Published:  12:50 AM, 14 November 2017

Public rallies and citizens' sufferings

A minister informed us the other day that those who, in the interest of holding public meetings, cause all roads to be shut off are people who could one day shut down the country. We are not sure that such is the purpose behind the holding of public rallies. But what we are certainly aware of is the huge trouble to which citizens go every time a political program, in the form of demonstrations or public meetings, takes place in the nation's capital.

On those days, it is citizens across the board who suffer for no fault of theirs. On Sunday, the public rally organized by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party left the city in a state of confusion, with citizens stranded in very many ways all over Dhaka.

One might blame the BNP, as the minister has so subtly done. But the BNP is not the first or only political party which has resorted to a commandeering of roads in the city and thereby put people under enormous strain. Only a few days ago, the Awami Jubo League, an affiliate of the ruling party, indulged in similar behavior.

If we go back to the incidents of the recent past, we will recall only too well how supporters of the ruling Awami League themselves have caused sufferings to citizens through seizing control of roads because they needed to hold their own rallies.

The point is therefore obvious: no single political party can be accused of causing public sufferings through their rallies. The blame must be taken by all. It is not right that the truth about political rallies and the impediments they cause to citizens is looked at in a partisan way.

The reality is that in this city of deep congestion and high population, to say nothing of unplanned roads, every political event is a cause of grave worry for citizens. Their children find it difficult to go to school; patients are not sure if they can reach hospitals and citizens in the overall sense are not sure if they can get transport or will have to take long, exhausting walks home at the end of the day.

Politicians are expected to ease people's sufferings. Unfortunately, our experience has been one of little or no importance being given to citizens when a political rally or demonstration takes place.

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