People caught between cruelty and arrogance…Mahfuz Anam

This politics can only damage democracy

AWAMI League says it wants an election at any cost. BNP says it wants caretaker government at any cost. Neither explains what they mean by “at any cost” and who will pay that cost. The truth is political parties do not pay any cost. It is the people who are paying all the costs in terms of lives, injury and property. Our politicians and their leaders have brought us to a situation where already more than 300 people have been killed, several hundred injured, many burnt to death, many others crying out in pain from burn wounds and property worth thousands of crores of takas destroyed — all from recent political violence.blockade
We are used to antagonistic, confrontational and destructive politics. We are used to irrational hartals. However, we had never seen such wanton and ferocious killings and burning of our own people. What political motivation can permit throwing firebombs in a running bus carrying ordinary public? (One could understand, however perverted the logic, if those buses were carrying supporters of the opponent party.) What thinking can permit the uprooting of railway tracks so that passengers face death? What logic can permit political activists to kill or put at life’s risk children, some as young as four?
Today we want to clearly say that people of Bangladesh are in the clutches of a cruel opposition and an arrogant ruling party.
The politics that the opposition is indulging is cruel, inhuman and devoid of the minimum concern for public safety. The most important demand of the people is security of life. BNP’s politics is threatening that. It is playing with the lives of the people in every manner imaginable. Public transport is being set on fire so that people die. Trains are being derailed so that people die. Factories are being set on fire so that people die. It is as if people are the enemy.
Can there be any justification for killing children? Except for a perfunctory press statement in which she urged her party workers not harm people’s lives and properties, the leader of the opposition has so far showed no remorse for destroying lives or properties. Even in saying it she tried to blame the government and the ruling party saying that these are works of government or ruling party agents, being done to blame the opposition. Her accusation could have been taken seriously if she accepted responsibility in some cases which was clearly evident from TV footage. This attitude that ‘my party can do no wrong’, which pervades both sides, prevents our leaders from facing the truth and taking corrective actions which may have helped to improve our politics. But the tendency to blame all the wrong on the opponent and claim all the virtues for one’s own is one of the prime reasons for political parties becoming disconnected with the people.
In additions to the deaths, the continuous hartals and aborodhs have destroyed the lives of the poor. Many who are well above the poverty line are coming closer to it, and those just above are, once again, falling under it. Those who were already below it and were looking at some prospect of making progress are now falling further down. RMG owners say that their travel expenses have grown exponentially as no buyer wants to travel to Dhaka anymore. Prospects of FDI, whatever we had, are now being put into the back burner because of the unrest.
If the opposition’s politics is cruel and inhuman, the ruling party’s is both arrogant and irresponsible.
Nothing but arrogance can describe the way the 15th Amendment to the Constitution was enacted. Not only was AL’s own Committee’s report overturned, it was done in such manner and speed that no heed was paid either to the opposition or to the general public, most of whom were opposed to the idea of abolition of the CTG.
In the post-amendment stage and for most of the last two years, a most facile, half-hearted and insincere effort was made to engage the opposition for dialogue. The AL totally underestimated the capacity of the BNP and Jamaat to upset the applecart that the ruling party was designing for its benefit. The AL’s impression was that BNP had neither the organisation nor the cadre to launch any serious agitational programme. Jamaat’s strength, on the other hand, was given some credence but here the thinking was that they will be so cornered by and busy with the war crimes trial that they will be too distracted to mount any effective agitational programme.
This assessment of their opponent’s strength led the AL to make highly irresponsible and damaging decisions that revealed the bankruptcy of its position and strengthened that of the opposition’s.
The combination of opposition’s cruelty and government’s arrogance has brought the country to a near standstill. The threat of further continuous shutdown by the opposition is making the public desperate. People feel helpless and totally frustrated. Children are suffering emotional and psychological damages that we are yet fully to assess.
We have said so before and we say it again. This is not politics. This cannot be democracy. This cannot be for our good. This cannot serve public interest. Hence we need to reject it with all the force at our command. Time has come to raise our collective voice against such politics.

The writer is Editor and Publisher, The Daily Star.