Keep the peace

Update: | Print Edition

Following the imprisonment of their party chairperson Khaleda Zia, BNP has opted to restrict their protests to human chains, protest rallies and submitting a memorandum. This has given the public a sense of relief. The government should also view the matter positively. However, certain leaders of the ruling party are sneering at BNP’s ‘ineffective programmes’, as if they would be happier with heated agitation instead.

On Thursday, BNP’s ineffective programmes in Habiganj were met with unwarranted violence. According to media reports, in the name of stopping BNP’s procession, the police attacked Habiganj municipal mayor GK Gaus. Angered, the party activists retaliated with brickbats. The police opened fire with rubber bullets, injuring 20. GK Gaus and a large number of leaders and activists were arrested. Processions were obstructed in Faridpur, Munshiganj and Narayanganj. BNP claims that 200 leaders and activists were injured and 70 injured in Thursday’s incident.

The administration hadn’t imposed any prohibitions after BNP declared their programmes. The government policymakers had also said that no one would be obstructed from peaceful protests. BNP even acquiesced when the police asked them to shorten their hunger strike in front of the press club in Dhaka as this was hampering public movement. So what is the reason for this sudden instigation?

GK Gaus is the elected mayor of Habiganj. The government could have taken legal action if there was any specific allegation against him. But what justification could there be of attacking him in a peaceful programme? He simply asked the police why they were blocking their procession. What is wrong with that? According to eyewitness accounts, it was police excesses that led to the firing and clashes. BNP programmes were peaceful where police placed no obstruction. But why the firing and arrests in Habiganj? There was arrests and assault in Munshiganj and Faridpur too. These police excesses in political programmes must be stopped.

Political quarters will calculate the gains and losses of the Thursday assaults and arrests. But the public will be apprehensive over the disruption of their daily lives. The law enforcement is supposed to ensure peace and security, not to disrupt public lives. It must be kept in mind that BNP did not undertake any violent programmes. Their programmes in most districts of the country have ended peacefully. An inquiry must be made into why the Habiganj incident took place.

In the prevailing complex political circumstances, political parties should also display responsible behaviour. Party activists must be kept in control. The law enforcement agencies must remember that they are not supposed to instil fear in the public mind. Political elements can have their own thoughts on street agitation, but the forces responsible for maintaining public safety cannot fall prey to any instigation. They must not. 

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