Society needs to raise voice against political violence
THE facts and figures are frightening, to say the least. According to the human rights watchdog Ain O Salish Kendra, as quoted in New Age on Sunday, at least 258 people were killed in political violence in the first six months of the year whereas the total was 84 for the whole of last year. Another human rights organisation Odhikar puts the figure at 322, the highest in a six-month period since 2006. In August alone, 18 persons were killed. The frightening facts and figures point to increasing criminalisation of politics, say experts, perhaps rightly; after all, killings in political violence seem to have become a regular feature over the years, through different governments. Still, as the Ain O Salish Kendra figures and a few recent incidents indicate, the frequency and ferocity of killing in political violence may have intensified in the final years of the incumbent Awami League-led government’s tenure. More importantly, the ruling party and its front organisations seem to have been involved in almost all these killings resulting from inter- and intra-party violence. An explanation for such a conclusion certainly is in order.
The recent killings in political violence seem to fall under two general categories. In the first category belong those resulting from the crude power struggle between the ruling party and the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the partners of the alliance that it leads. It is worth noting that, in most such cases, the violence in question has generally been triggered by the apparent intent of the ruling party or its front organisations to dominate their political opponents in, or drive them away from, educational and many other institutions. Such impulses are decidedly undemocratic and even run counter to the pre-2008 general elections pledge of the ruling party that ‘courtesy and tolerance will be inculcated in the political culture of the country.’
In the second category fall those killings that stem from internecine conflicts within the ruling party and its front organisations, especially the Bangladesh Chhatra League, its students’ wing, and also the Juba League, its youth front. In fact, in the past few days and weeks, several leaders and activists of the Chhatra League and Juba League have been killed in what appear to be intra-party squabbles over the control of extortion, rent-seeking, tender manipulation, admission business, etc. In fact, on Saturday, a local unit leader of the Juba League was hacked to death at Pallabi in the capital Dhaka, apparently as a sequel to intra-party enmity over garment waste business. One of the most sensational murders in recent times, that of Juba League leader Reazul Haque Khan Milky at Gulshan in the capital on July 30, is also believed to be a result of internecine conflict. It is worth noting here that, despite sporadic issuances of warnings by key functionaries, including the prime minister and AL president, neither the government nor the ruling party appears to have undertaken any effective steps to rein in the troublemakers within the ruling camp. Hardly anyone has been credibly prosecuted and punished for such offences.
If what experts say is true, the incidence of killing in inter- and intra-party political violence is highly likely to increase. Given the government’s lacklustre track record in this regard, any effective steps to curb such violence or prevent such killings regrettably look quite unlikely. It is thus imperative for the conscious sections of society to raise their voice, mobilise public opinion and sustain pressure on the incumbents to take pre-emptive and preventive measures, to contain such orgy of killing or getting killed.
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