Post-polls violence: Take stern action to maintain peace

Prothom Alo illustration

It is alarming that violence has become an ‘integral part’ of our electoral politics. The election on 7 January was not that much competitive since Awami League’s main rival BNP did not take part.

People had a hunch that the incident of violence will be less in this election as BNP did not join it. But the reality turned out to different as incident of violence was reported even after six days of the election. In some places, religious minorities were the target of attack.

Miscreants killed Shaheduzzaman Polash, an agent of an independent candidate, in Noakhali’s Sonaimuri on Saturday. Supporters of boat (the ruling party’s electoral symbol) had been threatening him as he protested ballot stuffing on the polling center. On 9 January, supporters of independent candidate killed boat candidate’s supporter in Jhenaidah-2 constituency on 9 January. Some families of minority community fled their homes in fear of attack in Kushtia-4 constituency. Police, however, brought them back to their homes. Incident of attacks were reported in Bagerhat and Pirojpur.

According to Prothom Alo report, incidents of hacking and beating up the workers of rival candidates were reported even after six days. Cases were filed. A video of beating up of a Jubo League worker in Panchagarh went viral on social media. Deaths of nine persons were reported from the beginning of polls campaign till today.  Several hundred were injured by this time.

Supporting or not supporting a certain candidate is democratic right of a citizen. Why should a citizen be attacked for exercising that right? Such a conflicting situation arises when those who claim to establish democracy by elections actually get involved with undemocratic activities.

Defeated parties have the chance to write to Election Commission (EC) if they have any e complaint about election results. If candidates fear about the safety of own supporters, they can resort to law enforcers. Engaging in violence without doing so goes against the rule of law. As such, they actually took law on their own hands. It can be assumed that the rival candidates also had instigation in such incidents. If the candidates accept the results, why don’t they stop their supporters from being embroiled in illegal activities?

It can be noted that almost all the incidents of electoral violence centering this election took place between Awami League nominated candidates and independent candidates. They could not have done these if the party had minimum discipline or the activists had trust on their leadership.

Inaction of law enforcers in these incidents is also not acceptable. While our law enforcers can file even ‘fictitious case’ against the leaders-activists of opposition parties, why they condone the electoral violence of the ruling party leaders-activists is inexplicable.

The call made by the highest leadership of Awami League urging its supporters to maintain peace following the election is not being heard. It is unfortunate that the party has not taken any action despite warning of taking measures.

No matter whose supporters are they, the perpetrators of violence must immediately be brought to book.