Saturday, August 25, 2007

Repression will not redress discontent

Source: New Age Editorial
August 25, 2007
Repression will not redress discontent, reasoning will

The arrest of some university teachers and the cases against more than 3,000 people, including students, in Dhaka and Rajshahi suggest that the military-driven interim government of Fakhruddin Ahmed still regards the recent unrest not as an expression of the pent-up grievances of the general public against certain actions and inactions of his administration but as the work of ‘some evil forces’ who used the ‘events on the university campus to spread chaos in many parts of the country’. The incumbents do not seem to realise that their actions vis-à-vis the unrest so far – arbitrary closure of the educational institutions, vacation of the halls of residence without giving the resident students adequate time and, last but not least, imposition of curfew on six divisional headquarters – may have defused the unrest for the time being but have certainly spread the tension across a larger section of society.

There is no denying that the students have borne the brunt of the trouble from the start till the end. They are the ones who were subjected to indiscriminate assault by the police and then ordered to vacate the halls of residence within a very short period of time. Wherever they have gone, they have taken with them their frustration and outrage at being doubly denied. Such a sense of frustration and outrage will surely be transmitted to whomever they relate their predicaments to. In other words, to rid the major cities, especially the capital, of any act of dissent, the incumbents have actually spread the air of discontent across the country. The cases, therefore, could very well be perceived by the public as another wrong done to the students at best and an act of vendetta by the government at worst.

When the interim government ordered closure of the educational institutions and vacation of the halls of residence, and imposed curfew on the divisional headquarters, we commented in these columns that the incumbents should have identified and redressed ‘the root cause of the public outburst’ and not taken ‘the path of repression’. We argued that its failure to take ‘efficient and effective steps to democratise the political parties, prepare the ground for credible and contested elections to the ninth Jatiya Sangsad at the earliest, prosecute and punish the identified corrupt elements in society within the ambit of law, and make the economy dynamic’ may be at the root of the public discontent. The cases and the arrests seem to indicate that they are more inclined to repression rather than reason. The government should realise that such inclination would only aggravate the situation and could only stoke further unrest. Therefore, we urge it to withdraw the cases against and stop harassment of teachers and students.

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