Allegations of sedition fly all around
THE word ‘sedition’ has, of late, come to be in wide circulation, used — and, in most cases, abused — by the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the state. The government has always taken recourse to the word, often to castigate, intimidate and harass its opponents in the political arena and the dissenting voices in society at large. Such enthusiastic overkill to liken criticism or condemnation of the government or its key functionaries with seditious action has even resulted in litigations at times; the ongoing case against a person, who supposedly posted disparaging comments about the prime minister on the social network Facebook, on charge of sedition, is a case in point. Meanwhile, just the other day, the High Court termed ‘seditious’ the apprehension of ‘third force intervention’ voiced by a Dhaka University law professor during a television talk-show, in view of the prevailing confrontational politics.
On Tuesday, the High Court observed that the remarks of the speaker of the ninth Jatiya Sangsad on the court’s decision to relocate the Roads and Highways Department elsewhere was tantamount to ‘sedition’. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Wednesday, the speaker on May 29 said: ‘If parliament passes acts against the people, they would naturally react; if the government becomes autocratic, it faces the wrath of the people and there are many instances of mass uprising. If the court goes against the people, they will also react.’ In his reaction, a judge referred to the ‘treasonous statement’ of the university teacher and said the ‘speaker’s remarks are much more dangerous than that.’ The judge’s observation, not surprisingly, caused a stir in parliament; according to another report also front-paged in New Age on Wednesday, lawmakers demanded his removal.
In the midst of the wrangle between the legislature and the judiciary, the energy adviser to the prime minister on Tuesday chose to step in, blasting the ‘critics who question where the electricity generated by the rental plants goes’ as ‘either ignorant or wilfully evil or anti-government or anti-state.’ Incidentally, such a question was raised, among others, by none other than a senior lawmaker of the ruling Awami League, that too, inside the parliament. While how the parliament reacts to the charge of ‘sedition’ levelled against a lawmaker remains to be seen, it needs to be pointed out that what has been ‘wilfully evil’ is the decision to go for rental plants on the pretext of dealing with acute electricity shortage, which, many believe, was created by the certain quarters in the government to legitimise these fuel-guzzling monstrosities. These plants, powered by expensive fuel, virtually brought the economy to its knees, spurring an unprecedented increase in government subsidy, causing inflation, dangerously depleting the foreign exchange reserve.
Overall, it would not be perhaps an exaggeration to suggest that certain quarters may be trying to use ‘sedition’ as the proverbial bogeyman, so to speak, to pre-empt any criticism or condemnation of their questionable actions. This is simply unacceptable.
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