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Bangladesh: Post Poll Politics and Attacks on Minorities - A Compilation of reports, editorials, commentary and statements

by sacw.net, 13 January 2014

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Bangladesh: Post Poll Politics and Attacks on Minorities - A Compilation of reports, editorials, commentary and statements

Contents:
1. Bangladesh: Attacks on non-Muslims must stop now, forever
2. Hindu minority become target of Bangladesh violence by Victor Mallet
3. No impunity for violence - Dhaka Tribune Editorial
4. Bangladesh: Challenge Before Third Hasina Govt by Gautam Das
5. Time for the BNP to cut Jamaat loose - Dhaka Tribune Editorial
6. Bangladesh’s Radical Islamists Get U.S. Backing - Daily Beast
7. Bangladesh’s Predicament - Economic and Political Weekly, Editorial
8. Deplorable attacks on religious minority communities - New Age, Editorial
9. Odhikar indictment a worrisome sign - Dhaka Tribune Editorial
10. Obhoynagar reminds of ’71 horrors by Emran Hossain
11. The ugliest face of the opposition - Tribune Editorial
12. ATTACKS ON RELIGIOUS MINORITIES - Fresh attacks take place in Satkhira, Panchagarh (New Age)
13. Politics is done best with lathis in Bangladesh by Afsan Chowdhury

1. A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission
http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-014-2014

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-014-2014
January 13, 2014

BANGLADESH: Attacks on non-Muslims must stop now, forever

Shame shadows Bangladesh again. Numerous attacks have been waged on the Hindu community across Bangladesh in the wake of the January 5th general ’election’. Houses and business establishments owned by Hindus have been targeted. Other ethnic and non-Muslim communities have also been attacked. Temples and religious sites have not been spared. Few hundred Hindu families have lost their property and savings in acts of vandalism, loot, and arson. Numerous women and children from minority communities, have fled their homes, and are in hiding in fear of further attacks. Their homes destroyed, some sleep under the open sky in the cold air of winter nights. Neither the state nor humanitarian organizations have responded with adequate food and shelter for the victims.

Thousands of Joint Forces troops, comprising the police, Rapid Action Battalion, and Border Guards, have remained deployed for tightening ’election period’ security. The Bangladesh Army has also been on the street to ’aid’ the government since December 2013. All these swarming forces have failed to prevent the attacks and protect the minority population.

This is, of course, not the first such series of attacks; it is only the latest instance in a litany of shameful attacks on the dwindling minority population of Bangladesh. Attacking minorities has become an election tradition in the country. Whether real or fake, rigged or boycotted, no election appears to be complete without literal minority bashing. It is time Bangla literature updates its historical reference to there being only 6 seasons in the land. The election period is now akin to a separate season in itself, one in which vandalism, loot, arson, and attack on minority establishments is a key feature.

How long can the non-Muslim communities sustain such barbarity?

Targeting of non-Muslims for political gains is done by both parties that win and parties that lose elections. Of course, many Muslims also fall victim to the seasonal violence of elections; at least five lives have been lost in post election violence this year, not to mention over a hundred killed in the lead-up to the election. Apart from political gains, such attacks, orchestrated by powerful people, linked to the ruling or opposition parties, are often undertaken for grabbing land and assets. The attacks on Hindus, in particular, also open undue opportunities to politicians beyond borders, for earning ’extra’ benefits, again, at the cost of the dignity and interests of the people of Bangladesh.

Following this latest rounds of attacks on minorities, the government has hurled accusations on opposition political parties. The pro-government media and civil society has echoed the story of the attacks having been undertaken by the opposition. The police, virtually across the country, have registered complaints maintaining the position of the pro-ruling party, holding the opposition responsible. The chief opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), and its ally, Bangladesh Jamaat-E-Islami (BJI), have, in turn, blamed the ruling party, the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL), for the attacks.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has had the opportunity to enquire after the well-being of victims in Chapatala village, Avoynagar, in Jessore district. The victims’ version of events contradicts the government’s take. Residents of Chapatala state the following:

They say Mr. Ranjit Kumar Roy, a ruling party candidate, a Hindu, won the election. Cadres of the defeated candidate, Mr. Abdul Wahab – who was a leader of the Bangladesh Awami League until he was denied a ticket by the party this election – led the attacks. Supporters of few other political parties, those with links to the attack leaders, and local ’petty criminals’, thieves and muggers, jointly committed the crimes. Around seventy lower caste Hindu families lost most of their assets as a result. Their houses and shops have been looted, belongings burnt.

It must be noted that Abdul Wahab also happens to be a Whip in the yet to be dissolved 9th Parliament. On December 28, 2013, Wahab held an election campaign meeting at Sundali Primary School ground adjacent to Chapatala village. In that meeting Wahab allegedly threatened Hindu families with dire consequences if he were to lose the election to his Hindu counterpart. The Hindu inhabitants of Chapatala village did not imagine that the victory of Mr. Ranjeet Kumar Roy would cause them so much misery. The case of Chapatala makes it clear that politicians of all hues are behind such dastardly violence.

The AHRC has learned that local administrations in some districts have provided relief and remuneration to some victims. While adequate relief is essential, and must cover all the affected, what is really required is ’justice’ for the victims. To ensure justice, the institution of a judicial probe commission is the need of the hour, to investigate and prosecute perpetrators regardless of their political or religious identity. However, if history is any indicator, AHRC is well aware that even if such a commission were to be instituted, something highly unlikely, the incumbent regime would only go so far as to abuse it. Such criminal investigations surrounding the communal attacks will only likely end up as another tool for those in power to further corner political opposition.

The AHRC notes the statement of Mr. Subrata Chowdhury, President of Bangladesh Hindu Buddha Christian Oikkya Parishad and a Supreme Court lawyer. BBC Bangla Service news has recorded him stating that "now, it has been accused that Jamaat-Shibir committed the attacks. It is made to be a slogan. In reality, it has been seen that it is not the Jamaat-Shibir who have attacked in all the cases. We have found that in many places the Awami Leaguers are involved too. If Jamaat-Shibir have committed these, then why the government is not bring them to the book and why actions are not being taken against the public officials for failing to prevent such incidents?" Mr. Chowdhury asked.

