GOING OFF THE RAILS
Are we actually mindlessly gambling with our human sanity by hopping on the brink of monstrous anarchy? Are we advocating for the politics of senseless hate among ourselves? Today, the degree of intolerance has woven into Bangladesh political fabric so badly that we have forgotten the human logic how to restore peace or how to live peacefully. Now the time has come to explain why Bangladesh has not made it to democracy and why it is wobbling uncertainly in the opposite direction.
Tolerance should be the lodestar in the exercise of democracy in the multiparty democratic setting. Political parties need not be enemies verging on the ruthless appetite for physical annihilation of one another. As I was writing this piece, a newspaper headline drew my attention. Sharmeen, mother of a child arson victim, appeals to our politicians, “You please stop this mindless violence.” A painful, heartbreaking appeal, indeed! What is going on today in the name of politics is nothing but outrageous, nightmarish! And this is the evidence that our democracy is going off the rails and it is time to put it back.
The economy was poised for its best periods of recovery last year. It was supposed to be growing fast again, but derailed politics has put it far from a sure bet as the level of uncertainty in the current environment has been very high. During the last 16 days’ violence, according to press reports, at least 26 people have been killed, more than 800 injured and 250 torched — all in the name of democracy!
In our region, people were and are the vehicles for politicians to make their journey to power. Once in power, they only nurture their family businesses, groom up their heirs to the throne and raise their own band of musclemen to make their fortune. Who do actually serve the country and its people, anyway? All adult members of each family today ask this question. We have turned deaf hearing words like ‘people’, ‘people’s mandate’, ‘autocrats’, ‘democracy’, ‘development’, ‘wave of development’, ‘constitution’, ‘fair election’, ‘rigged election’, ‘voter-less election’, ‘inclusive election’, ‘lopsided election’, ‘caretaker government’, ‘pro-people government’, ‘illegal government’, ‘constitutional process’ and so on. But at the end of the day people are there in the deep, dark tunnel they actually were.
Whenever our politicians argue with their rivals, they start folding their shirt sleeves. You must know the persons they are debating with have exhausted their counter-arguments. This also happens even on TV talk-shows. Physical confrontation in politics is preceded by cheap propaganda and rhetoric, which only undermine the integrity of the propagators or yes-persons.
The current politics of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) demonstrates that it has embarked on an uncertain journey– knowingly or unknowingly. What has upset the people of the country is its unplanned and impudent pattern of politics. If it does it knowingly, then it can be concluded that it has taken up the journey only to destroy its political prospect it has. If it does the things unknowingly the conclusion would be as simple as that its top leadership has no political strategists. Ideally, politics is not a game at all. But it is a game of course in a society where democratic principles are not in practice.
After having patience for a year since the last general election held on January 5, 2013, the BNP jumped into a decisive movement without giving the second thought what would be the consequence if its plan of action does not work. It has already used its last weapon leaving hardly anything in hands to stay afloat in the political hot waters in the coming days. According to political analysts, the party, founded by slain President Ziaur Rahman, has long been pursuing an erroneous political policy. And the number of its mistakes started heaping up since its second term in office when the caretaker government system was manipulated in its worst term.
After its fiasco in its previous movement seeking the restoration of the repealed caretaker government system, the party should have crafted a strong political strategy to get close to people and involve them in the process of its politics, offering them something what they have long been looking for. “We’ll change the face of the country, once we get back to power,” “We’ll eliminate corruption and establish the rule of law” are all the old slogans it used in recent times. Over the last few years, people saw it carrying out a movement with only one agenda — oust this regime — and there is no other outline. The impression it has created among people is that it just wants to go to power by any means.
The politics of a political party should not be only to go to power. Political parties are expected to work for social change, country’s economic progress, and institutionalising democracy. Lack of an effective political strategy is one of the major reasons why BNP is out of power for a long time. Had both the BNP and the Awami League, which rotated power for over the last two decades, built and strengthened democratic institutions today it would not have to scream for an inclusive election under a neutral administration. If you cannot neutralise a system naturally, if you fail to let the system work, then you will have to look for individuals to neutralise it. Let the system work, get it mature. When a system starts working, then everything looks wonderful. When we kill a system, one day anarchists will start dictating the terms.
The country’s senior citizens attribute this sorry state of our politics to the absence of ideology. The worrisome aspect of our today’s politics is only to gain the strength to fight a battle on the streets to go to power. There is no ideology. The other day our President Abdul Hamid, addressing the Dhaka University convocation, bemoaned: “It hurts me when I see the absence of ideology in our student politics.” This is of course a painful scenario that there is no ideology in our student politics. But, the President only talked about the absence of ideology in student politics but the tragic fact is that our national politics has no ideology either.
During the pre-liberation period when the country had seen various historic movements spearheaded by giant political leaders, our politics was always pursued based on ideology. Today, we have slipped far away from that ideological standard. Now, anyone can be a political leader, anyone! A man who is known to be a gold smuggler may turn out as an MP one fine morning. Today, ideology and principles have hardly any value. If you have money, enough money, you can do and undo anything. As ordinary citizens of the country, we have every reason to be upset the way our politicians are fighting their nasty battles either to go to power or to retain it.
It has been nearly 43 years since Bangladesh has emerged as an independent country. This is not a long time for a nation to achieve prosperity. But it is of course enough time to give our long-cherished democracy an institutional shape. The country’s downtrodden people — farmers and workers — had desperately fought the bloody Liberation War seeking their sociopolitical and economic emancipation. After long four decades why a blind mother should cry out there on the street losing her only son to anarchists? How longer time the politicians of this independent country will take to ensure the security of public life and property? When the time will actually come when a mother will be able to say: “Yes, I am here moving around on Bangladesh soil safely and freely and enjoying my deep breath of fresh air!”
JANUARY 22, 2015