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

Telangana govt proposes to give unfettered powers to forest officials, 'help' corporates

By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao*
The Telangana Government is contemplating to replace the Telangana Forest Act 1967 with a new law - the Telangana Forest Act (TFA) 2019, trampling the rights of adivasis ensured under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA Act 2006) and Panchayats Extension to Schedule Area (PESA) Act 1996 both of which are central acts.

Lynching as state terror? Complete dearth of 'political will' to deal with mob violence

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
On Friday July 5, thousands of people had gathered at a rally in Surat to protest against the growing mob lynching incidents in different parts of the country. There are different interpretations at what happened during the rally: with police blaming the rallyists and those in the rally blaming the police for using teargas shells upon them without any reason.

RSS, Hindu Mahasabha were 'subservient' to British masters: Nagpur varsity VC told

Counterview Desk
Well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam, associate professor (retired), University of Delhi, in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Dr Siddharthavinayaka P Kane, has taken strong exception to the varsity decision to include RSS’ “role” in nation building in the syllabus of the BA (history) course, citing instances to say that the RSS ever since its birth in 1925 with its Hindutva allies like Hindu Mahasabha led by VD Savarkar worked overtime to “betray the glorious anti-colonial freedom struggle”.

One lakh schools closed down, draft policy 'seeks' commercialisation: Whither RTE?

By Our Representative
A national consultation on the new draft National Education Policy (NEP) with senior experts, teachers’ association representatives and other stakeholders at the India International Centre in New Delhi on July 11, organised by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, has expressed serious concern over curtailment in the budgeted expenditure on education year after year, even as closure of more than one lakh schools over the "last few years."

British companies export 'deadly' asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices

By Rajiv Shah
“The Sunday Times”, which forms part of the powerful British daily, “The Times”, has raised the alarm that though the “deadly” asbestos is banned in Britain, companies registered in United Kingdom, and operating from other countries, “are involved in shipping it to developing nations”, especially India. India, Brazil, Russia and China account for almost 80% of the asbestos consumed globally every year, it adds.

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

Gender budgeting? Govt of India allocates just 2.1%, 0.73% for SC, ST women

By Rajiv Shah
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), one of the most influential all-India Dalit rights networks, has taken strong exception to the manner in which the Government of India has undermined Gender Responsive Budgeting in the Union Budget 2019-20 for scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs), pointing towards “wide gaps” between the goals and the situational reality of “the Dalit and Adivasi women on the ground.”

UN report notes 'suppression' of Kashmiri independence groups in Pakistan

By Our Representative
A top United Nations (UN) body has suggested that the intense fervour of Kashmiri nationalism isn’t just sweeping the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state but is equally strong in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), pointing towards how the Pak authorities have been seeking to suppress it by placing restrictions on rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly and association on every section of PoK’s population.

Satellite data 'identify' Gujarat's Mundra among 6 of India's top air pollution hotspots

By Rajiv Shah
A fresh study, which analyzes data between February 2018 and May 2019, obtained from Tropomi, a satellite instrument on board the Dutch Copernicus Sentinel-5 Precursor satellite, has warned that coal-fired power plants and industrial clusters are India’s “worst nitrogen oxides (NOx) hotspots” contributing hugely to air pollution in Sonbhadra-Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Talcher in Odisha, Chandrapur in Maharashtra, Mundra in Gujarat and Durgapur in West Bengal.

Campaign 'victory': Bihar considers ban on asbestos, carcinogenic to humans

Counterview Desk
In a major victory for anti-asbestos campaigners, the Bihar government has said that it is considering an immediate ban on use of asbestos&based products of all kinds in the state. Speaking in the state assembly, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar insisted on the need to taking a strong policy decision against carcinogenic asbestos factories.
A communication, meanwhile, has been forwarded  to the health secretary by Kumar, referring to concerns of Dr Gopal Krishna, who heads the Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) "on hazardous asbestos factories to the health department." Krishna said that the health department should looking into the demand for the creation of a register of victims of asbestos related diseases.
He added, the government should also create a register asbestos laden buildings and products in general and a probe on the health status of workers, their families and communities linked to and in proximity of the two units of asbestos factories…