THE attack on leaders and activists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, the biggest in the opposition camp, in Chandrima Udyan in Dhaka on August 17, in which several leaders and activists were wounded with rubber bullets that the police fired into them, is yet another example of police high-handedness. The newly elected leaders of the party’s north and south units of Dhaka city went there to place flowers on the grave of the late president Ziaur Rahman, who founded the party. The police, who the party say had earlier given it the permission to hold the programme, had taken position in the place before the BNP leaders and activists reached there. The police stopped the BNP leaders and activists from entering the place and fired teargas shells and rubber bullets into them, which left several leaders and activists wounded and a few of them had to be sent to hospital. BNP leaders and activists also pelted the police with stones; the police also detained more than 40 of the BNP people from the spot. A police constable was, however, inured with a rubber bullet in police misfire during the clash that began about 10:30am and continued for half an hour.
Such high-handedness on part of the government, manifested through the law enforcers, inevitably shrinks the space for dissent by way of keeping individuals, entities and political parties in opposition at bay, which in turn runs counter to the basic tenets of democracy. This appears usual that newly elected leaders of a political party would visit the grave of the party founder, that too in the case at hand having police permission, but this does not necessitate high-handedness of such a kind by the law enforcers. What the police did to the BNP leaders and activists in Chandrima Udyan on August 17 appears to be part of a pattern that has come to the fore on a cognisable number of occasions in the past few years that speaks of a high-handedness directed against the opposition of the government, not only in the case of political parties but also in cases of individuals and other entities that are critical of the government. And all this together speaks of harassment of the political parties and groups in the opposition and, in addition, appears to be a ploy to create a fearful situation that should not happen in the interests of a functional democracy.
Police high-handedness, which is, in fact, the high-handedness of the government manifested through the law enforcement agencies, might augur well neither for people nor for political parties nor for the country as such a proposition, in turn, harms democratic dispensation that the nation has always strived for. The government must, therefore, stop showing high-handedness and harassing individuals with dissent and groups or political parties in the opposition camp. The use of the law enforcement agencies in dealing with parties in the opposition camps also shrinks the democratic space that people and the country need for an overall furtherance.”