Speakers: People in Bangladesh have lost their political voice

The celebration of the golden jubilee of Bangladesh is seemingly out of the reach of the general public of Bangladesh whose voices go unheard by lawmakers in the current political sphere of the country, speakers at an international conference have said.

The Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) is organizing a four-day event to tell the story of Bangladesh's developments in the 50 years since independence and discuss the challenges lying ahead. The second session of the conference was held on Monday on the issues of “state, society and politics” where three participants presented their papers.

Mirza Hasan, senior research fellow at Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), in his research explored how the relations between the elites, political in particular, and the non-elites have changed during the last five decades. 

He also explained how the global politics of supply chain dictates the state-business-labour relations. 

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, people have had to beg or revolt against lockdown regulations because they had to fend for themselves. It would not have happened if Bangladesh had radical social and political institutions to support ordinary people in moments of crises,” Hasan said.

Ali Riaz, distinguished professor at the Department of Politics and Government of Illinois State University, explained the events and trends of Islamic politics over the last 50 years. 

Talking about the rise of Hefazat-e-Islam, he said: “Its organizational objective is still unclear but it has arrived in the mainstream, leading a major social movement. Even the media gets confused as to how to report on it. Is this an Islamic movement or a social movement?”

Meanwhile, Arild Engelsen Ruud, professor of South Asia Studies at the University of Oslo, in his paper pointed out how violence and muscle power has been instrumental in the political and social system of Bangladesh.

Dr Philip K Oldenburg, associate professor at the Department of Political Science of Columbia University, said: “A culture of polycracy is very evident in Bangladesh, not just at the local government level but at the higher level of politics… This system of polycracy may be manageable to some extent but what will happen when a big crisis arises, like another military coup or climate disaster?”

The session was chaired by Dr Ahrar Ahmad, director general of Gyantapas Abdur Razzaq Foundation and moderated by CPD Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun. 

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