Democracy in the very broad sense is a matter of accommodation, of give and take. From that perspective, we are quite encouraged at the developments which have been taking place in the nation’s political arena, with the ruling party and the opposition, the latter in its varied forms, agreeing to talk on the issues which exercise the public mind today. Indeed, only a few weeks ago, one would not have imagined such a scenario actually taking the shape of reality, given the mutual antagonism which has always characterized relations between ruling parties and the opposition throughout the history of independent Bangladesh. Now that a series of consultations has already taken place and an election schedule has been set for 30 December, it is possible for people to think that democracy could emerge on a stronger footing out of the bind it has so long been in.
This is certainly no suggestion that all will be smooth sailing before the elections. The Awami League General Secretary has made it clear that the government will do nothing that will violate the constitution. That is only proper and reasonable, for the constitution stipulates the means by which elections can be held and governments take charge. On the other hand, Dr. Kamal Hossain, leading his Jatiyo Oikyo Front, has suggested measures to the government on the means by which he thinks the forthcoming elections can be held in a free and transparent manner. Meanwhile, a number of opposition political groups have parleyed with the government. In all such exchanges, an admirable degree of civility and a willingness to hear the other side’s point of view has been noticed, which is very encouraging.
It is our hope that the democratic process will be sustained by the nation’s political classes in line with the ideals of the War of Liberation. We must point out, though, that no matter what our individual political loyalties are, nothing should be done to undermine the fundamental principles which underline our historical heritage. While we look forward to elections that will have acceptability and credibility, we also need to be reassured that all political parties desirous of a properly functional democratic system in the country will do nothing that will make a controversy of national history again. We say this because within the opposition there are parties and groups the nation holds responsible for the large-scale, indeed scandalous distortion of history which went on in the more than two decades following the assassinations of Bangabandhu and the four national leaders.
Democracy is first and foremost a matter of understanding and acknowledging history. Everything else flows from there. That is the truth.