Expectations of democracy, secularism, nationalism, and socialism
On Sunday, on the penultimate day of December, it will be my fond hope that a good election will give us a good government, one that will be the absolute repository of our collective aspirations. It is a hope I have, with millions of my fellow countrymen in this land, kept alive and shining in the soul which throbs somewhere deep in my being.
There are all the dreams which have gathered in me inasmuch as they have had reason to arise in the hearts of my compatriots. These are dreams of a good, healthy working social order replacing the stagnation and sloth which have for the better part of the past nearly half century left us fumbling for a toehold on life, for every new dawn to bring to our doorsteps a basket laden with expectations ready to be fulfilled.
Out of this election, we expect to exercise our right of franchise in, and beyond it, we will look out toward the horizon for intimations of a better tomorrow. The vehicle for our thoughts, the instrument necessary for a translation of those thoughts into reality, will be the government we elect to give us the new sense of direction we will wait for an the morning after the votes have been counted, after we have convinced ourselves that the elections have been fair and credible and that there will be no questions raised around them.
As a citizen who has experienced the movement for autonomy in this country when it was not a country, as an individual who has been witness to the strenuous struggle put up by our political leadership and our freedom fighters for a transformation of this land into a sovereign nation-state, I look ahead to a rejuvenation of the old principles.
In democracy, secularism, nationalism, and socialism, millions once placed their faith. Those are principles we expect the incoming government to uphold, indeed to restore in their fullness, for nothing can be more debilitating for a free country that is home to men and women of all classes, faiths, castes and creeds than to be pulled harshly away from its moorings into a dark and deep abyss of dangerous compromise.
As a citizen, like all other citizens, I shall wait for the restoration of a Bengali republic, that arduous task to be carried out by those who will provide leadership to us through the five years ahead of us.
And I expect more from the government that is to be.
It is my expectation that the rule of law will be the underpinning of the state once the elections have come to pass. That this is a people’s republic is an idea rooted in our collective consciousness, which is why we will expect that those who serve the state in its various institutions and departments and ministries will wake up on the morning after the elections to remind themselves that the constitution expects them to be in obeisance to the people.
It is a tall order, but again, it is the responsibility of the state to reassure the citizen that his rights and privileges will be upheld, that no one can tamper with them through a misuse and abuse of power, that those who do will face justice under recognized universal norms.
I speak for myself, as I believe I speak for other citizens when I look forward to the rise and consolidation of a powerful judiciary that will be the citizen’s prop on justice and life with honour when everything else collapses around him.
I do not expect a chief justice to be hounded out of office ever again as much as I do not relish thoughts of the executive and judicial branches of the state rushing to head-on collisions at any time in the future. In my dreams of the times to be, I envision a parliament where the nation’s lawmakers will rise to the occasion every time issues of grave public import arise, and will indeed convey the message to the country that they will bring the executive branch to account if and whenever transgressions are committed by those holding political authority.
I would like to take pride in my democracy when our lawmakers grill our ministers and our public servants at the many parliamentary committees on the state of the nation.
My dream remains -- of a government that will be smart, that will resonate with the aspirations of the people, that will represent all classes and categories of citizens, that will be rooted in Bengali heritage. And therefore, there arises yet another dream, one of our ministers spending time in their offices and away from the ubiquity of ceremonies removed from their workplaces.
The republic will function in line with the principles set out in the constitution -- with all servants of the republic not forgetting that they serve the state, with all politicians remembering that they hold, at a given period of time, the power to form and function as a government in trust.
In this formulation, within the parameters of that dream, functions a government with popular sanction as its basis of operation, and functions too as a shadow government, in the form of the parliamentary opposition, persuading the nation into believing that democracy is firmly on track.
The police will respect the citizen. The politicians will be beholden to the electorate. The party of government will not fall captive to the arrogance of power. The opposition will not walk out of the House. The Election Commission will turn into a body sending shivers down the backs of corrupt men. The Anti Corruption Commission will gain in authority enough to punish those without probity. Human rights will be a barometer of our status as citizens. Men and women will not disappear without trace, and those who are missing will come home to their wives and children and siblings and parents.
These are the dreams of this citizen. These are the embroidered quilt of ideas in consonance with the preamble to the nation’s constitution, to the clarion call that “… it shall be a fundamental aim of the state to realize through the democratic process a socialist society free from exploitation, a society in which the rule of law and fundamental human rights and freedom, equality and justice, political, economic and social, will be secured for all citizens.”
Syed Badrul Ahsan is Editor-in-Charge of The Asian Age.