‘People are now treated as citizens of a colony’

No one can utter a single word against the current government and the freedom of speech and expression, as laid out in our constitution, are trampled, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, acting secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, tells Rashed Ahmed Mitul in an interview with New Age

spe13New Age: The ‘proclamation’ of Bangladesh’s independence, made on April 10, 1971, promised citizens ‘equality, human dignity and social justice’. Now, 44 years into the country’s independence, where does Bangladesh stand in terms of ‘equality’ — political, economic and cultural — of the citizens?
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir: The proclamation of Bangladesh’s independence, promised the citizens equality, human dignity and social justice. But they are still on paper. In the current position of Bangladesh, issues of equality, human dignity and social justice have become a total hoax. If we look into the field of human dignity, it has reached its lowest point of all time.
In the field of politics, the incumbents, their supporters and the like-minded enjoy  political rights; on the contrary, the people who hold different opinions and constitute the opposition parties do not have any political rights and freedom of expression.
If we talk about economic equality, difference between the rich and the poor is widening. We cannot see any sign of economic equality. Some people are becoming rich overnight through illegal means and many of the rich are from the ruling party. Ruling party supporters and activists are making quick money by looting banks and financial institutions, by creating an artificial crisis on the capital market, through tender manipulation, doing illegal business and committing massive corruption. But the poor people are becoming poorer every day in the absence of their rights.
We have a rich culture and tradition that are thousands of years old but they are on the verge of extinction because of aggression. Culture is totally neglected now, causing  society to gradually lose its previous glory of mutual respect towards one another, amity, cohesion, harmony and hospitality.
Bangladesh is now passing through a very critical time in its political history. It is not known to me whether people of this country had ever experienced or felt a crisis of such intensity. People of all walks of life and freedom fighters fought the war of independence in 1971 risking or laying down their lives and many women were raped.
We fought the war for our independence for a democratic and sovereign nation. After about 44 years of independence, we now see with a very heavy heart that whatever we have achieved through our struggle for independence have all been lost. People are now deprived of the right to live in a free atmosphere, their economic emancipation, freedom to think and write.
New Age: Do you think that ‘human dignity’ of citizens, particularly of the poor millions, has been established in Bangladesh? If not, why?
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir: Nowadays, people in the country are treated as citizens of a colony. No one can say a single word against the current government. The government hardly heeds the freedom of speech and expression, as granted in the constitution.
Human dignity of citizens that we have achieved through the independence war are trampled as people are living with a sense of insecurity, resulting from increased incidents of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearances, kidnapping, corruption and unemployment.
People have even been shot by ruling party lawmakers and even a pregnant woman, and the child she was carrying, was shot by ruling party activists. Women from national minorities are being raped in microbuses; women are harassed at Pahela Baishakh celebrations; and opposition activists are being killed. Where does the human dignity stand?
New Age: What is the state of ‘social justice’ in Bangladesh?
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir: There is no social justice and even a school-going child can understand that. Where is the social justice? Opposition activists cannot spend their night in their own houses; they cannot go to their businesses and office during the day. They are being thrown behind bars after they are implicated in false cases. They do not have the right to gathering.
Criminals of the ruling party are freed while innocent opposition activists are detained and arrested. There is one rule for ruling party people and another for opponents of the government. It seems that the judiciary cannot function independently. The present parliament does not represent people’s mandate as it was not elected in a proper way.
New Age: What are your recommendations for materialising the ‘proclamation of independence’ at all levels?
Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir: For materialising the proclamation of the independence at all levels, there is no option but to establish democracy in its true sense and ensure the proper functioning of the state machinery for the materialisation of the proclamation of independence.
The Bangladesh Nationalist Party is in a movement to restore democracy and return to people their rights for which we fought in 1971.
People struggled for their rights for a thousand years. People are taking part in the ongoing movement for democracy. We believe that the people will definitely win the struggle for democracy and their rights.

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