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Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

It was not the well attended rally that made Khaleda Zia and her BNP look much better than they have in many years but the high-handed tactics of the AL Government and its activists in trying to prevent a large gathering at the rally. It was such a set of ridiculous attempts to prevent the impossible that the AL came out looking like a bunch of scared rabbits that the BNP had startled into action. In the end it didn’t work as it never does and it’s the AL who now stands out looking inept which by default makes the BNP look so much better than it actually is.

* * *

Just about anyone knows that rallies are unstoppable political products and once called by either of the two will collect a large number of people. Yet both parties seem to forget this when they go to power and consider such rallies major political threats. This has happened in every regime but the surprising point is that the two leaders don’t seem to learn this simple lesson. Efforts to prevent the political activities of another go on. March 12 has driven more people away from the AL than any other day this year.

* * *

Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

Why the AL is so nervous about the BNP rally is quite mysterious. Speculations were on just prior to the rally that the BNP may try a takeover using crowd power. The fear of ‘Ghosts of Tahrir Square’ is so deep in most minds that any rally is seen as a potential step to power. If only people could be made to see that our political power has nothing to do with people’s power so neither of the parties can manipulate any clout that would lead to a takeover! But then anxiety has its own logic and does not subject itself to reason.

But it was also one of the most callous disregard to public suffering as thousands battled to move from one place to another in this nightmarish city and faced trouble that is in no way justified by any political argument.

* * *

The human cost of suffering is never counted in Bangladesh. And the public situation experienced on March 12 is a reminder that to politicians the public matters very little. But what the AL also did in its failed attempt to contain the crowds from swelling was use its cadres to intimidate those they thought were going to the rally. In effect, the AL cadres were given police duty and then given immunity for their acts. They frisked and patted down those they thought were ‘suspicious’ in their eyes and indicated that they were ‘higher and holier’ than even the police.

In this state of total control, the AL became the party and the administration at the same time and this mixing up where party activists played law and order roles is a terrible and frightening example. It bodes very badly for the future. How far will this role playing go is not known and what its implications are not certain either. This was something that shouldn’t have been done. Period.

* * *

Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

BNP’s battle was won long before the rally began and that is the point that the AL must learn. People were mistreated and harassed, and there is a considerable level of public resentment against this as well. Yet this was so eminently avoidable but then the AL had a bad case of nerves as a result of which it floundered and made such a mess.

The AL decided to add to it by making direct broadcasts impossible on several TV channels as common public opinion goes. This if true has been a disastrous move and has reduced its credibility even further. Nothing was achieved except a bad reputation.

What is amazing that despite having a lot of advisers, experts and specialists, the party came out looking so novice like, out of depth and touch, hardly the kind of maturity that can handle a political crisis towards which we seem to be heading.

* * *

Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

The BNP of course sounded like the same old drone that is Khaleda where her political imagination is limited by her lack of understanding of what people want. What she however left out was significant which is any reference to the War Crimes Trial. Whether she didn’t say anything because there is a law that forbids any criticism or because her allies come from Jamaate-e-Islami, the fact remains that she is on their side of the barricade. In the end, she is their ally in the war she is hoping to win. There will be lesser souls in support of her because she has not condemned the war criminals and in her rally, Jamaat supporters carried placards demanding release of the alleged war criminals. It was a very convenient but unpleasant silence on the part of Khaleda Zia.

* * *

The people are once more hostages at the hands of those who are Bangladesh’s political leaders. Khaleda has declared a number of new programmes including a hartal. So we are back to the hot and heavy season. There will be mayhem and suffering and while both parties will blame each other for the problems, the fact remains that public suffering as a collateral damage of national politics will go on. In Bangladesh, no leader becomes popular and then gains power. It is just that one leader becomes so unpopular that the other by comparison looks better.

In a country where political achievement is measured not by achievements in governance but the size of people attending a meeting, the political structure is not just inane but nearly insane.

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Afsan Chowdhury is the Executive Editor of bdnews24.com.

Afsan Chowdhuryis a bdnews24.com columnist.