The realities are truly unfortunate, as Bangladesh has a long and commendable history of communal harmony, unlike neighbouring nations. The people, regardless of their religious background, fought for the country’s independence in 1971. Together, they sacrificed lives on the battle field. If any roadside tea-stall plays a song such as "Mora Ekti Fulkey Bachabo Boley Juddho Kori" [We struggle for protecting each and every flower], any Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and ethnic community member will sing along in chorus. Ordinary citizens of Bangladesh have deep bonds beyond their communal identities. It is, however, the shamelessly dirty politics atop the nation, and the unforgivable failure of the civil and police administration to prevent attacks on non-Muslims, that has butchered the people’s history.

The people must unite again to prevent the politics of communal violence. It is not merely a loss for the minorities, in terms of their houses, businesses, and valuables. Trust and respect in society, which money cannot buy, is lost in such attacks. The social fabric of Bangladesh is rent asunder. The country’s image and, in particular, that of the Muslim majoritarian community is besmirched internationally. The historic fraternity of the people must resurface, stronger, to sideline those paralyzed by greed. The parties that fail to end such bloody politics must be relegated to the bin of history. Communal violence must be stopped now and forever.

2. Financial Times January 13, 2014 10:24 am

Hindu minority become target of Bangladesh violence

by Victor Mallet in Satkhira, Bangladesh

They came at 9.30am on December 13, about 60 or 70 of them, to sack his family home in the village of Jagannathpur and terrorise the occupants. The gang worked with brutal efficiency, petrol-bombing the house, burning the motorcycles outside, stealing jewellery and smashing with clubs every household appliance not consumed by the flames.

“When anything happens, Hindus are attacked,” says Subhash Ghosh, his eyes filling with tears as he stands outside the burnt shell of his house in the Bangladeshi countryside near the Indian border. “Everything is lost.”

He and another 21 members of his extended family have sought refuge in a nearby town and dare not stay the night on the farm their family has owned for more than a century.

The attack by militants of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), an Islamist party allied to the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, was one of thousands of violent incidents in the run-up to the general election of January 5. It occurred the day after the execution of Abdul Quader Mollah, a JI leader convicted of war crimes.

Local Hindus had nothing to do with the execution. But here in the southwest near the Ganges delta, members of the Hindu minority are particular targets of JI because of their religion and because they almost all support the Awami League, the nominally secular party which has run Muslim-dominated Bangladesh for the past five years and which won the election after a BNP boycott.

The historic region of Bengal has a history of bloody communalism. In nearby Chuknagar on May 20 1971, Pakistani troops massacred thousands of Hindus – about 15,000, the locals say – as they fought to keep what was then East Pakistan from seceding to become the independent nation of Bangladesh.

Mr Ghosh fought as a guerrilla “freedom fighter” against the Pakistanis and their local supporters, who included JI. The ranks of the Islamists today are swollen by the landless descendants of Muslims who fled from India at the time of the violent partition of India and Pakistan in 1947.

Some of his Hindu neighbours have fled across the border to India, but at the age of 63 Mr Ghosh has no desire to abandon his home or his shrimp farming business, even if he does sometimes wonder about claiming asylum in the UK or Australia. “I cannot leave the country like a coward and I cannot be a rickshaw-puller in India because I have land and property here,” he says. “What would I do in India?”

Hindus in nearby villages tell similar stories of arson, rape, stabbings and beatings: Mr Ghosh says 55 to 60 Hindu homes and businesses in the area have been attacked. Most interviewees though do not want their names used in the media for fear of reprisals. JI militants, using temporary mobile telephone numbers, repeatedly called the locals guiding Financial Times reporters in the district to ask why we were interviewing victims, but refused to meet us or speak to us.

The latest round of violence began in the Satkhira district nearly a year ago, but worsened sharply in December, when JI took control of several villages, cutting down trees and building embankments to stop the security forces from entering. Some locals call the area “Pakistan in Bangladesh”.

“A few days back it was a horrible situation,” says Chowdhury Manjurul Kabir, the police superintendent sent from Dhaka to restore order a month ago. “There was no certainty about life. If someone came out, he might not go back to his home. The whole district was like a graveyard.”

He said: “Jamaat-Shibir [the JI youth wing] activists are not big in numbers, they panicked everybody. That is their success. Some people were killed very brutally.”

Hindus, once a majority here, still make up 25 to 30 per cent of the population compared with 8 per cent in the whole of Bangladesh, and are easy targets, but they are not the only victims.

In Saroskati Bazaar, Abdul Rahman shows me a gruesome photo on his mobile phone of a dead man whose throat has been cut. It is his 32-year-old brother Mehdi Hasan, who was head of the local Awami League’s youth wing.

At 1am on December 13 – the same day Mr Ghosh’s house was attacked – a group of about 20 JI militants allegedly attacked Mr Rahman’s house, where his brother had been taking shelter, abducted him, killed him and left the body next to a canal about a kilometre down the road. “He was murdered,” says Mr Rahman.

The police chief has restored an uneasy peace to most of Satkhira, but residents are in a sombre mood as they contemplate the polarisation of national politics between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s repressive Awami League government and the opposition BNP, supported by its increasingly violent Jamaat-e-Islami allies.

“The extremist forces here, they are quite strong,” says one local development worker, who asked not be named. “With these two political parties, it’s not possible to have a sustainable democratic system.”

Additional reporting by Joseph Allchin
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2014.

3. Dhaka Tribune, January 12, 2014

No impunity for violence - Tribune Editorial

Impunity must end. People need protection by the law, not political point-scoring

With her child on her back, a woman looks in despair at the rubble of her house in Kornai village of Dinajpur Sadar upazila. The photo was taken on 9 January
Photo- Banglar Chokh

The aftermath of the parliamentary elections has witnessed waves of violence, particularly against minority communities. On election day, villagers in Jessore district were attacked by Jamaat-Shibir activists, forcing hundreds to flee by jumping into the river. Now two women from the same district have reportedly been raped as well.

In the midst of these inexcusable crimes, the political blame game continues. It is a disgrace to the whole nation that while vulnerable minorities who are citizens of our own country are viciously attacked, political parties can seem more interested in accusing each other, rather than bringing the perpetrators to justice.

This type of blame game is encouraged by the fact that communal crimes have not always been properly investigated in the past. Such impunity must end.

People need protection by the law, not political point-scoring. We must make sure that crimes are properly investigated and guilty parties are punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Not only must impunity be ended but efforts must be made to ensure that victims and their families should also be adequately compensated. It is important to act effectively to stop all violent attacks and to prevent unspeakable violations of the rights of minorities recurring in the country.

