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Despotic repression on the opposition political parties and the media- The purpose is to serve the interests of India

Edit Date:7/22/2010 12:00:00 AM


 By A group of patriotic researchers

 The Awami League government’s ruthless and despotic repression on the opposition political parties and the media has created a very suffocating situation in Bangladesh. Leaders including Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami, Maulana Delawer Hossain Saidi and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid- Amir, Naib-e-Amir and Secretary General respectively of the Bangladesh Jamaat-E-Islami and the BNP Standing Committee Member and former Minister Mirza Abbas, BNP law maker Shahiduddin Chowdhury Annee MP and Vice-chairman of BNP Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury have been arrested. The campaign for arrest has been continuing and according to the newspaper reports of 11 July the police have arrested more than five thousand leaders and workers across the country since 27 June.

It should be mentioned that the Jamaat leaders were arrested on a concocted charge of hurting the Muslim sentiments. The purpose of the government became clear when on the following day the court granted them bails but a number of cases including implication in Rajshahi University BCL leader Faruk murder case, torching of vehicles on the eve of the hartal of 27 June, malicious propaganda against the image of the country and its foreign friends were brought against them.

The actions of the police during arresting the leaders and workers have also been very terrorizing. For instance, in the case of Mirza Abbas, the police and RAB firstly raided his residence at Shahjahanpur and then vandalized rooms and assaulted his family members including his wife Afroza Abbas and the 85-year old mother. Mirza Abbas himself was also tortured after arrest and his condition had been so critical that he could not leave the hospital till 11 July.

The three top leaders of the Jamaat-E-Islami have also been persecuted in remand. Quite unusually the court has granted 16 days’ remand for each of them. Maulana Delawer Hossain Saidi and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid have alleged before the court on 10 July that they had been under tremendous torture and were not getting proper foods. The police did not allow them even to offer daily namaz (prayers of Muslims) and sleep at night, they complained.

The country’s media have also come under the government’s repression. On 1 June the acting editor of the popular daily Amar Desh, Mahmudur Rahman was arrested without warrant and the daily’s declaration was cancelled. Subsequently the police tortured Mahmudur Rahman heavily, forcibly undressed him and made him unconscious in remand. Two private TV channels, the Channel-1 and the Jamuna have also been banned, which was utterly unlawful as the constitution has guaranteed the freedom of the press. But by ensuing oppression on the media and journalists the government has started to clearly indicate that they would not allow any criticism of and opposition to the government. It should be mentioned that Mahmudur Rahman has become a very common victim of the government and the AL leaders. More than 30 cases have been lodged against him across the country and several attempts were made to physically assault him. He was attacked by the AL workers even in London. Eventually the government has imprisoned him.

What the AL had promised and what the government is doing

The government’s sudden attack and campaign against the opposition political parties and the media have perplexed even the common people of the country. Because, the AL had declared in its election manifesto that if came to power the party would work to strengthen democracy. In her various speeches as the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina had called for creating friendly relations and understanding with the opposition political parties to solve the national problems and uphold the democratic process. The parties, especially the BNP and Jamaat-E-Islami also reciprocated. Begum Khaleda Zia and Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami declared on several occasions that they would do everything for the sake of democracy and the country’s development and would always extend support to the efforts of the government. On the other hand, in spite of the Prime Minister’s rhetorical commitments, the government in practice has chosen the wrong way and recently started to suppress the opposition parties and the media.

Call for united movement

In the process the government has not even tried to hide its intentions behind the sudden attack and repression. In fact, it has been established as undeniable fact that the initiative for a united movement by the opposition parties has made the ruling party leaders frantic. They first reacted when the opposition leaders started to gather on the same dais in June. It was declared by the opposition leaders on 9 June that they would launch a united movement against the AL government. This declaration was made from the `gano-abosthan’ or public stay-in programme held at the Engineers’ Institution premises. The programme was arranged by the BNP chairperson and leader of the opposition in the Jatiyo Sangsad (National Parliament), Begum Khaleda Zia. Among others the Jamaat leaders Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid, participated in the programme.

Other important political parties and many professional organizations including the Supreme Court Bar Association, the Doctors’ Association of Bangladesh, University Teachers’ Association and the Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists declared their solidarity with the programme for anti-government movement. Eminent citizens and media personalities too had vowed to start and continue the movement to protest against the government’s undemocratic arrests, remand and repression and to establish democracy and guarantee the freedom of the press and freedom of political activities. The public stay-in programme had created a huge response among the people. They very eagerly started waiting to take part in the anti-government movement. Begum Khaleda Zia declared that she would initiate the movement with the hartal (general strike) of 27 June.