30 Responses to “March 12: The people suffered”

  1. Md. Shahidullah

    Mr. Chowdhury,
    I didn’t read the whole of your article. But it was very well written. You’ve said “March 12 has driven more people away from the AL than any other day this year.” A very true gesture. But this is not BNP’s achievement. It’s AL’s defeat. BNP supporters are currently thinking they’ve got huge support of people but they’re wrong. People are not supporting them but hating AL. On the next election they’ll vote based on this hatred. They’ll choose the only available option to them, which is BNP. But the problem is BNP will take that as their huge win/ not as a challenge. Khaleda Zia is not addressing the war crimes trial very loudly because it’ll hamper her party. But it is time to realize by both our parties that Jamaat is not to be supported. One of the reasons why these two major parties will have diminished public support is them empowering Jamaat. Sooner or later they’ve to realize this.

  2. Akhtaruzzaman Chowdhury

    The political game of the last week was won overwhelmingly by BNP/Khaleda. Even with all the impediments, BNP rally was bigger than AL. The triangle fight between BNP, AL and police did not produce a single laash. Too many laashes and cracked heads make the third force ‘itchy’. Good going for BNP future.

  3. Tacit

    March 12 saw over a hundred thousand people gather to listen to Khaleda Zia speak. They came, despite the fact that all long-distance transportation to Dhaka, including buses, trains, and ferries, had been stopped the last three days, that police was indulging in mass arrests of anyone even suspected of going to the rally, and that on the day of the rally, AL workers armed with weapons were stationed at various points of the city to “discourage” people from attending the rally.

    But you wouldn’t know any of that from reading Afsan Chowdhury’s latest. In fact, his piece is a perfect illustration of the iron-clad rules governing BD journalism. All criticism of AL is generic and vague: “AL came out looking like a bunch of scared rabbits”, “the AL who now stands out looking inept”, “But what the AL also did in its failed attempt to contain the crowds from swelling was use its cadres”, “AL had a bad case of nerves”, “AL decided to add to it by making direct broadcasts impossible”, “the party came out looking so novice like, out of depth and touch, hardly the kind of maturity that can handle a political crisis.”

    You see, AL is a party governed by a series of inter-changeable drones, and all members have the exact same contribution to policy-making, so it makes no sense to mention the prime minister, or any of her advisers, or members of her cabinet. The party is governed by a hive-mind. Everyone is equally culpable: no need to mention anyone by name.

    By contrast, the criticism of BNP is sharp and personal: “Khaleda where her political imagination is limited by her lack of understanding of what people want”, “she however left out was significant which is any reference to the War Crimes Trial”, “It was a very convenient but unpleasant silence on the part of Khaleda Zia”, “Khaleda has declared a number of new programmes including a hartal. So we are back to the hot and heavy season.”

    Simple: BNP bad, Khaleda Zia worse.

    Finally, this may come as a shock to Chowdhury, but there is no law “that forbids any criticism” of the war crimes trial. There is, however, Section 39 of the Constitution of Bangladesh, which is titled “Freedom of thought and conscience, and of speech.” It protects the right of all Bangladeshis to express themselves as citizens of a free and democratic country. Perhaps he should glance at it.

  4. smahbub

    Dear Author,
    You say Khaleda Zia did not show understanding of what the people want. So tell us please, what do they want?

    She talked about Teesta, India, border killings, share market, Sagar-Runi, press freedom, price of essentials, roads, bridges, law and order situation, corruption, caretaker government, further activities, enlarging the alliance, etc.

    So, what did she leave out? Or was it just your attempt to sound “neutral”?

    Please develop the courage to unequivocally criticize something. There was no need to put in an unsubstantiated statement when the subject of your article was the government’s actions. Unfortunately, everyone wants to “balance” in this country. Even great writers like Afsan Chowdhury.

  5. Kalam Ahmed

    Sheikh Hasina is a victim of the truism: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!

  6. masum

    Thanks Mr. Chowdhury for your valuable writing. However, you have proved again that you like Sheikh Hasina better hence you tactfully criticised Khaleda Zia’s speech.

    Ironically, our veteran thinkers like Chowdhury fail again and again to address the real miseries of the common people or any logical solution to cope with such situation.