Law enforcement authorities have a solemn duty to ensure that all people can live without any fear of being attacked. Where they have not been effective, they must be held accountable. The failure to protect our own people is a great shame for us all.

4. People’s Democracy, January 12, 2014

Bangladesh: Challenge Before Third Hasina Govt

by Gautam Das

DESPTE the hartal, blockade and boycott call by the BNP-Jama’at-e-Islami combine and the sporadic violence, the people of Bangladesh cast their vote to elect the tenth parliament on January 5. Before the polling started, armed cadres of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jama’at-e-Islami (JI) burnt down around 350 polling booths including schools, set afire ballot boxes with ballot papers, killed one presiding officer by hurling bombs, and cut the road links to prevent the movement of polling parties and security forces in some places. Police and the paramilitary forces had to resort to firing upon the attackers; 20 of them got killed. The supporters of the poll boycott call murdered one security personnel. Barring these incidents, however, the polling was by and large peaceful.

POLL FREE FROM IRREGULARITIES

As 153 candidates of the ruling Awami League (AL) led 14-party alliance were elected unopposed in the 300-members parliament, elections were held in 147 constituencies only. Due to the refusal of the BNP, and the 18-party alliance it leads, to participate in the elections and due to their poll boycott call, continuous road blockades, hartals and widespread violence before the polling, the voters’ turnout was low, to which the heavy fog on the polling day also contributed.

According to the country’s Election Commission, on an average 40 percent voters used their democratic rights. As per the statistics available with the Election Commission for 139 constituencies where elections held on January 5, 1,65,30,775 voters cast valid votes whereas the total voter strength was 4,15,21,325. More than 2.50 lakh votes were rejected during counting in those constituencies. The chief election commissioner, Kazi Rakibuddin Ahmed, told the press that the polling percentage was low as main opposition political party and some other parties did not participate in the elections, and also due to inclement weather. But, he said, there was no report of irregularities.

The SAARC poll observers, those from some foreign organisations and local poll observers, who went around different polling centres, said that in many polling booths they found voters, both men and women, standing in queue and casting their votes peacefully. In some polling booths the number of voters was very negligible, they said. But they emphatically stated that there were no irregularities in the polling process. The Election Commission suspended polling in around 350 polling booths spread over eight parliamentary constituencies due to burning of polling booths and ballot papers. Repoll will be held in those polling booths on January 16 next, an Election Commission spokesman said.

As per the election conduct rules of Bangladesh, counting of votes was taken up immediately after closure of the polling process in the polling centres itself. As per unofficial results declared by the Election Commission, out of the 139 constituencies Awami League won 104 seats, Jatiya Party of H M Ershad got 13, Workers Party bagged four and independents and others got 18 seats. Thus the ruling Awami League has won altogether 232 seats including the 128 seats where its candidates were elected unopposed. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina got elected from both the constituencies she contested. The Workers’ Party of Bangladesh increased its seats from two to six. (In two constituencies, their candidates including party president Rasheed Khan Menon had got elected unopposed.) The Workers’ Party had seat adjustment with the Awami League in four constituencies. It also contested in 12 other constituencies where two of its candidates got elected.

THE PEOPLE UNDAUNTED

On January 6 evening, in her first press conference after the tenth parliamentary election, prime minister Sheikh Hasina again urged the BNP president Begum Khaleda Zia to come forward for dialogue and give up the undemocratic and violent agitation which is only creating untold miseries for the common man. She also put forth the condition that the BNP would have to sever its relationship with the Jama’at-e-Islami which is responsible for mass killing of hundreds of citizens of Bangladesh during its liberation struggle in 1971 and also for committing rape and gang rape of innumerable women.

On this occasion, Hasina also expressed satisfaction over the turnout of voters in the election and said that the people had cast their vote and rejected the poll boycott call of Khaleda Zia while braving the hartal, blockade, murder and other violent activities. She told the national and foreign media that the first priority of her new government would be to protect the life and property of her countrymen and to protect the government properties. She said the ongoing process of trial of war criminals would continue and that corruption would be dealt with firmly.

Sheikh Hasina also reminded that she had requested the BNP president Begum Khaleda Zia to come forward for dialogue and to participate in the election to strengthen the democracy but that she had refused to have a dialogue and did not participate in the elections. In reply to a question, she said her government was swimming against the current and would continue to do so in future for an all round progress of the country. She also said that there were outside pressures but that she did not bow her head. In reply to another question she said that the door would always be open for the opposition. She informed that she would request the allied parties to join the new ministry.

Meanwhile, the BNP and its alliance partners are in no mood to give up confrontation and again called for a 48-hour general strike and indefinite blockade immediately after the end of the polling. On January 6, seven more people were killed in different parts of Bangladesh.

ATTEMPTS TO CREATE CHAOS

As for the BNP, it is being run from two centres. On January 6, party chairperson Khaleda Zia issued a press statement from her Dhaka residence, claiming that the people had rejected the poll process. She asked the government to cancel the election results and open dialogue for a fresh election under a neutral government. On the other hand, Tarek Rahaman, eldest son of Khaleda Zia, held a press conference in London the same day, saying that the present government was not a valid government and that his party would not sit for dialogue with this government and continue the movement against it. Earlier, on January 4, in another press conference held in London, Tarek Rahaman had alleged that the Hasina government was going into the election process at the dictate of a neighbouring country; which was a euphemism for India. It may be mentioned here that Tarek Rahaman was arrested in 2007, during the internal emergency, for allegedly transferring a huge sum of money to a foreign country; this money was acquired through bribery during her mother Khaleda Zia’s prime ministership. He got bail for treatment purpose and since then he has been living in the UK after giving an undertaking that he would not involve himself in political activities. Yet, he is controlling the party while sitting in London. Meanwhile, the anti-corruption commission of Bangladesh has succeeded in bringing back a part of the amount smuggled to Singapore by Tarek Rahaman. Khaleda Zia had appointed her son as senior vice president of the party.

After the counting of votes, the Jama’at and its student wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir, attacked the religious minorities in Satkhira, Jessore and Dinazpur districts and burnt and looted several houses. The minority committee members had to therefore to run away in order save their lives. In Satkhira, newly elected parliament member of the Workers Party rushed to the spot along with party workers and confronted the attackers. It was alleged that the police arrived quite late.

