So, today – after a long time waiting – we’re getting prepared almost for siege-like conditions. For the next three days it won’t be safe to use transport to get anywhere at all. Not just all buses but, for once, the trains too will all close down. Only a fool or the desperate will go out in their own car during this time. If we’re missing any rations we need from the next town, we’ll have to do without them. Tomorrow, it all goes belly up.
Khaleda Zia, the opposition leader, has been demanding the Government steps down and allows a non-partisan interim ‘caretaker government’ to take over running the country as we approach December and election time. I remember arriving in Bangladesh in October 2008 when the country had been under one such caretaker government then. To be honest, almost everyone I spoke to said they preferred the caretaker government to either of the two parties who normally get voted in. Certainly, things are more stable under the caretakers.
But Sheikh Hasina is having none of it. She has rejected all of Zia’s proposals and seems, at this stage, to be determined to hold on to power as long as she can. If she succeeds then few believe the elections will be fair and open.
Zia gave an ultimatum to the Hasina’s Government – give up your position by the 24th October or we take action. So here we are. Now Zia has declared the Government to be illegal and ordered a 60-hour hartal to begin tomorrow urging everyone including the army and police to follow the national strike and aggressively reject Hasina’s party according to the Dhaka Tribune.
Hartals never go well and I’ve dedicated much space on this blog to them over this year. But when all your deshi friends are camping down and going nowhere – and have been preparing for this for several weeks – you know that something bad is expected. The hartal hasn’t even begun yet and already the obligatory bus-burning and clashes with authorities have begun. Several people are already dead. More will come.
For us at LAMB, we’re relatively protected behind the walls surrounding us and the guards at the gate. For our local friends it’s a bit more than the inconvenience it will be for us though. Anyone taking a rickshaw, vangari or CNG to work will be taking a great risk tomorrow.
At LAMB we had a Medical student conference just cut short by 24 hours so we could get all the students back to their homes all over the country before the hartal begins. This, despite months of serious planning and hard work to put the event together. Poor wifey was given just a few minutes notice last night to give her talk planned for today. Professional she is, she managed with great aplomb, but it goes to show how serious the deshis are taking the planned action.
One thing is for certain: the next few days will be very interesting.