– JOY BANGLA –
The constitution makes people the possessors of the state power. But in reality, people are powerless; helpless. The perverted political culture does not allow people to become the real possessors of state power. Therefore, wrongdoers now act like masters while the real masters have been made servants. It is not a failure of the constitution; rather it is the failure of politicians, who have become the so-called representatives of people and hardly exercise any authority on behalf of the mass people.
The scenario takes a different look only when mass people get united. The roaring voices of the mass shake the very base of the so-called elected government and public representatives. The thunderous voices upset all political game developing behind the scene. There is nothing more beautiful than people getting united and raising their fists together; the united strength is no less than any weapon. No power can subdue such strength. One may think this is why the constitution unequivocally announces that the power of the Republic is in its people’s hands. The constitution itself in the preamble speak of the people’s struggle — “We, the people of Bangladesh, having proclaimed our independence on the 26th day of March, 1971 and through a historic struggle for national liberation, established the independent, sovereign People’s Republic of Bangladesh.”
People’s voice sometimes keep getting louder until the roaring hits the deaf ears of the establishment. The unprecedented rise of youths has proved the strength of people once again. It has re-established the truth that people are the real source of power.
What prompted the youths to take to the streets initially at Shahbag intersection and later elsewhere across the country? Their sentiment and emotions were hurt following a court ruling. Hours after the International Crimes Tribunal-2 sentenced Quader Mollah to life imprisonment on Tuesday, a group of bloggers and online activists started demonstrating at the Shahbagh intersection demanding capital punishment to all notorious war criminals. Hundreds of people from all walks of life thronged Shahbagh on Tuesday night to join them. The gathering turned into a human sea on Friday with tens of thousands of people demanding the hanging of Mollah.
The youths led the unprecedented protests in the recent history. The protest has forced the government to bring amendments to the International Crimes Tribunal Act even by allowing people to challenge the tribunals’ order with the Appellate Division. The protest has sent the obvious message that no politics, no secret negotiation, no compromise or no concession can be allowed regarding the trial of war criminals.
There are many more lessons politicians may learn from the unprecedented protest. While talking to The Daily Star, Communications Minister Obaidul Quader rightly says the youths have given their message loud and clear. “They have expressed no-confidence in the prevailing ill politics. As politicians we have a lot to learn from this. The movement will inspire a qualitative change in the country’s politics.” BNP Vice-Chairman Hafizuddin Ahmed in a BBC Sanglap on Sunday said the youth-led movement will definitely have an impact on the country’s politics. “Every government will have to carry out the trial of war criminals.”
In its first formal reaction, the BNP on Monday night came up with a statement which said it had all along been giving positive statements about the emotion and enthusiasm of the youths demanding trial of the war crimes accused. In view of BNP, the protesters’ demand “might have” some grounds, but it would have been “more meaningful” had the youths included in their agenda issues, restoration of caretaker government system, graft in Padma bridge project and other corruption and border killings.
To the BNP, the trial of war criminals is not more important than the issue of restoring election time caretaker government. In the prevailing electoral politics, BNP is unable to de-link relations with anti-liberation force Jamaat-e-Islami. BNP wants Jamaat’s support in the battle of ballots to defeat AL-led electoral alliance.
The ruling AL too, tried to get some benefits, but its leaders were not welcomed by the protestors when they went to Shahbag intersection to express solidarity with the agitation. After Abdul Quader Mollah’s life-term punishment, many people expressed doubt over the government’s sincerity to hold trial of war criminals. Even many people had hinted that the government might have tried to make a deal with Jamaat in the prevailing political situation. In defence of the indication, they argued that the ruling Awami League might try to ensure Jamaat-e-Islami’s participation in the coming parliamentary polls, keeping off the main opposition BNP. The BNP has been demanding restoration of the caretaker government while the ruling AL government has remained rigid on its stance not paying any heed to the BNP’s demand. In such a situation, people fear of a political turmoil ahead of the next parliamentary elections.
For the time being the unprecedented protest has upset all the developing political games. All credit go to the protesters who were successful amid huge difficulties in keeping the agitation above partisan politics. Now, the ruling AL and BNP need to reassess their political strategies to honour the sentiment of the youth. And they should do it for their own interest as the protesters have sent a very clear message—they do not have any confidence in the current politics. If politicians fail to correct themselves, the youth may take to the streets again seeking change to the current perverted political culture. And if the youth do so, politics must go through a real change reflecting what mass people sincerely expect.
Those who have visited the Shahbag intersection heard many slogans in roaring voices. The historic slogan—Joy Bangla—returned. This slogan once encouraged people immensely to fight Pakistani autocrats and occupational forces during Bangladesh’s liberation war. It was a slogan of the country’s independence and the Liberation War. But unfortunately, this historic slogan has been made victim of partisan politics after our independence. The AL has been using this slogan as its own property. The mass people independent of partisan politics used to hesitate to use the slogan. The Shahbag protest has made the situation different. Protesters have freed the Joy Bangla slogan from narrow politicisation. Youths have been loudly saying “Joy Bangla”. There are many other national assets and symbols of our heritage which have been made victim of partisan politics and those must be made national assets again. People must be made the real possessor of the state power. Youths can make it possible.
The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star
February 15, 2013