Published: Friday, April 5, 2013

Vox Pop

The Right to be Heard

Pro-people politics perhaps garnered the status of a myth. Photo: Prabir Das

Pro-people politics perhaps garnered the status of a myth. Photo: Prabir Das

Experience shows that the public shun away when faced with strange queries from journalists. For instance, if asked about their holistic perspective over the country’s political scenario or maybe, about the political standoff between the chiefs of the AL and the BNP. Since the advent of a tedious turn in politics a few months ago, inquiries like these have been presented before the urban intelligentsia who have adequately posited their critical commentaries regarding the country’s politics. In contrast, the general people most often reply saying “No, I don’t understand things like these,” to evade inquiries that seem rather redundant and awkward to them.

vp02Although most people would opt not to comment, a few reflections were candid and straightforward, but also cynical and quite disheartening.

Amirul Islam, a CNG driver for the last few years, is in his 40s now. He lives alone in the city and sends the major share of his earnings to his family in North Bengal. Amirul has found the current scenario alarming, seeing his fellow drivers being beaten black and blue and their auto rickshaws vandalised during hartals. Amirul thinks it may be fruitful if the two leaders of the AL and the BNP iron out their differences towards a solution.

vp03However, he remains pessimistic over imagining a permanent solution. He says referring to the two decades of democracy, “Things have been like this for the last twenty years, things will be the same, people like you and I won’t be able to do anything.” He also believes that no political party in the country has the integrity to run a fair and neutral election because people are dishonest to the core and politics is fraught with corruption. Amirul is not sure what other people might say but what he understands is that people like him have accepted the hard truth and are trying to make a living out of available means amid the ‘chaos’ as he terms it.

Sabuj Mia, 28, sells tea in the city. Most working people in the city are hampered in some way or the other by hartals and political conflicts. But Sabuj says he is unaffected as he has learnt to strategise safety measures by staying close to VIP areas and government offices having least chances of being vandalised.

vp04Although claiming to be a proud voter, Sabuj does not believe that our leaders harbour notions of pro-people politics. He says, “Both our leaders are of similar nature. People are bound to choose between the two without having a better option. Only God knows whether there will be a better option.”

Mohammad Fazlul Haque has a full-fledged fish hatchery in his village. He visits his family every month. To gain some extra to buy fish-feed, he has been staying in the city only during the off-season for the last 16 years. He doesn’t care much about who comes in and who goes out in the political scenario.

He maintains that his childhood memories of the post Liberation War period and the subsequent experiences throughout the years have contributed to his indifference towards the country’s politics. “We don’t understand much about politics, we are illiterate people. But what we have now is not what the country was fought and liberated for. Why should we get ourselves into trouble by commenting about it?” says Haque.

Mohammad Ismail has been selling nuts in the city and sending his earnings to his family for about ten years now. He too says he is somewhat unaffected, except for the hartal days when public presence is lower and hence his sales.

vp05It takes a while to make him understand the significance of a dialogue between the two major party leaders and how that may yield good results. In reply, Ismail chuckles and wonders how it would benefit anyone as he thinks the existing politics is synonymous to injustice towards people like him. “The leaders are okay with each other. If they talk, people may say good things about the country. But I hope honest people will come into politics to ensure justice for people like us.”

The economic migrants in the city, breadwinners for their families living elsewhere in the country, constitute no less than 4 million, according to best estimates. While city dwellers, businesspeople and the intelligentsia have been anticipating solutions to overcome the political impasse, it is disappointing to find some among these people indifferent towards finding a solution. They do share a part of urban turmoil but probably, most of them have learnt to cope with adversities and are resigned to this constant upheaval in politics.

Our politicians are unhesitant in claiming that their politics is pro-people and that the whole country is a pillar of support for them. Ironically, at least a few reflections indicate that people from the grassroots-level, the majority for whom politics is purportedly meant for, may be giving up on the politicians. And that is a damning public perception.