Benapole Express tragedy reminiscent of 2013-2014 violence, raises serious concerns about their impact on democratic process

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Published on January 7, 2024
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Since October 29, 2023, Bangladesh has witnessed an alarming surge in deliberate arson attacks on public transportation, a disturbing trend initiated during the Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) campaign of hartals and blockades. These acts, vehemently opposing the 12th parliamentary election, echo the tactics used prior to the 2014 election, creating widespread public fear.

The citizens of Bangladesh have unequivocally condemned these violent disruptions, which threaten the very core of the nation’s democratic fabric. The past couple of months have been marred by a series of tragic events, culminating in the loss of numerous lives across the country.

A particularly heartbreaking incident occurred on the night of January 5, 2024, when the Benapole Express train was set ablaze in Gopibagh, Dhaka. This catastrophic event claimed four lives, including children. The gravity of this tragedy underscores the urgent need for a united front against the escalating violence engulfing Bangladesh.

In the wake of the Benapole Express burning, our hearts go out to the victims and their grieving families. This recent spike in politically motivated violence, particularly the targeted attacks on civilians, represents not only a distressing development but a stark deviation from Bangladesh's democratic ideals.

The arson attack on the Benapole Express is a grim reminder of the deteriorating political climate that has intensified since late 2023. It's crucial to recognize that using violence as a political tool fundamentally contradicts the essence of democratic expression.

The recurrence of such tactics by political factions, reminiscent of the 2013-2014 period, raises serious concerns about their impact on democratic processes and national stability.

During these turbulent times, political leaders must demonstrate unwavering commitment to the democratic principles they claim to uphold. Resorting to violence endangers lives and erodes public trust in political leadership. Citizens deserve a political arena where ideas and ideologies are debated through peaceful means.

We call on all political parties to unequivocally condemn these violent acts and focus on constructive dialogue. Prioritizing a peaceful, inclusive electoral process is in the nation's best interest, fostering an environment where political views can be expressed freely and without fear of retribution.

Law enforcement must intensify efforts to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for these heinous acts, ensuring they face the full extent of the law. Maintaining peace and order is crucial for the nation's prosperity, and any attempt to disrupt the democratic process through violence must be swiftly and justly addressed.

As Bangladeshi citizens, we must unite against forces seeking to undermine our democracy. In times of political turmoil, it is our collective solidarity and determination that will guide us to a brighter future. Let's reject violence and work together to build a society that cherishes democracy, tolerance, and the well-being of all its members.

 

DR PRANAB KUMAR PANDAY

The writer is a Professor at the Department of Public Administration, University of Rajshahi. Views expressed are the writer’s own.