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Sep 06

A Grinding Mill called Democracy in Bangladesh: My thoughts

Democracy has always been defined as a system which was supposed to speak for the people, of the people and supposedly represented by the people. The system was supposed give a voice to the silent masses. It was supposed to reflect public opinion. Instead, throughout the world, the system called democracy has morphed into a stage managed syndicate regulated by powerful political and economic forces and enforced by the state apparatus. People are left with little choice but to comply.

The state of democracy as it stands today in developing countries like Bangladesh can be judged from the following small glimpse over the past week.

The past week has seen a lot of heavy handed action by police on the people of Bangladesh. In the wake of a decision by the High Court to cancelthe registration of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami in the polls, the level of uncertainty in the political scenario in the near future has only increased as common logic defied what the government of Bangladesh seemed intent on doing. In spite of the large participation of general people from all walks of life in condemning the intention to ban Jamaat in totality, the pig headed nature of the government did not seem to have waned one bit.

In a sign of the seriousness of the situation which the government has subject the nation to in its quest to silence the voice of hundreds of thousands of Jamaat and Shibir supporters throughout the country, foreign diplomats visitedthe EC premises on the 27th of August 2013 to discuss the EC’s decision regarding Jamaat’s registration in the wake of the High Court ruling among other issues such as the scrapping of the article 91(E) in the Representation of the People Order (RPO) (a recommendation which was withdrawnby the EC just a few days after it got ‘enlightened’ about the fact that it was cutting its own hand) . Ever an extension of the government, the EC replied in its classical language reeking of naïve skullduggery that it had everything under control.

On the other hand, the political and security scenarios continue to deteriorate as the government and its security apparatus reply in earnest to the voice of the people in the only way it knows, through exercising brutal force and complimentary widespread arrest. Just a few days back, police arrested24 activists of Islami Chhatri Sangstha, an Islamic female student organization in Bangladesh. Out of the 24 arrested activists, 22 of them were arrested from Barisal while 2 were arrested from Noakhali. The supposed crime was attending an “Eid Reunion program” from which Police claimed that they had seized around 36 books written by Professor Golam Azam, Mawlana Nizami and Maulana Sayeedi among others along with two CD’s. Just a few days later, 86 people were arrested and sent to jail from Baropara in Comilla from a public program organized for meritorious MBBS students. The confident excuse of both the judge and the police was that it was organized by Bangladesh Islami Chatra Shibir (as if it was a crime…) and so by the default standard set by The Hasina Dictionary, this was synonymous to anti state activities of colossal heights.

That was not all. Political and civil calls for change are falling victim to unseen strings being pulled on the command of an unrelenting and adamant Hasina. A glaring victim is Odhikar Secretary Adilur Rahman Khan, who oversaw the project of investigation of the deaths during the government crackdown of the 5th and 6th of May at Motijheel. Held for more than 3 weeks without any consideration for the due process of the law, the government has extended its crackdown to reflect on an increasingly intolerant view to any criticism. This was the latest SOS call from Odhikar itself while foreign HR organizations themselves have also raisedalarms regarding the actions of the security apparatus regarding a looming crackdown on Odhikar and its top officials.  Such moves come as the prime minister on Wednesday herself came downheavily on some civil society actors who she says are advocating a non-party government to supervise the next general elections. This was just a day after a number of civil society actors, jurists and political analysts had said that the prime minister’s latest announcement on the holding of the next national election without dissolving the parliament might deepen the ongoing political crisis and hinder a level playing field. Such actions bring into mind similar reactions by Hasina after the report on the Motijheel massacre by Odhikar, ultimately resulting in a tight state managed clampdown on the esteemed organisation.
Chatri Sangstha activists arrested in barishal. Police say they were holding anti-state meetings: Daily Star
Many have questioned what will happen after the present government hands power after its tenure ends. My analysis finds that it is too vague to even begin contemplation. In the wake of the termination of the caretaker government, weakening of the Election Commission and threatening those who dare to open their mouths, the only path Hasina has left open is that of violence and more violence. Recent comments have not helped either. Among the many assurance of the multifaceted personality we call our Prime Minister, the most recent one has been that “her government will not take any major decisions during election time despite having the power to do so.” In evaluation of merit, I rank this statement to other greats like “Hefazat people dyed themselves red on the 6th of May at Motijheel for the cameras” by Hasina herself and “Amar kache tothyo ase…” by her esteemed son Joy.

Bangladesh is going through tough times. Please pray for the people of the country; the mothers and sisters; the men and the boys. Each and every life is sacred. Dear Hasina, cut the skin of your hand and the skin of that Shibir member you ordered to torture. The blood that shall ooze out is red. Bloody red. Listen to the voices of the people. Heed them before it is too late.