Some prominent intellectuals, including former Bangladesh Central Bank governor Farasuddin, said that to conduct the elections on January 5 was a correct decision; otherwise, the Jama’at-e-Islami would have sought to grab state power by creating a constitutional crisis. He opined: if the main two political parties agree and come to an understanding, fresh elections may be held with the participation of all political parties within the next 18 to 24 months.

Maintenance of law and order, and restoration of peace and normality, is at present the main challenge before the third Sheikh Hasina government which is to take oath of office very soon.

5. Dhaka Tribune, January 11, 2014

Time for the BNP to cut Jamaat loose - Tribune Editorial

The war crimes baggage and now the horrors of more recent violence make Jamaat too toxic an association for anyone seeking broad-based support

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Khaleda Zia gave hints that the BNP might consider cutting its long-standing ties with Jamaat-e-Islami.

That she is giving this move any thought at all is a good sign, and might work to the advantage of her party. But it might be time for BNP not to think of this only in terms of strategy or tactics, but in terms of the party’s long-term platform.

Between the elections of 2008 and the more recent Shahbagh movement, and most crucially with the abiding support for war crimes, it has become clear as day that there is little tolerance in this country for the kind of politics represented by Jamaat.

While Jamaat has served as a good tactical ally in electoral seat sharing in the past, the war crimes baggage and now the horrors of more recent violence make them too toxic an association for anyone seeking broad-based support.

Jamaat-Shibir activists were already infamous for their brutal violence against other activists and law enforcement, but they have gone so far as to target the general public in the past year. As some of their members did back in 1971. The sickening violence on and after election day serve as further reminders of the costs to the BNP of maintaining such an alliance.

From the time Jamaat joined the 18-party alliance, there have been internal disagreements with some party policymakers showing discomfort with having Jamaat in the fold.

Khaleda Zia has rightly said that her party’s internal decisions are theirs. We understand this, and it is to her and her party’s best interests that we appeal.

There was always notable support for BNP’s demands for a free and fair election. Free of Jamaat, BNP might have succeeded in building a more successful movement for that demand through peaceful means. The murky coupling with Jamaat and its agenda of foiling war crimes trials through violence has hurt BNP’s legitimate demands badly.

Cutting Jamaat lose would also put the government on the spot as Sheikh Hasina has said on more than one occasion that she would welcome dialogue with BNP if it put an end to violence and dropped its alliance with Jamaat.

It is clearer than ever before that BNP stands to gain by cutting Jamaat lose, sooner rather than later.

6. Daily Beast - 01.12.14

Bangladesh’s Radical Islamists Get U.S. Backing

In 1971, the U.S. abetted a genocide in Bangladesh—and it’s now siding with the radical Islamist culprits, who are fomenting the country’s latest political crisis.

In 1971, the United States abetted a genocide in what is today Bangladesh. President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, provided diplomatic and military succour to the Pakistan army and its Islamist allies as they slaughtered three million people, displaced ten million, and forced half a million Bengali women into sexual servitude. There has never been an apology from Washington. But 42 years after it got into bed with Islamist genocidaires in Bangladesh, the U.S. appears once again to be espousing their cause.

On Sunday, Bangladesh held the 10th general election since it became an independent state. The principal opposition—made up of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its chief ally, the Bangladesh Jamat-e-Islami, a clerical ensemble of alleged war criminals and aspiring theocrats—boycotted the vote. Their walkout was prompted by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s refusal to transfer power to a caretaker administration. Yet in spite of their withdrawal the polls, being constitutionally mandatory, went ahead. The ruling Awami League party, without a formidable opposition, won in a landslide. But, far from being a perfunctory show, this election was the most violent in the country’s history. Eighteen people were slain as the opposition, having sworn to keep out, showed up on election day to deter people from exercising their franchise. Polling stations were torched, voters threatened not to step out of their homes, and volunteers of the Awami League were assaulted by mobs. The warriors of the Jamat expressed their “disaffection” by raiding the villages of feeble religious minorities. As one Bangladeshi commentator put it: “In its 42 years of existence, Bangladesh has never seen such violence. It seems like someone has just opened the gates of hell.”

Hasina’s decision not to vacate her office, in defiance of a recent convention, was a grievous mistake. Attempting to remedy it by pushing her to concede to the opposition as it stands now—which is what Washington and its allies are doing—would be suicidal for Bangladesh. The violence that has devoured parts of Bangladesh over the last week was not a spontaneous outburst by disgruntled democrats. It was a campaign of terror calibrated to delegitimize the election and generate chaos, invite a crackdown, depict Hasina as a tyrant to Western governments while weakening her at home, and ultimately halt Bangladesh’s arduous effort—initiated by Hasina—to achieve a sincere reconciliation with its past.

At a time when Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto was aiding the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan, Hasina was taking on Islamists cut from the same ideological cloth as the Taliban.

The opposition is afraid of the past because its revered members are culpable for some of the most agonizing memories it evokes. Thirteen battalions of mostly Bengali Islamists assisted the Pakistan army in carrying out the single largest massacre of Muslims since the birth of Islam—“a jihad against Hindu-corrupted Bengalis,” as one American witness to the events in 1971 in what was then East Pakistan called them. Kissinger and Nixon, having recruited Pakistan as a conduit in their effort to broker relations with Mao’s China, condoned the massacres. They told each other jokes about the killings. After independence, when East Pakistan established itself as Bangladesh, the new state gave itself a secular constitution. Sheikh Mujib, the father of the new nation, was fierce in the beginning. An act of parliament was passed in 1973 to set up a tribunal with jurisdiction to punish the perpetrators of the genocide. Two years later Mujib, along with almost every member of his family, was assassinated in a coup. Hasina, who was then living in Germany, survived. She was barred from entering the country. Gen. Ziaur Rahman, who took over the country in 1977, scrapped secularism and made “absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah” a fundamental feature of the constitution. When Rahman was assassinated in 1981, his wife, Khaleda Zia, took charge of his Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Islamists who a decade ago had slaughtered their compatriots in service of the Pakistan army became active once again in Bangladeshi politics.

