'We want a state where the rulers can be held accountable'
The government speaks of democracy but does not practice it, instead it is oppressing people who raise their voice against its failures, mistakes, and corruption, speakers at a discussion have said.
The country will be dealt a serious blow if the government does not stop dictating to the masses and restricting their freedom of expression, they added.
The comments were made at a discussion titled “What Reforms the State Need and Where,” held at the office of Rastrochinta in Dhaka’s Purana Paltan on Friday afternoon. Rastrochinta is a platform that organizes discussions on topics of political reform.
The platform organized the discussion to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the autocratic regime of late HM Ershad on December 6, 1990.
Rastrochinta Coordinator Didarul Bhuiyan said: "I was in jail for five months in a case filed under the Digital Security Act, even though there was no mention of what my fault was in the lawsuit. My well wishers felt relieved the day after my arrest since everyone was fearing that I would be ‘disappeared,’ as has become a common trend for critics of this state.
"We want a state where the rulers can be held accountable. If the country belongs to the people, their rights need to be ensured and autocratic rule needs to be ended,” he added.
Didarul further said: "The state is now doing what it wants. There needs to be unity against autocratic power.”
Lawyer Hasnat Quaiyum urged for there to be no interference in the legal process.
He said: "The people's security is dependent on the people. The people need to force the government to follow the people's opinion."
Abul Hasan Rubel of Ganasamhati Andolon said: "The state is now keeping the people under its control. There is a constitutional autocracy in effect.
"A statement against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has become a sin. The state has now reached such a position that a massive reform is necessary to establish the minimum standards of the constitution," Rubel added, also stressing unity.
Rahim Jahangir, a member of Bhashani Onushari Parishad, claimed every government in the 50 years since independence has patronized militancy and social transformation cannot take place in such a situation.
"The constitution should not be returned to its previous form. It should be transformed in a new way," he added.
Md Rashed Khan, acting convener of Bangladesh Students' Rights Council, said: "The government now does not want to give permission to hold a rally. The people's rights will continue to be violated till the end of the current government's tenure."
Former Dhaka University Central Students' Union (Ducsu) vice-president (VP) Nurul Haque Nur said the election environment has broken down and the Election Commission needs to be reformed so that it is truly independent.
"Amid this national crisis, where a democratic environment is not present, law enforcers and even the army do not seem to follow the constitution," added Nur, also joint convener of BSRC.
Leaders and activists of Chhatra Federation, Youth Rights Council, and Workers' Rights Council were present at the discussion, among others.