State repairs are the call of the day


File PhotoAhmed Kamal, Anu Muhammad, Rehnuma Ahmed, Omar Tarek Chowdhury, Jyotirmoy Barua, Mirza Taslima, Sayeed Ferdous, Arup Rahee, Samina Lutfa and Amal Akash
During the students movement for safe roads, a placard inscribed ‘Rashtra Meramoter Kaaj Cholchhe’ (state repairs in progress), was a wakeup call for us. This call, expressed in the unprecedented orderly demonstration, had immense significance. And yet the authorities took stern action against this call and the initiative of the students at the time.
However, at this time before the national election when socio-political conditions are at the lowest, there really is no other option but to repair the state.
Over the past years we witnessed the governments creating various situations ahead of the elections that ultimately led the country into deep crises. It is no different this time. People fear a fair and inclusive election is not possible under a government that was elected through voter-less polls in 2014.
The ruling Awami League has been rampantly repressing free-thinkers and anyone who dissents over the past few months. Renowned photographer Shahidul Alam has been in jail for three months till date and his bail process remains halted.
University teacher Maidul Islam recently was granted bail from jail. Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder and one of the trustees, Zafrullah Chowdhury, has been framed in a number of false cases. His organisation has been vandalised and miscreants tried to occupy the premises.
Vindictive behaviour to the opposition and intimidation has become very common these days.
There has been constant abuse of the law, arrests in false cases, remand and imprisonment.
A regime of terror has been created through forced disappearance and extrajudicial murders.
From bus drivers to commissioners, innumerable people have been picked up by whom the victims’ family repeatedly claim to be law enforcement members, never returned home alive.
A large number of state-backed organisations and individuals, such as law enforcement agencies, the judiciary, military and civil bureaucrats, policy makers and lawmakers, have stood against the people of the country by violating all kind of rules and regulations for a vested quarter.
Starting from opposition political parties to the non-political quota reform movement, demonstrations for safe roads and even social movements to save the environment have been stopped and such programmes have been intentionally disrupted.
Simultaneously, several state-backed and corporate-controlled print media and a part of the visual media have also been involved in this repressive system. In recent times, incidents of telephone conversation leaks and their exposure in the media are the worst examples of moral turpitude and violation of journalistic etiquette.
Despite having so many TV channels and newspapers, the people are deprived of accurate news and analysis about the political situation of the country.
The government is constantly promoting its so called development to hide the horrific situation that has been created in the country.
However, the unlimited anarchy of the financial sector including several banks, corruption and looting from development projects will eventually push Bangladesh to a dreadful situation.
The effectiveness of various economic, judicial or executive institutions will perish with the destruction of these institutions one after another.
A fair election cannot be held amid such fears, repression and arbitrariness.
It is a matter of great hope that the people of Bangladesh are protesting against injustice at the individual and collective level despite this repressive situation. We believe that urgent initiatives are necessary in two areas to overcome the prevailing lawlessness and anarchy.
First, it is necessary to make political and institutional decisions to ensure free and fair elections. The election commission has been turned into an inefficient institution over the years during the term of government of different political parties.
The current commission also took various controversial decisions such as introducing electronic voting machines (EVMs) and registration of new political parties. This situation hinders the path to an acceptable election.
On the other hand, different quarters throughout the country have been demanding a neutral election-time government to conduct a free and fair election.
We can see that the government has taken initiatives to hold dialogue with various opposition parties. We welcome this initiative of dialogue and express our hope that this will not be reduced to mere formalities. It must effectively and meaningfully address the interests of the country and the people.
We want the government to take necessary steps so that all citizens of the country will be able to vote safely and without fear.
Secondly, it is important to ensure public safety and citizens’ rights as a prerequisite to elections and political stability.
Extended lawlessness and anarchy cannot continue in any civilised state. It is high time to take immediate action to stop all kinds of forced disappearances including extrajudicial killings and to bring the perpetrators to book.
The ongoing repressive application of law is a matter of alarm. The abolished section 57 has simply been included in various sections of the digital security act and other laws, and is being used to harass people by arresting or detaining then on various charges. We demand the immediate release of persons detained in such cases and withdrawal of the charges.
We also call upon the concerned authorities to desist from using the state institutions, particularly the judicial and the executive, in the interests of any particular party, group or individual. We also call upon all quarters to refrain from the propensity to use the ethnically, religiously or gender-wise marginalised people for political interests before the election. Such abuse of these people is against the fundamental spirit of the liberation war.
(The writers of this piece are university teachers, writers, lawyers, artists and citizens of Bangladesh.)
*This piece originally published in Prothom Alo print edition has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat

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