There are no innocents in Bangladeshi politics and every politician is tainted by accusations of corruption. Yet Hasina, for the sheer resolve with which she combated the religious right, must rank among the most formidable women in recent history. At a time when Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto was aiding the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan, Hasina was taking on Islamists cut from the same ideological cloth as the Taliban. She overcame exile, survived assassination attempts, and rebuilt the Awami League. Her party, the secular alternative in Bangladesh, has provided a modicum of protection to religious minorities. In 2010, she revived the war crimes tribunal: nearly four decades after the crimes, a whiff of justice. Oddly, instead of welcoming the trials, some of the world’s leading Islamic leaders urged Hasina to drop them. President Recip Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, the world’s leading authority on genocide denial, wrote to Hasina asking her to spare some of the convicts. But this was Bangladesh’s moment. Hundreds of thousands of young men and women poured into the streets of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, demanding harsher punishments than the tribunal awarded.

Zia, in bed with the Islamists who were being dispatched to the gallows by the tribunal, found her appeal ebbing. Women are key drivers of growth in Bangladesh. The $12 billion garment industry is virtually dependent on their labour. But if Zia’s allies had their way, women would be forced out of the workforce and into the veil. At home, Zia’s “nationalist” outfit has supported men who are enemies of the Bengali nation. Abroad, Zia has vigorously projected herself as a victim. She has accused Hasina of suppressing democracy. But she’s hardly innocent: it’s her party which pulled out of the elections and forcibly stopped people from voting.

Now that elections are over, violence is the only instrument at Zia’s disposal. She and her allies will attempt to disrupt normal life to the point where the government will either have to assume authoritarian powers or negotiate with her. The status quo is untenable. Hasina will almost certainly dissolve the government and call fresh elections. But it’s important to grasp that democracy is not in peril in Bangladesh. Secularism is. Sanctions, now being contemplated in some capitals, will hurt ordinary Bengalis and assist the far right. They may reverse the gains of the previous half-decade. To get a sense of Hasina’s accomplishment during this time, consider these words by the author Salim Mansur: “a democratically elected government in a Muslim majority country for the first time in fourteen centuries of Arab-Muslim history arranged for, and brought to trial, Muslims charged with crimes against humanity.” Is there a leader in the contemporary Muslim world with a profile quarter as courageous as that?

Any attempt to interfere in Bangladesh’s affairs must begin with the realisation that Zia is not the victim. She is the force behind the unrest. Washington, given its awful history in Bangladesh, has a special obligation to ensure that it doesn’t, in the name of upholding democracy, end up once again giving succour to mass murderers and their political allies.

7. The Economic And Political Weekly, Vol - XLIX No. 3, January 18, 2014

Editorial: Bangladesh’s Predicament

How to strengthen secular democracy without weakening democratic institutions.

It is difficult not to feel a sense of déjà vu at the conduct and the results of Bangladesh’s general elections that were held on 5 January 2014. With nearly the entire opposition – including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and a faction of the Jatiya Party headed by former dictator H M Ershad – boycotting the elections, a low voter turnout has hurt the legitimacy of the “win” by the Awami League (AL) led by Sheikh Hasina. The boycott of elections by the opposition is reminiscent of a similar situation in 1996 when the AL refused to participate in the elections when Sheikh Hasina’s rival, Khaleda Zia, was in power. The official estimates have indicated that less than 40% of the electorate turned out to vote, a significantly lower number than 85% who voted when the AL won a landslide in 2008. In the recent elections, nearly half of the winners from the AL have been elected unopposed which itself questions the credibility of their “election”.

Old political polarisations – between the largely left-leaning Bengali nationalists represented by the AL and the alliance of right-wingers and Islamists, represented by the BNP, Jatiya Party and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) – continued in the run-up to the elections. The opposition demanded that the elections be held under a caretaker administration as has been the precedent in the country. The BNP overlooked the fact that the last caretaker administration, run by the military, had delayed elections in 2006 and had the leaders of the AL and the BNP arrested before the judiciary decided to intervene. The AL, for its part, refused to budge from its stance that elections could only be conducted by the Election Commission with the ruling party still in power. The BNP even rejected the AL’s invitation to join a consensus government till the elections.

The JI, which is presently banned in Bangladesh, found the violent conflict over elections an opportunity to strengthen its position. This party is facing a sharp political and judicial attack for war crimes committed during Bangladesh’s liberation war of 1971. The JI has been an ally of the BNP and its violent protests against the conviction and subsequent execution of the party’s leader, Abdul Quader Molla, created an environment of lawlessness and fear ahead of the elections. The JI targeted the Hindu minority and prominent secularists, physically attacking some Hindu temples and even burning them. More than 20 people were killed due to this violence.

The AL’s position seems tenable, for the constitution was amended to prevent a return to “caretaker” rule but this was done through its brute majority in parliament. The AL’s staunch refusal to concede any ground to the opposition has also not helped it; the elections have lost credibility and made the new government vulnerable. It may have been better to postpone the elections and find a way to ensure the participation of the opposition by assuring them that the AL’s brute parliamentary majority and control of administration would not be abused to rig the polls.

As things stand, the ruling party has indicated that it is willing to call early mid-term elections provided the opposition calls off its violent agitation. But the long-standing, personalised and acerbic rivalry between the two leaders of the AL and the BNP suggests that common ground will be difficult to find. It was expected that the tumultuous political events that accompanied the birth of Bangladesh, with the unresolved contradictions between the forces representing secular Bengali nationalism and those representing versions of Islamism, would finally attain a sense of closure with the 1971 war crime trials. Yet, that process itself has fed the violent agitations and seems to have given, at least for now, a fillip to the BNP-JI political alliance. Perhaps this is due to the timing of the convictions and the execution of Molla just a few months before the elections and appear to have been rushed through with an eye to consolidate the secular Bengali nationalist vote. Such narrow political considerations have prevented the AL from reaping long-term political dividends from these trials and have made it that much more difficult for it to reach out to the opposition parties.

Bangladesh has managed to improve many of its human development parameters and in many aspects has become a leader in south Asia. The current political quagmire does not bode well for such progress and threatens to undermine what has been achieved. While India is correct to stand by the political forces which represent secular nationalism in Bangladesh, it needs to do much more to show its friendship and must keep away from all temptation to interfere in its neighbour’s internal affairs.

