Are we practicing democracy?

Newage Youth | Published: 00:00, Aug 12,2018


On August 29, a speeding bus, while competing with another one ploughed through pedestrians in Dhaka and killed two students. This triggered a mass movement demanding road safety. During the protests, police along with ‘unknown goons’ launched a series of attacks on protesters in different places, leaving scores injured. New Age Youth asked students, given the reaction of the government, do we have space to practice democracy?   

IN A democratic atmosphere there are many components besides holding regular elections that make it a liberal and fruitful one, meaning, election is not the exclusive indication of a healthy democratic environment. Such as protection of fundamental freedom, human rights, rule of law, separation of powers, participatory parliament, democratic pluralism, effective opposition, decentralisation, democratic governance as well as protection of public opinion and freedom of media along with freedom of speech at any level. The recent events of police atrocities along with attacks from ‘unknown’ goons on the protesting students for road safety are in fact pointing to a grimmer reality that is prevailing in our country-we have failed, even nearly after half a century of the liberation, to produce a healthy democratic environment for the ordinary people of our country. Also, the pillars of democracy have already been collapsed immensely and also violated harshly by every government, at all levels. On the other hand, excessive and vulgar uses of repressive state apparatus as a mean of oppressing students and youth as well as any dissenting voices is reprehensible as well as a negative sign for democratic advancement in Bangladesh. I hope that the concerned groups would realise these issues soon for the betterment of us all.


THERE is an unclean thing, born & nursed on our soil, polluting our soil, which must be driven away, not kept to destroy us’, this quote from great Greek playwright Sophocles’ tragedy King Oedipus can also be used to explore today’s reality of Bangladesh. Presently this identified unclean thing is neo-fascism in the name of democracy, by which the ruling class is trying to fulfill their agendas. Democracy is a way of life which is the totality of practices that permits people to emancipate them from oppression and exploitation of the ruling class. But, the ruling party is forcing the people towards oppression-repression and exploitation, freedom of speech has been hijacked, repressive state apparatuses are used to doom any movement irrespective of the agenda. The protests of the school and college students demanding road safety and the ruling party’s proceeding towards this movement have unveiled their fascist face to the people. Students have constitutional right to protest and critique the government but the ruling party uses their activists as well police violently to shackle this movement. Award-winning photographer, activist and thinker, Shahidul Alam, has been arrested and allegedly tortured in custody because of an Al-Jazeera interview about student protests. Many journalists and students were brutally beaten up by police and ruling party activists and now the government is harassing the protesters and supporters through the judiciary system as well as police. Moreover, the state machine is propagating propagandas which, in many ways, used to legitimise the attacks on the protesters. By this way they are promoting one of the most corrupted sectors of Bangladesh-- transport. It is said that the fascists are so afraid that they are afraid of their own shadow and it is identically visible that this ruling party is in this position because they know they are not for the people but only to fulfill their greedy agendas.


IT IS really disturbing to see the vicious attack by the police and ‘unknown’ goons on the protesting students, who were demanding better road safety by staging on the streets. Students took to the streets after two college students were killed by a rashly driven bus in Dhaka but the police and ruling party activists’ atrocities displayed on the peaceful demonstration do not represent the actual image of democracy. Not only in this protest, we have seen how police as well as ruling party student wing activists launched attacks on quota reforms protesters a few months back. But, our constitution reads--every citizen have a right to assemble and participate in public meetings and procession peacefully subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by the law in the interest of public order or public health. So, it goes without saying from the contemporary political scenario, it offers a little scope of practicing democratic rights in Bangladesh. In my understanding, the role of law enforcement and the ruling party is nothing but a way to oppress the legitimate demands of students and youth by using state apparatus have tarnished our democracy which is totally unacceptable practice from a ‘democratic’ government.


WITH the current situation going on, it feels as if we have taken off our backbones and folded it in a suitcase with the pretentious promise of using it the next time. Let it gets bashed and flattened with a stick or a metal rod. Let it gets butchered into pieces with a machete. And why shouldn't it feel so? The times are such that speaking the truth takes you nowhere but the jail and you have to count your blessings that at least you haven't been disappeared. Perhaps English Romantic poet Keats was wrong after all, there is no beauty in this truth. The comfort comes only from the lie we keep feeding ourselves-- tomorrow will be better-- until one day, there'll be no tomorrow. No time to put the backbone on. And we shall reduce to worms if we haven't already.


The attacks by police and ruling party activists on protesting students demanding road safety only proved that practicing democracy is just not possible in this country. Students were beaten and arrested for demanding safe roads! Police along with their ‘allies’ together unleashed their wrath upon school going teens. The sense of intolerance perpetrated by the ruling class is absolutely abominable and a huge obstacle in creating a democratic environment.


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