IN the wake of the sensational seven murders in Narayangonj and facts unfolding thereafter, many well-meaning citizens and victims of crime in our country may be wondering about the unpalatable but stable relationship of some of our politicians with the bullies and rogue elements of the society. In the fitness of things, the dynamics of such a liaison and the sordid dimension of the transaction need to be studied as the necessity to cleanse our public life brooks no further delay. Admittedly, there is an urgency to understand the causative factors of such a pernicious scenario.
To recall, political activities, partly on account of historical factors, have assumed a dominant agitational character. Over the years, since after liberation and more particularly during the anti-autocracy movement in the eighties, leading to the fall of the military dictatorial regime in December 1990, political protests demanded crude physical courage from the field level activists of the political movement. As the dictatorial regime primarily depended on brute power and looked towards non-political quarters for its sustenance, it did not bother about the excessive use of force by the state apparatus. It had no qualms in utilising dangerous goons to intimidate and if necessary liquidate political party workers and leaders.
A section of the law enforcement personnel, sadly turned out to be a willing partner in such patently illegal acts.
All in all, the political scenario became so desperate and menacing that only the very physically brave and intensely committed workers could dare to take to the streets to face the insensitive actions of a despotic government nearly bordering on megalomania.
Although the above modus operandi did not succeed in quelling the political movement, it left a deep scar and doubt on the bona fides and propriety of accepted political protests of a constitutional democracy. The sad and bitter memory left behind was one of a government or authority that did not care a bit about legality and civility, and the anaesthetising conviction that organised violent counter-action with readiness to sacrifice life and property, was the only alternative to effect political change.
It does not take a discerning observer of the socio-political scene to be convinced that under circumstances as narrated before, it is quite difficult for the saner and more sensible elements of the young population to join movements for social change. Since nature abhors a vacuum, it is only natural that vacancies resulting from the unwillingness of the desired lot are automatically filled in by the ill-motivated desperados. The situation turns vicious and the training ground for constitutional politics witnesses detestable wheeling-dealing. Brawn takes precedence over brain in the formative years. No wonder, therefore, that our national level politics has been afflicted by this syndrome.
Coming to specifics, one may dare say without fear of contradiction that gone are the days when a potential student leader was mostly one of the top-notchers intellectually and was credited for high moral standards. He was honourably different and could draw respect and admiration. We now see student leaders who are more known for their knowledge and application of the use and misuse of fire arms and are adept at negotiation delicacies of tendering process and maintaining liaison with shady non-students. There is virtually no effort to discourage such immoral practices and in course of time these tainted youngsters turn into promoter-distributors of illegal favours and mature as politicians.
It is curious to note that some labour leaders and transport owners relish the reality that they can bring the government to its knees and are never found wanting in flexing their muscles, howsoever detrimental that could be to public interests. There is thus an unseemly scramble for leadership in the transport sector and there is preponderance of doubtful persons in transport operations. On account of its leverage in terms of money and organised manpower with impact on mainstream political and economic activities, some politicians have resorted to unethical and irregular practices to retain control here. The politician-goon connection is perhaps at its peak in this area.
It is now generally accepted that the election-oriented political culture provides incentive to illegal practices. During elections, large amounts of unaccounted money come into circulation, and it has not been possible to effectively halt that.
A large chunk of such money is spent for the musclemen or thugs for whom election time is booming business. Such thugs are required for activities like intimidation of voters, particularly the vulnerable ones, deactivating polling agents, creating tension near election centres to discourage voters from turning out, directly or indirectly keeping the polling booth under control, etc. There is never a dearth of miscreants for committing such mischief because requisition or demand is there, and as such, supply remains steady on account of ready cash and quick payment.
In Bangladesh, we need to attract educated and honest people to the political mainstream. In our situation only the bold and strong political leaders can take determined steps that may catapult the educated and honest people out of their somnolence and inertia and inspire them to join the political arena. Time has come for a qualitative change for steering public life.
The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star.