europe despite its great logical contradiction. Why the Revolution was not coming when all the conditions were right? In his famous “prison notebooks”, he takes the question into the realm of ideology. This was the start of analysis of “ways of thinking”. He gave the concept of “cultural Hegemony”. Capitalism Gramsci suggested, maintained control not just through violence and political and economic coercion , but also ideologically , through a “hegemonic culture” in which the values of the bourgeoisie became the ‘common sense‘ values of all. Thus a consensus culture developed in which people in the Working-class identified their own good with the good of the bourgeoisie, and helped to maintain the status quo rather than revolting.
He also made a distinction between the “Political society” (the police, the army, legal system, etc.) which dominates directly and coercively, and civil society (the family, the education system, trade unions, etc.) where leadership is constituted through ideology or by means of consent. Its this “civil society” whose “thoughts” are being “controlled” to suit the masters [If only Pakistanis understood]. In order to understand these thing the “discourse analysis” was developed. “Discourse” is nothing but all “written and verbal communication”. In line of Gramsci and later Foucault we have to understand “discourse” as “institutionalized” way of thinking, or in words of Judith Butler “limits of acceptable” speech. Its these limits which must be subverted in order to reach a true libertarian discourse. The discourse is controlled by means of “exclusion”, no other opinion simply exists. Foucault writes:
“I am supposing that is every society the production of discourse is at once controlled, selected, organised and redistributed according to a certain number of procedures, whose role is to avert its powers and its dangers, to cope with chance events, to evade its ponderous, awesome materiality. In a society such as our own we all know the rules of exclusion. The most obvious and familiar of these concerns what is prohibited
“Of the three great systems of exclusion governing discourse — prohibited words, the division of madness and the will to truth ———“
“I believe we must resolve ourselves to accept three decisions which our current thinking rather tends to resist, and which belong to the three groups of function I have just mentioned: to question our will to truth; to restore to discourse its character as an event; to abolish the sovereignty of the signifier…. One can straight away distinguish some of the methodological demands they imply. A principle of reversal, first of all…. Next, then, the principle of discontinuity ….”
I am planning to do all this , i am trying to bring forward the “prohibited voices”, those which have been totally eclipsed in the society by the dominant discourse. This is not “endorsing” one and rejecting “others”, rather, its simply a act of breathing , an act of subversion ,of saying what is not pleasant to hear, Its simply an act of living in the rotten stagnant conformity. “The Bengali Genocide” is one such “absent voice” in Pakistan. We only hear “India -America-Jews divided Pakistan”, the act of liberation and resistance against one of the most brutal fascist militarism is “dismissed” as “sakoot”. The Last encounter is a short story by Kazi Fazalur Rehman , its taken from the anthology of stories from 71 by the name of “Fault lines”
The Last Encounter
By Kazi Fazlur Rahman
Another push by the soldier propelled Rashed into the room. He stumbled. The Pakistani officer standing in front of the table caught hold of him. He ordered the soldier out and untied Rashed’s hands. Then he moved behind the table and sat in the chair facing Rashed.
Rashed blinked. Even the pale light of the winter afternoon was too harsh for his eyes after the long hours being blindfolded.
He rubbed his eyes without seeming to have heard the officer.
The enemy officer was of his age or perhaps a little older. He was fair-complexioned and of rather slight build. Under the broad forehead, his eyes had a hint of blue. And those eyes, Rashed could not help noticing, did not have the taunting look of the captor for the captive. The eyes were tired, and the face heavy with fatigue.
After being asked a second time, Rashed slowly sat down. He touched his right temple, which was covered with congealed blood. With his left hand, he tried to feel if any of his ribs were broken.
‘What’s your name?’
Rashed’s hands froze. But he kept quiet.
‘Are you a student? How many other miscreants were there with you?’
Rashed did not respond. He felt sure that these were the preliminaries before the torture began. This was the moment he had been dreading since regaining consciousness. He knew only too well what there was in store for him. He had seen too many, both dead and dying, who had been tortured by the Pakistanis. Instinctively, he clenched his fists.
‘It won’t be very difficult to make you talk,’ the officer, smiled faintly. ‘Even if I can’t do it myself, I can ask some of my soldiers and razakars to come and help. You surely know how experienced they are in this business and how much they enjoy it.’
‘We may have to spend some time together,’ the officer added after some moments of silence. ‘We should at least get acquainted. My name is Azam — Captain Azam.’
‘I am Rashed,’ Rashed said after a moment of hesitation.
Captain Azam pushed the packet of cigarettes across the table, ‘Have a cigarette. Whether you or I want it or not, we are both fated to be on the same stage for the time being. Once the war is over, each of us will be back in his own world — provided we survive till then. I really wanted to meet a proper mukti — a so-called freedom fighter. Almost all we manage to catch alive seem to be illiterate farm-hands, young schoolboys or old men. You, I think, belong to the right category — if ‘right’ is the proper word!’
