Last month, I was in a two-week trip to the United States. Invited to attend the Mozilla Summit 2013, I went to Santa Clara, California and took a one-week stop in New York on my way back home. It’s because I wanted to see New York. I wanted to see for myself what I’ve been seeing for years on movies and TV shows.
Imagine what would have happened if a city violence in the New York City marked the end of my life.
This might be an awkward way to open up a post, but I can’t really be creative at this point. I live in Dhaka. And Dhaka is slowly becoming synonymous with political violence, destruction of public property (mostly in the streets, like shops and vehicles), and death of innocent people.
Take Monir for example. He had never been in Dhaka before. As a teenager, he must have been pretty excited when his father accepted his cries to bring him to Dhaka for a visit. For many people living in rural areas, Dhaka sounds like a dream city (which it actually isn’t, I’d be shameless to admit).
Do you want to know what he got back from Dhaka in return of his interest in seeing the city? Dhaka welcomed him with death.
The 14-year-old faced the extreme political violence and brutality of those who support this. On opposition party’s call for 60-hour countrywide dawn-to-dusk shutdown/strike — commonly known as Hartal, a green light for violence in the streets, he was on his way to the city in his father’s covered van when picketers set the vehicle on fire with the boy in it.
He suffered for a painful few days in Dhaka Medical College Hospital where doctors said that he has suffered severe burns over 95 percent of his body. It was impossible for the doctors to save him. He died an agonizing death in DMCH yesterday in Dhaka.
He came to visit Dhaka, and despite his innocence, he’s returning home in a coffin.
Where life is of least value
Before the 60-hour countrywide strike last week which caused the death of Monir, there was another 60-hour strike the previous week. Media outlets have reported that at least 14 died in the three-day violence across the country. And it’s needless to say not all of them were involved with the politics — just like Monir wasn’t — but still faced an agonizing death just for being in a wrong place at the wrong time.
That, if you consider the open streets a wrong place in broad daylight.
In Hartals, picketers’ common task is to set vehicles on fire. They clash with law enforcement officials, bringing down battlefield in the middle of the street, they cause destruction to street-side businesses and they set vehicles on fire. From private car to public transportation like bus, nothing avoids picketers’ temptation to set on fire — all for nothing.
These meaningless violence causes a lot of financial loss mostly to the general city dwellers who has often no interest in politics. But when lives are lost, you barely talk about things that are worth just some money.
Life is invaluable. No one can create a life. But in Bangladesh, life is the least valuable thing. Let’s imagine about those 14 people that lost their lives. 14 people from 14 families. 14 families lost a member of their family just because of political violence that sets streets on fire and grabs innocent lives. It’s just something you can never make sense of.
Who’s to blame?
Newspaper The Daily Star talked to BNP’s acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir asking why their party was indulging such violence in the streets. He replied that his party did not enforce hartal out of joy, and that the government agents are responsible for Monir’s death.
I wouldn’t go into details about which party is responsible for these. Politics are dirty; they are dirty in all parts of the world. But these dirty politics don’t cause the country hundreds of innocent lives every year in other countries. Only in Bangladesh, when you’re out in the streets, you run the risk of getting injured by a bunch of people and may be end up dead even if you have no affiliation with any political party whatsoever.
I don’t know who to blame. We have done enough blaming each other. Now it’s time for our citizens to step out of comfort zone and raise their voice against these violence. How many lives do we have to see lost without any reason? How many mornings do we have to wake up only to read about end of yet another innocent life?
I wouldn’t set my hopes high for these political violence — and innocent’s death — to stop or reduce anytime soon. I wouldn’t hope that life would be of ‘some’ value at one point in this country, either. I just hope that this all ends.
I don’t want my city to continue to be a slaughterhouse for random people.
Image: The Daily Star