Bid to occupy BNP office & cops' role
The BNP deserves better than the way it was treated by police on Saturday when a group of people under the banner of a so-called "real BNP" marched towards the opposition party's central office with an ulterior motive to occupy it.
It is a legal entity since it has obtained registration as a parliamentary party with the Election Commission in 2008. Therefore, the police must protect the BNP's office by thwarting any move by intruders to occupy it. And as a law enforcement agency, it needs to do so to honour the law.
On Saturday, the police unfortunately refrained from doing so. A group of activists of Jatiyatabadi Chhatara Dal (JCD) and Jubo Dal foiled the move by the "real BNP" men to occupy the office. They chased them, sparking a clash.
Even photographs published in newspapers show some policemen watching the incident of activists of both sides beating one another with sticks. They almost played the role of bystanders, limiting their actions to only firing some blank gunshots during one stage of the clash that left 10 injured from both sides.
Quite predictably, Anwar Hossain, deputy commissioner of Motijheel Division of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, tried to justify law enforcers' non-action later. In so doing, he made some hilarious remarks: "It's their [BNP] internal matter. Police did not interfere in it."
His remarks raised a few crucial questions: do people of an organisation or a political party have unfettered freedom to do whatever they like, including waging violence among themselves? And if they do so, can the police play the role of bystanders with an excuse that it is an internal matter of the rioting people? Don't they have any other role to maintain order?
Of course, police have roles to enforce the law everywhere to maintain order. And everyone must behave properly within or outside their political organisation, and even in their homes. Law enforcers have every power to interfere when there is any disorderly behaviour or violent incident threatening the law and order situation.
They must not forget that Saturday's clash took place on the streets, hampering people's safety and free movement of vehicles.
They did not even file any case over the incident. In defence, Tofail Ahmed, OC (investigation) of Paltan Police Station, yesterday said that nobody had come to file any case and that law enforcers would not file any case on their own.
In the past, police, however, have taken actions against BNP men who were locked in intra-party clashes.
Take, for example, the clash between two factions of the JCD in 2014.
In October 2014, police filed a case over the fight at the BNP headquarters in Dhaka for the formation of a new committee of the party's student affiliate.
Paltan Police Station Sub-Inspector Wahidur Rahman lodged the case on October 19.
Some 90 unnamed people were accused in the case of vandalism, bombing and obstruction to police duty.
Paltan police's OC Morshed Alam then said, “Charges of gathering without permission, road blockade, crude bomb explosion, involvement in clash wielding sticks and obstruction to police duty have been levelled against them in the case.”
In July the same year, Kotwali Police Station arrested in a drive Belal Ahmed, president of a JCD ward unit, in connection with cases filed over a clash between two rival groups of the JCD in Mirboxtula of the capital.
But this time around, police intentionally refrained from taking any action. By doing so, they neglected their sacred duty to enforce law and order. So, whatever the police high-ups said to justify this non-action does not hold water.
Their role questioned their neutrality and professionalism once again. It also called into question whether the government supports the move to split its political archrival BNP.
The DMP yesterday announced that it would allow neither the BNP nor the ruling Awami League to hold rallies at Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka tomorrow to mark the anniversary of January 5 parliamentary election.
The way police are planning to impose a ban on holding rallies questioned the AL's motive. The party applied to the police for permission on Saturday to counter a rally planned by its rival BNP that had sought permission a few days ago.
All signs suggest the police will not allow the BNP to take to the streets on January 5, let alone holding any rally.
The last time these two rival parties called for holding programmes to mark the election anniversary with contrasting views, there were three months of violence and deaths of over 100 people.
BNP leaders, however, said they would not go for any strong agitation if police did not allow them to hold any rally. This shows maturity of BNP's politics which is most likely to be seen as a weakness. The BNP deserves a space for its political activities in a peaceful manner. Now, it is the government's turn to play its due role to uphold democracy.