He pressed the bell. ‘First, let me get some tea for us. Meanwhile, you may like to have a wash. There’s the bathroom.’
Kadamtali, a rather small river port, had an oil storage depot and lay right on the river routes of oil tankers plying between Chittagong and Dhaka. The guerrillas desperately wanted to disrupt the oil supply. They had damaged a couple of passing tankers and also made an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the depot. The Pakistanis reacted by increasing the size of the army contingent guarding the depot. Fortified bunkers were constructed within the depot perimeters.
A few days earlier, Rashed had received reports that Pakistani soldiers had stopped coming out in the open after sunset. Now was the time, he had decided, to blow up the storage tanks. The plan was simplicity in itself. With grenades in a waterproof plastic bag, he would swim over to the depot landing. The usual heavy December fog would provide adequate cover. From riverbank to the depot it was only about 30 feet or so. He would toss the grenades, run back to the water and jump into it. Balai and Jalal would open fire from safe distances to distract the Pakistanis.
But things had not worked out as planned. The fog had suddenly cleared just as Rashed was getting ready. Nevertheless, he had decided to go ahead. He would have perhaps changed his mind had he only known that on that very day the army contingent had been reinforced by a large group of razakars. They were put on patrol duty outside the depot. After all, their Pakistani masters could not care less if they got killed. These wretches were expendable.
Rashed, after crawling up to the depot fence, had already lobbed the grenades when, the razakars started shooting. Even with their wild marksmanship, the hail of bullets was thick enough to cut off his escape. Meanwhile, the grenades set off a chain reaction of explosions among the oil drums. As he lay prone on the ground, a large metal fragment, possibly a piece of a bursting drum, hit him on the head.
He regained his senses only to gasp from the savage kicks to his head, face and chest. Soon he sank into oblivion again. When he woke up again he found himself blindfolded. His hands and feet had been tied. He was quite surprised that he was still alive. He did not know that only the captain’s intervention had saved him from a slow and extremely painful death.
‘I don’t know how well-informed you are,’ Captain Azam took a sip of tea, ‘but it’s almost all over with the war. It won’t make any difference whether you or I live or die. The Indian army has won this round.’
‘Not the Indian army alone,’ Rashed’s voice rose in protest. ‘It’s the combined allied forces of both India and Bangladesh.’
‘Rubbish! It is the Indian superiority in the numbers of planes, tanks, artillery and soldiers. You Bangalis simply act as their porters,’
‘You lie! Is it because of the Indian army that you dared not come out of the bunkers? How many of your officers and men of the so-called best army in the world, equipped with the latest American and Chinese weapons, died in the last nine months? How many in Dhaka alone? Who killed them? Surely not the Indians!’
‘You can’t win a war by a few stray murders or by throwing a bomb here, planting a mine there. Without the Indian army your ‘Joi Bangla’ would have remained just an empty slogan.’
‘Again, you are wrong. Our victory was inevitable. We would have driven you out on our own. Sure, that would have taken much more time. The process would have been far more painful and the price paid for freedom still higher. Yet, perhaps that would have been better for my country’s future.’
Captain Azam crushed his cigarette in the ashtray. ‘Enough of that. Now tell me how you got involved with this ragtag band of muktis. You don’t look like a miscreant.’
Rashed’s eyes flashed. ‘What would you have done if your brother had been made to dig a grave and then was buried alive in the grave he had dug? Or your sister had been ravaged and mutilated; by a gang of savage beasts in the shape of men?’
‘Yes, I know there have been some excesses. A few such unfortunate things are bound to happen if an army is called upon to suppress a rebellion.’
My days in East Pakistan have convinced me that I should have resisted my father’s wishes. I’m not cut out to be an officer of the Pakistani army.
‘No. This was planned and cool-headed savagery Yahya the drunk, Tikka Khan the butcher and Bhutto the smoothtalking charlatan ordered you to perpetrate all these bestialities in the name of defending Islam and Pakistan. They felt sure that killing and brutality on this massive scale would frighten the Bangalis into silence. But they made a mistake. Yes, brutality within a certain limit may temporarily terrorise a people into inaction. But beyond this limit, it is counterproductive. There are many in our ranks who never bothered about politics or their identities as Bangalis. Your senseless yet systematic brutality made them take up arms.’
‘You see, I don’t really know much about all these things.’ Captain Azam was somewhat apologetic. ‘It’s been only four months since I came from West Pakistan. Anyway, even if the things you allege did really happen, they were under the orders of superior authorities. The ordinary officer or soldier in the field can’t be held responsible for carrying out orders.’
‘Hitler’s generals and soldiers took the same plea. The civilised world refused to accept it. They were found guilty and hanged. Even now those war criminals are being hunted down and brought to justice. And you’re also going to be tried and punished.’
‘You delude yourself. We aren’t going to be tried. Your leaders will forget all about it in their scramble for pomp and power. And if you really want to try anyone, you’ll have to look for the guilty amidst you — the razakars and al-Badars who joined us in the killings, and the Peace Committee members who pointed out to us the villages to be burnt down, the persons to be tortured and murdered. They are the ones who captured the young girls trying to escape and delivered them to our camps.’
