A.B.M. Osman Gani (Ashoka Fellow, U.S.A; Social Worker, Researcher and Writer)
Presently, the civil societies (Nagorik Samaj) are playing more or less significant role in most of the countries of the world. Civil societies (Nagorik Samaj) are putting a significant contribution in most of the places whether it is a democratic country or otherwise. Even in Bangladesh, Nagorik Samaj is making noteworthy contributions in various social movements and establishing the citizens’ rights. It is such a concept that neither the sitting government nor the opposition party can deny its implication, nor can they discard its applications. Although this concept is not clear to our general population, yet the term ‘Civil Society’ is not uncommon to most of the public. This perception is now-a-days centre of discussion among all the human rights activists.
The concept of Nagorik Samaj should be made clear to everybody. No common definition has yet been taken by and large. So, this is designed and explained in different ways by different persons. The endeavor for establishing ‘Shushil Samaj’ has been initiated from the emergence of human civilization. Centuries back, the concept of ‘Civil Society’ was accepted in the Western countries, Europe, America and a few others.
While translating the concept ‘Civil Society’ in vernacular Bengali, it meant Nagorik Samaj, Shushil Samaj, General Public Samaj, and Gentlemen’s Samaj etc. Combining both English and Bengali, it may be pronounced as: Civil Samaj or Nagorik Society. The contemplation of Civil Society being the organization of the citizens is not a new, but a very old one. Renowned philosopher Marcos Cecero of the Roman empire initially introduced the concept of Cirizens Society or Shushil Samaj in 1981. According to him, ‘Nagorik Samaj’ is ‘Civil Societas’ which meant: “civilized condition of living in a civic community”. But in the 18th Century, Adam Farguson introduced Shushil Samaj as: “A state of civility and a consequence of civilization”. Most of the intellectuals like Tomas Paign through Hegel and many of the philosophers placed ‘Nagorik Samaj’ in the equal status of the state. But the concept of ‘Nagorik Samaj’ took place in the social science through Hegel and Marx. After the World War-II, the view of ‘Shushil Samaj’ (well-behaved society) came into the limelight through the writings of Marxis Antony and Pramsi and it moved towards the centre of discussion from that very time. According to Pramsi, ‘Shushil Samaj’, a well-behaved society is: “A special nucleus of independent political activity, a crucial sphere of struggle against tyranny”.
According to the views of some persons, the foundation of the Concept of Civil Society was originated from the Social Agreement. The concept of Social Agreement was spread amongst the learned personnel of Europe in the 18th Century. The fundamental truth was improved naturally with the state of nature. According to philosopher Hegel, ‘Nagorik Samaj’ is not constituted by Social Agreement but it is a Field of Agreement. In the political management of a country, a state government and the opposition party appears on the one hand and ‘Nagorik Samaj’ on the other. ‘Nagorik Samaj’ is fundamentally holding the rights of the citizens and their philosophy. Establishment of the rights of the citizens is the most important objective of ‘Nagorik Samaj’.
Composition of Nagorik Samaj:
Now, a question arises as to who comprises the ‘Nagorik Samaj’? Who are called the members of ‘Civil Society’?
The Nagorik Samaj / Civil Society consists members of educated population, development workers, various professionals e.g. agriculturists, community labors, housewives, intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, retired personnel, social activists, teachers, working people, writers, and persons related to culture, students and youths irrespective of party, opinion, region, anthropological differences, village, town, rich and poor. No obstacle arises out of opinion, thought and difference of belief. While describing the disposition of Nagorik Samaj, the ex-President Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed vividly expressed that the representatives of the greater part of population are connected with the work of Nagorik Samaj irrespective of class, origin of family, custom and culture.
Nagorik Samaj is the society of general conscious people. The Civil Society is not at all confident of any segregation. Basically, the members of the Civil Society are educated and knowledgeable population who are not directly connected with the running of the government. Those who are not directly associated with the running of the government and decision making process, such employees could also be included as the members of Nagorik Samaj. The accepted wisdom and efforts in working of the conscious and skilled personnel can usually transform the society. The members of the mass oriented as well as progressive political parties or even the honest members of the sitting government who are not benefited by the government or not interested in benefit, could also be included in the Civil Society. Those who conscious about the country, nation, social order, national activities and are responsible persons, they are the components of Nagorik Samaj. The persons who have progressive mind, generous spirit, concern for humanity and are faithful for supportive and uninterrupted politics, they are included in the Nagorik Samaj. Nagorik Samaj is neither a political party, nor any anti-government power; rather they are development oriented and over-and-above complementary to the government. It should be guided by truthful facts and go straightforward.
