Feature Img
Photo: bdnews24.com
Photo: bdnews24.com

The sight of a female lawyer lying as a bunch of lathi wielding thugs of the ruling party attacking her with all brutality has become one of the defining images of contemporary politics and society. Violence against women can take many shapes and forms and this was one brazen form. It doesn’t just show the kind and nature of politics but how we look upon power relationship. In some ways, the attack of violence against a woman subjected to beating is also a form of physical abuse the extreme point of which is rape. Rape is an expression of power in most cases expressed through gender violence and on that day at the Supreme Court, it was on display. It was the kind of damning sight that shows a culture where violence against women is not only accepted but when it comes to politics, is welcomed. It was a day of shame!

Where are the HR and Women rights organisations? Doesn’t political violence count as gender violence? If Hifazat calls women ‘tamarind’, a vile and disgusting way of describing women, activists are up in arms, but the noise is so missing when one of them gets beaten up so viciously.

Such happens under every regime so it’s not about this or that regime, it’s about politics and its culture in Bangladesh including its hypocrisy.

* * *

Meanwhile, politics reached its most absurd level as Khaleda Zia stood and harangued law enforcement officials who were preventing her from going out and address a rally as part of her March for Democracy programme.  BNP is a strange party. Instead of talking and taking to the streets as any normal agitating party does, it hid behind the violent skirts of the Jamaat-e-Islami activists and condemned police action. No matter how many got arrested it should have played by the rules of agitation. But they didn’t thereby weakening  all connection with the people while earning the Jamaat ally stigma. Khaleda Zia  didn’t look tragic nor comical, but plain silly, the symbol of national opposition politics abusing a policewoman coming from Gopalganj. So what did the AL look like?

* * *

The AL is a master at manipulation and its decision to pass the 15th amendment was done to make sure that the BNP would react exactly the way it did. The AL has in the past used the constitution for its political gain, beginning with the 4th amendment or one-party rule amendment and the 15th was another attempt to ensure continued rule without bothering with any opposition. In the end, such is historical irony that the AL may well end up with one-party rule, the great stigma of democratic politics.

The caretaker government system now disbanded is a constitutional admission that multi-party democracy doesn’t work in Bangladesh. What it did was to keep the political government system through elections ticking. Through the 15th amendment, it actually made life politically difficult and dangerous for the ordinary people who have suffered so much in the last few months.

When none of the proceedings of the 15-member parliamentary committee on the 15th amendment was ever made public, when no one asked the courts to examine the issue and when every important jurist said it was unnecessary and would lead to constitutional debacles, this government passed it. AL, along with BNP and Jamaat, must be held responsible for what is happening today. There was no need for the 15th and it was done knowing full well what would happen.

* * *

BNP is probably not even a political party anymore but a club of anti-AL activists and so when the push came to shove, it simply folded thinking a “people’s revolution” would take it forward. Well, Khaleda Zia, where is it? The leaders are all in jail, or in hiding and the workers have dispersed leaving the field to the desperate and murderous fanatics of the Jamaat-e-Islami to unleash a series of violent attacks against the innocent and the helpless. Whether the BNP likes it or not, it’s they who let in this party of traitors into politics and they must take responsibility for their actions today. It’s quite possible that the trials were bad but the reaction of the Jamaat was to take revenge on ordinary people just as they had done in 1971 proving that given the ideology this party has not changed at all.

* * *

This is what the BNP never understands — while the Jamaat does guarantee a certain number of votes, it cuts off many votes too because who would want to vote for an ally of Jamaat-e-Islami? It’s a party where common sense has taken a back seat to anti-AL hatred producing a politics that not only makes no sense, stokes violence and ultimately makes it dependent on the party most if not everyone hates. Had the BNP not been a mix of senile old guards and thugs and a few wily lawyers it would have understood that it can be on a winning ticket but only without the Jmamaat. Instead it only managed to create a crisis.

* * *

The AL must have feared an election defeat and the party’s 15th amendment was not a short but long term action. Does it mean that it feels it can have no control over the EC? Sadly, this EC now has as bad a reputation as the Ershad’s one and it has managed to bungle its way to hold a de-facto one party election. The AL has weathered many crises this year from Rana Plaza to Hallmark to the Padma Bridge but has seen that public apathy is so high that it can get away with whatever it wants. As events show, it has gotten away with much including an election that nobody thinks is an election. There is no problem till January 5 but after that one, no one knows what will happen.

* * *

The retail violence by the AL activists show what the AL is capable of when needed. The murder of Biswajit was another example. All of this done under police protection so it’s just not the party but the government that has been mobilised. The refusal by the government to allow the BNP to hold a meeting was a good example of how nervous this government feels even with a nearly toothless BNP. The AL’s excuses were not bought by many either. Things look bad for both in the long term and the year of living destructively may turn into decade.

* * *

A few questions to ponder.

– What will be the price to be paid for an election which no longer looks like one?  Other than Menon, Inu and Rowshan Ershad, nobody seems to take the election seriously including many AL leaders.

