BUS services on all routes to and from Rajshahi were suspended as the mayoral candidates of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party who lost city corporation elections were meant to hold a rally in Rajshahi for Tuesday. It was the third in a series of six rallies that the defeated mayoral candidates planned to protest against frauds in the city corporation elections and a reported government move for the revocation of the gallantry award given to the late president Ziaur Rahman, also founder of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, and to push for the conduction of elections in a fair manner and an early release of the party’s chairperson. The way bus services were suspended in the case at hand and during two other rallies that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the arch political rival of the ruling Awami League, held in Khulna on February 26 and in Barishal on February 18 weaves a pattern that speaks of a government ploy that reeks of high-handedness directed against the opposition of the government. The police allowed the Bangladesh Nationalist Party to hold the rally at a convention centre as such a gathering on the road could disrupt traffic and people’s movement. Yet transport owners and workers say that they suspended bus services on grounds of safety and security.
The Rajshahi District Motor Workers’ Union, however, says that they suspended bus services demanding the arrest of the people who beat one of their fellows in Bogura. In the case of the Khulna rally, transport workers, said to have gone on strike on the day of the BNP rally citing safety as a reason but believed to have been asked by the police, sought to say that it was the workers who sought work abstention for a day from transport owners for rest as they have not had the time to rest after restrictions on transport movement, ordered on March 26, 2020 as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19, were withdrawn, which happened in a limited manner on May 31, 2020 and fully on September 1 that year. The series of rallies and the series of bus suspension juxtaposed suggest that there has been a role that the administration played in transport workers suspending bus services to stop people from joining the rallies of the Bangladesh Nationalists Party. The government should stop employing such tactics that in a roundabout way are meant to harass entities in the opposition camp and, by extension, to stop people from voicing their dissent and holding protests. Expressing dissent in cases of issues going awry or holding protests to make voices heard in a peaceful manner is a democratic right of citizens, the absence of which makes democratic dispensation difficult and, at times, almost impossible.
The government must, therefore, stop showing high-handedness and employing such tactics, using road transport workers, in harassing individuals with dissent and groups or political parties in the opposition camp. All this augurs well neither for people nor for political parties as such a proposition, in turn, harms democratic dispensation. The government must also start taking dissenting views and protests positively in the furtherance of the country.
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