8. New Age, 9 January 2014

Editorial: Deplorable attacks on religious minority communities

THE post-elections attacks on religious minority communities, especially Hindus, in Jessore, Thakurgaon, Chittagong, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, Satkhira, Gaibandha and Dinajpur are highly deplorable, not least because of the express intent of destroying the communal harmony in the country that has developed over centuries. As reported in New Age on Wednesday, the attacks took place immediately after the elections on January 5 during which Hindu households were vandalised and fishing nets were burned, and recurred in Panchagarh and Satkhira on Tuesday. Many families have chosen not to return home for fear of further attacks despite assurances from local administrations.
There are ample reasons to believe that most of the attacks occurred under the nose of the local administration and different law enforcement agencies, which had been deployed in the first place to pre-empt such occurrences during and after the elections. Media reports have it that a number of victims at Abhaynagar in Jessore repeatedly sought help from the police and other law enforcement agencies over telephone in the wake of the violence but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Worse still, the Jessore police superintendent, who happens to belong to the Hindu community, sought to justify his force’s inaction by saying that the law enforcers ‘were busy ensuring security of the polling stations rather than of minority communities’.
Such a statement could only be a manifestation of the general apathy towards the rights of the minority communities, religious and ethnic, that apparently runs through the administration. It is also pertinent to mention here that, as on previous such occasions, the government and the main opposition have engaged in a blame game over responsibility of the attacks without any credible investigation. Unfortunately still, a very few people have stood by the victims in different areas.
While the government needs to deal with the attackers with an iron hand if to prevent further attacks on minorities, all political, social and cultural organisations need to play a concerted and unequivocal role in protecting minority rights in general.

9. Dhaka Tribune, January 9, 2014

Odhikar indictment a worrisome sign - Tribune Editorial

Free media not punitive tribunals should be the forum for debate about disputed reports

The indictments issued against the director and secretary of Odhikar for publishing a “false report” illustrate the draconian nature of the ICT law, enacted first by BNP in 2006 and amended by AL in 2013.

Odhikar staff have been charged in relation to their report that 61 people died when law enforcers forcibly cleared Hefazat-e-Islam activists out from Motijheel in the early hours of May 6 last year.

The police, who vigorously dispute the figure, have brought charges on the basis that a “false report” has tarnished the image of the state and law enforcement agencies.

If found guilty, the accused face up to fourteen years in jail under the ICT act and seven years under the Penal Code.

Under these laws, any newspaper or other media which publishes reports that can potentially be described as false runs the risk of facing similar charges. The chilling effect on free debate and free media of such laws is self-evident.

Free media not punitive tribunals should be the forum for debate about disputed reports.

Like everyone else, the police and government should debate the facts and veracity of disputed reports within free media. They should not seek to punish citizens for merely disseminating information or points of view with which they disagree.

Even if it is proved that reports are factually incorrect, a potential prison sentence is not the appropriate penalty. Independent observers both inside the country and out have commented on the threat to freedom of expression posed by provisions of the ICT Act. This week’s indictment justifies these fears.

Coming at the same time when so many opposition figures continue to be taken into custody, this latest indictment raises a broader concern of the machinery of the state being misused to clamp down on voices of dissent.

10. Dhaka Tribune, January 7, 2014

Obhoynagar reminds of ’71 horrors

by Emran Hossain

Jamaat-Shibir men hack five Hindus for voting and scare away the entire community

Residents, mostly Hindus, of Malopara village in Obhoynagar, Jessore return yesterday. Jamaat-Shibir men drove them away for casting votes in the national election
Photo- Dhaka Tribune

Kalidasi Sarker jumped into the Bhairab River in the afternoon of the polling day with her 15-day-old baby. The 30-year-old mother must hold the baby above water while swimming across the 50m wide river, which too, she knew, she must.

About 100 people had to jump into the river that afternoon as they were chased by activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir, all equipped with firearms, crude bombs, machetes, iron rods and sticks.

Their only fault – they are Hindus and many of them had cast votes in the just concluded 10th national election.

Waiting on the other side of the river were Sabita Sarkar, 55, and many others from her village to help these people.

Watching the people running across the yellow mustard field before jumping into the river reminded Sabita of herself and her father running across a field – only, it was littered with dead bodies – decades ago, chased by the Pakistani occupation force during the 1971 Liberation War.

“I want justice for what has happened to us,” an enraged Sabita told the Dhaka Tribune.

The community of Hindu fishermen had to leave their village Malopara at Chapatola in Jessore’s Obhoynagar to save their lives.

Ironically, the Bangla word “obhoynagar” means a safe place for people.

These poor people had been living amid intimidation yet they had defended the small locality for almost six hours since Jamaat-Shibir men hacked five villagers around 10am for casting votes in Sunday’s national election.

But they had to give in now as their pleas for help to local Awami League leaders, the district’s deputy commissioner, upazila nirbahi officer and the officer-in-charge of the Obhoynagar police station went unheard throughout the day.

This reporter met Sabita yesterday morning as more than 700 people returned to their homes after law enforcers had finally arrived.

“We could not believe that people with whom we had just had tea suddenly became so different! They became part of the group of people who tried to kill us, looted our valuables and set the whole village on fire,” said a resident of Malopara whose identity is not being disclosed for safety concerns.

Five sons of a villager named Nur Mohammad – the youngest of them only 18 who stabbed three of his neighbours – and Farid, Humayun, Kashem and Kibria played a key role in accompanying some 500 Jamaat-Shibir men, mostly from adjacent areas, marching the village for almost an hour during the attack that left at least 20 injured.

Maya Rani Mandal managed to get on a boat to cross the river and spent the night in the nearby Deyapara village.

Maloti Barman, 50, could not think about her daughter in the hurry and escaped, leaving her daughter behind. She tiptoed back to the village around 8pm and took her daughter and two-year-old granddaughter with her. About Tk2 lakh, which she had got selling land, was gone.

The ones like Shila Sarker who could not flee had hidden under cots or shades built for growing betel leaf.

Many did not even get the chance to take warm clothes in this chilling weather.

More than 100 houses in Malopara were looted, burnt and destroyed on Sunday afternoon. Even homestead trees – coconut and banana – were burnt or chopped down and cowsheds were burnt, too. Idols in the houses were vandalised. Everything else was looted.

The villagers had been living in fear since Jamaat leader Delawar Hossain Sayedee was sentenced to death for war crimes on February 28 last year and guarded the village at night in groups of seven men.

But their fear came real on the day of the national election.

Jamaat-Shibir activists had threatened the Hindu villagers not to go to cast their votes.

Some villagers, mainly activists of the Awami League, however, refused to bow to the threats and went to cast ballots.