– Will the BNP be able to mount an agitation given that they have shown great reluctance to participate in civil disobedience activities? How much chaos and for how long can it go on?

– Will the hanging of the war criminals happen over a long period of time causing long term instability by Jamaat activists?

– How long will the police have the stamina to sustain this constant campaign and at what cost?

– Will there be a large scale depletion of the national economy and how much more depletion can we handle ?

* * *

Will it ever end and will we ever be able to live under a constitutional rule free from what we have been suffering since the 15th amendment was passed?

Let’s wait and see what’s in store for us in 2014. But please, let it not be a repetition of 2013! We have had enough!

Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist, activist and writer.

Afsan Chowdhuryis a bdnews24.com columnist.

22 Responses to “Politics is done best with lathis in Bangladesh”

  1. Shabbir A. Bashar

    And all this in a country that sometimes (falsely) boasts as having two women leaders … I have no words to describe this abominable act. People in Bangladesh have lost their basic human values which is why so many so called self-declared “intellectuals” find it so hard to define morality. Shame on all of you – you disgust me just like the animals in this photographs beating up a woman. I don’t care for your politics, your religion, your views … but you have raised your hands against a woman – you are no better than the gang-rapists of India!

    • Khan-Niazi

      We are becoming so cheap and pathetic where we do not bother to attack a lone woman, a lone policeman and a lone CNG driver. I think we all will accept that BNP-Jamaat-Shibir has started this culture and now looks like AL has stood first in that lesson. We all will go to hell, if we do not BAN this bloody politics in Bangladesh.

  2. braj jha

    Being Indian who saw Bangla formation and its labor pain being by labor room side can tell AL has lost its purpose as congress in India but for alternatives.Only left leaning progressive alternative can lead Nation to its rightful place.Please get inspiration from AAP.BNP worst than AL with no mass base and clear ideology.

  3. Akteruzzaman


    An insect falls into a mug of beer. Englishman: Throws his mug away and walks out. American : Takes the insect out and drinks the beer. Chinese : Eats the insect and throws the beer away. Indian : Sells the beer to the American, the insect to the Chinese and gets a fresh beer for himself. Pakistani : Accuses the Indian of putting the insect in his beer, relates the issue to Kashmir, asks the Chinese for military aid and gets a loan from the American to buy another beer. The Paki then moves to England and claims benefits.

    The biggest asset of Awami league is the service of the police. Police are the most trust worthy and patriotic force of Bangladesh. Also note what Shajib Wajed Joy said about the President Guards. How AL is doing all this is a dangerous question. AL is the party that created the country so it does not matter if they rule the country by hook and crook. As long as we can walk safely in the streets.

  4. Z

    Someone namely a female lawyer getting lathi beating for exercising her right to assembly is simply deplorable! As there is a saying that a picture is worth thousand words. On the background I can see police walking around and what is more striking to me is the few camera people who are taking pictures of the brutal attack in progress. None of them are trying to help the woman, they are busy getting the first shot for their respective news media. This is appalling and simply disgusting! Where is people’s humanity these days? I won’t be able to sleep tonight.

    • afsan chy

      Not factual. The brave person who went forward risking his own body was Sanaul, a media worker from New Age. He is a cameraman. Thanks

  5. Tariq

    Dear Writer, you mentioned, “Instead of talking and taking to the streets ….. it should have played by the rules of agitation.” Can I ask you how could BNP possibly have played by the rules of agitation when its chairperson is under sort of house arrest, when many other party leaders are in jail, when the capital city was under complete lock down by Police and when anyone travelling to the city are either strip searched or arrested?

    You also mentioned, “AL, along with BNP and Jamaat, must be held responsible for what is happening today.” How can you hold BNP responsible for the 15th amendment passed solely by AL?

    My final question, how can BNP behave like a party when its not allowed to do so?

  6. Akhtar Shah

    As the Irish joke goes, ” a man lost whilst driving asking a passer by for direction, passerby replies ” if I were you, I wouldn’t start from here”!
    The point is , we are here at the end of 2013 and the ruling party had planned this game way back when 15th amendment was passed and waited. It was a clear strategy of taking things down to the wire.BNP stalwarts on the other hand kept on threatening ” tougher actions” every drop of a hat. These produced nothing tactically , only death , violence and destruction. This as you clearly point out, visibly and ostentatiously carried out by Jamat. They were by this time being threatened with extinction .Since 1971, Jamat buoyed by their non domestic benefactors and ‘power greed ‘ by both AL and BNP conveniently forgot about their role in 1970/71 and managed to get a voice. Of late one thing they and BNP hadn’t reckoned on is , that a whole new generation has sprung up and detested Jamat’s political goals and the ‘version’ of the religions they stood for. BNP read this ( aided and abetted by common Jamat/BNP benefactors )wrong and clung on to Jamat’s shirt tail, completely disrespecting , disowning the version of the independence struggle that most non partisan youngsters and their families owned! BNP still has time to correct themselves, as for the country , an AL without a leash would cause a complete dumbing down of the State as it would be with BNP with out a leash.
    Coming back to the Irish joke, unfortunately , we are already here in 2014 and we have to move on from here, all we can hope that there won’t be too much violence and some kind of stability would return for the sake of silent majority who simply want 2 hot meals a day , some clothing and weatherproof roof over their heads. Not much to ask for really !

