Wednesday, June 19, 2024

People’s nerves on edge

Rafiq Mia was losing his patience. Clutching the handles of his rickshaw, he was looking for passengers at Panthapath intersection. Whenever anyone came close, his eyes sparkled at the prospect of a trip and he promptly uttered, “Where will you go?”
As this correspondent approached him, wanting to go to Russell Square, he did not seem to think twice.
“Get on, sir,” he readily said. “I haven’t had any passenger for a long time. Perhaps people are afraid and do not want to step out of home.”
Asked why people were afraid, he looked back and replied, “Don’t you know? Awami League and BNP face off tomorrow [today]. God knows what will happen.”
The concern that he voiced yesterday is not only his. The city dwellers are suffering from nerves over a confrontation between the ruling Awami League and the main opposition BNP in the capital today, as both the camps have been holding fast to their positions on the polls-time government.
Thursdays are usually the busiest, with the city streets going chock-full of cars as people move out home to get things done before the two-day weekend. But yesterday was quite different.
An eerie calm descended on the city as residents, anxious about what might happen, stayed indoors. Most of the thoroughfares were marked by a thin presence of traffic.
From tea stalls to bus stops, everywhere people talked about the political programmes set for today. Some were discussing whether it would be unsafe to come out home while others expressed concern about the country’s political situation in the days to come.
“We are concerned about our security because of the tense situation occasioned by BNP and Awami League,” a commuter was seen telling another at Farmgate bus stop.
“Thank God it’s Friday tomorrow,” said another.
Cabbies, rickshaw-pullers and drivers of CNG-run three-wheelers said they could not get passengers as they get on other days.
Jafar Munshi, who drives a CNG-run auto-rickshaw, noted that his earnings had dropped significantly since the Eid but they were even worse yesterday.
“Having worked from morning to 3:30pm now, I could not even earn the deposit money of Tk 800,” said Jafar of Patuakhali, who has been doing the job for more than two decades.
“The present circumstances are really bad. We can sense something ominous tomorrow.”
Many journalists received phone calls from people who asked what could happen today and if leaving home would be unsafe. Many people left their workplaces a little early yesterday.
The law enforcers also seemed baffled.
One of the policemen on duty at the International Crimes Tribunal said to a reporter of this newspaper, “You are a journalist and you know better than us. Please tell me what will happen tomorrow. What will happen to the country in future?”
His questions went unanswered.

-With The Daily Star input

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