It should be mentioned that the declaration for a united movement was not a sudden or an unexpected one. In fact, the former Prime Minister had been calling up on the political parties for quite a long time. In her speeches in May she categorically appealed to the patriotic parties and forces of the country to be united. The parties too responded very positively. Among them the Bangladesh Jamaat-E-Islami was the first to come forward. The leaders of the party led by the Amir, Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami held an exclusive meeting with Khaleda Zia on 5 June. This was the first meeting of the two main opposition parties since 10 December of 2008. After the meeting it was declared by Maulana Nizami that the parties must be united to launch a movement against the government’s failures, corruptions and arrests and repressions. The Jamaat’s Amir also declared that his party would participate in movements along with the BNP. The Executive Council of the Jamaat-E- Islami had extended support to the hartal of 27 June.

Beginning of a new phase

That was the beginning of a new phase in the country’s politics. Then the public stay-in programme came in the process. There in her speech the leader of the opposition cautioned the Prime Minister by saying that if her government wanted to complete the term of five years they must return to the path of law and democracy. Khaleda Zia also asked the Prime Minister to bring an immediate end to undemocratic repression. She said that if the government did not change its policy of repression the opposition parties would start to give them proper replies by anti-repression movements. Khaleda Zia incidentally criticized against the government’s interferences with the independent judiciary and demanded its immediate end. She said that if the government continued to advance with the trials of the so-called war criminals the opposition parties would demand a trial for the killing of about 40 thousand political leaders and workers during the first AL government under Shaikh Mujibur Rahman, father of the present Prime Minister, Shaikh Hasina.

The speeches of Maulana Motiur Rahman Nizami and Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojahid at the public stay-in programme were also inspiring and significant. Terming the AL as a fascist party Maulana Nizami said that this time too the party had started conspiring to destroy democracy and the politics of production. Not only that, Maulana Nizami alleged, the AL government had been conspiring to destroy the country’s independence and sovereignty and make the country a tributary state of India. The government had also been trying to wash out the Muslim identity of Bangladesh, Maulana Nizami alleged. So the government must be resisted and in order to achieve the goals of saving the country’s independence and sovereignty and establish democracy there was no alternative to a united movement. The Jamaat’s Secretary General also urged upon the people and parties to start a united movement. He criticized against the government’s interferences with the judiciary.

Chittagong election and the first hartal

The strong and unanimous speeches and stands of the major political parties of the country had made the united movement against the government a matter of time. The political experts had also started predicting that such a movement would surely bear fruitful results as the government had utterly failed to fulfill its election promises. Not only that, since the government had opted for repressive measures to divert the peoples’ attention from its failures the opposition’s decision would be spontaneously supported by the people. In fact the government did not keep any other democratic way opened for the opposition political parties.

The political situation of the country started changing after the Chittagong City Corporation election of 17 June. The BNP candidate, Manjur Alam surpassed Mohiuddin Chowdhury, the Mayor for 17 years, by more than 95 thousand votes. The difference was so huge that no ‘engineering’ could succeed to defeat Manjur Alam. The ruling party leaders could not swallow the shameful defeat and in stead of encouraging the democratic process they started to expose their vicious faces. And it was mainly because of the government’s despotic attitude and behaviour the hartal of 27 June could not pass without conflicts and disturbances. The first hartal during the present government was called by the BNP chairperson and leader of the opposition in the Jatyio Sangsad Begum Khaleda Zia. Political parties including Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami extended their full support and urged upon the people to make the hartal a success.

On 27 June the hartal started peacefully. Most of the shops, markets, schools, colleges, universities and business offices remained closed while transports including train services faced major disruption in the capital. BNP, Jamaat and their front and associate organizations brought out processions in almost all areas of the capital and demanded to fulfill the 11-point demands presented by Begum Khaleda Zia. But the situation was changed suddenly after the government resorted to resist the pro-hartal activists. As the government instigated, sporadic clashes between police, RAB and hartal supporters occurred across the country. The workers and cadres of the Chatro League and Jubo League were also seen to attack on the pro-hartal leaders and workers. Police fired teargas shells and charged batons on them. The police and RAB arrested about a thousand leaders and workers of the BNP, Jamaat-e-Islami and other political parties. But there were no acceptable reasons behind the government’s instigating actions. It has been observed by the political analysts that the government had unnecessarily started attacking, beating and arresting the pro-hartal activists. The analysts have also opined that with spontaneous public participation the hartal of 27 June was a hundred percent successful one and it had clearly sent a message to the AL government. But while the government should have tried to understand the language and desires of the people the ruling party leaders resorted for repression in stead.

