In the face of vehement demonstrations, the government has withdrawn the initiative to construct a police station at the Kalabagan playground. Yesterday, when the environmentalists along with the locals were holding a programme demanding protection of the field and preparing for a press conference, they learnt that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had decided to leave the field as it was. After that the protests turned into celebrations. All the participants in the field protection movement shouted out, “We have won today.”
We welcome the decision of the Prime Minister. It is not only the victory of the agitators in demanding the protection of the field, but also the recognition of the rights of children and youth to have playing grounds. This is a move in favour of the environment as well. It is worth mentioning that environmentalists and urban planners as well as the residents of Kalabagan were campaigning for the protection of the Tetultala ground for a while.
When the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) took the initiative to build a police station there, the locals were outraged. Children and teenagers also joined the movement along with adults. They demanded, “We don’t want a police station, we want the playground.”
Despite placing their demands to various organisations including the city corporation, the protestors did not get any positive response. The organisations avoided their responsibilities by putting the blame on a government agency. At one stage of the civil protest, a woman, Syeda Ratna, protested against the initiative to construct a police station through social media and the police arrested her and took her to the police station. They later took his teenage son to the police station and detained the two till midnight.
Condemnation and protests against this behaviour of the police came from different quarters. Prothom Alo wrote an editorial, published various opinion pieces and reports underscoring the issue.
In an immediate reaction, Syeda Ratna said, “I had faith that we would get the ground back if the matter was taken to the prime minister’s attention.” Earlier in an interview with Prothom Alo, she said she would forget everything if the ground was saved. All of what she said reveals the nature of the protesters. None of them were demonstrating for personal gain. Rather, they were waging the movement to make a way so that children can have the chance to play.
We also realise that the prime minister’s announcement did not come so easily. DMP continued its construction work amid the demonstrations, saying that they have bought the land. Representatives of the protesters met the home minister on Wednesday and reiterated their demand of protecting the ground. The home minister assured them of informing the prime minister of the matter. In that context, the prime minister yesterday said the Tetultala ground will remain as it as and no police station will be set up there.
Through this, the government not only met the demands of the local people but also acknowledged the necessity of keeping open space in every residential area. We think it is essential to have several playgrounds in each ward. A Prothom Alo report says there is no playground in 41 wards in two Dhaka city corporations. This lack of ground means the children in those areas are deprived of playing in open space. That’s why our demand is the government takes initiative to ensure at least one ground in each ward.