The Sacred Duty | Teen Ink

The Sacred Duty

August 6, 2018
By QuaziTMunir BRONZE, Chittagong, Other
QuaziTMunir BRONZE, Chittagong, Other
4 articles 1 photo 3 comments

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“No person shall be deprived of life…” says the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. In 1971, the nation fought for the most fundamental of the rights - freedom. The result of which today, we live in a democratic society. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either a religious extremist or is a descendent of the Rajakars. There was a certain period in our history when people were oppressed by those in power, voices against the rulers were suppressed, and mass media had its hands tied. After all, that’s what 3 million people sacrificed themselves for - to live in a country which you can call your own, which recognizes the rights you deserve as a human being. Fast forward to 47 years later, the similarity of the situations is quite disturbing. Did our golden generation fight for nothing? Of course not. The progress we’ve made from being war torn to a middle income country is evident everywhere. But when we look through the glasses of human rights, not much has changed. We, as a sovereign state, do have a constitution that protects our rights. But when it comes to the guardians of the constitution, the collective sigh of distrust is just too agonizing to ignore.

70 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human rights outlined the right to life, liberty and security of a person as fundamental rights for every human everywhere. It is a matter of great regret that even after nearly five decades of independence, we still have to fight for this inalienable right. When students of this country came out to the streets in numbers in late July demanding safer roads, they were not actually asking for a privilege; they were asking for their rights. The movement, though was sparked by the death of two students by a speeding bus, is actually a result of frustration that had accumulated over a long time. According to a report published by Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association, more than two thousand deaths in road accidents were recorded in the first four months of this year alone. So when thousands of students came out with their demands, they had enough grounds to do so. The protests were far from conventional norms. Not only they were vocal in the streets with their demands, but they also took matters into their hands by checking the licenses of the drivers and not allowing unlicensed vehicles and drivers in the roads – a task entrusted to the law enforcing agencies. This unprecedented manner of protest had grabbed attention and support of citizens all over the country, given the fact that for once at least, traffic rules were actually been implemented in the streets. But within a week, the movement started facing severe backlash from pro-government activists, who claimed the movement to be infiltrated by the opposition for misleading the students. Their crackdown on the protesting students along with the police had seen an unconfirmed number of students being injured as the police allegedly used rubber bullets and tear gas in an attempt to control the crowd. These activists were also accused of attacking the journalists and obstructing media access to the protest sites. In addition to that, the telecom regulator of the country, BTRC had ordered a decrease in the mobile internet speed to minimum, for ‘limiting street agitation’. Ironically, the fight for one fundamental right had invoked the absence of yet another one – freedom of expression.

But why do we have to fight for these rights if they are breached? After all, we’re can’t be the guardians of something that is supposed to protect us in the first place. That responsibility should lie on the ‘the legal guardians’. The answer lies in the preamble of our own constitution - “… it is our sacred duty to safeguard, protect and defend this Constitution and to maintain its supremacy as the embodiment of the will of the people of Bangladesh …” Therefore, it is not our choice to fight for our rights, it is our duty. When students came out for their rights, they simply answered their call of duty. So, it’s crucial that just like the heroes of our history, they didn’t stop unless their duty is fulfilled. A major advantage for the modern day heroes is the power of social media - a platform that can reach hundreds within seconds, thousands within minutes, and millions within hours. This has enabled to bring the fight off the streets. Those who can’t make it to the field have the weapon of words at their disposal. Whichever means you choose, the sacred duty must be fulfilled. Because the government of the people, by the people and for the people needs first and foremost - its people. So, when we complain about the rulers breaching our rights, we are actually highlighting our own failure. As Plato had said, “The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” If we want to progress as a nation, we cannot simply rely on the government for it. When our safety is threatened, we need to raise our voices; when our voices are suppressed, we need to fight with our pens; but we cannot stop at nothing until our duty is fulfilled.

47 years after we had achieved our independence, our students are now fighting for their right to live, to express and to be secure. They are fulfilling their sacred duty to protect the constitution, even at the cost of their own blood; and it is needless to say that they have shaken the government to its core. Irrespective of whether you fight along or against them, whether you choose to stand beside them or not, this will go down in history books as a reminder of our responsibility towards our own state. Because the heroes of ’71 had performed their sacred duty by earning our right to live; and the heroes of ’18 did by protecting it.

The author's comments:

The fight for rights is never easy. But here in Bangladesh, it has never been harder. 

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