Open license of terror to Chatro League and Jubo League

Another destructive step from the government’s part was the unusual and instigating statement of the AL general secretary and LGRD minister Syed Ashraful Islam. On the day of the hartal, when the Chatro League and Jubo League cadres were openly attacking on the pro-hartal leaders and workers at various points in the capital, Syed Ashraf suddenly declared that his party would not accept the liabilities of the acts of Chatro League and Jubo League. He explained that the AL had no organizational relationships with Chatro League and Jubo League. This statement has astounded the political circles of the country since it has been an established fact that the two organizations always functioned as the student and youth fronts of the AL. It has also been established that the workers and cadres of Chatro League and Jubo League were working according to the desires and directions of the ruling party leaders.

These are well known to the common people too. But in spite of these hard facts when Syed Ashraful declared that the AL would not accept the liabilities of the acts of its two main fronts even the common people became afraid. The declaration was treated as a serious threat to the opposition political parties. The analysts have opined that by making such a declaration Syed Ashraful has in fact issued an open license of terror to its front organizations. It actually meant that the workers and cadres of both Chatro League and Jubo League could go to any extent to thwart the hartal and they would not have to explain for their misdeeds. The result of the declaration was seen immediately. The workers and armed cadres were seen to attack on the opposition leaders and workers. They in fact played the roles of an auxiliary force after the police and the RAB. This has created panic among the common people also. If the Chatro League and Jubo League were really allowed to do anything against the opposition leaders and workers the situation would deteriorate and eventually armed conflicts would spread throughout the country. In the process democracy would be endangered.

Parties could not hold public meetings

It should be mentioned that the government has been running after the opposition for quite a long time. With the clear intention to thwart the anti-government movement the ruling party leaders have been utilizing even many dirty and undemocratic tactics. For this purpose they have been letting lose their front organizations, especially the Chatro League and Awami Jubo League. The incidents concerning a public meeting of Jamaat-E-Islami should be mentioned here. The meeting was scheduled to be held on 31 May at the Paltan Maidan but was obstructed by the Jubo League. The programme for the meeting had been declared before two weeks and the necessary permissions were taken from both the government and the Paltan Maidan authority. But all on a sudden the Jubo League declared on the day before that it would also hold a public meeting at the same venue and on the same date. The purpose was very clear. Yet the police stood in the Jubo League’s favour and imposed a ban on holding any meeting at the Paltan Maidan on 31 May.

The police even did not consider the fact that while the Jamaat had taken permission to hold the meeting, the Jubo League did not. The intention behind the action of the police was not a secret. They in fact acted according to the wishes of the government. And it is needless to state that the government did not want to allow the Jamaat to hold the scheduled public meeting. It should be mentioned that the government have been obstructing the opposition political parties, especially the Jamaat-E-Islami from holding public meetings through out the country. The AL and its front organizations have been instigating chaos by declaring to hold separate meetings at the same venues on the same dates. The police and the local administration are taking stands in their support. This policy has surprised the people for the AL had pledged to ensure full freedom of political activities in its election manifesto. On the other hand the government of Sheikh Hasina has been taking just the opposite stands and making the tasks for the political parties and the media tough and complicated. This is very dangerous not only for democracy but also for the government.

The real reasons and India

The patriotic analysts have in the mean time hinted at the real reasons behind the government’s despotic policy and actions. They have opined that the government has been acting according to the directives from across the border. It is no more a secret that from bringing about the so-called 1/11 to bring the AL government in power through a ‘digital’ election, everything had been accomplished according to an Indian roadmap. Countries like the US and UK also supported and took part in the process of implementing the Indian design. Now the time has come when the AL government must serve the Indian interest even if necessary, at the cost of the country. In the first place India wants corridor through Bangladesh and the right to use the ports of Chittagong and Mongla.

