Sunday, August 3, 2008

RCC Poll: Candidates shun militancy issue

Even though the electorate expect a clear stance on the militancy issue from the mayoral candidates of Rajshahi City Corporation (RCC), the candidates, however, avoided talking about it fearing it would affect their vote tally.

The election campaigns ended yesterday midnight ahead of the start of polling at 8:00am August 4.

Campaign sources said the candidate supported by the Awami League AHM Khairuzzaman Liton believes it is better not to talk about the militancy issue at the local government election since he expects to draw large number of votes from BNP-Jamaat supporters. These votes could swing if he talks too much against militancy, an issue that plagued the region during the BNP-Jamaat regime.

The BNP-backed candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul felt relieved as no other candidates discussed the issue which was an "embarrassment" to the BNP-Jamaat government, party insiders said. Other candidates thought talking about the militancy issue would create disputes among candidates.

Rajshahi region, once infested with outlaws, saw the rise of militants of dreadful Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), led by executed JMB leader Siddiqul Islam Bangla Bhai, in April 2004 with their "jungle rule".

The vigilante outfit in the name of action against outlaws allegedly killed around 25 people and mimed over 500 in the region in only three months.

Former BNP minister Aminul Haque and former BNP deputy minister Ruhul Kuddus Talukder Dulu with the help of former BNP lawmaker Nadim Mustofa, detained RCC Mayor Mizanur Rahman Minu, and former state minister Alamgir Kabir reportedly patronised the militants using the police and administration.

Allegedly backed by Minu, a large group of armed JMB militants marched through Rajshahi city on May 23, 2004. They addressed a number of wayside meetings and handed memorandums over to the then Rajshahi deputy commissioner, superintendent of police and deputy inspector general of police.

This is the first RCC election after the rise of the militants and voters understandably want a clear stance on the militancy issue from the mayoral candidates.

"Following feuds inside BNP I hope to get many votes from BNP supporters as I expect many votes from conservative Muslims. My words against Islamist militants could be wrongly interpreted by voters. That is why it is better to avoid the issue," said Awami League-supported candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton.

Liton, however, promised to combat all kinds of terror.

BNP-backed mayoral candidate Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul said the rise of militancy was an embarrassment to BNP across the country and of course in Rajshahi.

"During this election campaign voters made many queries. But talking about militancy will not bring us any positive results rather it would impact negatively on our vote tally. So it is better to keep silent about it," he said.

"I did not plan talking about militancy as none of my competitors raised the issue," said Bulbul.

Sources said other candidates, who are apparently lagging behind in the race, also believe the militancy issue to be very sensitive and it should not be discussed during local government elections as it would create opportunities for disputes to arise.

"At this moment, I do not want to talk about the issue as none of my competitors have raised it," said mayoral candidate and acting RCC Mayor Rezaunnabi Dudu, also a BNP adherent.

Rajshahi University Prof Hasan Azizul Haque said many political leaders including former Rajshahi mayor patronised militants of Bangla Bhai and so the mayor hopefuls must promise that they would never do such a thing if elected.

"Dreadful the militants may be but if Mayor Minu or other big political leaders had not helped Bangla Bhai and his cohorts, they would never have dared to do such tortures. So, we want to hear their commitment against militancy prior to elections," he said.

Manoranjan Nandi, a prominent playwright, said, "We want to be sure that the mayoral candidates will take actions against all those who were engaged with militancy."

Golam Arif Tipu, convenor of Rajshahi Concerned Citizens Committee of Transparency International Bangladesh said, "There is no reason to remain silent as militants are still active. They will come out whenever a suitable ground is found. But we are helpless as the candidates are silent on the issue."

M Abdul Bari, a victim of Bangla Bhai's torture and also a voter of the city, said he wants the candidates to pledge actions against militants and bring them under trial.

"Apart from taking legal actions, the candidates must give us word that they will never allow the militant sympathisers in their parties or activities," he said.

"We want the candidates to promise that they would never provide shelters or funds to militants," said Mozammel Haque, another JMB-torture-victim and a voter of the city.

Intimidated by the militants, Bari and Mozammel were forced to flee several times their homes in Bagmara to Rajshahi city in 2004-05.

1 comment:

  1. Militancy Issue in RCC Election

    Today I've gone through a news item published in The Daily Star regarding Rajshahi City Corporation election candidates' reluctance to express a firm stance on militancy issue during their campaign.

    AL backed candidate AHM Khairuzzaman Liton defends himself by saying that he expects to draw large number of votes from BNP-Jamaat supporters which could swing if he talks too much against militancy and so it is better not to talk about this issue. Surely he has preferred votes to the spirit he professes to have. A man of integrity can never do what he has done by being reticent about a crucial issue of Rajshahi. His reticence is tantamount to being lenient to the militants. AL frequently claims to be on the pro-liberation axis of Bangladeshi politics. Nonetheless, when weak-minded people like Mr. Liton are strongly supported by AL, their commitment to the great spirit of Liberation War is again called into question. Mr. Liton fears that his words against Islamist militants could be wrongly interpreted by conservative Muslim voters. If he isn't determined to convince the voters of his message, then what's the point of his becoming a candidate? Islam doesn't permit terrorism and militancy and he should have persuaded his voters in favour of him by getting across this message to them.

    BNP-backed candidates Mosaddek Hossain Bulbul and Rezaunnabi Dudu showed lame excuses for their silence - none of their competitors has raised the issue, talking about the militancy issue would create disputes among candidates and will not bring them any positive results rather it would impact negatively on their vote tally. How could they blatantly ignore the voters who bore the brunt of militants during the last BNP-Jamaat regime and now want to know their stance on militants? Those who can ignore the constituents now can surely do so when elected.

    It's really frustrating that people of RCC are going to vote for a mayor without even knowing their chosen candidate's precise position on militancy issue.

    courtesy: first appeared at