Naureen Zaina Azizee*
Recently a report published by a Human Rights Group in Bangladesh found that a total of 507 people were killed and thousands more were injured in political violence in Bangladesh in 2013, making it the deadliest year since the country´s independence four decades ago. I lived in that violence, I felt that violence and I was about to break down in frustration for many times for being so insecure. I thought many times surely my dad did not join the war of independence in 1971 for such country. A country where I feel insecure and feel my freedom is limited.
The political turmoil in Bangladesh has resulted in numerous incidents where petrol and crude bombs were hurled in middle of the day in the capital city Dhaka. Hundreds of public and private vehicles were torched, shops were vandalized, and yet the real criminals responsible for all these were never caught. Saddest of all, it is the general people who are held hostage by the politics. Many victims were left burnt, some have died; many families were shattered. Their only guilt was that they left homes to earn a living – to buy bread for their families.
Amid this violence, street children are especially vulnerable. They innocently pick up bombs, left abandoned by the roadside, not even recognizing that they are bombs. There’s nothing accidental about these incidents – that’s exactly how the perpetrators intend general public to suffer. And of course, no one is ever caught.
Amid so much violent, the photo published by media of an 11-year young boy Shanto Islam who was caught between fighting between police and political activists, received bullets from guns fired by police and whose head was riddled with 79 rubber pellets – left me bewildered and shocked. He was out to get lunch for his father. Why he was shot down? What was his fault? Is it an independent country? Where are we heading? How can this be happening? Then there’s the case of Bishwajit, an innocent boy who were cruelly stabbed to death in broad daylight. The killers belong to a certain political party and that makes them feel they can commit these crimes even in the full view of the public eye. It reinforces my belief that perhaps we don’t have much conscience or humanity left in us. We see people being stabbed in front of our eyes; people being burnt; our city being vandalized but we cannot actually do a thing. Instead of the actual perpetrators, the authorities crack down on innocent people who are then detained, harassed, arrested and sometimes even charged with the crime!
The ‘freedom’ we have now as average citizens of Bangladesh – it is more akin to insecurity. In political parties’ bid for political might, we are the pawns whose freedom is traded in for insecurity. In this ‘free’ country, leaving the house is a challenge, returning home is an achievement. On the larger scale, the impact on the country’s economy and the snowballing impact of that on each of our pockets remains cause for further concern.
If the death of average citizens is the price that political are willing to ‘pay’ to get their way, then that price is definitely being paid, albeit by ordinary citizens. Let’s see how long we can go on like this – being good citizens who endure through insecurity.
* Naureen is a school teacher, she writes from Dhaka.