Attacks on BNP a worrying sign for the future
We're quite alarmed by what appear to be well-coordinated attacks on the ongoing countrywide BNP programmes that started on August 22 protesting against the hikes in prices of fuel and other essentials and the killings of two of its leaders in Bhola. The attacks continued on Sunday, concluding a tumultuous week of fiercely resisted opposition politics. Over the past seven days, ruling party men attacked BNP rallies in multiple districts and also allegedly vandalised local party offices and homes of BNP leaders. At least 62 people were reportedly injured on Saturday, and at least 169 the day before. From the systematic pattern of attacks, with the help of police in many cases, the intention seems to be to create fear in the opposition camp.
Unsurprisingly, a large number of BNP leaders also found themselves at the business end of cases slapped after the attacks, along with over a thousand "unnamed" BNP men – a classic prescription to allow for certain names to be added later to the list. The official narrative is also familiar: opposition activists "tried to bar AL processions" and threw brick bats at the police causing them to fire a few rounds. It is as if BNP intentionally provoked ruling party men and police to sabotage its own programmes!
The images of opposition activists being mercilessly attacked by ruling party men using sharp weapons ominously predict the kind of violence that awaits us as the national election draws closer.
Unfortunately, these attacks are taking place despite the prime minister publicly stating that the opposition should be allowed to protest and should not be harassed. She even said: "If they want to surround the Prime Minister's Office, I will let them." After the attacks, does this mean that the AL grassroots workers and police have chosen to defy the PM's directives, or is it because they believe no action will be taken against them even if they do so?
The Election Commission, too, claimed that it will do everything to ensure a free and fair election, although we know only too well that precious little has been achieved through the recent series of dialogues with various parties. The reality, therefore, is rather bleak. The idea of that oft-repeated platitude – "a level playing field" for all political parties – has become quite laughable in the current context, with the ruling party adopting the old strategy of total domination in the field through intimidation and violence. Knowing they enjoy endless impunity, ruling party cadres are carrying out this strategy with full force. So why this pretence of ensuring a free and fair environment for opposition parties? Why the farce by the EC of holding dialogues with them when there was no intention of listening to any of their demands?
The images of opposition activists being mercilessly attacked by ruling party men using sharp weapons ominously predict the kind of violence that awaits us as the national election draws closer. Will the government just sit by while ruling party men continue to establish a reign of terror that not only intimidates the opposition but also creates panic and fear among the general public?