    Criticism from the part of one’s personal belief may be well versed and may consist of catchy rhetoric. But anything and everything should be judged based on the key issues of the topic and addressed accordingly. Otherwise…

  7. Suman Parvez

    AL leaders are acting insane! They should remember the days when Bangabandhu led the party. I never can imagine that a party led by my most respected person Bangabandhu can act so insane!

    On a different note, I would like to request Mr. Afsan Chowdhury to give up his ‘perverted’ mentality for the sake of the good name of the party.

    Yesterday Mr. Afsan wrote a commentary about what was Khaleda Zia wearing at the rally! Sick!

  8. imtiaz alam

    Nothing, absolutely nothing was done right by AL yesterday.

  9. hasib

    Stopping transmission of certain cable channels was a preposterous act on the part of the government! Clamping on media at its extreme.

  10. Ehsan

    They let their goons take to street with arms acting as the police force! Only in Bangladesh such crime could take place resorted by the government itself!

  11. Sharar

    Not bad..
    But the writer should have cared to write something about the main stated issue of the rally and BNP’s stand on it before trying to explore the unstated. The issues on war crimes, its tribunal, and the alleged are still subjudice. I think it is unethical or unsafe to speak or write about personal judgements on these issues in public.

  12. delwar h

    Afsan Chowdhury has read the general people’s mind when he wrote that AL has driven more people away from the party on the 12th March than in any other day of the year.

  13. chowdhury shabab ahmed

    I don’t think even a die hard AL supporter would be able to find even one thing that AL did right on March 12.

  14. Bipul Halder

    Sheikh Hasina lives in a cocoon surrounded by her yes men. She cannot and does not want to become the people’s leader. She will always remain the AL chief oblivious to people’s misery and sufferings.

  15. Alam Khan

    Even if i overlook all the glitches that AL made yesterday, how can i forgive and forget AL cadres given the responsibility of law enforcers? How can the government allow party cadres to take law in their own hand and stroll on the streets carrying arms oh so openly!

  16. Sabbir Karim

    Did the govt ever think about people’s sufferings and misery!! I want to ask Sheikh Hasina what has her party achieved by making people deny their right to movement. What about those ailing who needed treatment, what about women in labour who needed to be taken to the hospital, what about those people who had to walk miles after miles to reach their work place?

    What did Sheikh Hasina and her party achieve from putting thousands and thousands of people in harm’s way and making them suffer so much?

  17. Qazi Mitul

    thanks Arch. Afsan. We, the common ppl now should be united aganst such political muscles… “Jonota Jagbei”

  18. Sharan Shurid

    As Arundhati Roy says, “We are trapped between two washing powders owned by the same company.”

    • Khaled

      Awesomely said! In other words, different player in the same game!

  19. Ekram Ahmed

    “The BNP of course sounded like the same old drone that is Khaleda where her political imagination is limited by her lack of understanding of what people want.”
    I seriously believe that its not Khaleda but you who’s out of touch here. Yes, her speech was not well constructed but unquestionable is the fact that people are simply pissed off this regime, which Khaleda pointed out clearly.
    I must congratulate BNP for organizing a protest rally, which was disciplined and civilized, which makes Awami sympathizers and the “balance-act-specialist” columnists utterly nervous.

  20. Dastagir

    One of the best articles I have read in decades. You read all of our minds. We the general people of Bangladesh are the biggest sufferers. No wonder, most of my best talented friends are leaving Bangladesh for good. They have money, that is why they can afford to leave. But, what happens to the poor people who are stuck here by luck? Neither can they choose a party which will stay away from dirty political games, nor can they leave this place.

  21. Razu Alauddin

    “In Bangladesh, no leader becomes popular and then gains power. It is just that one leader becomes so unpopular that the other by comparison looks better.”— This is what discloses the secret of our poor politics.
    I salute you, Afsan Chowdhury, for your marvelous post.

  22. Mohammad Zaman

    Few points to ponder:

    AL as the enforcer of BNP program.
    Digital demise of digital Bangladesh.
    SK is in need of sane (?) political adviser.
    Glimpse of BAKSAL (to follow).

  23. Golam Arshad

    Afsan: Taking a situation hostage and seizing right to freedom, it demeans, it scares. The voice of change prevails. Good job!!

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