I was in Grade V when I first heard about democracy. My first notion of democracy was – for the people, by the people and of the people. It appealed to my little mind that we are ruled by ourselves, by our chosen people. I began imagining happy nations where leaders were selected by happy citizens and everything was perfectly synchronized into order. In Grade VI, I realized that every nation is not a democracy. I felt pity for those who were not allowed to choose their rulers. It all felt unjust and unfair. As I entered Grade VII, I read that even in a democracy, not everyone has the right to vote. There are many countries where a section of people are not allowed to take part in this process called election. This section of people included women in many regions of this world. Now this disturbed me a lot and as a girl, I felt my position to be insecure. For the first time, I saw myself as different. I was later happy to find out that Bangladesh, my mother-land extends voting rights to all sections of the community. No one in my country is exempted from forming a body called government to rule us. Grade VIII introduced me to many other forms of government. Democracy was not the only way to rule, there were many other options like anarchy, monarchy, communist and the most dreadful, military dictatorship. I back then, recognized my country to be a perfect democracy. All I was taught about how to check democracy was done in my country. For fair democracy, we needed many political parties, elections and citizens ready to take part in government making. I longed to be an eligible voter. I felt that my vote could indeed have an impact, it could make a difference. This was the age when I had just started to read newspapers daily. I was now confused beyond understanding. India – where I had been living for 7 years, was the biggest democracy of the world. The papers had a different point of view. During elections, they were full of reports of rigging and use of muscle and monetary power to access control over the government. If the world’s largest democracy had so many loopholes, I thought about my country. That was the time when I began questioning the whole existence of democracy. Grade IX further aggravated my doubts. Our teacher taught us that there are some countries in the world who claim to practice democracy but in reality they are very far from the actual concept of democracy. These countries thus made false claims and gave false hopes to their citizens. I was appalled to hear that Bangladesh and Pakistan are the biggest examples of such countries. All the mist covering my idea of a perfect government was at once shoved away. I faced the truth and unknowingly denied to accept it. I started a debate in the classroom and was not ready to understand that my country was not a democracy. I returned to Dhaka soon after completing my Grade X Board Exams (O-Levels). The elections were dated to be conducted in 2019. Our country has been ruled by two women ever since I have understood politics – Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of our nation and Khaleda Zia, another women who roams around wearing georgette saris and her signature sunglasses. For the last 10 years, Sheikh Hasina has been our Prime Minister and after everything that has happened under her reign, I was convinced that this time the much enlightened people of Bangladesh would opt for a change and even better, someone might wish to be the change we want to see. Just think about Arvind Kejriwal, the common man who himself has brought a change in Indian politics. With his broom he has indeed swept away a lot of notions related to Indian democracy. What I feel is that we need more young and active leaders to undertake the mammoth task of governing the nation. But the dream of a perfect democracy was shattered when Khaleda Zia was arrested in early 2018. This in no way means that I am inclined towards BNP. I have not even read their manifesto. I want to clear it out that I do not support any party and this article has nothing to do with praising any one party over others. Coming back to my article, Grade X Civics taught me the different challenges to democracy before it can be considered perfect. Countries like USA, UK and Canada also have many loopholes in their systems. Well, to be frank I had started to doubt American politics the day they made Donald Trump the President. So basically, even the pall bearers of democracy are not able to extract the true sense of it. I began researching politics of these nations. There are three challenges to democracy – foundational challenge, challenge of expansion and lastly, deepening of democracy.
Foundational challenge deals with setting up the institutions of democracy and keeping forces like military, monarchy and nepotism away from gaining any power in running the country. According to my Indian teachers and people enlightened by the spirit of democracy, Pakistan and Bangladesh are yet to clear this challenge. This involves setting up basic principles of democracy like free and fair elections with apt choice provided to all voters at regular intervals, freedom to form political parties etc. After this we have the challenge of EXPANSION faced by many modern democracies. This deals with expanding the true sense of democracy to all geographical and cultural regions, giving women and weaker sections of the society equal rights in acquiring power by the means of reservations and sharing power with the governmental bodies working at various levels. India can be taken as the best example facing this challenge. The last remains the DEEPENING OF DEMOCRACY which is faced by each and every democracy in some way or the other. No democracy in today’s politics is perfect and this challenge is to remove their remaining imperfections. The growing presence of money and muscle power to achieve political positions, role of businessmen and wealthy citizens in the governmental bodies etc. USA and UK are the most suitable examples in this case.
Before coming to Bangladesh I have been well trained to not utter a single word about our political scenarios taken in account the recent happenings that have evolved. It is just the same case as in India we cannot talk freely about beef because people more cruel than actual butchers can come to hunt you down. I still start whispering when I talk about cows or beef. Similarly here I cannot speak freely about the government if I value my life. Whatever I have thus written needs to be whispered. I was a bit scared but Malala Yousafzai’s autobiography has inspired me to pen down my thoughts. I may be politically incorrect and am definitely too young to discuss things like this but as a future voter (within 2 years) and a citizen in making, I have put forward my opinions about democracy.