But the persons who are in power and management of the state and the government as well as component of the decision making process, they are not incorporated as the members of the Civil Society. Furthermore, the top ranking officers of the military and non-governmental organization, disputed businessmen of local and multi-national companies, sitting parliamentarians, law department and the police force are not integrated in the Civil Society. The members of political organizations, students’ organizations, and labor organizations blindly support malicious motives of the party, they are used and controlled by the political parties for the sake of parties’ self-interest and thus try to impose their party theory upon them, they could not be integrated in the Nagorik Samaj.
Over and above, people who are rowdy, fraud in tendering, corrupt, opposing the independence, godfather of the terrorists, defaulters of loan, communalists, racist, convicted by the court, unlawfully possessing firearms, black money holder, plunderer of the so-called affluent groups are not inducted in the Civil Society; rather they would be considered as enemy of it. Those who are mean-minded, narrow in thinking, undisciplined and enraged are not considered as the members of this society. The political parties who are nationally anti-unity, anti-mass, and associated with unpatriotic, black moneyed men and defending illegal firearms holders, loan defaulters, communal, racial, swindler and patronizing all these people for ill motive of the party politics, would be reasonably opposed by Nagorik Samaj for their anti-state and anti-public activities.
Presently, some party-based associations have grown up in the country in the name of civil societies that are carrying out commands of their respective political parties. These types of organizations can never be called as authentic Nagorik Samaj. The ideology and objectives of the Civil Society cannot be put into action by the category of people stated above.
Ideology, Responsibility and Activities.
The ideology, goals and responsibility of the societies of the world have been modeled as per respective standards and objectives. Different types of activities/ programs are ascertained based on the people, place, time and geographical conditions of different countries. The philanthropists, researchers, politicians and social activists have now been concentrating on the consensus and without the basement of Civil Society, citizen’s constitutional rights can neither be established, nor can the good governance, founding and institutionalizing of democracy be protected from vicious and wicked politicians of evil design.
Civil Society is an incredible civilizing force. It is a burning requirement in the backward country like Bangladesh where the role of Nagorik Samaj could play an essential part in establishing citizen’s rights and rule of law in the society. No government of any country can put into operation any activities effectively without the active participation of Civil Society. It is an evident fact that the previous governments could not be successful defying the suggestions of Nagorik Samaj and was not capable of building terrorism and corruption free Bangladesh. It is needless to mention that no government will be successful in future if it does not confer upon the significance of the recommendations of Nagorik Samaj.
We could witness the significance of the human society or civil society as contemplated by Rabindranath Tagore. He thought that the society is much more important than the state. He assumed that the power of human beings is mightier than the central power of the state. This human society is assumed to undertake administration in association with the welfare activities according to their aspiration.
Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed possesses uncompromising mental support for the Nagorik Samaj. According to him: “the aspirations of Shushil Samaj should be to establish such society (association) where the people of different classes and groups could live with peace, honor and prestige without any hesitation”. In the true sense, the Shushil Samaj helped the top ranking officers of the state in the right of access to democracy. In the true sense of the term, democracy can be achieved through fair and independent election and effective participation of the people in decision making process at every stage of administration. Furthermore, in the process of democratization, Nagorik Samaj can endeavor hard on creating pollution free environment, implementing human rights, reducing poverty, illiteracy, migration, social enmity, and even it can resolve such issues of inequality of women’s empowerment. Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed addressed uncovering the evil face of the principal political parties to the context that the political parties are not at all hesitating to grab power adopting any option, either good or bad. They usually manipulate the students and labor power and even the religion for the purpose of politics. Ex-President Shahabuddin Ahmed addressing the society expressed that the Nagorik Samaj cannot sit idle as a spectator; rather it had to take the preventive measure socially against the evil persons concerned and erect the Shushil Samaj in its place. This dignified personality on different occasions accused the ruling political parties in the context that whenever any party is defeated in the election, they deceitfully complain against the party in power about the fairness of election.
