Sadly familiar manifestation of govt’s tyrannical tendencies
THE police attack on leaders and activists of the Democratic Left Alliance, a combine of seven left-leaning political parties, as they tried to break through roadblocks and march towards the secretariat on Sunday, to lay siege to the energy ministry in protest at the Awami League-led government’s plan to increase the prices of electricity, gas and fuel, is hardly surprising but intriguing nonetheless. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Monday, the police charged at the protesters with truncheons and fired teargas shells, leaving at least 20 people injured, when the protesters removed some of the barricades to east of the National Press Club. In response to the police excesses, the alliance has decided to stage countrywide demonstrations.
It is not the first time that the police swooped on rallies or processions against one government decision or the other. It is also not the first time that the law enforcers charged at demonstrators with truncheons, or fired teargas shells against them, for protesting against increases in energy prices. In fact, the incumbents have consistently employed the law enforcers as a tool to pre-empt or foil any kind of protest against the government’s actions and policies. It is pertinent to recall here that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led opposition alliance was not even allowed to form human chains, possibly the most innocuous of political programmes, in the capital Dhaka not long ago. The least said about the police excesses and atrocities particularly during the opposition alliance’s hartal (general strikes), often in tandem with activists of the ruling party’s front organisations, the better.
However, what is intriguing about the police action Sunday is that it came less than two weeks after the Democratic Left Alliance, along with the Communist Party of Bangladesh and the Socialist Party of Bangladesh, had observed a dawn-to-dusk countrywide general strike on December 18, during which the law enforcers not only allowed sit-ins in key crossings in the capital but also helped enforce the hartal by restrict traffic movement at different places. Moreover, the home minister even thanked the pickets then for a ‘peaceful general strike’ and said ‘the police helped the pickets instead of stopping them’ because the political programme ‘was peaceful’.
This time around, the home minister might try to justify the police action, arguing that the protesters of the Democratic Left Alliance were not so peaceful and that they tried to break through barricades put up by the law enforcers for the sake of peace and order. However, it is quite obvious why incumbents’ attitude towards the alliance suddenly undergone such a drastic change — two of the alliance’s demands on December 18, i.e. expeditious trial of war crimes and ban on religion-based political parties, did essentially converge with the former’s political tact but its demand on Sunday did not. On the whole, through the police attack on the alliance leaders and activists, the incumbents tend to have once again betrayed their tyrannical tendencies on the one hand and downright disregard for democratic principles and norms on the other.
Such intolerance of divergent views and dissidence on the incumbents’ part could very well make one wonder if it is, after all, foolhardy to expect of them any significant contribution to the democratisation of society and the state. It is imperative, therefore, for the democratically oriented and rights conscious sections of society to raise their voice and sustain pressure on the incumbents so that they refrain from perpetrating such undemocratic actions.
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