TEACHERS enlisted in government-recognised schools have been demanding inclusion in the Monthly Pay Order system for some time now. About 80,000 teachers of 5,000 non-government schools, colleges and technical institutes are outside the purview of MPO system. Last year, in the face of prolonged sit-in protest of non MPO teachers in Dhaka, the government assured them that more private educational institutions will be brought under the scheme in the next budget. However, the recently proposed budget does not have any mention of such move. In this context, teachers under the banner of Non-MPO Educational Institution’s Teachers and Employees Federation organised a sit-in protest in front of National Press Club on Sunday. The police, as reported in New Age on Monday, foiled the peaceful protest and detained president and secretary of the teachers’ federation. Police acknowledged that they have briefly detained leaders of the teachers’ federation for holding demonstration without permission. It is disconcerting that law enforcement agencies are increasingly using brute forces on peaceful protesters and the government seem to have no tolerance for any voice of dissent.
The attack on the teachers’ demonstration is not an isolated incident. Last week, the Rapid Action Battalion members detained Ganajagaran Mancha spokesperson Imran H Sarkar and assaulted demonstrators from a protest gathering at Shahbagh. In April, students’ movement for quota reform also endured similar police brutality. In August 2017, Titumir College student Siddiqur Rahman lost his eyesight in police action during a demonstration at Shahbagh. The series of police assault on peaceful protesters suggest that the government has no regard for people’s right to freedom of association. However, the constitution of Bangladesh assured freedom of assembly as one of the fundamental rights of people by its article 37 that states, every citizen shall have the right to assemble and to participate in public meetings and processions peacefully. In what follows, the incumbent’s much publicised commitment to eastablishing democracy in Bangladesh proves rhetorical, as in practice it left no for dissenting opinion.
The rights to freedom of assembly and freedom expression are foundation of any democracy. The incumbent government cannot continue to use excess force on peaceful protest and continue to claim that it is working for a democratic Bangladesh. In order to prove its mettle, the government has to create an enabling environment in which any citizen or civic organisation can exercise their democratic right to organise and participate in a peaceful protest. In doing so, it must judicious investigate all cases in which police have allegedly used brute and excess force, eventually injured and harmed citizens.
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