The farce of the politically quarantined party


Published on March 30, 2020
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Ajay Dasgupta:

There is a lily in a pond. The next day, there are two. Each day, the number of lilies doubles in the pond. As the lilies keep blossoming, half of the pond turns into a bed of lilies within a month. People gather around the pond to catch a glimpse of the exquisite beauty. As the pond becomes half-filled, it is in the air how beautiful it will be if the entire pond becomes the bed of lilies. This can now be described as a visualisation of how fast coronavirus can spread.

But, to the surprise of everyone, the pond becomes entirely covered by lilies the very next day. People think it is a miracle. People of all ages converge on its banks. How did the miracle happen? It’s simple. Rumours! Some even claim to have seen an angel landing from heaven in a chariot. However, no one claims to have seen the angel filling the pond with flowers.

This is the time for a wise man to intervene. He says, “You were fully absorbed in the beauty of lilies. You didn’t pay attention to anything else. Each day the flowers kept multiplying. The last day the pond became half-filled. Now it is complete with lilies. It’s a natural process. There is no miracle as such.

You can draw parallels from the story and relate to the events that turned out following the release of Khaleda Zia and how they might have helped the coronavirus keep multiply the way the water lily keeps multiplying in the pond.

As directed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the BNP chairperson has been released for six months with her age taken into account and under special consideration. Khaleda’s brothers and sisters requested the prime minister through a formal letter to release her. Some reportedly met her at the Ganabhaban as well. They demanded her release through the executive order on humanitarian grounds. Khaleda’s sister Selima Islam told  reporters that their brother Shamim Iskander applied to the home and law ministers with the permission of Khaleda.
Photo: Babul Talukder

Some political commentators taunted her saying that she spoiled her spotless reputation as an “uncompromising leader”. Others said that she and her party accepted the reality. She made some grave mistakes while being in power. She made mistakes in taking decisions regarding politics and her party. When she endowed her son Tarique Rahman with the post of Senior Vice Chairman of the party, even people inside her party could not accept it. Hawa Bhaban is still a nightmare for many. The indiscriminate ‘Petrol Bomb Attack’ continued from 2013 through the first three months of 2015 to gear up the protest to overthrow the Hasina government was like the end of the world. Long before that incident, Tarique masterminded another notorious assassination plan, the Aug 21 grenade attack in 2004, to kill all the Awami League leaders at the same time on Bangabandhu Avenue.

Fanatic groups like the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh became the accomplice in letting all hell lose. That same quarter orchestrated all possible means of violence to foil the election that the nation was set to participate in on Jan 5, 2014. Though the government led by Hasina dealt with it impeccably, the loss that democracy incurred due to the BNP’s malicious politics is irreparable.

Of late, the people Khaleda shares her kinship with realised that the leaders at the helm of the BNP are isolated from people. They love to beat around the bush. They misused the opportunity of free press created by the Awami League. Even way before the coronavirus prompted quarantine across the country, the BNP paved the path for a political quarantine for themselves. That Khaleda sabotaged her boat by resorting to corruption and irregularities during her tenure was the point her family members figured out very well. With those incidents taken into account, no law in the world could release her from jail. That is why they begged for mercy for which they deserve heart-whole thanks!

But, there is an adage that black will take no other hue. BNP leaders accepted this initiative of the family member of Khaleda reluctantly. Owing to the seamless political quarantine that they endowed themselves with year after year, their sense of judgment seems to have died out. On Mar 25, she got a respite from her jail terms for six months on some conditions. Her family took it for granted that she would shut herself up in her Gulshan home, leaving even the faintest possibility of any political involvement.

But, the party leaders left no stone unturned in gathering around Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and her residence. When the entire nation is supposed to not step out of home since the deadly coronavirus turned into a pandemic, the BNP is gathering, as usual, jeopardising not just itself but the health of the entire nation as well. However, what appears as a silver line at the edge of the cloud is that BNP Secretary Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir still retains a modicum of sense.
Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

He told journalists that a medical board has been formed for Khaleda and she would be kept in quarantine for some days. It means that she will be under close observation. No one, not even party activists, will be allowed to meet her in person. The conditions on which she was released do not allow her, though, to accept such gathering. But, officially the BNP has another reason to show and that is the isolation imposed on the people due to the coronavirus.

What slipped out of their mind was the danger of catalysing the spread of the virus they were posing to the people. When Khaleda was released, nearly one thousand people converged near the hospital and her Gulshan home, putting into oblivion the concept of social distancing during a pandemic. Mirza Fakhrul and some other party leaders said that they cautioned the activists against any gathering. But, all roads led to Khaleda since their emotion broke down all the barriers of logic. The gathering delayed her homebound journey by nearly an hour. But, that loss is negligible if you consider the loss incurred by the people due to the spread of the virus caused by such gathering. If a single person is infected with the virus, it will keep multiplying and transmitting to others. In turn, the virus will capture the entire nation. While they were on the premises of the BSMMU, they came in contact with police personnel and journalists who will face the same risk of getting infected. The politically quarantined party did not realise the literal meaning of quarantine and put people’s lives in danger. BNP leaders said that Khaleda would live in quarantine in her residence. Over two years, she resided in the jail cabin of the BSMMU. Those who have a shred of an idea about the healthcare system of the country know that it is the best place in the country to be in quarantine. Khaleda’s residence will ensure the same level of healthcare. That is what we expect.