Vol. 5 Num 91 Wed. August 25, 2004  

Attack on opposition processions
Govt must avoid repressive measures
We strongly condemn the highhanded approach by the police while tackling the strike called to protest a series of bomb attacks last Saturday on the main opposition Awami League's rally. We are outraged at the way police charged batons on the peaceful procession of CPB seriously injuring its general secretary, Mujahidul Islam Selim, on Tuesday morning. We also deplore the manhandling of women activists and leaders including Matia Chowdhury by police during the strike. On one hand the government has been calling on the opposition to forge united front in order to resist 'subversive activities', on the other it is using repressive measures against the opposition.

We also condemn the attack on the procession of Awami League in support of the strikes at Gulistan area by the ruling BNP activists on Monday. And that especially at a time when the whole nation is reeling under the shock and horror of last Saturday's bomb attacks. It was only natural for the police to act swiftly when the supporters of the strikes, according to eyewitnesses, went berserk smashing cars and damaging buildings in the area. But acts like pouncing on them with the aid of the police and also bringing out an anti-strike procession by the ruling party activists should also have been avoided by all means.

Were they not aware that such irresponsible behaviour would only spread more panic among the citizens and inflame the already tense situation? Is attacking opposition processions and bringing out one of its own to counter that any indication of compliance to government's rhetoric? Instead of taking efforts to calm the situation, they did exactly the opposite. The ruling BNP leadership must now instruct all of its wings to refrain from acts that are likely to deteriorate the situation further.

At the same time, we would also like to appeal to the opposition party activists not to take law into their own hands. We understand the emotion of fury and rage that they have been going through ever since Saturday's attacks. It's a feeling the whole nation shares with them, but the manner to express that emotion should also be restrained. We have always been in support of freedom of expression; all sections of the society must be allowed to express their feelings freely. But damaging public property and hence creating panic and anxiety among the common people are not acceptable either.

We had appealed for calm and restraint by all sides as soon as the news of the vicious attacks broke; we renew our appeal.