The immorality of it all
Two lives have been lost, assets worth millions destroyed, hundreds of millions of productive hours lost, thousands arrested and the whole country is experiencing a tense situation. All this is for what? For whose benefit? To what end?
Let us spend a minute to examine the tragic case of Bishwajit.
As reported in most papers, he was an uninvolved bystander who was suspected by Chhatra League cadres as a Shibir activist and supporter of Sunday's road blockade programme by the opposition. They swooped on him, chased him to a first floor shop, beat him and stabbed him. He then ran down to the street while being chased and beaten, and then finally died without getting any emergency treatment at Mitford Hospital, where he was able to reach all by himself.
The most obvious question is what right do the BCL cadres, or anybody for that matter, have in attacking anybody? Is it a crime to belong to the opposition that ruling party activists will feel that they have a right to attack and even kill? Will AL please answer as to what sort of a mindset is it implanting in its young members that they feel empowered to beat someone to death just because he or she belongs to an opposing camp? Is this the democracy that the prime minister never tires of telling us that she is fighting for?
Isn't the government of the day fully responsible to ensure the life and property of all citizens, including those who belong to the opposition? Or are we going into a culture where dissenters have no rights.
Contrarily, we must also state with equal force and repugnance that the opposition does not have the right to kill, burn, destroy and create mayhem in exercising their democratic right to dissent. The deliberate attack on on-duty police, burning of both private and public vehicles and other violent activities indulged in by BNP and Jamaat cadres that we have seen in the last few days cannot be accepted under any norm of opposition protest.
The tragedy of Bishwajit was that he was just a citizen and not a partisan cadre. As a citizen there were none to mourn his death save his family. If he was a ruling party cadre, by now a whole hoard of people would have been rounded up and the country would have seen no end to condemnation of the brutality. If, on the contrary, he belonged to the opposition, then also there would have been a huge funeral procession -- the whole episode being used for relentless condemnation of the government. The shameful farce enacted around his death is exemplified by a statement by the home minister yesterday morning that eight persons have been arrested with the police saying, around noon, that none were arrested, even though the names and pictures of the killers have been published in many newspapers, including this one, and video footage of the incident has been telecast by most TV channels. Yet, the police are investigating the veracity of the incident and â€œlookingâ€ for the culprits.
In contrast, we have a hyperactive administration that arrested the acting secretary general of BNP for his alleged involvement in setting fire to a garbage truck of Dhaka City Corporation. Allegation was made by the driver and the police felt certain enough to arrest him without â€œinvestigatingâ€ as it finds it necessary to catch the killers of Bishwajit.
Each day we witness further deterioration of law and order, not only in the hands of those who are calling for the strife but also in the hands of those who are trying to control it. The mindless burning of buses, trucks, cars, and the street fights that we have come to term as â€œmovementâ€ has lost all moral underpinning.
The calls for hartals and all sorts of boycott and street agitation and even the violent clashes that crippled the country during the autocratic rule of Gen Ershad and caused its demise had a strong moral underpinning as it was for the sake of restoring democracy and representative government.
What is it for today? Governments are duly elected and are no longer an extension of the military. Just because the opposition rejected the polls results -- all our opposition parties have rejected polls results since 1991 -- it does not entitle them to try an overthrow of an elected government. However, one may feel about the government of the day -- and there are numerous reasons to feel outraged and disillusioned -- nobody has the right, in the name of protest, to hold the whole society hostage, create violence, destroy property and strike fear in the hearts and minds of ordinary citizens.
Is this hartal for the rights of ordinary citizens? If so, then what about the rights of the day labourers to feed their own families, of the rickshaw pullers to earn their daily income, of small shop owners to eek out a meagre existence? And what about the rights of the not so poor but ordinary law abiding citizens to go about their personal affairs, work and business?
Most crucially, what about the â€œright to lifeâ€ of the critically ill who risk death because they cannot avail medical treatment during emergency.
The truth is today's politics is totally devoid of any moral underpinning and nothing more than a naked power game, with each side finding it acceptable to do anything to overthrow the other. With each passing day the law is flouted by one side to suit its game and bent by the other to suit the contrary.