Talks, not force, hold solution
Many grassroots Awami League leaders want an effective dialogue with the BNP for the political turmoil to end, as they think administrative measures alone cannot resolve the crisis.
Frustrated and exhausted by the nonstop agitation and the government crackdown, many local BNP leaders on the other hand are venting grievances about the manner of the 20-party alliance's agitation.
They think violent agitation will not yield the desired result because it has already lost people's support. They now want programmes engaging the public.
Grassroots leaders of the two parties have shared these views with The Daily Star over the past few days. Clearly, their take on the prevailing situation and the way out is in complete contrast to those of their party top brass.
With violence escalating and the crisis deepening, the government and top AL leaders refuse to hold talks with the BNP, which wants the government to step down to make way for a fresh election under a nonparty administration.
To press home its demands, Khaleda Zia's BNP and its allies have been enforcing a nonstop blockade since January 6 and are showing no sign of backing off. The agitation has turned deadly, with about 70 already killed.
BREAKING THE DEADLOCK
This newspaper has spoken to 30 grassroots leaders of the ruling party, and most of them are in favour of talks.
Some, however, support the rigid stance of the party and government high-ups while several others declined to comment.
"Administrative measures alone cannot stop the ongoing violence. Political initiatives are also needed to break the deadlock," said Afzalul Karim, general secretary of Barisal city AL.
He said police were using authorised weapons to contain violence, but miscreants were using illegal arms to destablise the country.
Mainuddin Mondal, president of Chapainawabganj district AL, supports Karim's view on curbing violence.
"The way criminals are carrying out ambush, the administration may not be able to stop it…. If dialogue could bring peace, that would be good,” he added.
Abdur Rahman, president of Feni district AL, also favours a fruitful discussion while Matiur Rahman, acting president of Sunamganj district AL, highlighted people's sufferings due to the impasse.
"People care little about which party is in power. They want peace and security," Matiur said. "Every day people want to know when they will get relief.”
For him, talks can solve it all.
Abul Basher, president of Ramna Thana unit AL, agrees. “Discussions will bring solution to the political crisis in a short time.”
But Afzalul, Bashar and Matiur held the BNP responsible for the violence and said the BNP must stop it for the dialogue to start.
Some local leaders in Nilphamari, Khulna and Jessore also prefer talks. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
But Zafar Ali, general secretary of Kurigram district AL, SM Jaglul Haidar, president of Shyamnagar upazila AL of Satkhira and also a lawmaker, Zahedul Alam, general secretary of Khagrachhari district AL, and Azizur Rahman, general secretary of Jhenidah district AL, oppose the idea of dialogue.
"If the government agrees to sit with the BNP, every other political party will resort to violence to have its demands met in future," says Zahedul.
Anol Kumar Dey of Shariatpur supported his view, but said there could be talks if violence stopped.
Contacted for his reaction, Kazi Zafarullah, an AL presidium member, said grassroots leaders echoed the views of the party central leaders.
"Dialogue is just one way of resolving the crisis, but not a mandatory means,” he added.
'LEADERS DON'T UNDERSTAND'
Most of the 20 grassroots BNP leaders this paper has spoken to have said the party high command seems oblivious to the condition of the local leaders and activists who are finding it difficult to continue the agitation. Many are on the run to avoid arrest.
“The party high-ups have instructed us to carry on the movement till our demand is met. But the reality is different in grassroots. They [high command] are not aware of the hurdles we are facing,” said Nazrul Islam Manju, president of Khulna city BNP.
Mahbub Hossain Piaru, president of Sonadanga Thana Jubo Dal unit in Khulna and also a member of the city BNP, expressed his frustration.
"The party top brass hasn't been able to give us any hope so far about the success of the movement. How more days will it continue?” he said.
Sohrab Uddin, general secretary of Kushtia district BNP, said most of the leaders and activists have been arrested over the last one month while the rest are on the run.
"In this situation, we find it really hard to mobilise our men,” he added.
Preferring to remain unnamed, a Bagerhat BNP leader said, "We're really tired of staying in hideout, away from our families. But our central leaders don't seem to understand this.”
Asked, Salahuddin Ahmed, BNP spokesperson and also a joint secretary general, said: “We've instructed all our men to cross this thorny roads with thunder-strong determination and to face the situation with patience and responsibility… to ensure victory of the people's movement.”