Are we a democracy? | The Daily Star
12:01 AM, December 31, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:38 AM, March 08, 2015

Are we a democracy?

Are we a democracy?

The sight of a woman lawyer, with loyalties to the BNP, being pounced upon by stick-wielding youths, clearly with allegiances to the Awami League, on the premises of the Supreme Court on Sunday is more than an unedifying sight. It shames us before the world outside our frontiers. If the sanctity of the highest tier of the nation's judiciary can be trampled upon, nothing remains sacrosanct any more in our collective national life.
The spectacle of pro-BNP lawyers and journalists screaming obscenities against the prime minister and hurling brickbats at the police, both on the Supreme Court and the Jatiya Press Club  premises, embarrasses us to no end.
Equally embarrassing is the scene of the lawyers being forced to stay behind the gates of the SC compound by the police, who felt not at all disturbed at spraying coloured, hot water on them. The police would not let the lawyers step out of the SC compound and yet thought it was all right to open the gates for stick-wielding young men to rush in and beat up the lawyers.
That woman on the ground promises to be a defining picture of this country for a very long time.
In this free republic, it is not proper that citizens be forced to alight from buses and trains on their way to the capital and be told that they cannot go further. Yet that was the outrage committed on Sunday. Citizens have been ill-treated at checkpoints, the BNP has been prevented from emerging on the streets.
In contrast, activists of the ruling Awami League had a free rein. They made sure the capital stayed in their grip, stayed confined to the state of siege they had brought to pass. A number of opposition figures are in prison on charges of causing disturbances on the streets. Not a single ruling party man was carted off to jail for causing similar disturbances on the streets on Sunday.
The definition of a criminal offence thus depends on which side of the fence you belong ……………  A pity.
In a sovereign country, the opposition does not choose street agitation over parliamentary deliberations. Politicians who aspire to go to power through democratic means do not decree a blockade of the country and bring life to a screeching halt. Citizens have died in arson; vehicles have been burned to cinders -- in the interest of democracy. How does one explain such criminality?
In a democracy, you may not agree with your opponent. But you certainly do not circumscribe his or her movements. On Sunday and on Monday, the leader of the opposition was stopped from moving out of her residence by hundreds of law enforcers and security personnel.
And yet the general secretary of the ruling party would have the nation know that Khaleda Zia on her own did not wish to leave home for her projected rally. Fine, but why then were all those policemen and Rab personnel gathered at the gate of her residence?
And why were those men of the ruling party carrying lathis, or sticks, as they marched through the city? The Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner has a simple explanation: those were not sticks the men were carrying, but flags. And why were those trucks brimming with sand stationed before the opposition leader's home? No comment.
 None of this is enlightening. All of this pushes us deeper into a hole we the people did not dig.
In this cold winter, warmth in the heart and soul has gone missing.

 

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