Professor Yunus: Grameen Bank and Bangladeshi politics→ Dr Mohammad Bhuiyan In December 2010, when the current Bangladeshi government started its smear campaign against Professor Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank, the entire country was silent and stunt. To please the government, a number of local newspapers and TV Channels also actively participated in that smear campaign. At the same time, the rest of the world became very vocal against such ill treatment of Prof. Yunus and the Grameen Bank. Two and a half years later, people of Bangladesh finally realised the reality and started coming out by the increasing numbers in support of Prof. Yunus and the Grameen Bank. Everyone now understands that attacking the good name of Prof. Yunus and Grameen Bank is basically same as attacking the honour of Bangladesh.
During one-eleven, certain segments put tremendous pressure on Prof. Yunus to take over the responsibility of Bangladesh government. But, as an honest citizen and a supporter of democracy, Prof. Yunus refused that offer. For the sake of democracy, Prof. Yunus declared his intention of forming a new political party but soon decided not to pursue that path.
I have had the distinct honour to work on and discuss many issues with Prof. Yunus in Bangladesh and in the United States as a volunteer. Like many others, I have requested Prof. Yunus to think about the situations in Bangladesh and present possible solutions to the people of Bangladesh. But, Prof. Yunus has always been very clear in his reply that he wanted to stay out of any politics in Bangladesh. He repeated the same answers when members of the media asked him the same question.
Until last week, Prof. Yunus had been giving very soft but firm answers to the attacks on him and Grameen Bank by the government and its supporters. However, last week, for the first time, he and the members of the Grameen Bank Board members presented a direct challenge in strongest possible terms against any attempt by anyone to harm the bank. Many citizens in the country were very happy to see such a bold statement from Prof. Yunus and people are becoming hopeful.
Whenever we discuss Grameen Bank, we only talk about Prof. Yunus. But, one must not forget that Grameen also means 800,500 female borrowers, their husbands, and members of the immediate families. Once you add all those, it becomes a total of about 4,000,000 which is about half of the total 8,100,000 voters of Bangladesh. It is also a fact that these borrowers are very organised and active in their communities and they all vote. The current government and the leaders have failed to understand that any attempt to destroy Grameen Bank will push all these “Grameen Voters” against them. In order to avoid such a disaster at the polling both, the government and its leaders should immediately come out with a clear statement that the Grameen bank and Prof. Yunus are our national treasures and should be protected.
On the other hand, BNP leaders realised the importance of “Grameen Voters” and took the initiative on their own to go to Grameen Bank Building to express their support for the Grameen Bank and Prof. Yunus to secure those “Grameen Votes” in their favour. They also congratulated Prof. Yunus for receiving the US Congressional Gold Medal.
If we analyse the history of just last ten years; it becomes very clear that there is virtually no difference in the characters of the two leading political parties and their leaders of Bangladesh. Due to the animosity of the government party towards Prof. Yunus And Grameen Bank, BNP is trying to become Grameen Bank’s friend. This does not mean that Prof. Yunus is a BNP supporter. Prof. Yunus asked for support from all Bangladeshi citizens and invited them to take steps to stop anyone who is trying to harm Grameen Bank. He did not send any specific invitation to anyone. BNP leaders came to see him on their own initiative.
As a very devoted supporter and fan of Prof. Yunus, I asked Prof. Yunus if he would have any objection if I took the initiative to invite political parties and leaders to come to Grameen Bank to show their solidarity with him and Grameen Bank. Prof. Yunus was very clear in his response that he wanted to keep Grameen Bank out of politics and would not invite any single party or person. He also reiterated that any attempt to destroy Grameen bank with be dealt with a response by the “Grameen Voters” at the polling booth. However, he made it clear that they would welcome any party or leader if they would like to come to show their solidarity with the Grameen Bank.
Prof. Yunus is our national pride and he should be above all party politics. Like many others, I certainly wanted to make sure that no party or group takes advantage of the situation by implicating Prof. Yunus with just BNP. I took the initiative and personally met/talked and invited Jatiyo Party leader former Prime Minister Kazi Zafar Ahmed, LDP leader Col. Oli Ahmed, Krishok Sramik Janata League leader Bongobir Kader Siddiqui Biruttom, and Bikolpo Dhara leader former President Dr Badruddoza Chowdhury. Based on the feedback from Prof. Yunus, I made it very clear to all the leaders that I was extending invitations to all from me as a supporter and fan of Prof. Yunus and Grameen Bank. I also requested all leaders to consider two points. First: If they would go to Grameen Bank Bhaban to congratulate Prof. Yunus for receiving the US Congressional Gold Medal; and Second: If they would consider criticising the ill-efforts of the government and its supporters against Grameen Bank and Prof. Yunus and show their solidarity with Grameen Bank and Prof. Yunus.
I am happy to let all Bangladeshi and the people of the rest of the world know that all before-mentioned leaders agreed with me wholeheartedly and exhibited their great leadership. On behalf of the entire country and the world, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of them. I also hope that all of the remaining political leaders as well as business, social, students, labour, and other leaders would go to the Grameen Bhaban to express their support and solidarity with Grameen Bank and Prof. Yunus.
Prof. Muhammad Yunus wants to stay out of local politics for valid reasons and we honour his decision in this regard. Prof. Yunus leads a very simple and honest life and tirelessly works for the poor peoples of the world. However, due to the ill-efforts of the government and its supporters against Grameen Bank and Prof. Yunus, even if they did not want this, Grameen Bank and Prof. Yunus have become the focal points of the Bangladeshi Politics. People of Bangladesh are tired of the deteriorating social, political, economic, and other environments and looking for a better future. In the critical juncture of the nation, everyone is looking for a leader who has the integrity, ability, credibility, and worldwide acceptability and will be able to provide effective leadership to stop corruption and make progress to help achieve real Sonar Bangla.
The writer is Professor of Tuskegee University, USA.