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Govt must stop state violence to contain opposition’s violent reaction

EVEN before the completion of the elections to the tenth Jatiya Sangsad, with results of eight constituencies pending as voting in 597 polling stations was suspended on January 5, let alone oath-taking by members of the tenth Jatiya Sangsad and the formation of the next government, there seem to be ample indications that the Awami League-led governing political elite have chosen to take the state down the path of autocracy. According to a report published in New Age on Wednesday, the detective police on Tuesday detained four leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, including its chairperson’s adviser and vice-chairperson, as wholesale arrests of opposition leaders and activists continued in the capital Dhaka and elsewhere in the country. The same day, according to another New Age report also published on Wednesday, two ministers of the so-called ‘all-party interim government’ declared that the new AL government would go tough on violence by the opposition. These developments are indeed disturbing but not quite surprising; after all, the prime minister spelt out Monday and also on Tuesday that the incoming administration would deal with the opposition with an ‘iron hand.’
It goes without saying that the increasingly repressive attitude and actions of the incumbents leave the opposition to choose between the devil and the deep sea; they can either persist with their protests in rejection of the farcical January 5 general elections and the consequent national parliament, which lacks political legitimacy, and thus face sustained repression, or give in to whims and wishes of the incumbents. As the incumbents continue with the employment of legal and extra-legal measures to squeeze the opposition’s political space for democratic dissent, the latter has been practically forced to resort to retaliatory violence. Simply put, the violence by the opposition that the incumbents so enthusiastically refer to, in a bid to justify their tough talks and actions, is essentially a reaction to state violence. If the incumbents carry on with their strong-arm tactics, such retaliatory violence is only likely to increase and result in further loss of lives and property. In all likelihood, thus, the country and the people may be staring at a prolonged period of social disorder, which could eventually lead to disastrous consequences.
The incumbents need to realise that if the situation comes to such a pass, people at large will ultimately blame them for having endangered their safety and security no matter how hard they try to pass the buck on to the opposition. There already seems to be considerable displeasure among a vast majority of the people with the ruling alliance for having denied them their fundamental rights to exercise adult franchise. They may have grudgingly ignored such insolence in the hope that the incumbents would initiate a process to peacefully resolve the ongoing political crisis through dialogues. Hence, the incumbents would do better to rein in their autocratic impulses and actions, stop legal and extra-legal persecution of the opposition and sincerely try to engage positively with the opposition.

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