Mass gatherings are slowly but steadily becoming risky and life-threatening events in Bangladesh. The only recently concluded tragedy at a Mezban party in Chittagong once again reminds us our practised culture of ruthless negligence and atrocious irresponsibility on the part of the management of the concerned mass gatherings arranged on different occasions.
When accidents occur just as chance happenings, nobody will ever raise even a question or dig deep into them. However, losses of innocent lives in these congregations in Bangladesh are allegedly being reported as cases of shockingly loose management and extremely inadequate safety measures.
The occurrence of hapless deaths in the gatherings especially those made for the poor and destitute people was first reported back in 2014 when two poor invitees coming with a view to collecting zakat clothes from a rich man’s mansion at Kathpatti in Barishal met helpless death after being trampled under the feet of the rushing stream of the zakat cloth-seekers.
The entire nation was readily shocked when again four children and 23 mothers became victims of unexpectedly instantaneous deaths in Mymensingh back in 2015. To pacify the raging fury and outrage of the people, the then law-enforcers went for a mass arrest of the organizers and moved to launch a thorough investigation into the incident. The law-enforcers then made a serious commitment of non-repetition of such tragedy and strict monitoring and supervision. Although before that, Hindu-devotees coming for Ostomi-ablution bath on the bank of river Brahmaputra near Dhaka had to watch a live tragedy when some ten fellow devotees were trodden to death due to almost absentee management.
Though these gatherings were virtually arranged to promote variety of social, religious, political and welfare causes, the aftermath of these incidents manifestly reveal the half-heartedness in our real intention. Once we invite thousands of people we have to take foolproof safety measures, at least we have to take into serious consideration the comparative ratio between the space and the probable turnout. Do we ever do that while arranging such gatherings? In most cases, it is evidently our inmost desire to attract the maximum possible attention of the highest possible number of people outrageously disregarding the serious interests of safety and security. In fact, the circumstances and the situations in which they are held speak very well about their vulnerability to accidents. The incident of Mezban deaths in Chittagong has reportedly been attributed to the narrow entrance passage of the Mezban premises.
The shocking fact is that in most cases of these absolutely unexpected deaths the organizers though arrested prima facie as a common tactic of eye-wash finally get scot-free just after the extreme tension period is over. These scenarios of the society seem to prove themselves as if they were the way of the society and are fast becoming the pattern of life in which the poor are destined to die just because they are poor. We hear the raging voices exploding with fiery protests of dozens of right groups immediately after these incidents. Even more, the community centres, auditoriums and the seminar halls remain vocal with the deliberations of the right groups round the year. However, the wailing and the lamentation of the relatives of these poor, innocent victims hardly find their real consolation in the actions of any of the human right groups. The procession of deaths of the helpless humanity lingers on still further.
The unmistakable irony is that those who cry for the poor are not the bona fide representatives of the class for whom they wage their vocal battle routinely. Neither do they really opt for an attitudinal shift in the social psyche. Like anywhere in our society here is obviously a huge gap between appearance and reality. As long as this false façade of appearance will work as a virtual reality, the poor will continue to be treated as objects of negligence, not as human beings. The best and also the only way to pay them their due respect as human beings is to empower them to have a full access to the right to justice and fair play. Can’t we ensure them a life of safety and security? Undeniably, a guaranteed death for the teeming millions is just a chimera in the present reality of Bangladesh.
It is not necessarily a socialist set-up that can best safeguard the human rights. Gross abuses of human rights in socialist countries like North Korea are rather a common phenomenon. Though I have cited North Korea as a case in point for my present purpose of showing the gross violations of human rights, cases of human rights violations in different forms and fashions are allegedly reported across the globe irrespective of the social and political systems pursued by the countries in question.
We have clearly seen the violations of human rights even in the USA when a black taxi-driver was beaten by the white police back in 2012 just on a silly excuse. We are yet to forget the tragic suicide of Medea worker Matsuki of Japan only in 2017 due to excessively extra workloads beyond the usual schedule. The outrageously inhuman treatment towards an ultra-poor Indian fisherman is still vivid in our memory when he had been denied an ambulance to carry the dead body of his wife from the hospital. He had to brave an impossible home-bound journey carrying his dead wife on his shoulder. This single incident of human right violation raised a storm of surging protest across the globe. The subsequent humanitarian gestures of the Omani Sultan impressed us all. Here in Bangladesh scores of hapless deaths seldom make a single space in global social and print media.
People of almost all countries genuinely demonstrate due respect towards the human rights and that is why a single case of deviation gets the optimum focus. On the other hand, hundreds of deaths caused by human rights violation obviously find space in the headlines for a few days then ritually erased out of the memory for ever. This is obviously a malignant malaise in our attitudinal make-up.
The writer is an Assistant Professor of English, Bogra Cantonment Public School & College. E-mail: shasanbogra1&gmail.com