Nagarik Oikya Convenor Mahmudur Rahman Manna, now at the centre of raging discussions on the social media after his leaked phone conversations, has virtually acknowledged the dialogue while reacting to the news.
bdnews24.com on Sunday broke the news of an audio clip containing the conversation among Manna, one of the main advocates of a national dialogue to resolve the current political crisis, BNP leader Sadeque Hossain Khoka, and an unidentified person.
In the conversation with the unidentified person, Manna, a former student leader, expressed his eagerness to sit with generals for a military intervention.
The former vice president (VP) of the Dhaka University Central Student Union (DUCSU) told Khoka that a few deaths could destabilise the government if a clash over occupying the university dormitories could be engineered.
Manna is a former Awami League leader, who quit the party to form his own organisation. The Awami League is now leading a coalition that constitutes the present government.
Reacting to the reported contents of the audio clip, Manna told bdnews24.com that he was “surprised, stunned and upset seeing the headlines of the news about the conversations”.
“What have you made of the actual thing! What misleading heading have you given! I am surprised, stunned and saddened seeing them,” an upset Manna said.
At no point, however, did he deny that it was not his voice on the audio clips.
Manna has acknowledged the conversation in a post on his Facebook, saying, “There is no hint of any conspiracy, there is no instigation.”
“I have spoken to Sadeque Hossain (Khoka) and the issue of the movement came up as part of the conversation.
"I said I support a movement demanding democracy. But I don’t support violence. To get out of the situation, efforts must be made to mobilise the broad sections of the people. Violence must be very consciously abjured.
“Students will have to play the role of vanguard in this movement. For this, a student movement must be started and spread across the universities.
"And if this leads to a few deaths due to police or terrorist atrocities, so be it.”
Manna added: “People are dying anyway. My view has been perversely interpreted – as if I want to see corpses.”
About the other aspect of the conversation, he said, “When some army officers wanted to know if I was willing to talk to them, I said yes.
"I am a politician. I have to talk to everyone. How does one infer a 1/11-type or coup conspiracy from this, especially when there has been no meeting?”
Manna came to be as known as a proponent of reforms within the Awami League as the party’s organising secretary during the army-backed caretaker government in the post Jan 11, 2007 army-led takeover.
He lost the party post after the election and went on to form Nagarik Oikya during the previous Grand Alliance government.
He had announced towards the middle of last year after the Jan 5 general elections that he would ‘hit the streets’ with Dr Kamal Hossain.
At that juncture, he announced an initiative to form a third force with Ganaforum president Dr Kamal, Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal president ASM Abdur Rab, Krishak Sramik Janata League president Abdul Kader Siddiqui, Bikalpadhara Bangladesh and Communist Party of Bangladesh and Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (BaSaD).
Lately, Kamal and Manna formed a forum – Udbigna Nagarik, or Concerned Citizens – with a section of civil society amid the BNP’s continuous transport blockade.
Manna, Dr Kamal and Kader Siddique, all of whom were once with the Awami League, have called for a dialogue from this platform several times.