In spite of strong objection and protest of the country’s patriotic forces, the AL government has already decided to grant corridor for India. The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting presided over by the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 5 February of 2009. On June 10 last the government has issued a directive to create 14 corridors for India in Bangladesh. It must be mentioned that the AL government has not been walking straight and not letting the people about its intention and activities. The government has rather been playing hide and seek with the people. It has neither placed the drafts of the agreement and the directive before the Sangsad nor has made it public. This attitude of the government has naturally created suspicion among the people

Question of corridor

It should be mentioned that the AL government has not yet recognized the fact that they were going to allow India corridor. In stead it has been told that the government was planning for transit. But in fact it is corridor, not transit. Because, the meaning of transit is an arrangement by which a country allows all kinds of transportation facilities through that country to its neighbouring country to other countries. On the other hand corridor is an arrangement by which a country gets the transportation facilities to its other parts or states through the allowing country. In the case between Bangladesh and India, the AL government is going for corridor, it is not only transit.

It should be mentioned that India has been pressing for corridor for a very long time. But the BNP-Jamaat led four-party alliance government refused to allow corridor for India. This refusal has been observed as the main reason of obstructing the Sangsad election of 22 January, 2007. The subsequent incidents including the astonishing defeat of the four-party alliance and the AL’s ‘digital’ victory and coming to power have also indicated that there had really been something very mysterious behind the scene. Now since the AL government has finalized the plan it can be assumed that India’s container cargos, vehicles with goods and passenger buses would be allowed to enter Bangladesh through the various land ports. The AL government would also fulfill the Indian demand for resumption of rail services between Gede-Darsana, Singabad-Rohanpur, Petrapol-Benapol and Radhikapur-Shahzadpur. This would bring down the distance between Kolkata and Agartala of Tripura by about 1150 kilo meters. Now the distance would be only 350 kilo meters.

Dangers of corridor and uranium and diamond

Incidentally the reasons of objection and protest against corridor should be mentioned here. The main reason is the huge trade gap between Bangladesh and India. India has been depriving Bangladesh in the bilateral trade from the very beginning. If corridor is allowed this gap would be mounting by many times since Bangladesh would surely lose the chances of exporting to the north-eastern states of India. Secondly, if corridor is allowed India would use the lands of Bangladesh to destroy the struggle for independence of the `Seven Sisters’- the seven north-eastern states of India. This would unnecessarily involve Bangladesh in the internal affairs of India. The freedom fighters of the seven Indian states would make Bangladesh their military target and would start attacking Bangladesh. India too would create pressures to accept its army to ‘help’ and ‘protect’ Bangladesh. Through the process the Indian army will enter into Bangladesh and eventually the independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh would be threatened- in the process would be destroyed.

Allowing India to use the ports of Chittagong and Mongla would also endanger Bangladesh. In brief, Bangladesh would not be able to derive benefits in any way. But in spite of knowing everything the AL government has been pursuing the policy to serve the Indian purposes and allowing India corridor has become a matter of time. There is another reason of worry. A huge reserve of uranium and diamond has been discovered in the border areas of Sylhet. India wants to excavate the area and plunder those natural resources of Bangladesh. It has been apprehended that India had already started excavation. The experts have hinted at the sudden attacks and killings by the BSF across the Sylhet border and said that the intention had been to divert the Bangladeshi peoples’ attention from the uranium and diamond of Sylhet. Here too the AL government is working for the interest of India.

Conclusion: government serving Indian interests

In conclusion it can be undoubtedly said that the real aim of the government is to remove the obstacles in serving the interests of India. The big neighbour has been playing the main role in the process and since Sheikh Hasina and her colleagues have reasons and liabilities to obey the orders of India. The huge pressure created by India has made the government frantic and crazy. On the other hand as both the BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami have opposed and stood strongly in the way of allowing India corridor, the government has started sudden attack and all out repression against the leaders and workers of the two parties. This may continue till the arrangement for corridor is not finalized and the Indian vehicles do not start passing through the lands of Bangladesh. In the mean time India will be plundering the reserves of uranium and diamond from the Sylhet border. But since the government has kept them on the run the opposition parties will not be in a position to neither protest nor create obstacles in the way of serving the Indian purposes. That is the simple equation of India and the AL government.

But although well planned the patriotic analysts have cautioned the government and said that the ruling party leaders must take lessons from the history of democratic movements in the country and immediately stop the ongoing repressions and arrests. Otherwise the democracy-loving people may come down to the streets to compel them to quit. The leaders should also realize that the Chittagong election and the hartal of 27 June have clearly indicated about the government’s position in the eyes of the people. Such a refusal by the people within a period of only 18 months can not be treated as a good signal for the government and the countries like India too do not risk much for such governments. And those who work against their own country and nation are always depicted as traitors and the ‘Mir Zafars’.

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