Sunday, April 05, 2009

The death of democracy in Bangladesh

WILLIAM GOMES

ABRAHAM LINCOLN said, “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people,” while Karl Marx said, “Democracy is the road to socialism.” The people of Bangladesh are wondering where they are headed. The country was born out of a long democratic movement coming out of civil war against the Pakistani junta. It’s been almost four decades since independence.

Bangladesh may become the greatest threat to peace and security in South Asia. While it was the focus of concern for activists back in 1971, and still remains so, the scenario has totally changed. Back in 1971, the situation was that activists and humanitarians in Bangladesh were being threatened, but now those outside of Bangladesh who desire peace may be threatened by Bangladesh. In the absence of democracy, the nation has been hijacked by military dictatorship and Islamic extremism. The country remains under the pressure of these two non-democratic groups.

Bangladesh has fully failed to establish democracy as an institution. In Bangladesh, every person, whether in a position of power or not, is very vocal about the idea of democracy, but the nation has failed to become democratic in a substantial way. Parties voted into power for the purpose of institutionalizing democracy bring their own version of democracy. The country today is plagued by a variety of problems threatening the peace and security of the South Asia region.

The requisites of democracy are absent in the democratic practice of Bangladesh. From liberty to equality, fraternity to sovereignty, an independent judiciary to the rights of the people, all are denied and demonized by the defective democratic system in Bangladesh.

In the absence of democracy, a sort of theocracy is taking its place and is being institutionalized into the sociopolitical system of Bangladesh. Islamic extremists have formed a shadow government in Bangladesh, while failing to gain support for an Islamic theocracy from the masses.

In 2009, there are 78,000 NGOs registered with different government institutions. NGOs play a vital role in the development of Bangladesh. The Islamic extremists successfully raised foreign donations during the term of the BNP-led alliance government in an amount nearly equal to Bangladesh's 2009 financial budget.

In fostering democracy, poverty is a challenge before the nation, while Islamic extremists are trying to take the opportunity to take control of the areas of economy and development in Bangladesh, with Islamic institutions being able to control politics in Bangladesh.

Robert M. Hutchins said, “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.” In a very different way, the Islamic extremists have formed a shadow government here in Bangladesh, so that the death of democracy is certain.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!” When the wolves fight for the lamb, democracy, they are fighting to kill it. Democracy is death here in Bangladesh. The Islamic theocracy has triumphed. #

William Gomes is an independent human rights activist, a Catholic ecumenical activist, and a political analyst. He is also the Executive Director of the Christian Development Alternative (CDA), a national organization against torture and human rights violations