Bangladesh Protests: Its About Liberty

The Bangledesh military government is imposing curfew on top of a perpetual state of emergency. The protesters(video, HayWire) aren’t backing off either. In fact, they show signs of growth (Al Jazeera):

“The situation is deteriorating as teachers now have came out to join protesting students,” said a police officer in Dhaka.

So what are people pissed off about? That’s what one blogger is left wondering (otherface):

What started out as a mere protest against being ” beaten up by some army personnels just because some students blocked their view during a football match” has now turned into a gruesome enactment of power play amongst the students and police. Although the Army Camp has been removed from the DU Campus, protests are still ongoing. And that is where the questions come in.

  • What exactly are the students protesting against now ? The Government or The Army or The police Treatment ? exactly WHAT are they protesting against now ?

Over at The Furies there is some interesting speculation:

Students are a prime mover in Bangladeshi civil society and I thought it was natural for the first significant protest against the military-backed caretaker government to come from the student sector. My outsider’s educated guess on the sudden outrage may be the frustration over the lack of reforms under the caretaker government, and the frustration over the continuing militarization that has crept into all aspects of Bangladeshi life. It was reported that the riots broke after students demanded the withdrawal of army troops from the DU stadium during a football match. Militarization in Bangladesh, particularly Dhaka, has been been particularly high after the caretaker government took power in January and a state of emergency was imposed.

This state of military rule is choking. The idea that meeting a few student demands should stop the protests is a curious one. Why?  Why should they have give up and just accept military rule?

While I sympathize with the protesters, the timing is apparently really shitty for all of this (Naira, The Gang):

On Wednesday all the masses joined in and it became a free-for-all protest against the army all over the country to the extent that a country-wide indefinite curfew has been called. So I’m stuck at home on a forced paid leave, which is kind of nice because I need the break, but kind of claustrophobic as well. But what’s really bothering me is the impediment to the flood relief work, as it is we’re not being able to reach every one. For the sake of the flood-affected, I just hope all of this gets sorted out quickly although I don’t see how. Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day for the country… (Yes, yes I do come from a different world.)

The fact that the military government is ordering the shutdown of mobile phones is symbolic.  Communication is the root of Democracy.  And it is that lack of Democracy that is at the root of the protests (The Guardian):

Many feel that the interim government, which declared a state of emergency in January, has overplayed its hand in recent months – notably by taking former prime ministers into custody on charges of corruption. The former prime minister, Khaleda Zia, faces tax evasion charges, which she has repeatedly denied.

There is little sign of the promised elections and no poll date has been announced. However, the Election Commission has said the polls will be held near the end of 2008.

Let’s hope this puts pressure on the government to respond by calling early elections and setting a firm date.  Let’s hope the government of Bangladesh puts its people first and rescinds the curfew.

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