It was again another big mess-up by the government. Failing to dissuade the leaders of Hefazat-e-Islam (HI) from withdrawing their long march to Dhaka, the government finally gave it permission to hold a rally at the end of the long march at Shapla Chattar in the commercial hub of the capital, Motijheel. But to counter HI’s programme some 27 civil society and cultural bodies including Ghatak Dalal Nirmul Committee (Nirmul) and Sammilito Sangstrik Jote (Jote) on Thursday announced their 24-hour nationwide hartal between the evenings of Friday and Saturday.
Now let us look at how the Nirmul’s hartal programme was made successful. Too familiar a pattern again became visible. It may be recalled that similar methods were used by the government to foil the BNP-led opposition’s March 12, 2012, rally in Dhaka to realise their demand for installing the system of caretaker government to hold the next parliamentary election. Though the government gave the opposition the permission to hold a rally under strict conditions, it cut off the capital city from the rest of the country by imposing a virtual hartal. The situation across the country on April 6, 2013, was also more or less like what it was on March 12, 2012.
Even a child could understand who was making Nirmul-called hartal successful. Some units of the ruling Awami League and its front bodies like Bangladesh Chhatra League, however, made no secret of their active involvement in the Nirmul’s hartal to resist HI’s long march to Dhaka.
Chittagong Awami League city unit’s president ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury, in particular, vowed to resist JI’s programme if, what he said, it created anarchy. A day before the HI-declared (April 6) long march, Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) even engaged in a bloody clash with HI workers at Kamrangir Char in Dhaka to foil their march. Similar bloody encounters between AL activists and HI’s marchers took place at Sunamganj. As the day dragged on, further incidents of clashes between HI marchers and BCL and AL workers were reported from different parts of the country. On April 6, a Bhanga AL leader was killed in a clash with the long marchers. And in every case, the attackers were reported to be workers of AL and its front organisations.
The question that arises is: Are the ruling party AL and the government it leads at variance with each other? Otherwise, how could the government’s final position on the HI’s programme came into conflict with that of the party’s different units and the front organisations? Has then the central command of the ruling AL lost control over different party units and front organisations? And what message does this convey to the people at large about the government’s principles and moral position on the issue?
If, on principle, the government was against the HI’s demands and the proposed long march, why didn’t it stick to its gun from the very beginning and say no to their demands as well as the long march declared by HI? A party like AL, that takes pride in its legacy of struggles against autocrats for democracy and to realise people’s rights need not be told that no movement succeeds unless that is based on principle. And once at the helm of affairs, the real challenge of how far the party in question is able to live up to its professed ideals and principles come to the fore. But in it its latest dealings with the HI it could hardly live up to that challenge.
For, failing to act on principle, the government shilly-shallied over HI’s demands all through out. The government did not behave any differently even when it agreed to meet HI’s demands to punish what they termed ‘atheist’ bloggers. And finally, the mess-up. The government allowed HI to hold its rally in Dhaka all the same, but failed to win its trust, or gain anything from it in exchange for the allowance. This does not speak well for a government that came to power with a huge public mandate.
Next, the post-HI rally reactions of the ministers. The Home Minister MK Alamgir thanked HI for holding their programme peacefully and then said that the government would consider its demands with importance. But the Information minister Hasanul Haq Inu, in his interview with the BBC at its Sanglap programme dismissed the possibility of the government’s considering HI’s demand to award death punishment to a person alleged to have blasphemed. Are the home and information ministers representing the same government? And if so, who is reflecting the government’s actual position and telling the truth?
It is all symptomatic of a government that has no control whatsoever of what it says or does. At the same time, it is also dangerous, especially when the incumbent is left with a few more months in office. Forces out there to fish in the troubled waters are lying in wait.
The writer is Editor Science & Life, The Daily Star.
E-mail: [email protected]