Bangladesh celebrated this year’s victory day in a festive mood with great enthusiasm. Opposition called blockade made the Bangladeshis feel stranded at home. On Victory Day, they came out in the street in huge numbers and took part in the Day’s celebrations.
On the eve of Victory Day, the implementation of notorious war criminal Quader Mollah’s verdict came as a Victory Day, gift. Shahbagh movement, started its journey for the cause of trying the war criminals on the backdrop of countrywide Jamaat-Shibir violence, finally set another example of power of non-violent movement. In the fight between people who ‘live for politics’ and people who ‘live off politics’ , the first group has the upper hand. There is ample evidence in history that in the end those who ‘live for politics’ had the last smile.
Our symbols come into play again. School children assembled world’s largest national flag at national parade ground. At Suhrawardy Uddan, where Pak army surrendered to the joint forces, hundreds of thousands of people sang the national anthem at 4:31 pm, commemorating the surrender moment. At crisis, we embrace our symbols, which keep us united and make us strong.
Since the opposition triggered spell of violent protests started in October, few districts where Jamaat-Shibir hold sway have become death valleys. Religious minorities and ruling party activists are the main victims. The situation in Sathkhira is beyond anyone’s worst nightmare. Gruesome murders of Awami League activists are being reported every single day. In Chittagong, vital economic highways have come under repeated attacks. In its 42 years of existence, Bangladesh has never seen such violence. It seems like someone has just opened the gates of hell.
In this violent protest, civilians have been deliberately targeted. It seems the opposition is following a ‘scorched earth policy’, the term was first used by opposition leaders against the government. Jamaat leaders earlier threatened “to start a civil war” and “ to raze down 56000 square miles if government moves a bit with the war criminal trial”.
BNP has to understand after the Shahbag movement and the violence unleashed by Jamaat-Shibir, its on going movement will not bring any support for its alliance. A large section of the society did not support its stand for a neutral caretaker system. If there had been any public support for BNP’s cause then it would have been translated into peaceful street movement. But that did not happen. Subversion and violent political activities, mostly run by patron-perpetrator relationship, are not mass movement.
Unlike the tone of their political statements, BNP leaders are showing a risk-averse attitude in implementing its own policy. Only two classes of people through two different courses of political action are exhibiting risk loving attitudes in this turbulent time: extremist Jamaat-Shibir cadres and non-violent Shabag protesters.
The opposition’s violent course of action is simply helping the cause of depoliticization. People are fed up, traumatized and more politician phobic than ever before. Two party chiefs, who are not soul mates, could found themselves cell mates if this suffocating situation continues. That will certainly not be a good thing for Bangladesh’s democracy and will only empower the extremist forces.
Should government have any role to play in curbing this violence? Indeed, it should deploy army in violence-prone areas. It will help the aid workers to reach those areas. The government has already deployed troops. Apart from that, it has to understand that this election is not only boycotted by BNP but also by CPB and other small but significant parties.
An election without the participation of so many parties will only call upon the memory of 1975 that discredited AL as a democratic party. It should forsake finally the results of the January 5 elections and engage with all the parties on how to chalk out a long-term power transfer procedure. For the short-term, government can declare emergency for at least six months or one year, which will help to restore law and order and bring back fresh life to the blockade- afflicted economy.
The writer is a free-lance journalist