Attack on CPB rally neither unprecedented nor isolated
THE attack on the Communist Party of Bangladesh rally in Sylhet city on Sunday by some 150 activists of the Bangladesh Chhatra League and the Juba League, student and youth fronts respectively of the ruling Awami League, which, according to a report published in New Age on Monday, left at least 30 people, including CPB president Mujahidul Islam Selim, injured, is noteworthy for more reasons than one. First of all, it indicates that the incumbents, even at the fag-end of their tenure, remain hostile as ever to any expression of displeasure and dissent with their actions and attitude, policies and performance, regardless of who the dissenters or critics are — long-time political foes, e.g. the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, or long-time political friends, e.g. the Communist Party of Bangladesh. Ever since the AL-led government assumed office in January 2009, the incumbents have appeared increasingly autocratic in their dealings with divergent views and dissenting voices in the political arena and in society at large. To this end, they have defied constitutional and legal constraints even. There are instances galore of them either abusing the law through its distorted application (e.g. imposition of Section 144 on the pretext of potential threat to public safety and security) or violating it outright (e.g. attacks by leaders and activists of the ruling party and its front organisations) to disrupt and/or foil protest rallies, processions and even human chains.
Secondly, the Communist Party may not be a component of the AL-led ruling alliance and may have been critical of some of the actions and policies of the incumbent administration but has seldom extended overt support to the BNP-led opposition camp. Moreover, it has traditionally maintained good relations with the Awami League. Still, this is not the first time that the party was subjected to attack by people in AL ranks. It is worth noting that a procession by the Bangladesh Student Union, student front of the Communist Party, against the US aggression in Vietnam was fired upon on January 1, 1973 during the tenure of the then AL government; at least two persons were killed. In recent times, on February 1, 2000, a state minister of the then AL government publicly assaulted Selim, then general secretary of the Communist Party, while the latter was leading a demonstration against the government in the capital.
Be that as it may, the role played by the law enforcers during the incident was as questionable as ever. According to eyewitnesses, the police and the Rapid Action Battalion looked on as the Chhatra League and Juba League men attacked the rally for the first time although they were stationed 30-40 yards off the dais. They did, however, fired rubber bullets when the attackers launched a second attack on the rally. While the central leadership of the Chhatra League dissolved its Sylhet committee soon after the incident, it could very well be mere eyewash; after all, on many such occasions, even after dissolution of a BCL committee or expulsion of a BCL member, the ‘punished’ leaders and activists continued to have the blessing of the party and its central leadership. Most importantly, such incidents have seldom led to any legal action whereby the perpetrators were prosecuted and punished.
Although the CPB president has said that he ‘will think Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ordered the attack’ if ‘the attackers are not arrested immediately’, his tough words are unlikely to have any effect. What the party needs to do is to actively mobilise public opinion so as to bring the pressure on the incumbents to check their autocratic impulses and rein in the troublemakers in their ranks.
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