Politics in Bangladesh seems to have been possessed by the devil of late.
It looks as though both Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia have lost their grip on the goings-on. The two, who have ruled the 42-year-old country for 20 years, have rendered our democracy demo-crazy. Politics is no longer for the welfare of the people.
Sheikh Hasina, as the prime minister, has failed to protect people and their properties. And Khaleda Zia, as the leader of the opposition, has failed to stop her movement for a caretaker government from resorting to what one can perhaps call acts of terrorism.
The country today is teetering on the brink of a disaster over a contest for power, and only politicians -- both in the ruling and the opposition parties -- are to be blamed for this. The people have neither created this problem nor can they solve it. So, why should they be forced to pay for it?
Khaleda is also a partner in the recent crimes committed by the Jamaat-e-Islami, which unleashed targeted terror attacks on police, public properties, and people, Hindus to be precise, over the war crimes trials. The Jamaat was found most violent during the BNP-called political programmes.
A visit to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital where the air is thick with groans and outrage of the burn victims and their families begs the question: what is this politics for?
Forty-seven people have been killed, 20 of them from burns, and 364 injured since last month -- all having nothing to do with politics. Most of them had no choice but to come out on the streets for a living.
What the BNP-led opposition is doing in the name of politics is downright a crime, and the media coverage every day for over a month now is a testament to it.
Never before have so many people been a target of senseless political violence. Just recall a few incidents. Kids travelling with parents, patients, daily-earners, students and office-goers -- none was spared.
And what was their fault? They ventured out either for a living or for an emergency. They had to risk their lives, no matter what the politics called for that day, be it hartal or blockade. Needless to say, there is no guarantee of returning home safely also on the day before hartal or blockade. These days, the opposition parties feel people need a lethal reminder of their programmes the next day.
Look at the ruthless manner in which the attacks were carried out on people who have no control over politics. It is as if cold-blooded murderers are on the prowl.
The 14-year-old Monir was waiting early last month inside a parked supply van for his father, who had gone up to see if the Gazipur road ahead was free of trouble. Hartal pickets appeared from nowhere to set the vehicle alight, leaving the boy charred beyond recognition. He died after three long days of agony at the DMCH burn unit.
A crude bomb was blasted on the head of a woman, who, before her death a couple of days later, had worked as a cook at different offices in Karwan Bazar.
A parked bus in Demra was set afire with the helper sleeping inside. With burns on 90 percent of his body, the young boy clung to life for a few hours in pain so excruciating that no one could ever survive to describe.
Then a bus crammed full of passengers was set ablaze at the capital's Shahbagh. Some arsonists posing as passengers boarded the bus and sprayed it with gunpowder. Before they got down, they threw a petrol bomb inside the vehicle. Like a band of steely professional killers, they ensured the blaze engulfed the bus fast and casualties were high. Four have died and 14 others are still fighting for life.
Adam Ali, security guard of a Narayanganj factory, was desperate to go home in Sirajganj during the blockade last week to visit his ailing father and father-in-law. Coincidentally, his company's covered van was also going there on an emergency. With his wife and three children, he boarded the vehicle, which came under a petrol bomb attack in Gazipur by activists of Islami Chhatra Shibir.
"I have three kids with me. Please don't kill us." His pleas to the predators went in vain. Adam along with two kids survived only to mourn his wife and seven-year-old daughter.
Some 250 attacks on people were reported in the last six weeks -- all carried out to ensure death.
Trains were made to derail at least nine times during this time. Fortunately, the death toll is four so far, but it could shoot up any day.
Despite all this, no apologies came from the politicians. To them, public properties are meant to be plundered. And who cares about people's lives? At least, not the politicians! They do condemn violence but only to blame it on the rival parties.
Those who are dead or injured in these attacks will never get justice. Cases in this regard will eventually be treated as politically motivated ones and dismissed in the end, just like the way the bus-arson case of 2004 when 11 passengers were burnt to death with the Awami League in opposition then. They are aware of the sad reality that even the law cannot overcome the twisted narrative of politics to ensure justice. And the culture of impunity for the culprits -- either politicians or those hired by politicians -- goes on.
"The blood of my son is on the hands of politicians."
"Why does not a single politician become a victim of arson?"
"Swear upon God, I will burn the houses of politicians. I will then set myself alight along with my family in Shahbagh."
This was how the family members of some arson victims fumed.
They are, however, still law-abiding. But how long will they continue to be so? Won't there come a time when some among the silent masses will hiss, “Enough is enough … we will now take care of ourselves”?
What will happen should some of the furious few decide to settle scores?
We will head for total lawlessness if the politicians continue to stay heedless of the anger simmering within the people. They must wake up before the people rise up against them.