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Challenge to test popularity: is the government dare to take it?

Written By: analyst_bd
24/03/2013 11:06



                                                               Shahbag gathering

Prime Minister (PM) Sheikh Hasina, also the Awami League president, addressed a public meeting at the Government Boys’ High School ground in Pirojpur district on February 19, 2013. Expressing hatred to the Razkars, Al-Badrs and Al-Shams, the prime minister wanted to know from the people present at the meeting whether they wanted the trial of a ‘kulangar’ (black sheep) of Pirojpur.[1] The people present there raised their both hands to show support.


It is pretty clear to all that by the phrase “kulangar (black sheep) of Pirojpur” the prime minister was referring to Delwar Hossain Sayedee, who is from Pirojpur and a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami (Islamic Group), country’s largest Islamic party.


Reacting to the PM’s speech, party’s acting secretary Rafiqul Islam Khan said in a statement that this type of language is not suitable for a prime minister. He termed the people present at that meeting as ‘hired’ and challenged the PM by saying: “Just allow Sayedee to go to Pirojpur releasing him on parole, 50 times more people would attend his rally than there is people in your one and thereby they would give answer to your falsehood.” He asked the PM to take the challenge. [2]


While anyone could disregard this challenge as Jamaat party’s political rhetoric, it is interesting to note that this type of challenge was thrown earlier by a prominent secular journalist and columnist Shafiq Rehman. In his column published in the Daily Amardesh, Rehman threw two challenges to the government endorsed Shahbag protesters to test their public support. One of which was to free Sayedee on parole for a day letting him organize a public meeting and see how many people attend it. [3]



While it might be impractical for a government to dare to take such challenges, this sort of comparative analysis seems to have become very common in the context of recent government endorsed Shahbag movement. Even an atheist like Taslima Nasrin observes: “I believe if Islamists now want to have a public meeting in Bangladesh, they will be able to make 100 times bigger crowd than the Shahbag crowd.” [4]




On the other hand, there are analyses which claim that people are exaggerating Jamaat party’s ability and power.[5] To resolve this question the government really needs to allow the opposition to operate freely respecting the basic norms of democracy. But is the government ready to do that? The answer seems to be a big NO and this is exactly the attitude which is driving the country into quagmire.




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