Speaking at a congregation in 1996, Chief Justice Mohammad Habibur Rahman while as the Chief Adviser of the Caretaker Government hailed the role of Nagoraik Samaj and said that the concept of Civil Society has been reiterated while the political government proved failure in the management of the state during the last few decades. Analyzing the history of Bangladesh slightly, it would be found that the state mechanism has been utterly unsuccessful. This failure of the government or state has become our failure too.
Dr. Kamal Hossain, an internationally reputed lawyer, firmly believed in the movement of the Civil Society. He used to participate directly in different programs/ activities of Nagorik Samaj from time to time. He took the most leading part in the citizen’s movement.
Indicating the significance of the movement of Nagorik Samaj, National Professor Dr. Kabir Chowdhury opined that the main appeal of the concept of Shushil Samaj is the mass movement and taking part in different activities of the state. He was very much hopeful about constituting an effective Nagorik Samaj.
It was feasible to organize explanatory arrangements for the government through the activities of awareness program and movements. The civil population does not thrive for occupying the power. This work is generally engineered by the political parties. The Civil Society would rather help making them responsible for explanation of the sitting government as well as persons holding the power. The Civil Society wants to establish the rights of decision making process and the rights of the real power. The decision that is taken at the local and the national level and its implementation by the direct participation of the general mass has to be ensured by the NagoriK Samaj as one of its goals. Nagorik Samaj undertakes role of the departments of the state organs turning into promulgating law in public welfare while the bureaucratic concerns are responsible promulgation of law and implementing the decisions. Nagorik Samaj not only helps the sitting government and the political parties that were in power in the past and are willing to go into power again but it also makes them more responsible through creative criticism and exchange of news and views. While fixing the mass supported ideology concerning the significance of the Civil Society, veteran educationist and the preceding Chairman of Bangla Academy Dr. Anisuzzaman commented that when the political parties will formulate the principles or making directives in consultation with Nagorik Samaj then the whole state mechanism will come into discipline.
Nagorik Samaj is an organization of creating mass awareness. It also raises the awareness of the members of public and builds independent strong citizen’s organization which is the responsibility of Civil Society. There are respective organizations for the doctors, engineers, teachers, students, laureates, cultural people, women’s liberation workers, cultivators and laborers. Nagorik Samaj thrives to concentrate into different professional organizations and build strong citizen’s organization through democratic process and exchange of ideas and views. Examples can be cited from the instances of different countries that this concentrated citizen’s organization can play better role in establishing citizen’s rights than the political parties. Especially, this is much more important in the backward stages of developing countries like Bangladesh. More so, because it is found that the trust of the general public on major political parties of the country is significantly diminishing.
It is to be remembered by all of us that Nagorik Samaj is neither an alternative political party nor a parallel government, but a pressure group organization. Its ultimate goal is to ensure the clarity and responsibility of the government and the state as well. Shushil Samaj is never confident on the state mechanism, neither aggressive, nor a pessimistic movement. It creates peaceful as well as regulated movement against any fault or mistake on the part of the state and the government. Civil Society does lead this movement as its moral obligation. Shushil Samaj should be vigilant of the day-to-day problems of the citizens and should try to resolve gender equity, environmental pollution, communalism or any other activity against humanity.
How could Nagorik Samaj play effective role in Bangladesh?
The Nagorik Samaj could play a very significant role in the backward country like Bangladesh. It can work as a ‘Pressure Group’ by creating awareness among the citizens. The people of this country fought the Liberation War against the colonial power in 1971 for establishing a democratic Bangladesh with a view to bringing about social peace free from terrorism and exploitation, economic freedom, non-communal politics, equitable distribution of wealth and human rights. The above mentioned goals have not yet been achieved or implemented even after 40 years of independence. Since independence, the governments in power and the major political parties have remained unsuccessful to give appropriate leadership to the nation. The nation was united during and after Liberation War, but now it has become polluted and divided on the party politics and social discrimination. Some of the critics opined that the election is held and the members are elected for five years as the leasing agency for exploitation and plundering.
