“We are gonna build a wall. And we are gonna make the terrorists pay for it,” Debaish Taran, Builder of Cities.
A big, sturdy fence, topped with barbed wire and CCTV cameras, separates the 'them' from the 'us'. Armed guards stand guarding every entry point, a horrifying fate awaiting those who dare to trespass. This is Gulshan, formerly a highly-protected area, now turned into a human zoo, filling the coffers of those who managed to seduce a few to sell their freedom out of fear of the opposition, fear of the terrorists and finally fear of each other. Welcome to the Great Wall of Bangladesh. Israel has nothing on us.
It all started in the most innocuous of ways. The depraved conditions of the animals in Mirpur Zoo forced the government to rethink their position and ultimately led to the closure of the country's biggest zoo. The Hippopotamus-Goat friendship story, that had helped the zoo survive longer than necessary, could not help further. However, knowing that the people of the city had for too long been starved of entertainment, the government needed to make a hasty decision. And hence, all eyes turned towards the wall in Gulshan, an area Dhakaites love visiting when bored, especially now that Zia Uddyan is closed off to the public after dark, Dhanmondi Lake shuts down by 6:00 pm and Ramna is especially kept opened for drug dealers, prostitutes and muggers (they are people too!). Add the fact that the government shut down every restaurant because they had all obviously become illegal despite having the government themselves collect taxes from them, the people of the city needed something to do. And thus was born, The Tri-State Zoo and Safari Park.
“In the 16th Century, Cardinal Medici had a large menagerie containing different people from all over the world. This zoo was right in the heart of the Vatican and hence shows that human zoos aren't all bad. Plus, the people in the zoo hardly know it's a zoo, although we do discourage feeding the foreigners in the area,” a spokesperson for the Tri-State Zoo and Safari Park explained. The last such human zoo was in Europe, but this one comes with a twist. Whereas before the Caucasians would gawk and throw stones on Africans and Asians, here the roles will be reversed. Local Bangladeshis, ‘the uncultured savages’, will not be allowed to enter The Tri-State Zoo and Safari Park, but will be offered the chance to stand atop watchtowers placed on the top of the wall to observe the foreigners conduct their day-to-day business while hopefully learning how to behave and conduct themselves, the bloody fishermen.
As a further cautionary note, Bangladeshis are strictly advised to not mingle or interact with the foreigners, unless they are from the Big Brother country, comrades with whom we fight wars and destroy forests. “We have also asked the Bangladeshis outside the Tri-State area to specifically not feed the foreigners as the foreigners will then begin to associate Bangladeshis with food as they have associated Bangladesh with rampant terrorism, and Iraq with oil,” a zoo official explained, in the condition of anonymity. He further added that since Gulshan has zero restaurants, residents are only fed a steady diet of state-authorised drab and should not be encouraged to stray outside for different food.
In order to ensure security, only 200 Safari buses will be allowed to ply the sate-of-the-art area, making this the first Safari Park in the country, because no one cares about the other one. “Locals will eventually be relocated from these areas and by relocated we mean tossed out because everyone isn't an immovable tannery. Native species will not do well with these invasive ones but both will have much to teach the other,” a beaming employee of the Tri-State Zoo and Safari Park claimed, claiming this too is all for social harmony.
Cartoon: Ehsanur Raza Ronny