Saturday, March 10, 2012

Is Dhaka a city under siege?

Government's harsh measures disturb life.


The unprecedented security measures the government has taken ahead of the planned BNP's 'Dhaka Cholo' (Let's March to Dhaka) programme for March 12 has left citizens mystified and worried. On the one hand, there is the big question of whether such stringent measures are at all needed when a party simply wishes to exercise its democratic right in a furtherance of its politics. On the other, the way in which conditions are being handled makes it clear that the nation's capital has been placed in a state of siege by the government. All the signs point to a state of panic on the part of the administration in the sense that it thinks the political opposition could really be up to some mischief.

The government's explanation is that such measures are necessary in order to avert chaos on the streets. Of course, no citizen desires to see chaos taking over. But what the authorities clearly seem to be ignoring is the fact that on March 12 it will not be just the BNP which will remain busy with its political programmes. There are tens of thousands of citizens who, as usual, will have their deadlines to meet and responsibilities to fulfill on the day. Now, with the police taking over the streets and then even raiding hotels and messes in the city to ensure that no anti-government elements are around, it is the residents of Dhaka who are being put into great difficulties. The job of a government is to make life easier for people. In the present case, precisely the opposite is being done. It is simply not acceptable.

As for the government's measures to keep the BNP in check, we believe they are misplaced and demonstrate all the features of a police state. If the opposition does engage in any subversive act, the government can very well take action on March 12. But to go about hunting down BNP activists all over the city and even at bus and railway stations and river terminals prior to that date flies in the face of rational thinking. The BNP, the ruling party might do well to remember, is not a proscribed organization but a well-established and major political party. Therefore, for the government to go after it in this rather medieval fashion is really to undermine its own credibility. 

We urge the government and the opposition to step back a little and do nothing that will inflame further an already worrisome situation.