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   Volume 10 |Issue 46 | December 09, 2011 |


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Is this what Democracy looks like?

Tamanna Khan

I did not witness the birth of our nation but I did witness the birth of the current system of government, whatever it may be called, which is supposed to be the second best thing that has happened to the political history of our country. However, after about two decades of its birth, I wonder whether it is at all the second best thing.

I remember jumping in excitement when the autocratic regime was toppled in 1990. Not that I understood the meaning of democracy then, but I did not have to sit for my final examination that year because of the continuous strike and political turmoil in the city. Inspired by the struggle for democracy, a couple of hooligans (heroes in the eye of the junior batches) in our school had thrown crackers in front of the headmaster's office, demanding postponement of the examination. I do not know whether that was a democratic move or not, but their demands were met.

While I welcomed Ershad's resignation, I did feel sorry for the huge structure at Manik Mia Avenue when I heard in the news that “the parliament has been dissolved”. They must have required a huge quantity of chemical to dissolve such a large structure, I thought. Thanks to my elder sister, I was soon enlightened on the actual meaning of the sentence, but not without earning the prefix, 'gadhi' (female donkey).

Twenty-one years later, I do wish that the literal meaning of the sentence had taken place at the time. At least some people would not have received the license to misuse the place and make a mockery of the word they call democracy. Plus, I would not have to pay tax money for the maintenance of a place, in which my opinions and demands are not reflected.

I do honour Kennedy's advice (Ask not what your country can give you...), and I am not complaining about my country here. I am complaining about those people who somehow lure us with their superficial, empty promises to give them the license to rob us of our hard earned money and rights.

Since the 90s, we have been repeating our mistakes every five years. They, backed by the White Gods of the West, make us believe that this system so dearly called democracy is the solution to all our problems. It might even fix the bent nose-bone I was born with. All we need to do is wear something nice and go to the election booths every five years and give a group of greedy robbers the right to torment us for the following five years.

I am no political science student or some intellectual or civil society geek, so I really do not know the academic definition of democracy. To me, a ignorant ordinary fellow, democracy is when important decisions about the country is made by people's representatives — and the 's' is important because there has to be more than one person assembling, discussing and coming to a consensus decision regarding a issue. My business education taught me that people's representative should be something like an agent whereas people are the principals. Meaning that politicians are our agents acting on our behalf. But is that the case in Bangladesh?

Ideally, I should choose someone I think will voice my opinions and not his/her party's. Yes, the overall philosophy of a party is important and a politician must adhere to it. However, his/ her belief in the party's philosophy should not mute his/her own voice. Does that happen at all in Bangladesh? Politicians do appear all ears before the election, but once they get the votes, they hide behind the podiums, away from the people and our voices never reach them. Once elected, they do all the speaking and we listen, and not the other way round.

Politicians may defend themselves saying that their grassroot party members can speak for the people. However, I beg to differ. Even if the two largest parties of our country have three million members each, that still leaves out ten million people. What about their voices?

It is not realistic to let each of the ten million speak but there is something called media, which can speak for the people. However, politicians in our country have problems with this sector too. Either they do not know how to read, or they may be sight or hearing impaired so they do not get the message printed and broadcasted by the media.

A dictator does whatever he/she wishes; the group of people we elect under the pseudo-democracy do what they wish. They only difference is that they have a legal mandate to defend their autocratic decisions.

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