Friday, 3 December, 2021

Escalating Violence in UP Polls

None shoulders blame

Nobody is accepting responsibility for the escalating violence in the ongoing Union Parishad (UP) elections, which has already caused damage to lives and property.

The Election Commission (EC), law enforcement agencies and the ruling Awami League (AL) are shifting the blame onto each other, terming the election violence ‘traditional’.

So far, at least two dozen people were killed and scores of others injured in the election violence. Of them, five were killed in the first- phase poll violence and 23 in the second-phase poll violence.

Meanwhile, a chairman candidate for a UP election was shot dead in the poll violence in Rajbari district on Friday.

Former Vice-chancellor of Dhaka University AAMS Arefin Siddique told the Daily Sun that the EC, the government and major political parties should shoulder responsibilities for the election violence.

“The EC has failed to hold a violence-free election. It is the EC’s responsibility to hold a fair election. There is nothing to say if the body neglected its responsibility,” he said.

“It is clear that supporters of the party-nominated candidates and rebel candidates were locked in clashes during the polls. That means political parties have been failed to give moral lesson to its leaders and activists,” Arefin Siddique said.

According to the EC, elections were held in 364 UPs in the first phase and 835 UPs in the second phase. Elections will be held in 1007 UPs in the third phase and 840 UPs in the fourth phase. Elections will be held in 4554 UPs in phases.

Quoting the Constitution that the EC is an independent constitutional body to hold election in the country and it shall be the duty of all executive authorities to assist the EC in discharging duties, an expert said it is the EC’s responsibility to ensure holding of the election in a free and fair manner and contain violence.

But, the EC is shifting its failure onto local political leaders and law enforcement agencies, he added.    Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) KM Nurul Huda has recently said, “Elections are being held since 1787 and incidents of killing have also taken since then. However, it’s not acceptable. There’ll be no problem if administrative action is taken and intelligence surveillance is strengthened.”

“Violence took place due to the tendency of establishing supremacy by locals and lack of intelligence efforts of law enforcers,” he said, adding, the authorities concerned should increase vigilance to stop the election violence.

Former Election Commissioner Mohammad Shahnewaz told the Daily Sun that no one is solely responsible for the increase in the election violence, but the EC can enhance monitoring and create pressure on all stakeholders to strictly go by laws.

“Casual mentality has been prevailing among the election campaigners and candidates. A discomfort situation is prevailing in all stakeholders, including administration and law enforcing agencies and political parties, resulting in an increase in the violence,” he said.

The former EC said all political parties have to come out from the competition of establishing supremacy for the sake of creating a festive mood during election.

At least six people were killed and over 100 others injured in violence during the second phase of the UP election in Narsingdi, Cox's Bazar, Cumilla and Chattogram on Thursday.

Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said on Thursday clashes are inevitable in the local government-body elections.

“A little clash does happen here and there between groups (people take in these polls) to establish influence. But, law enforcers don’t sit idle,” he said.

However, despite the minister’s claim of law enforcers being active in their jobs, incidents of violence marred the voting atmosphere.

Meanwhile, Abdul Latif Mia, a chairman aspirant candidate for the Banibaha UP polls in Rajbari, was killed by assailants on Friday.

He was heading home from Banibaha market when he was attacked, police said.

Latif was rushed to Faridpur Medical College Hospital where he succumbing to his wounds.

In another incident, at least 25 people were injured in separate incidents of clashes among supporters of chairmen and member candidates in three UP areas of Kashiani upazila in Gopalganj on Friday.

Over 100 houses were also ransacked during the clashes. The injured were undergoing treatment in local hospitals, police said.

Police were deployed in and around the areas to avoid further violence.

Experts hinted that violence may grow in the third-phase UP polls slated for November 28.

There might be escalating violence in the fourth-phase election as Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has backtracked on its decision to boycott the local-government polls.

The embattled party has decided not to take any punitive action against its leaders and activists if they participate in the UP polls independently.

As most of the political parties, including BNP, have boycotted the UP polls so far, the ruling party candidates are contesting the race against their rebels.

In many places, relatives and supporters of influential leaders and lawmakers are vying against the AL-nominated candidates though the party has hinted at taking stern actions against them.

Over the ongoing UP polls and violence, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader said violence took place in several places during the polls, which is very much unexpected and sorrowful.

“The EC and law enforcement agencies should take the highest cautionary measures to maintain congenial electoral atmosphere to avert any untoward incidents in the next phases of the polls,” he said.