State events on the golden jubilee of independence or the birth centenary Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman are matters of celebration. The presence of the heads of government and state of five South Asian countries made the events even more glorious. But all that glory has turned sour.
Several organisations including the non-political Islamist hard-line Hefazat-e-Islam were opposed to Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh. Hefazat-e-Islam and several leftist groups had already announced protests. Government policymakers either failed to anticipate the gravity of the situation or have failed to take effective action. Violence erupted in Chittagong's Hathazari following Hefazat's protests and Hefazat supporters had been wreaking havoc in and around Brahmanbaria for two days. Government offices, police stations, railway stations, Shaheed Dhirendranath Dutta Bhasha Chattar, Ustad Alauddin Khan Music Academy were not spared from their attack. A total of 16 people were killed in violence in Hathazari and Brahmanbaria.
The question is why the local administration and government policymakers failed to take necessary actions. When it came to a gathering of 150 people of the opposition BNP, 100 policemen were deployed in front of the press club where the BNP protesters demonstrated. Any procession brought out without of permission, is dispersed immediately and effectively. Why was this not possible for Hefazat?
Hefazat-e-Islam said they had no pre-announced programmes in Brahmanbaria or Hathazari. Spontaneous protests erupted in those two places after the attack on a peaceful protest at the north gate of Baitul Mukarram Mosque in Dhaka. Whether the protest was spontaneous or organised, it is the responsibility of the government to protect people's lives and property. But they have completely failed in this duty in Brahmanbaria and Hathazari. Any death is painful. Legal action must be taken against those who use the poor students of Qawmi madrasahs as pawn in their political games.
In other cases, too, the ruling party men thwart the opposition outside of administrative action. This time too it was no exception. Beside the members of the law enforcement agencies, activists of Chhatra League, Jubo League and Swechchhasebak League were seen obstructing the protesters at Baitul Mukarram on Friday.
If the government takes legal action against the protesters, why will the attackers be spared? Does anyone have the authority to take the law into their own hands? In a democratic society, everyone has the right to peaceful and orderly meetings and gatherings. The government needs to understand that it is not uncommon for such chaotic and violent situations to arise when a peaceful protest is suppressed.
Although a few days have passed since the incident in Brahmanbaria, no case has been registered in connection with the deaths. Although a case has been filed for vandalism, unidentified persons have been made accused. On the one hand, the government says that the leadership of Hefazat has caused this violence. On the other hand, no case was registered against the Hefazat leaders outside Dhaka.
Police chief Benazir Ahmed said that although there were no names of Hefazat leaders in the case, an investigation would be conducted. The irony is that in other cases the government does not show such tolerance. So is the government still giving more importance to political consideration than bringing justice against the law breakers? The law must be applied equally to all. Those responsible should be brought to justice through proper investigation. Otherwise, the government's attitude towards cases and arrests against Hefazat will remain confusing.