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Random thoughts on the occasion of Ekushey February

Muhammad Quamrul Islam | February 21, 2018 12:00:00

History was on the making when students in Dhaka, capital of erstwhile East Pakistan, brought out processions on February 21, 1952, demanding Bengali as a state language, which was spoken by the majority of the Pakistanis. The ruling clique of Pakistan, however, felt otherwise and the subservient role of Bengali leaders in the provincial government did not help the cause. The police opened fire and killed Salam, Rafique, Jabber, Barkat et al.

The news of killing spread like wild fire throughout the country and students from schools, colleges and universities came out of classes spontaneously and paraded the streets raising full-throated slogans for the martyrs of mother language. The demand for Bengali as a state language gained momentum. This acted as a fountainhead for movements throughout 1950s, 1960s leading to landslide victory for the Awami League and subsequent emergence of an independent country in 1971.

Academic environment and democratic pursuit continued unabated till early 1971. Unfortunately, that inspiring atmosphere was lost after 9-month-long bloody war. In sovereign Bangladesh, it was expected it will get restored and flourish further on campuses throughout the country. The government-in-exile on return to Dhaka failed to come up to the ideology and promises made to the people but succumbed to pelf and power, grabbed posts and positions opened up in the newly independent country.

Despite economic growth, courtesy of wage earners' remittance inflow, low-cost garment workers' labour, farmers' initiatives and adaptability with technologies, the country remains institutionally weak and vulnerable. Erosion of democratic values and various socio-economic aberrations, corruption, poor governance, increasing environmental vulnerability as reported by international agencies, raise doubts whether the country is on the right track.

Against such a background, the High Court has passed an order on the Dhaka University authority to hold election to the Dhaka University Central Students Union (DUCSU), which is in abeyance for decades, within six months, according to reports carried in national dailies on January 18, 2018. Already a month has passed and February 21 is knocking at the door, but there is no sign of academic and administrative activities to comply with the order, for which the general students and guardians are eagerly waiting. For lack of regular DUCSU elections, students are deprived of their rights and the nation is not getting quality leaderships in different sectors. Will this order be bypassed this time also on one plea or the other or hollow promises by the university authorities? We strongly urge its compliance.

In this connection, let it be noted that the Election Commission (EC) could not declare a schedule for the mayoral election to the Dhaka North City Corporation and others. There is a number of legal experts available to the Election Commission who can assist the EC. Is it inefficiency or intrigue behind deferring election for which voters were waiting to exercise their right to franchise? Some argue that the ruling parties feared to face the election. Whatever may be the case, the High Court passed a stay order for three months.

All these give an impression that the 14-party ruling alliance want to hold the next national election keeping the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) under pressure and on the sideline. Now that Begum Khaleda Zia, Chairperson of the BNP is in jail, Senior Vice Chairman Tarique Rahman holding the charge is also a convicted fugitive from the country, anxiety has deepened about the course of events next. But the international community is keeping watch on the situation unfolding on the domestic front here and its geopolitical dimensions.

The writer is an economist, advocate and social activist.

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