Since the independence of Bangladesh, dirty politics, corruption, terrorism, communalism, exploitation and pro- & anti- liberation groups have been established. This nation earned liberty through several mass movements and in exchange of millions of lives. The governments in power and ministerial staff ruined and deliberated upon their irresponsibility. Though Nagorik Samaj had created seed-bed for these movements in the past, but due to the selfishness and lack of farsightedness and prudence of different political parties in power, the expected result of the upsurge and movements could not be achieved.
At present, there is no safety of life and wealth in Bangladesh. Being agitated, the people take the law in their own hands. At the dawn of independence, the extortion was made by 22 alien families, but now more than 22,000 home grown people have taken control of the country that have been plundering and sucking the blood of the people and the volume of poverty is increasing day by day. Political parties triumph the power of one after another, only the thing is that administrators and exploiters are being changed for their self interest. The starving cultivators producing crops don’t have food at their house and the distressed laborers can not arrange food twice a day putting their labor dawn to dusk. They are destroying the character of the students and youths and handing over unlawful arms in their hands in order to gain the nasty and party interest. Conversely, the people are experiencing corruption, hijacking, and one section of hated people depending on black money unlawfully engaged in party politics. The people of the country have been agonized severely and fading. The countrymen are captivated in the hands of the party politics. Nagorik Samaj can liberate the nation from this nauseous politics.
The Nagorik Samaj took the people’s movement forward in every field of the language movement, independence of Bangladesh, eliminating the autocratic government in 1990. Basically, the seed-bed of all nationalized movements and struggle were generated by unified Nagorik Samaj. The major political parties thwarted all the achievements of the past for their bare self/ party politics. We have established our dreamland by enormous self-sacrifice. It was the vision of the valiant patriotic freedom fighters to establish equitable social and economic management approach to guarantee peace, discipline and protection of lives and property of the people. It is the sole responsibility of Nagorik Samaj of the country to look into the affairs that captivated the power of the dreaming state. The Civil Society should be vigilant on whether the state is nurturing unjust and fraudulent activities that promote poverty stricken economic situation or taking bold step to eliminating the difference of economy through proper distribution of wealth. Nagorik Samaj would definitely observe whether the state is establishing the basic rights of life and property of the citizens, and as such working for stability of peace or is it working for plundering of democratic rights through supporting the deceitful collection of money, and bringing terrorism and corruption everywhere.
Accessing Bangladesh into a future dreamland in the 21st Century, Nagorik Samaj has to undertake enormous duties and responsibilities. If Nagorik Samaj does not succeed in complying with the duties with momentous responsibility, then the objectives of the very independence of the country would be missed. Presently our state, government, major political parties have become the victim of nurturing and bringing up unjust, evil design and autocracy. Thus, it has swallowed peace and order instead of restoring law and order in Bangladesh. Dr. Serajul Islam Choudhury spoke in this context that: “if we do not pay heed to the affairs of how the government or state mechanism is performing through Nagoraik Samaj, then it would continue doing the same thing what they are doing now, discrepancies will grow more and more and attempts will fail to eradicate poverty from the society”. Presently, the Shushil Samaj/ Civil Society doesn’t have the courage like Nagorik Samaj gloriously performed the role earlier in the language movement, struggle for independence, anti-autocratic movement in 1990 and other pro-people movements. As a result, those who have occupied the power of the state, they have been patronizing and nurturing terrorism and corruption based on the party or group. The ruling party immediately after turning in power was termed as corrupt, nurturing of terrorism. The political parties are accusing the opponent with the intention of attaining the political motive, and harassing them unnecessarily by instituting different types of litigations but ultimately the real veterans are not tried, convicted and sentenced. If the Shushil Samaj would keep viewing as silent observer in this serious situation, no peace loving and civilized person would be able to survive in this country. It is, therefore, Nagorik Samaj should have to ensure undertaking bold steps to wipe out all the undesirable elements/ features. Unless the rule of law, peace and human rights is firmly established in the society as well as in the country through evicting terrorism and corruption, the movement and struggle would continue incessantly.
