‘A hostage in the city of suspect-assassins’
Published : Wednesday, 24 March, 2021 at 12:00 AM Count : 597
Your curiosity may have shot up dramatically by the title.
I am fine, well and alive but can't commute freely anywhere within Dhaka from 10 AM to 10 PM, either I am struck in a jam triggered by the visiting VIP dignitaries or barred from jogging inside the Ramna Park. Moreover, my helpless ride-sharing biker has to change his routes indiscriminately between the said hours.
And oh yes! There is even more, I now have to take out my press card quite frequently to convince law enforcers that I have a credible identity.
My existing irritations would last for at least another five days. However, I am not annoyed because of the multiple foreign VIPs and VVIPs arriving at the capital city for participating in our Independence Golden Jubilee and Mujib Borsho celebrations, but I have all the valid reasons to voice my irritation on the fake reality game show that our government is orchestrating in the name of providing safety and security to our visiting foreign friends.
It's not the first time we are having foreign heads of states, presidents and prime ministers attending a special event in Bangladesh. Dhaka was the venue for the first SAARC summit in 1985 and we also accommodated three world renowned political leaders participating in our silver jubilee of independence with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in her first term in 1996. But commuting through Dhaka streets never appeared as exhausting as this time.
Because of the Metrorail project a number of streets have become off-limits for transports and city dwellers, some have become narrower and most of the main roads are controlled as per the convenient travelling of the VIPs. Altogether Dhaka's clogged arteries appear to be racing madly towards an imminent heart attack.
To keep my point simple and straight, visiting VIP dignitaries surely deserve security protection and free commuting in the city, but there is no point for our law enforcers to suspect each and every city-dweller as a potential assassin.
You may be wondering why I have compared the entire security arrangement and free commuting of VIPs with a fake realty game show.
It is because Dhaka is not the same city as they are being shown around. Many of the VIPs would surely go back with fond memories of clean and empty streets, and that's where the trick is played to provide our guests with a fake picture. In the end these stopgap measures to win foreign hearts do not work.
Last year the pandemic laid bare the sorry state of our health sector. This year the celebrations laid bare the poor state of our security and traffic management systems.
With hundreds and thousands of vehicles stagnated along Dhaka's main roads every now and then - commuters have turned into practical hostages in their own city.
Let me share another state of being a hostage. The Ramna Park is an approximately 70 acres vast premises with 4 entering and exiting gates ( There are two more gates permanently sealed for mysterious reasons and another one with vehicle entry leading up straight to the Ramna restaurant . it has been sealed since March last year. It would probably open when the Coronavirus is eradicated from earth.)
However, the irritating tale I am about to share is linked to my jogging experience on Monday evening. The VIP entourage, probably of the Nepalese President, selected a route passing by the park. In order to ensure her security matters on that route our law enforcers behaved in a funny and whimsical manner.
The entire park is secured with long grilled fences. Closing the four gates was good enough for a few minutes. What the police stationed inside the park did was to push inside the walkers and joggers , otherwise potential assassins from the park trail nearing the main road and kept in a standstill position for 20 minutes. None was allowed to walk or jog as long the VIP hadn't passed that route.
As I usually never pause in my jogging session, I kept jogging standing on a fixed spot some 50 feet deeper inside from the main road.
What could be more irritating, I couldn't jog inside a closed-fenced park because of a VIP of a foreign country was scheduled to pass by in an opulent BMW sedan car followed by some 15-20 security, medical and protocol vehicles.
Not out of ambition, but I took an instant oath out of sheer anger while jumping up and down my feet. One day I will too become a VIP in any capacity and keep others waiting to their sufferings till my security is ensured.
It was the annoying tale of a Dhaka dweller, for temporarily being held hostage inside a Dhaka public park for no reason.
However, my personal sufferings on that inauspicious evening got even worse as I got out of the park heading for home. The Intercontinental Hotel was noticeably turned into an impenetrable fortress. The hotel's glitzy exterior decorated in green and red radiated little aura of patriotism, instead it reminded me of the Palace of the Romanovs carefully guarded by hundreds of armed policemen protecting the ruler's bastion from civilian interruptions and attack. Not even an empty-handed passerby or pedestrian was allowed to commute through the hotel's adjacent roads.
This is probably the definition of blanket security measures in today's Bangladesh - you literally place a blanket on top of someone to completely isolate him or her from the reality.
As the law enforcers got into my nerves, I was forced to change my walking route back home three times via two longer routes. It wasn't even possible to cross the road via a foot over bridge in the 'City of thousands of potential assassins'.
Though I got to burn more calories, but if I ever get married in this lifetime I will have my honeymoon at the Dhaka Intercontinental complemented with a blanket security protection.
However, abrupt emotional outbursts apart, it is time for our security and law enforcement agencies to be properly trained on how to guarantee security and protection of a foreign VIP guest without causing easily avoidable pain for Dhaka dwellers.
Our government is always welcome to adopt extra-ordinary security measures for VIPs, but those measures must be sensible without impeding comfort-commuting of our citizens.
The end point, pretended measures to appease foreign dignitaries by turning our lively roads into empty ones do not serve a greater purpose. What serves a greater purpose is how you efficiently control Dhaka's security and traffic management mechanisms, without causing misery and delay for your VIPs as well as citizens, both at the same time.
Had the visiting VIPs were allowed to commute with mainstream commuters along their security entourage at the same time, this would have sent a much positive message abroad. And that won't happen since the Dhaka Metropolitan Police and the Traffic authorities would jointly collapse at the same time.
Being held hostage in one's own city is agonising; my write up has a clear message for the politicians ruling the roost.
The writer is Assistant Editor,
The Daily Observer