The home ministry’s call to ban rallies for a month to preserve law and order is outrageous. More to the point, it is a violation of the public’s constitutional right of expression, association and assembly.
It was irresponsible and inexcusable for Home Minister M K Alamgir to call for it and AL General Secretary Syed Ashraful Islam to speak in favour of banning political activities, using relief work during Mahasen as a justification for it.
There should be no ban on assemblies, and no official announcement should be made in that regard.
However, a de facto ban is underway. Fear of violence has led the government to deny any group permission to hold a rally. The government claims public safety and protection of property as the cause. In fact, since Sunday, the police have given none permission to hold political programmes in Dhaka.
The government seems to disregard the fact that banning a rally does not automatically prevent violence. Rather, it is the job of law enforcement authorities to protect the public and property when violent incidents break out. At the same time, the group that holds a rally is responsible for ensuring its members don’t engage in violence.
It is likely that the ban is merely a smokescreen to prevent the opposition from carrying out any kind of public protests. But the inescapable fact is that a ban on rallies takes away everyone’s right to protest peacefully.
This is the kind of authoritarianism that should not be allowed in a democracy.