Dhaka, Dec 26 (bdnews24.com)—Dhaka University teacher Asif Nazrul on Wednesday described as an 'accident' the incident in which a truck crushed two university students to death at the beginning of the anti-Ershad movement in 1984.
The dead were Chhatra League leaders Ibrahim Selima and Kazi Delwar Hossain of the then Dhaka University unit.
Asif Nazrul, a Law Department Professor, said this during a roundtable held at the city's National Press Club.
Nazrul said there had been a significant 'surge' in arts, culture and literature during the Ershad period. "However, there was a truck accident during Ershad's rule."
HM Ershad, the second military administrator of the country, captured state power on Mar 24 in 1982. On Feb 14 the following year, students waged a large-scale protest against military rule.
Five students – 'Zafar', Dipali Saha, 'Jainal', 'Mozammel' and 'Ayub' – were killed in the police firing, leading to the formation of the Chhatra Sangram Parishad (students' action council), the first politically organised platform against the military dictator.
On the same day the following year a truck ran over a peaceful student procession taken out marking the event, killing the two on the spot.
The Awami League-led 15-party and BNP-led-7-party alliances had enforced a combined countrywide shutdown later on Mar 1 that year protesting the incidents. Former Chhatra Union leader and trade unionist Tajul Islam were killed by thugs alleged to be loyal to Ershad.
The list of those killed in attacks by pro-Ershad forces also includes Dr Shamsul Alam Milon and Awami League leader Moyezuddin.
Referring to 'crossfire' or extrajudicial killings and 'forced disappearance', talk-show star Asif Nazrul said: "Who had introduced the threats like crossfire and disappearance, Ershad or Khaleda-Hasina?
He said that after the end of Ershad's regime, democracy was not strengthened even during the tenure of the two leaders.
"Look at the Constitution. Obviously the Fifth and Seventh Amendments are quite bad and those were the martial law provisions. We've no doubt about it. But what happened during the democratic regimes? It was the tenure of Bangabandhu government when the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution was brought and all the political parties were banned. The military dictators didn't do such misdeed; they didn't ban all the parties."
He continued: "Are those institutions which were there in Bangladesh during the military regime functioning better now? Is the judiciary working better? How many verdicts did the judiciary give against Ershad during his rule and what is the number now? The elections to DUCSU (Dhaka University Central Students Union) were held in his tenure, are those being held at present?
The law teacher said it was during the tenure of a democratic government when a former judge of the High Court was made chief of the caretaker government and thus the country was pushed towards turbulence and bloody conflicts.
"Another government has changed the Constitution in such a manner so that no one can raise voice against the charter. Is this called democracy and strengthening the democracy?" said Nazrul who was recently summoned by the High Court on charges of contempt of court for making a "provocative statement" about the prospective next government.
He said: "It's not that I'm glorifying Ershad. I would say that the two leaders (Hasina and Khaleda) are worse than the former military strongman who we frequently criticise."
The programme was attended, among others, by senior journalist ABM Musa and Prothom Alo columnist Syed Abul Moksud.