About 25 Jamaat-Shibir men exploded crude bombs at the polling centre for the voters from Malopara with an aim to stop voting there but failed. Then they made an attempt to attack the village, but failing there, too, the Jamaat-Shibir men resorted to their newly adopted technique of inciting their followers by lies. Around 4pm, they made phone calls to their activists and students of the local madrasa, telling them that five of their activists had been killed in a clash with Malopara villagers.

Jamaat-Shibir activists poured in from nearby villages – Baliadanga, Jagannathpur, Deyapara, Joldanga, Basundia, Dhakuria and Bangram – and attacked Malopara.

They also drove in some motorised three-wheelers, locally called Nosimon, laden with sacks of stone. When they left they loaded the Nosimons with their loot.

The incident once again unveils the same indifference the Jessore district administration had shown during voting when Jamaat-Shibir men went on the rampage forcing the authorities to suspend voting in 60 centres in Monirampur upazila.

Obhoynagar upazila Awami League’s General Secretary Enamul Hoque Babul said he had called the deputy commissioner, the UNO and the Obhoynagar police station’s OC for help. “They all said police or Rab or army were on their way, but they did not come until all had been ruined,” he said.

Obhoynagar UNO Sifat Mehnaz said she had not come to know about the incident until 5pm.

Police reached Malonpara around 11pm.

Around 2pm yesterday – when it was time for this reporter to leave Malopara – blow from a conch was heard. It is a tradition among Hindus to blow the shell, called shankha in Bangla, as a worship ritual. Usually, the sound of shankha is heard from all houses in the neighbourhood. This time there was only one was blowing.

11. Dhaka Tribune - January 8, 2014

The ugliest face of the opposition - Tribune Editorial

The main opprobrium for these disgraceful attacks must fall on those who commit and condone them. This is the ugliest face of the opposition

Residents, mostly Hindus, of Malopara village in Obhoynagar, Jessore return on Sunday. Jamaat-Shibir men drove them away for casting votes in the national election
Photo- Dhaka Tribune

There are no words strong enough to condemn the attacks on the Hindu community in the village of Malopara in Jessore on election day by Jamaat-Shibir activists for the crime of daring to cast their vote.

This was the worst kind of atrocity, appalling not just for the systematic targeting of a vulnerable minority community, but for the underlying message that they are second class citizens in Bangladesh who will be punished if they attempt to exercise their democratic rights.

Even worse is the fact that the attack took place over the course of several hours without any help coming from local law enforcement, raising the question of their complicity, or at the very least, indifference to the plight of the besieged minority.

Nor was this an isolated incident. Attacks on minority communities were also reported in Thakurgaon and Dinajpur the day after the election.

In an election period marked by widespread violence, mayhem and intimidation, it is not surprising that helpless minority communities would be the targets of Jamaat-Shibir on and after election day. The local authorities should have been better prepared, and their inaction, if not complicity, is inexcusable.

These kinds of sickening attacks on minority communities shame us all as Bangladeshis.

But the main opprobrium for these disgraceful attacks must fall on those who commit and condone them. This is the ugliest face of the opposition, and if it wishes to have its democratic rights respected, then it is incumbent on the opposition to turn away from the anti-minority bigotry that has long been a corner-stone of its ideological appeal.

There are some things that can never be accepted or compromised.

12. New Age, 8 January 2014
http://newagebd.com/detail.php?date=2014-01-08&nid=79673

ATTACKS ON RELIGIOUS MINORITIES
Fresh attacks take place in Satkhira, Panchagarh

Staff Correspondent

The Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Unity Council on Tuesday brings out a procession in front of the National Press Club in protest at attacks on religious minorities. — New Age photo The Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Unity Council on Tuesday brings out a procession in front of the National Press Club in protest at attacks on religious minorities. — New Age photo

Attacks on religious minorities that began in different places after the national elections, held on Sunday, continued with such attacks taking place in Panchagarh and Satkhira on Tuesday.
Many of the people who left their houses in many places as such violence broke out soon after the elections were, however, yet to return to their own place.
Miscreants attacked religious minorities at Abyaynagar in Jessore, Thakurgaon, Chittagong, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, Satkhira, Gaibandha, Dinajpur and some other districts, in which several hundred families were affected.
Hindu Buddhist and Christian Unity Council presidium member Kajol Debnath, told New Age that many such attacks had gone unreported. He feared that such attacks would continue.
Different social and cultural organisations have also condemned the attacks.
The government said that they were taking steps to ensure safety of such
people and launched drives to arrest ‘miscreants’ for disturbing communal harmony.
‘We were busy ensuring security of the polling stations rather than of minority communities,’ the superintendent of police in Jessore, Joydeb Kumar Bhadra, said. ‘We had no information that such attack could take place.’
He said on Monday night that it was impossible for the law enforcers alone to ensure fool-proof security.
The Transparency International, Bangladesh’s executive director Iftekharuzzman in a statement feared that the situation could worsen if the authorities did not take ‘effective’ steps immediately in this regard.
The New Age correspondent in Satkhira said that attacks on minority communities continued till Tuesday night.
On Tuesday evening, miscreants damaged the house of Parimal Malo at Paranpur of Tala in the district.
Hindu community leaders in Panchagarh said that two of their houses and two shops had been burnt by miscreant on Tuesday evening. The army, however, intervened immediately.
The correspondent in Jessore said that a number of fishermen left their houses for safety again although a temporary police camp was set up at Malopara-Chapatala at Abhaynagar.
Miscreants equipped with weapons and explosives carried attacked more than a hundred houses in a village of fishermen after the elections.
The deputy commissioner, Mustafizur Rahman, and the superintendent of police at a press briefing said that the administration had failed to ensure adequate security for shortage of law enforcers.
The deputy commissioner, however, said that Tk 3.37 lakh and four tonnes of rice had been allocated for the victims.
Mustafizur also said that the police had filed a case against 39 men in this connection and two of them had been arrested.
The district police chief said that 80 per cent of the villagers, who earlier left their houses, returned after police deployment.
They, however, did not name any political group attacking the Hindus.
The Sridharpur union chairman, Habibur Rahman, told New Age that most of the victims had returned to their houses.
Bikash Biswas, a villager, said that the miscreants had also burnt their fishing nets.
After an emergency meeting, Bangladesh Jatiya Hindu Mahajote in a statement on Tuesday alleged that the ruling party had used the minority communities in fights against its opponents.
The statement also said that in many cases, minority community people had sought help from Awami League leaders and the police but they did not respond.
Bangabandhu Sangskritik Jote, however, blamed the Jamaat-e-Islami and its associate organisations for the attack on the minorities.
Jana Udyog, a platform of citizens and professionals, at a rally on Tuesday in capital protested at the attacks on religious minority.
They put forth a set of demands, including an immediate arrest of attackers, steps for security and rehabilitation of the victims.
Sampradayik Santras Pratirodhe Pragatishil Ganasangathan will hold a rally in front the National Museum in the capital about 4:00pm today after a procession.
The Workers Party of Bangladesh also demanded that the government should deal with the attackers with an iron hand.

