On December 10, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), the main opposition party of the nation, will stage the last of its divisional mass rallies in the nation’s capital, Dhaka. But prior to the event, a controversy over the potential location of the event is raising questions. The venue’s location and capacity are crucial because the BNP anticipates gathering 10 lac people there. A further problem will be upholding law and order and maintaining the normalcy of public life. Therefore, for the sake of everyone, the country’s authorities should choose a fixed location for such gatherings in Dhaka’s surrounding areas.
The location of the BNP’s mass rally in Dhaka on December 10 is causing friction because the main opposition wants to conduct it in front of their party office at Naya Paltan while the government will permit it at Suhrawardy Udyan. As BNP has initially declared that, after the December 10 mass rally, the country would be run by the directives of their Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia and Senior Vice President Tarek Rahman, the situation intensified though BNP switch from their earlier position later and declared to provide one-point demand from the mass rally. Conflicts are also feared because the capital’s many neighborhoods will have patrols from the ruling Awami League.
The BNP’s divisional mass rallies are coming to an end with the rally on December 10. On November 15, the party submitted a request to the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) asking for permission to organize the rally in front of the party office in Naya Paltan. At a gathering on November 24, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan stated that BNP might organize its mass rally at Suhrawardy Udyan on December 10 if certain requirements were met.
Leaders of the BNP stated that they did not want the gathering to be held in Suhrawardy Udyan. They added that the Chhatra League’s central council was scheduled at Suhrawardy Udyan on December 8 and 9. The leaders claimed that permission had been granted in order to prevent the BNP from erecting a stage there. But subsequently on 27 November, the Chhatra League’s central council was shifted on 6 December, all in the name of the Awami League’s noble desire to allow the BNP to organize their large rally peacefully on 10 December at the Suhrawardy Udyan.
BNP’s plan of holding the mass rally at Naya Paltan is absolutely illogical. Moreover, ensuring security at Naya Paltan, where there are hundreds of buildings at both side of the road, will be very difficult. Additionally, Naya Paltan is an area of heavy traffic movement and blocking traffic movement for hours will create a lot of chaos as the leaders and activists of the party will come in hundreds of vehicles.
BNP was initially suggested to hold their Dhaka division mass rally in Bishwa Ijtema field beside Turag river at Tongi or at the venue of International Trade Fair at Purbachal but they denied and expressed their wish to hold the rally at the center of the capital, where millions of people reside and work. Bangladesh Awami League also had organized multiple events and will organize many such in the upcoming days in the heart of the capital. Due to their activities, the ordinary people have to suffer a lot as they find difficulty in movement inside Dhaka due to road blockade and traffic diversion.
Previously known as Ramna Race Course Ground, Suhrawardy Udyan is a national monument situated in Dhaka. Its original purpose was to act as the Dhaka-based military club for British personnel. The location was utilized on Sundays for legitimate horse racing following the end of British authority. Three outstanding national leaders, Sher-i-Bangla A K Fazlul Huq, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, and Khwaja Nazimuddin, are buried there.
Suhrawardy Udyan has an interesting and important past. After being released from prison, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was given the title Bangabandhu at this location, and a civic reception was held in his honor. Awami League members were chosen to serve in the National Assembly there on March 3, 1971. Bangabandhu gave his famous “7th March Speech” at Suhrawardy Udyan on March 7, 1971. The Pakistani army formally submitted its arms at the Suhrawardy Uddyan on December 16, 1971. Another significant occasion that occurred in Suhrawardy Uddyan on March 17, 1972, was a massive public gathering that the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Mujibur Rahman jointly addressed.
It was crucial to keep Suhrawardy Udyan protected. Unfortunately, a piece of this important site has been developed to make way for Shishu Park and other establishments. This place is frequently used to organize political activities. Suhrawardy Udyan is intended to provide residents and their families with greenery in the capital. Therefore, the government should find a new venue for any public gatherings and must take steps to conserve ancient Suhrawardy Udyan rather than destroy it, which would ultimately obliterate our heritage.
There are specific places – squares, amphitheaters and community halls – for political or large events in almost all the countries of the world. Unfortunately, there is no such establishment in Bangladesh. For a densely populated city like Dhaka, it is absolutely necessary to have a large venue for political and other events. There are huge spaces at areas like Purbachal and it was not impossible to create an amphitheatre or stadium like mammoth establishment there to hold large events.
There are large tracts of undeveloped land in Dhaka’s vicinity. Those locations are continually being developed for either residential or commercial purposes. Given the state of Dhaka, we ought to utilize those lands for more significant purposes rather than expanding the city’s residential possibilities for new residents. We can build 4-5 major venues for political and other events, with a capacity of 20-30 lac people, if we can develop a sizable vacant land in Dhaka’s environs. We can also set up sufficient parking facilities beside the venue, and if necessary, we can build underground parking spots, which will undoubtedly save the event attendees a lot of hassle. Additionally, amenities like WiFi, sound systems, stages, and AV presentation tools ought to be set up in those venues.
Large public gatherings here are totally unreasonable given the state of Dhaka. Therefore, the political parties can have small gatherings in various communities at the ward or upazila level, in which only those who live in that ward or upazila will attend. These little events can offer a far better option if the issue is getting the message to the public. Additionally, those events can be held indoors with much greater security and less suffering for the populace.
Every village in developed nations has a community hall. Even the candidates for the US presidency travel between states to hold rallies at these community centers .They can express their message to a relatively limited audience much more effectively and get a lot closer to the common people this way. Additionally, in this era of electronic and social media, it is quite simple to link the entire audience, which is dispersed across the nation, while giving a speech specifically to a smaller audience. We should apply those ideas to politics as well, for the convenience of the populace, given that we are a nation that is always growing and becoming more digitalized.
Creating chaos for the citizens cannot be a democratic practice. To sustain our democracy, we need to ensure comfort for the people at every stage. If not, then the large gatherings of mostly the leaders and activists of the parties or even the rented participants will not help connecting with the people. Moreover, the ruling party is portraying good intent to allow BNP to hold their planned mass rally and BNP should appreciate it. If the political parties do not trust each other, then the chaos will remain in the political environment of the country and that will hurt democracy in Bangladesh.
The Bangladeshi government must think about building some sizable venues for mega events in the future saving Dhaka. These venues could be used for year-round political, commercial, cultural, or sporting events without causing any inconvenience for the populace, and we believe that this will inadvertently promote better democratic practices in the nation.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela