Obituary of a Democracy

In an interview with Shahidul Alam from his hospital bed, Chief Coordinator of Ganosamhati Andolon, Zonayed Saki, talks about the attack by police which left over fifty of his comrades injured. General Secretary of Biplobi Workers’ Party Saiful Haq was also injured. They were protesting the rigged elections on 30 December 2018. Opposition activists remember 30 December  for the ‘Death of Democracy’.

I am Zonayed Saki. I am the chief coordinator of Gonosamhati Andolon.
Gonosamhati Andolon is a political party in Bangladesh working for the rights of people.
You all know that in Bangladesh on the 30th December 2018, the election that took place was a vote robbery.
There has never before been an election like this in Bangladesh. Most ballots were stamped the previous night, and they filled up the ballot boxes.
And the entire state machinery was used towards this vote robbery.
There has never been a previous instance where this has happened in Bangladesh, because the Prime Minister had, prior to the election, had discussions with all political parties of Bangladesh.

There she had asked that we trust her and she promised that they would ensure a fair and free election.
And the political parties had taken part in that election.
In an election which had participation by most of the political parties in Bangladesh, a vote robbery of such proportions had never taken place. Hence this became a dark spot in Bangladesh’s history.
A year from those elections, we, a coalition of left parties of Bangladesh, have arranged a series of programmes where we shall observe that day as a black day.
At least 50 of our workers were seriously injured and have been hospitalised.
There are others who were injured who did not come to hospital.
We believe this is a display of the police being used for political purposes and they are exercising power to create a reign of terror amongst the public.
I faced several baton charges by the police and was jostled.
Several of them tried to strangle me. There are two serious injuries in my right hand and right leg, which will hurt for quite some time according to the doctors, so I’ll have to rest for quite a few days.
Yes, several of our workers have been injured.
One of them has a crack on her skull and need ten stitches on her head.
Some have been injured in their legs, some have soft tissue damage, some have broken legs, several have numerous cuts.
They’ve all needed treatment.
We are fighting to restore people’s rights.
This fight will continue and we shall try and have greater involvement of the masses.
We shall try and resist this autocratic government through the strength of the people.
We have faced police violence before.
The idea is to create fear and suppress dissent.
To quell any resistance to the government.
They will not authorise any attempt to unite the people, since they know that their rule does not have the people’s mandate, as they haven’t come in through the people’s vote.
A government devoid of people’s support always uses fear to cling to power.
This is what we see through their other organisations, particularly their political organisations, student or other professional wings.
We see them on various occasions to pounce on any resistance movement.
So what they are doing privately, they are also doing using state machinery.
They want to create fear amongst the public and ensure the people cannot gather en masse.
They have already created the impression that if anyone comes to the streets they will be shot.
Stepping into the streets will lead to cases against them, or be arrested or tortured.
As such people have been stripped of their dignity to such an extent, their right to vote has been taken away to such an extent, and the way people are being insulted, the way they were insulted on 30 December is unprecedented.
Yet, people have not taken to the streets in huge numbers.
The reason for this is fear.
They have been successful in spreading this fear. It is this culture of fear that we are fighting.
The fact that they are ruling using fear as a weapon is what we are fighting against.
Today it is this same fear that they want to induce and that it is the resistance to that fear that we want to keep alive.
People are rapidly getting organised, they are gasping for breath, so we expect a huge people’s unity to form very soon.
The state of democracy was always fragile.
But there was at least the space that people could vote.
They could express their liking for a government through their vote.
That space has been snatched from them.
Now it’s not limited to snatching votes alone.
Now they are creating such a state of deception that they call it democracy and are forcing us to accept that definition.
In particular the way they are using the entire state machinery of Bangladesh in such a way that they have become party tools, this is unprecedented.
This had never been like this in Bangladesh, and in very few countries has it been this way.
And it is through making the entire state machinery partisan in this manner that we find ourself in this space.
The extreme transgression of voting rights, or the massive corruption that is taking place, but it is being presented exactly in the opposite way.
We saw students were attacked, they took away the video footage, and now the very ones who were attacked and injured and came to great physical harm are being blamed for stealing the video footage.
In this way they are shamelessly establishing a lie, using their control of the media or their political clout they are imposing these lies upon us and insisting that is the truth and that we have to accept it.
This entire system is unprecedented.
The fact that people are beginning to resist even under such conditions is the sign of hope.

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