Now, let us be united and concentrate ourselves under the leadership of noble quality citizens for generating our consciousness irrespective of our living in a village, ward, upazilla (sub-district), district, town, city or port. Nagorik Samaj should organize public meetings, different gatherings and various types of mass-oriented activities everywhere in the country. Undertaking integrated approach in organizing ‘Pressure Group’ in each and every area should be appropriated. These organizations of the citizens could play as watchful sentry for the better interest of the country and nation as well. No surrender to be contemplated by any allurement, self-interest or threat. Incessant and untiring movement activities should be in progress uninterruptedly so that the powers opposing the masses would be compelled to surrender. Nagorik Samaj could undertake some issue based activities in cooperation with the trade unions/ professional organizations for carrying out its achievement so that establishing the rights movement could attain its momentum. The leaders of Nagorik Samaj should always be vigilant so that the citizen’s movement, in no circumstances, turns to be serving any special group’s ill-motives. The entire progressive as well as public supported parties should usually be sponsoring Nagorik Samaj. Such persons would only offend the public interest and citizens’ rights of Nagorik Samaj, those who are individually involved in anti-public interest and disruption of the mass movement and even they are patronizing the unlawful power secretly. It would be pertinent to definitely appreciate and make contribution to the excellent works performed either by the government or by the opposition parties. It is indispensable for Nagorik Samaj to assist in generating mass responsiveness to decent programs.
Motivating the people’s agenda for protection of the basic rights and the safety of life and property, mass support should be withdrawn from the political parties that are patronizing deceitful collection of subscription, using the unlawful arms, nourishing the armed cadres, black money holders, defaulters of loan. Keeping this principle in view, it would help to put together the unified mass opinion that would be the easy accessible way of democratic empowerment. It would also put forward a stream of honest as well as compromising and manifest people oriented politics.
The entire student’s organizations should be withdrawn from the heinous party politics, so also the teachers to be at liberty from the influence of the party politics of ill motive and evil design. Thus, it would promote the healthy environment for education and cultural atmosphere and Nagorik Samaj has to work for eradicating terrorism and lawlessness from the educational institutions. Aiming to drive out drug abuse and violence from the educational institutions, the parents/ guardians of the students should be motivated to constitute Guardian’s Parishad (Guardian’s Forum/ Association). It would also undertake campaign programs preventing adulteration of food and encouraging the children to perform duties towards their parents. It would help in undertaking different roles of providing essential agricultural lands to the starving farmers for cultivation, long lasting agriculture, payment of reasonable price for the crops, reconstructing of revolutionary land movement abolishing the colonial land reclamation. Putting an end to the strength of inappropriate power of the villages, it would help in taking the liberty of constructing peaceful and prosperous villages in Bangladesh.
Nagorik Samaj should be aloud in raising their voice demanding the payment of actual value of the manual laborers, employment generation for the jobless people in association with the equitable distribution of wealth. It is the obligation of Nagarik Samaj to work introducing the impartial as well as independent judiciary, prohibiting to employing the police force & special branch for the self interest of the party, ending of the mass opposed autocracy, stopping the eve-teasing and making empowerment of the women’s community. Nagorik Samaj would pressurize for adjudicating new laws/ rules providing prevention of anti-corruption, constituting an independent and impartial Anti-corruption Commission for apprehension of any type of corruption in the country. It would also urge for compulsory submission of accounts of wealth by the members of all political parties, politicians, administrative cadres and their wards. It would also exert strong pressure for framing enactments that must be obligatory for all political parties and other organizations in order to submitting yearly audited accounts of all subscriptions, income and expenditure.
Nagorik Samaj is required to be well organized irrespective of party, opinion and undertaking issue-based programs facilitating to move forward people’s movement. The citizens’ organization would take the leadership of Nagarik Samaj and no political party should be involved in this leadership at any cost. Presently, the general masses have become disgusted on the continuous breakdown in playing the role of the political parties and the government administration and setting up colonial power after the independence. While the major political parties wielding the power of the country, annihilated the public interest and created a severe vacancy through acquiring individual interest as well for the family and party interest in its place. It originated an essential responsibility in generating healthy atmosphere of politics condemning the parties that are unfavorable for the public interest and opposed by the greater masses. It would flourish a new power of public supported politics through the citizens’ movement on their failure.