Govt’s provocation is unacceptable, so is political protest that kills

Editorial, NewAge, August 27, 2008

The deterioration of Tarique Rahman’s health in the prison cell of the BSMMU hospital and the subsequent mayhem caused by the student wing of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party call for a deeper look into the military-controlled government’s sense of justice and the culture of political protests that kills innocent people.
   

Students of Dhaka College rampage through a city road after hearing the news of injuries sustained by the detained BNP senior joint secretary general Tarique Rahman in a bathroom fall at BSMMU Hospital prison cell on Monday. — Photo: New Age 

That Tarique Rahman, son of former prime minister Khaleda Zia and senior joint secretary general of the BNP, fell in a bathroom of the hospital and sustained injuries to his head seems to substantiate repeated warnings by doctors that his legs are exposed to the threat of paralysis. It is true that Tarique is an accused in a number of corruption cases, that the corruption chargers should be thoroughly investigated and that he should be brought to justice through public trial. However, his indictment in the cases should not be used by a government as a justification for denying him proper medical treatment, at home or abroad, and that too by a government that talks about democracy and rule of law. The rule of law dictates that an accused can only be punished after he or she is convicted in a competent court of law. Again, if the detention of an accused before the trial process is completed poses a serious health risk, through the denial of appropriate treatment for instance, the magnitude of the crime committed by the government increases manifold. Since Tarique is in government custody, it is principally the government’s responsibility to ensure that he is provided with appropriate medical treatment for his ailments. To fail to do so is a grave crime and Monday’s protests may have been a public reaction to that failure.
   

However, the violence perpetrated by the Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal during Monday’s protests, which left one person dead, a handful of vehicles damaged, more than 50 people wounded and caused panic among people, is not acceptable. However genuine the grievance may be, it does not give any individual or group the right to the kind of agitation that results in the loss of people’s life and limb and destruction of public and private property.
   

Meanwhile, in response to Monday’s violence, the government has reportedly issued orders to the police top brass to bring the law and order situation under control. We believe this government order is incongruous with its own actions. On the one hand, it is this regime that is principally responsible for the protests in question, having denied Tarique appropriate medical treatment in an appropriate hospital. On the other hand, it is the regime which is pitting the police against the political activists for such protests. The government should abandon this double game before it takes a more serious turn.

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