13. New Age (Bangaldesh) 8 January 2014

Politics is done best with lathis in Bangladesh

by Afsan Chowdhury

THE sight of a female lawyer lying as a bunch of lathi-wielding thugs of the ruling party attacking her with all brutality has become one of the defining images of contemporary politics and society. Violence against women can take many shapes and forms and this was one brazen form. It doesn’t just show the kind and nature of politics but how we look upon power relationship. In some ways, the attack of violence against a woman subjected to beating is also a form of physical abuse the extreme point of which is rape. Rape is an expression of power in most cases expressed through gender violence and on that day at the Supreme Court, it was on display. It was the kind of damning sight that shows a culture where violence against women is not only accepted but, when it comes to politics, is welcomed. It was a day of shame!
Where are the human rights and women’s rights organisations? Doesn’t political violence count as gender violence? If Hefajat calls women ‘tamarind’, a vile and disgusting way of describing women, activists are up in arms, but the noise is so missing when one of them gets beaten up so viciously.
Such happens under every regime so it’s not about this or that regime, it’s about politics and its culture in Bangladesh including its hypocrisy.
***
MEANWHILE, politics reached its most absurd level as Khaleda Zia stood and harangued law enforcement officials who were preventing her from going out and address a rally as part of her ‘march for democracy’ programme. The BNP is a strange party. Instead of talking and taking to the streets as any normal agitating party does, it hid behind the violent skirts of Jamaat-e-Islami activists and condemned police action. No matter how many got arrested it should have played by the rules of agitation. But they didn’t thereby weakening all connection with the people while earning the Jamaat ally stigma. Khaleda Zia didn’t look tragic nor comical, but plain silly, the symbol of national opposition politics abusing a policewoman coming from Gopalganj. So what did the Awami League look like?
***
THE Awami League is a master at manipulation and its decision to pass the 15th amendment was done to make sure that the BNP would react exactly the way it did. The Awami League has in the past used the constitution for its political gain, beginning with the 4th amendment or one-party rule amendment and the 15th was another attempt to ensure continued rule without bothering with any opposition. In the end, such is historical irony that the Awami League may well end up with one-party rule, the great stigma of democratic politics.
The caretaker government system now disbanded is a constitutional admission that multi-party democracy doesn’t work in Bangladesh. What it did was to keep the political government system through elections ticking. Through the 15th amendment, it actually made life politically difficult and dangerous for the ordinary people who have suffered so much in the last few months.
When none of the proceedings of the 15-member parliamentary committee on the 15th amendment was ever made public, when no one asked the courts to examine the issue and when every important jurist said it was unnecessary and would lead to constitutional debacles, this government passed it. The Awami League, along with the BNP and Jamaat, must be held responsible for what is happening today. There was no need for the 15th and it was done knowing full well what would happen.
***
The BNP is probably not even a political party anymore but a club of anti-AL activists and so when the push came to shove, it simply folded thinking a ‘people’s revolution’ would take it forward. Well, Khaleda Zia, where is it? The leaders are all in jail, or in hiding and the workers have dispersed leaving the field to the desperate and murderous fanatics of Jamaat-e-Islami to unleash a series of violent attacks against the innocent and the helpless. Whether the BNP likes it or not, it’s they who let in this party of traitors into politics and they must take responsibility for their actions today. It’s quite possible that the trials were bad but the reaction of the Jamaat was to take revenge on ordinary people just as they had done in 1971 proving that given the ideology this party has not changed at all.
***
THIS is what the BNP never understands — while the Jamaat does guarantee a certain number of votes, it cuts off many votes too because who would want to vote for an ally of Jamaat-e-Islami? It’s a party where common sense has taken a back seat to anti-AL hatred producing a politics that not only makes no sense, stokes violence and ultimately makes it dependent on the party most if not everyone hates. Had the BNP not been a mix of senile old guards and thugs and a few wily lawyers it would have understood that it can be on a winning ticket but only without the Jamaat. Instead it only managed to create a crisis.
***
THE Awami League must have feared an election defeat and the party’s 15th amendment was not a short but long term action. Does it mean that it feels it can have no control over the Election Commission? Sadly, this commission now has as bad a reputation as the Ershad’s one and it has managed to bungle its way to hold a de facto one-party election. The Awami League has weathered many crises this year from Rana Plaza to Hallmark to the Padma Bridge but has seen that public apathy is so high that it can get away with whatever it wants. As events show, it has gotten away with much including an election that nobody thinks is an election. There is no problem till January 5 but after that one, no one knows what will happen.
***
THE retail violence by the AL activists show what the Awami League is capable of when needed. The murder of Bishwajit was another example. All of this done under police protection so it’s just not the party but the government that has been mobilised. The refusal by the government to allow the BNP to hold a meeting was a good example of how nervous this government feels even with a nearly toothless BNP. The AL’s excuses were not bought by many either. Things look bad for both in the long term and the year of living destructively may turn into decade.
***
A FEW questions to ponder:
What will be the price to be paid for an election which no longer looks like one? Other than Menon, Inu and Rowshan Ershad, nobody seems to take the election seriously including many AL leaders.
Will the BNP be able to mount an agitation given that they have shown great reluctance to participate in civil disobedience activities? How much chaos and for how long can it go on?
Will the hanging of the war criminals happen over a long period of time causing long term instability by Jamaat activists?
How long will the police have the stamina to sustain this constant campaign and at what cost?
Will there be a large-scale depletion of the national economy and how much more depletion can we handle?
***
WILL it ever end and will we ever be able to live under a constitutional rule free from what we have been suffering since the 15th amendment was passed?
Let’s wait and see what’s in store for us in 2014. But please, let it not be a repetition of 2013! We have had enough!

Bdnews24.com, December 31.
Afsan Chowdhury is a journalist, activist and writer.

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