  7. Asif

    Shame that it’s a country of 15 Crore people but there is no leader to lead us through this carnage.

    We are nothing but bunch of sheep.

  8. rh

    My sentiments exactly! Where are the women activists like Rahnuma Ahmed or Farida Akther? I suppose Sultana Kamal considers herself too eminent to bother herself with such scenarios where a female lawyer is getting beaten up by hired goons. This is one of the most horrific scene next to Biswajit murder in the recent months since the political drama started to play out between the two parties. I also wonder why other than Afsan Chy no other journalists in Bangladesh raised their voices against such injustice? Just because the female lawyer is pro BNP doesn’t give the AL thugs to abuse her. The current government is doing whatever they feel like in the name of keeping the citizens safe from the violence of the opposition. In a democracy if other parties and citizens cannot voice their opinions then it is not a democracy anymore. All the HR organizations in Bangladesh are toothless entities. Their voices would have been heard only if they stood up against injustice. In BD for most of the female activists activism is a hobby, not a passion. They are all hiding now because they are afraid to go to jail. Like Rahnuma who is busy compiling her columns into a book form, I am sure others are also tending to their personal agendas instead of coming out of their safe cocoons to protest such obscene injustice against a defenseless woman who is obviously lying on the street and moaning in pain from the beating of the lathiwaalas. Shame on everyone who took part in such a brutal abuse and those who are not saying anything!

    • lila

      you left out the mother daughter duo hamida hossain and sara hossain. sara herself is a lawyer and why has she not spoken up against such cruelty? activists, it is time to show whether it is true calling or not. brutality against any woman should not be tolerated.

      • lila

        The activists posting comments on a Facebook wall post……That’s just lame! Some of these activists are also good writers. As far as I have seen none of them wrote about the brutal attack on the HC lawyer. I am only talking about the English dailies, not sure if any of them wrote in Bangla. I am sure any of the English dailies would have happily given them space had they sent any piece. Writing comments on Facebook from the comfort of one’s home is not considered activism in my view. Activists need to be hands on, they should go out and gather and show outrage when such attacks on women take place. Rahnuma in the past gotten hit by police stick, why not this time? So I am a bit disappointed that at a time when her columns could have made a difference she chose to stop writing, nor is she out there protesting such cruelty.

      • Mo Chaudhury

        Many thanks, Afsan, for daring to be the lone voice of rights, justice and reason. Hope you remain free from the clutches of “autocratic democracy” (Re: Prof Abdullah Abu Sayeed, my Dhaka College teacher).

      • afsan chy

        Lila, Please see my Facebook post on feminists and condemning violence. I agree with you that all such acts must be condemned.


      • afsan chy

        Mo Chowdhury, Thanks. From which batch are you ? We are the 1969-72 batch with Sayeed Sir as one of our beloved teachers.

      • Mo Chaudhury

        Hi Afsan, my SSC in 1970, admitted to Dhaka College in 1970 and HSC in 1972. Prof A A Sayeed’s class is the one nobody missed, it was sooo good just listening to him, of course mostly about Robi Thakur.

      • lila

        Sorry didn’t get to check your Facebook comments, or rather didn’t want to. I am very troubled by the fact that bdnews24.com published Joy’s ridiculous article. I thought this online publication has some integrity. Bangladeshi feminists can do whatever they want and I am not going to spend time commenting on any one of them anymore. Everything seems hopeless at this point.

  9. Golam Arshad

    Afsan: The Fifteenth Amendment “Is a Killer”! All but one wicket remain to FALL. Guess which ONE!! Wait for that “CURVE BALL” in baseball analogy! No wonder, I have not pulled up my “DOOSRA” (Cricket Analogy) seemingly so, the target is take out the Middle Stump! And that happened then with the “Fall of the Fourth Amendment”! And you know the rest of the STORY! Wow! What a year 2013!!. Afsan you did a marvelous job. Thank you my friend! HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU AND FAMILY!

    • lila

      why haven’t you commented on the lawyer getting assaulted in broad daylight? are you one of those mullah’s who do not like women having a profession and for having the ability to stand up against injustice? someone the other day wrote that you are the son-in-law of a mullah. are you converted now? if not then speak up against violence on women in Bangladesh.

      • Golam Arshad

        I do abhor violence AGAINST Women! Shun Violence! Shun Blood! Ask Hasina and Khaleda why they NOT unite to save a Bleeding Nation! Do they CARE Lila? You can tag me with ANY Name! How harsh and bitter that be! Hit me Hard! HARD! HARD and HARD!! For me, In prayer to: End VIOLENCE and BLOOD in 2014. Happy New Year to you! Thank you for your warm compliment! Keep safe, sound and be HAPPY in Joy and in PEACE. A Bright STAR needs no MOON to shine in DARK!Thank you!

Comments are closed.