‘Yes, I know. Every people fighting a war of liberation has to contend with some quislings. We also have ours. Certainly they’re going to pay dearly for their crimes.’
‘Again you err. Perhaps some small fries will be caught. But the really big ones will manage to have their protectors. They may temporarily disappear only to surface again when the time is ripe. They will be as useful to the new rulers as they were to us.’
The telephone rang before Rashed could speak again. Captain Azam picked up the receiver, listened in silence for a couple of minutes. Then he said, ‘Yes, I understand,’ and put the receiver down.
‘The war is over. General Niazi has just signed the surrender document.’ Captain Azam looked both shocked and relieved.
‘Really? Joi Bangla!’ Rashed jumped up from his chair.
‘Yes, but that doesn’t mean that I am surrendering to you. My orders are to surrender with my men only to the Indian army.’
Rashed made a move towards the door.
‘No. You can’t go. My soldiers and the razakars outside won’t know that the war has ended and they can no longer have the fun of killing a captured mukti. You’re still my prisoner.’
Rashed stopped in this tracks.
‘In a manner, I am also your captive. Still, I carry a weapon. If I shoot you, no one will bother to find out if you were killed before or after the surrender. You better take your seat again.’
Rashed thought for a moment or two and then returned to his chair.
The silence was broken by Captain Azam. ‘The war is over. We don’t have to keep up pretences. Let’s rather talk about ourselves. Are you a student?’
‘Yes. I was.’
‘What were you studying?’
‘English Literature, at Dhaka University.’
‘Strange coincidence! I was also a student of English at Lahore Government College. But I had to join the army before I could get my degree. Mine is a family of soldiers. My grandfather was a non-commissioned officer; my father retired as colonel. And he wanted his only son to become a general. I am afraid he is going to be disappointed. My days in East Pakistan have convinced me that I should have resisted my father’s wishes. I’m not cut out to be an officer of the Pakistani army.’
‘Why?’ Rashed could not help asking.
‘My first posting was in a big outpost near Comilla. Our orders were to go out on daily sorties to raid villages reported to be harbouring guerrillas, Awamis or Hindus.
There was a competition among the officers. Each had to keep a tally of how many houses his men had burnt down, how many persons he had personally killed.
Each evening in the mess, with a glass of whisky in hand, each had to announce the numbers. The one with the highest score would be declared the champion of the day, and glasses would be raised to toast his feat. Some even announced the number of Bangalee women they had raped, not, as they would take pains to explain, to satisfy their carnal desires, but in discharge of their patriotic duty of ensuring a better breed of Pakistanis in this part of the country. Yes, men under me also burnt, killed, and raped. But my personal score was nil on all these counts during the fortnight I was there. And that made me an outcast. I was forced to seek a transfer to a place where I would not have to compete with others to prove my prowess. That’s how I am in Kadamtali.’
There was again a long moment of silence. Then Captain Azam said, ‘But you aren’t saying anything about yourself!’
‘It should be really a quite common story now. I am the eldest of four children in my family. My brother is missing, presumed dead, after the army raided his hostel on the night of March 25. My father, a college teacher, was shot dead for sheltering a wounded pupil. Our home was burnt down. My mother managed to escape with my two sisters. I can only hope that they succeeded in crossing the borders and are in some refugee camp, or that they are dead.’
‘What are you going to do now that the war is over?’
‘I really don’t know. What I know is that I won’t be able to go back to the life of a student.’
‘And I can’t go on being a soldier. But whatever happens, I look forward, to visiting your Bangladesh one day, perhaps years later. I would like to find out what sort of a country it is going to be — a country for which so much blood has been shed.’
A shadow passed over Rashed’s face.
‘I also wish I knew what the future holds in store for my Bangladesh. Sometimes I have more anxieties than hopes. You’ve not only maimed, tortured, and killed. In the process you’ve brutalised our people, both as victims and avengers of brutalities. We have also learnt to kill. Shall we now be killing each other? And we were such a gentle, peace-loving people!’
‘Perhaps you have good reasons to be anxious,’ Captain Azam smiled sadly. ‘However, our officers and soldiers also have learnt to kill unarmed civilians, women and children. They won’t be able to forget the taste of blood. When they go back, they will look for opportunities to kill and inflict pain on their own people. They may not spare even those who let them lose here. And that will be your revenge.’
Slowly, the darkness of the winter night gathered round them.
‘Have you ever read Wilfred Owen’s war poems? ‘Strange Meeting’?’
‘Do you remember the last lines ‘Let us sleep now…’?’
‘Yes, that’s what the dead soldier tells his killer when they meet in the afterlife.’
They sat still and silent as the room turned darker.
Captain Azam stood up and switched on the light. ‘Perhaps they would. But will you and I be able to sleep?’