So this guy Hero Alam, a bad singer, an even worse actor with a scruffy look is riling up the establishment like few have done before. They call him “uncouth, uncultured, lower class, uneducated “and the rest but his admirers don’t seem to care. He has become a hate figure to many particularly of the shushil class of Bangladesh’s urban elite who see everything wrong with what he represents or his persona does. But they can't stop him in any way. That’s what hurts.
The closest they came to was when he was taken in and told by the police not to sing those songs which offend shushil sensitivities particularly of the Tagore variety. Apparently, several top notch shushils and singers had complained about his music to the police. He was released but after he had to promise to follow musical rules framed by the police of all forces of law and order of the state. One is lucky that it was not RAB which took him in. Luckily US sanctions were in place.
A thorn in the flesh
That arrest turned into a mishap for the establishment as social media lit up and Hero Alam himself went on various social media chat shows and described his situation and experience. It was ludicrous to say the least to get the police involved in the matter by the government. If bad music is a law and order problem, speeches and jokes often used by many political leaders should keep the police busy for many hours everyday.
Sadly, worse followed for the establishment. The singing matter ended there but the next thing one hears is that Hero Alam was trying to stand in the parliamentary by-elections. Lot of jokes later, when the results came out, it showed that Hero Alam was beaten but narrowly, by less than a 1000 votes. The candidate who won, was a non-entity at the national level but Hero’s loss became bigger news than JSD’ candidate Tansen’s victory. Since Tansen was an AL supported candidate, people did the usual electoral math and concluded that Hero Alam was forcibly defeated to keep him out of the parliament.
Of course manipulation was denied by the EC who also tried to sound a touch dismissive but worse for everyone concerned, Hero Alam came out looking better than ever. And people believed Alam’s words rather than the EC’s.
It seems something bigger is going on around the person and his ‘antics’ than singing and voting. This ‘uppity ' man from somewhere outside Dhaka and the rural backwoods , with an uncertain profession, a slightly sleazy love life, and headline grabbing skills has made the establishment look rather silly and downright cloddy. As if that isn’t enough, someone gifts him a microbus and Alam donates it which no one does. And all this before he even makes it to the House.
The establishment hits back
UNB reports says that the Highway Police fined Ashraful Hossain Alam aka Hero Alam for speeding on his way to Chunarughat upazila from Bogura in Habiganj on Tuesday. He was fined Taka 2500. He had gone to Narporti village in Chunarughat to receive a microbus from the Abdul Jabbar Gaucchia Academy Principal M Mokhlichhur Rahman who announced it on FB as a token of his esteem and standing in the election. In response Hero Alam received the car and then announced it would be used as an ambulance or to ferry dead bodies to graves.
The police move was one of the worst examples of taking an action which smells of vindictiveness. In a country where ministers think nothing of going the wrong way in their official flag flying car in high traffic of Dhaka, bikes use the pavement as a sub-road and cars park on pavements making it impossible to use, the concept of traffic rules violation doesn’t even exist. And in that ecology, a speeding ticket doesn’t even qualify as a joke. So why is the establishment so worried about him?
The rise of the under class
Hero Alam signifies the rise of the underclass, both as individuals and through cultural idioms. The monopoly which the shushils enjoy in terms of deciding what qualifies as proper particularly in culture was first threatened by the rise of the rural religious cultures. Apart from politics, Hefaozot’s Dhaka siege showed that they were rising and could travel down both physically and socially.
However, It’s easy to dismiss the waz crowd or the Hefazot and Tabligh culture because they occupy a religious hence alien space to the “modern and secular” shushil culture which includes political parties and clusters too. But this is where the Hero Alam threat is pushing them.
He is not alien in terms of cultural form to the urban elite or shushils all over Bangladesh. Hero Alam may do it badly but he does whatever they all do in their common space. He sings their songs, mimics their heroes and icons and even womanizes like them. One may dislike him and most shushils do but one can’t dismiss his cultural form because it’s the same as that of the shushil elite.
Hero Alam and his tribe are coming and may soon overrun the shushil monopoly which is why so much anxiety pervades their camp. But his horde is probably unstoppable going by the way history has gone. The underclass may prevail over the fancier sounding and looking class. And that is what it's all about.