Skip to main content

Bangladesh's streets quiet for a short term: It's "not well" for the future of the country

By Syed Mujtaba Hussian*
The 11th General elections in Bangladesh were held on December 30, 2018. The result was an overwhelming victory for the Awami League-led by Sheikh Hasina. For the first time in a general election Bangladesh made use of electronic voting machines but only in a limited scale. The elections were marred by violence and claims of vote rigging, in response of which the Bangladesh Election Commission said it would investigate reported vote-rigging allegations from across the country.
Prior elections which were held under caretaker governments between 1991 and 2008, no winning party ever won more than 48 percent of the votes. But In this election, the winners secured more than 90 percent of the total votes cast, which as per media reports raises serious doubts over the transparency and fairness of the polls.
As per UN reports around 380 members of minority groups were attacked in the first half of 2018 and security forces reportedly arrested and intimidated opposition figures and dissenting voices. UN experts expressed grave concerns about the rise of religious fundamentalism and the negative impact on human rights, including the right to life, the right to participate in cultural life, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion or belief.
While addressing the issue, UN Special Rapporteur for cultural rights Karima Bennoune said: “The increasing restrictions on freedom of expression, combined with election-related violence and the rise of fundamentalism, have together created a climate of fear in Bangladesh." Experts have also voiced concerns at the use of surveillance, intimidation and politically motivated prosecution of prominent opposition members.
The 2018 Bangladesh election violence was a series of brutal attacks mostly on opposition party candidates and clashes between the ruling and opposition party men. According to UN human rights experts, from December 9 to 12, a total of 47 such incidents of violence were reported, in which eight people were killed and 560 were injured.
The victims of violence include former ministers, parliamentarians, veteran freedom fighters and senior leaders from the opposition alliance. At least 70 candidates from the opposition alliance Jatiya Oikya Front claimed that they did not even participate in the campaign in fear of attacks.
The Human Rights Watch in its bulletin titled "Bangladesh: Crackdown as Elections Loom" claimed, "Bangladesh security forces have been arresting and intimidating opposition figures and threatening freedom of expression in advance of national elections." On January 3, 2019, the Human Rights Watch called for an investigation on attack on members of the opposition party on and before Bangladesh elections.
According to Kamal Hossain, leader of the Jatiya Oikya Front alliance, no less than 100 candidates were allegedly attacked by the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) men throughout the country. Even the leaders who were not taking part in the election were attacked in the daylight with police standing as spectators.Even women leaders were not spared.
The United States Department of State issued a statement on December 21, 2018 that the United States government is disappointed with Government of Bangladesh's refusal to grant visa for the observers of Asian Network for Free Elections. The British Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field, MP, in a statement urged everyone in Bangladesh to refrain from further violence.
A joint statement by 15 international election observers, including the Asian Human Rights Commission and the International Federation for Human Rights, termed the electoral environment of Bangladesh ahead of 2018 election "undemocratic".
In response to all this criticism, the prime minister rejected her critics in an interview in December with "The New York Times", claiming that only urban elites were concerned about the right to criticize her government freely or assemble for protests. She went on to say that the opposition was pursuing an anti-government agenda and inciting violence. She said , “If I can provide food, jobs and health care, that is human rights I know my country, and I know how to develop my country."
International media like "Al-Jazeera" while covering the elections, have also reported that over the past decade, judicial appointments from the lowest to the highest courts have been made along party lines. In 2017, Surendra Kumar Sinh, the sitting Chief Justice of Bangladesh, was forced to resign and leave the country when he acted out of sync with the party line.
Such subjugation of the judiciary allowed arbitrary arrests and political detentions in the lead-up to the latest election. Police recruitment has also been done along party lines, rendering the police force an easy tool of political suppression. Recruitments for the civil bureaucracy, including the election commission, are also going through a partisan process where about 30 percent of all government jobs are statutorily allocated to the children of "freedom fighters", a loosely defined group of men who fought for Bangladesh's independence some 47 years ago”.
Reportedly, what happened on December 30 clearly shows that Bangladesh has officially become a one-party state of an exotic variety, This new wave of oppression, exploitation will likely keep Bangladesh's streets quiet for a short term and all this is not well for the future of the country.
---
*Human right defender. Contact: jaan.aalam@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

"Misleading" satellite images being shared on Balakot surgical strike on Jaish camp

By Dr Vinay Kate*
With every passing day more questions are being raised about the surgical strike India did in Balakot as a response to Pulwama attacks. So far the Indian media has claimed mass casulaty of 300+ terrorists of Jaish-e-Mohammad in this surgical strike, but there is hardly any report from foreign media about the same.

