Published:  12:19 AM, 12 March 2019

Democracy must dig deeper roots


If everything goes well, and nothing should go wrong, democracy should dig deeper roots in the country. Never before in the history of this country has this desire for elected government been as intense as it is today. For obvious reasons, of course. In these past many months, much has happened, much has not happened, and some of what has happened has been rolled back; and all of that has only whipped up this wonderful, excitable political frenzy in us for a continuity in democratic governance.

One might ask if democracy in this country has ever been an unambiguously healthy affair, if it has not periodically been put through the twister and so rendered enervating. And that would be a perfectly good question to ask, for there have always been those moments and those men and women who have often, in the name of democracy, left us all reeling from the damage they have caused democracy.

No, we do not presume to tell ourselves, to tell the world, that in the hands of the politicians pluralism has been a beautiful experience. But our hope and our dreams have been there. Only politicians can reassure us about the future, along the framework of pluralism.

History remains our point of reference. We start off with the early 1970s, when Bangladesh sought to project a viable, vibrant democratic image for itself on the global stage. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman spoke to us of this country aiming at being the Switzerland of the East.

Tajuddin Ahmad reminded us of the values inherent in socialism, for the socialist experiment was a guarantee that our people would eat well, sleep well and build layers of dreams for themselves and for their children. And then things went awry. We will not go into that. Neither will we recapitulate the old tales of constitutional government being undermined by ambitious men ready to push such government into the wayside ditch as they planned to seize the state by force. We have seen it all happening in our lifetime.

General Yahya Khan organised elections in 1970 on the basis of a Legal Framework Order. General Ziaur Rahman and General Hussein Muhammad Ershad kept martial law in operation until the day an elected Jatiyo Sangsad convened to inaugurate a transition, however questionable, to legally constituted government. Neither of those conditions is to be spotted in today's circumstances. We move from democracy to more of the same, which is saying a lot.

We wait at the bend of the river, for the sense of purpose that we believe will consolidate the democracy we have been building brick by brick in defence of our inalienable right to liberty and the pursuit of collective happiness.


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