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Where We Are, Where We Are Going

Where We Are, Where We Are Going

A Sohrab Hasan*

The foundation of democracy is the truth that not the right of opposition against the government and the majority is to be admitted only but this right of opposition is also the fundamental character of democracy. Without it the existence of democracy cannot sustain. So the opposition in democracy is lawful and constitutionally acceptable. The indispensible institution of democracy is the organized opposition. The above lines are from the speech of political scientist Professor Dr. Mozaffar Ahmed Chowdhury given in English at the Annual Conference of Political Science Association in 1974.

If any remark of any other person on democracy is quoted the persons in power may see it with oblique eyes. But Mozaffar Ahmed Chowdhury was a member of the Bangabandhu Cabinet. Preceding that he was the Chairman of University Grants Commission and Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University. I do not think that there is any way to disagree the indispensability of the opinion of this political scientist of wide renown. The essence of what he said is that democracy means the opposition against the government or the majority. If you accept democracy you are to allow the minority to speak out. But in our country whoever remains in power, make efforts to block all the channels for others to voice their opinion. Even the scope of expressing different opinion within own party is gradually being shortened. Persons in power think them as the state and they treat opposition against government as an act of sedition. They forget that in a rule where opposition or criticism against the government cannot be made, it turns into an authoritarian rule. Now they have to take a decision where they would drive the country to. Would they accept the universal form of democracy or would remain forwarding the definition manufactured by them?

On the question of how the country is running, every great charioteer would speak in separate kind. In the opinion of opposition party (certainly they are not a share holder of the government) the country has gone astray; the economy has been destroyed. The answer to this question from the ruling people is diametrically opposite. They think that the democracy during the period of the present government has been so established which did not happen in the past. The people of the country did never see such a development. It means that two sides are staying at two poles. But perhaps none lies near the truth at all. So there is democracy in the country and simultaneously it is not in existence here. Although hundred percent democracy exists here for the people in power, there is not even a small percentage of it for the dissenters. The persons in power firmly perceive that the people who keep different opinion with them cannot desire welfare of the country. And the development which is spoken of is to be searched also to determine beneficiaries who enjoy the fruits of development and in what degree.

The universal definition of democracy is to live with all and there should be a room for opinion of all. But the persons in power think that they are the greatest democratic and patriotic people of the world. Those who criticize them are either stupid or anti-state elements. Politicians of other countries admit their faults committed. But in the dictionary of our politicians the word wrong is missing. They can never do mistake. Even once anybody expresses his error, he has no exemption. Such an unthought-of and immature democracy we live in.

It cannot be said emphatically that the environment in which a citizen would speak out the truth courageously is in existence at present. The way in which the persons in power are continuously doing insult and harassment to Daily Star Editor Mahfuz Anam over an event of the past, it has rather turned more impossible to speak the truth with the present. Perhaps he has opened the Pandoras Box. That is why there is hullabaloo in the ruling quarters. An influential leader of Awami League advised Mahfuz Anam to file a suit against the then providers of information. But not doing so if he would give this good advice to those who gave evidence against the Party President, would be better.

The persons in power every time speak of the spirit of the Liberation War and of four basic state principles. But its minimum demonstration is not noticed in their activities. The fundamental objective of the War of Liberation was democracy and equity. But even after 45 years of independence the politicians have failed to establish democracy. What is being going on in Bangladesh in the name of democracy is partyism only; in more clear terms it is personalism. Leaving the controversy whether the past was better than the present, more urgent is to question what would happen in the future. Where are we going? If the past might have been bad, there is no logic to remain grasped at that rather we are to move forward having learned from the past. Even if the people of Bangladesh are not happy they are extremely hopeful. In the hope of changing their lot, the people time and again put the politicians into power by vote having confidence in their words. But as much as the politicians are concerned over their own fortune so much so are indifferent to the lot of common man. Every now and then from persons in power it is told that the development that was materialized in Bangladesh during the last seven years has not been experienced during the last 37 years. But his development or non-development both needs a ground. The present stands on the past only. The future would be constructed on the present. Throughout ten years the growth is being achieved at a rate of 6 percent or more. But we are lagging behind in the field of investment which is the basic foundation of economic growth. As much as it is easier to abuse the political opponents, so much so tough is to create a favorable environment for investment. Still more hard is the building of a democratic setup. Democracy does not come through Election only  as this is true, so it is not untrue that democracy does not also come through boycotting of Election. Democracy resides in the political conscience of an individual, a party and a group. Although agonizing, it is true that they have not been able to reach even the proximity of that perception. Few days back President Abdul Hamid said in a gathering Please tell white as white and black as black. But the reality of todays Bangladesh is that although white can be said as white, the black cannot be termed as black. Would the persons in power kindly reply the question why this cannot be done?

One of the fundamental changes that took place in the post-ninety Bangladesh politics is that whatever popular a party may have been, it has no possibility of going into power single-handed. In the pre-ninety politics, Awami League and BNP won 97 and 70 percent seats respectively. In 1973 Awami League won all seats except seven seats wherein there was no less number of incidents of application of force. In 1979 under military government BNP won 207 seats. But afterwards in the polarization that happened in politics, none can think of going into power singly. I dont take into account the Election of 2014 because in no way it was a contesting Election. But it is not unknown to us what Awami League and BNP; the two rivals for power did in 2001 and 2008 Elections. If BNP did not show obstinacy, the scheduled Election on 22 January 2007 would take place and then equation of power would be different; it now may seem unrealistic to many people even. At that time the claimant party of the spirit of War of Liberation and Secularism entered a five point agreement with Khelafat Majlis. In that unheld Election Awami Leagues co-passengers were Bikalpadhara of Badroduza Chowdhury, LDP of Oli Ahmad, Gono Forum of Dr. Kamal Hossain and Jatiya Party of Hossain Mohammad Ershad. Although others are declared hostile in the eyes of the government Ershad is staying with it. A wonderful co-existence of the spirit of Liberation War and State Religion! Many of those who are branded as the anti-liberationists or assassins of democracy by the Awami League leaders, were their allies till 2007.

Whatever ladders for prosperity may be constructed by the economy of the country our politics are being gradually turned unhealthy and impatient. The social value judgment has degenerated to such an extent that the series of incidents of child murder and abduction one after another does not make us concerned. Education campus now means the sway of government party student organization. Here, leave alone the opposition Chatradal leaders-workers, minor student organizations are ousted from halls with torture.  Simultaneously the incidents of religious intolerance and the regression on weak groups of people have increased.

What dangerous form the political intolerance can take has been felt to the bone by Awami League M.P. Mr. M.A. Latif of Chittagong. He is a leader of Awami League in Chittagong, a former President of Chamber. Organizational actions could be taken against him if he had committed any mistake. This happened in case of Latif Siddiqui of Tangail when he had broken the party discipline. But what kind of a political culture it is when an MP is disgraced publicly and thrown shoes on his photograph? I do not expect that common man and the journalists would receive honor from the leaders  workers of a party who can disrespect a party MP of their own. Across the newspapers there is more concerned news that the cause of the organized attack on M.P. Latif is the authority factor of the Port. Once although the former Mayor Mahiuddin Chowdhury held single-handed authority on the Port, it is no more at present. Now-a-days one cannot make the Port known as life line of the economy of the country motionless at any time one wishes without valid reasons. E

* Sohrab Hasan: Poet, Journalist.

** Translated into English by The Economy Analyst.