Extreme repression, corporate loot, cultural genocide "characterise" India's tribal belt

Counterview Desk
As Lok Sabha polls approach, there is considerable ferment in one section of the population -- India's Adivasis, forming about 8.6 per cent of India's population. Things became particularly critical following the February 14, 2019 Supreme Court order, allegedly seeking to evict lakhs of tribals from their forest lands.

Industry in India "barely growing", export growth 0%, whither moral anchors?

Counterview Desk
In a sharp critique of the Modi government, the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A), one of world renowned economist Prof Kaushik Basu, who is Professor of Economics and Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University, has told students at the IIM-A’s 54th Annual Convocation on March 16, 2019 that they have a “special responsibility” on their shoulders, “the responsibility to reject narrow sectarianism, uphold scientific thinking, openness to new ideas, and freedom of speech.”

Gujarat model? Industrial effluents "invade" borewells, discharge coloured water in farms

By Rajiv Shah
In a major embarrassment for Gujarat model, of the 21 samples taken by officials of the state government's environmental watchdog Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in two villages of Vadodara district and analyzed by its laboratory in Gandhinagar, the state capital, to find out pollution level in groundwater, 16 were assessed as highly contaminated – these were, in fact, found to be discharging reddish, brownish, reddish, or yellowish water.

Refugees as criminals? US govt report blames Amit Shah for calling Bangladeshis termites

Counterview Desk
The chapter “Freedom of Movement” of the US State Department’s “India 2018 Human Rights Report”, released recently, has criticized BJP chief Amit Shah for terming alleged Bangladeshis who may be in Assam as “termites”, because their names were struck down from the list of National Register of Citizens, under preparation in the state.
Pointing out that four million residents were excluded from Assam’s final draft list, leading to “uncertainty over the status of these individuals, many of whose families had lived in the state for several generations”, the report regrets, the Indian law does not even contain the term “refugee,” treating refugees like Rohingiyas as “any other foreigners.”
“Undocumented physical presence in the country is a criminal offense. Persons without documentation were vulnerable to forced returns and abuse”, the report says.
Text of the Freedom of Movement chapter: The law provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, a…

Congress would win just 9 of 26 Lok Sabha seats: Gujarat Assembly segment-wise analysis

By Rajiv Shah
Even as the Congress plans its first working committee meet in Gujarat on February 28 after an almost 58 year gap, there is reason to wonder what is in store for India’s grand old party in a state which has been long been a BJP bastion – in fact ever since mid-1990s. Ahead of the then assembly polls in late 2012, talking with me, a senior Gujarat Congress leader, currently Rajya Sabha MP, frankly said he saw no reason why Congress would win.

"Pro-corporate" Supreme Court order on FRA would further marginalize Adivasis

By VS Roy David, JP Raju*
For millions of Adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers February 13, 2019 will go down in history as the day of apocalypse. This is like the proverbial Black Friday where millions of most marginalized people of India were ordered by malicious anti-people draconian Supreme Court order depriving them the life and livelihood by evicting them from their habitats.

Financial inclusion? Not micro-loans; India's poor "need" investment in health, education

By Moin Qazi*
India has grown into a global powerhouse. Its economy is soaring but the picture on the ground is still quite arid. The green shoots that you see are only a patch of its landscape. Most Indians are hapless victims of inequity. India is one country where intense poverty abounds in the shadow of immense wealth.

India, Pakistan told to eliminate nuclear weapons: N-war "would kill" 2 billion

Counterview Desk
The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a non-partisan federation of national medical organizations in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens, claiming to share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation, has warned that “an unprecedented global catastrophe” awaits the globe against the backdrop of warmongering in India and Pakistan.