A peaceful January 5 at last

Zakir-(8)

It is not that the two political parties did not break any of the conditions against which the Dhaka Metropolitan Police let them hold rallies in the city on the same day.

The usual traffic congestions and public sufferings in the streets of the capital city that are caused by major political programmes were also very much there.

Despite prohibition, Awami League and BNP supporters came in processions to join their respective rallies, disrupting traffic in the process. Hundreds of loudspeakers – way above the permitted number – were used.

The BNP was supposed to build a small stage on one side of the road in front of its office in Nayapaltan and leave the roads free for traffic movement. The ruling Awami League was told to set up its stage in front of its party office at Bangabandhu Avenue. Neither of those happened.

BNP supporters occupied both sides of the road from Bijoynagar to the party office. Awami Leauge set up its stage in front of the southern gate of the Baitul Mukarram mosque instead of in front of its party office blocking traffic from Zero Point to the stadium gate.

Still, whenever the two bitter rivals have held their programmes in neighbouring areas in the city on the same day, the talk of the town has never been how peaceful things were and how the two parties’ supporters did not cross each other’s path.

Traffic in an important section of the city was already light because of market holiday in the New Market, Dhanmondi, New Elephant Road, Panthapath and Farmgate areas yesterday. Most schools and colleges in the city were having their winter vacations.

Awami League’s second rally at Russel Square on Dhanmondi road 32 did not cause any disruption on the Mirpur Road either as it usually does.

There was apprehension among people about a worsening of law and order situation, particularly considering the turn of events after January 5 last year.

On this day last year, the BNP wanted to observe the first anniversary of the January 5, 2014 national elections that it had boycotted, dubbing the day as “Democracy Killing Day.” They sought permission to hold a rally at the Suhrawardy Udyan. The Awami League also wanted to observe “Democracy Protection Day” at the same venue on the same day. Eventually, none of them got the permission from Dhaka police authorities.

In the following three months’ street violence staged by BNP-Jamaat men starting on that day, hundreds of cars, buses and trucks were firebombed and vandalised in which at least 150 people were killed. The capital city was literally isolated from the rest of the country.

So yesterday, many people did not bring out their cars on the streets at all for obvious reasons.

But none of the apprehensions came true; not a single car was vandalised or firebombed, not a bomb was blasted, apart from the rally venues no other streets were blockaded.

Political observers and commentators are seeing this as a big positive for the country’s politics that has bred some of the most untoward situations in the recent years.

Brac University Professor Afsan Chowhdury applauded the two arch rivals for what he said were “positive gestures” from them.

“BNP returned from the path of violent politics and the Awami League allowed its rival to hold a rally. These are noticeable points.

“If such a situation continues to prevail, people will get some relief. It seems that the BNP has realised that its movements will not work and the Awami League has also realised that repression will also not work. So these are very good signs,” Prof Afsan said.

Political scientist Prof Ataur Rahman said that he wants to believe that this is a new beginning in the country’s politics that has been paralysed by violence.

“The parties have different strategies. The Awami League is under pressure from the inside, outside and from the people to give space to the opposition parties. But the party does not have any plans to hold national elections anytime soon. So, it is now giving some space to the opposition to gain people’s confidence so that they can stay in the office for the rest of its tenure.

“On the other hand, the BNP went into a hole that it dug for itself by making the wrong decision to wage street movements that turned violent. Opportunists took advantage of that. The BNP needs to come back to politics. It wants to capitilise on people’s sentiments. So, they remained peaceful yesterday,” Prof Ataur said.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

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