Political and Literary Reflections on a Corrupt Police and Prison State
Table Of Contents
- About the author(s)/editor(s)
- About the book
- Advance Praise for Bangladesh Divided
- This eBook can be cited
- A Sour and Bitter Taste of Bangladesh Under Sheikh Hasina: Extracts/Excerpts From the International Media
- Part A. The Main Text
- Chapter 1. Preface and Introduction
- Chapter 2. Bangladesh Dented, Demoted, and Demented Under Sheikh Hasina’s Digital Carnival of Corruption and Ruthless Repression
- Chapter 3. Sheikh Hasina’s Fascist Accumulation of Power and Control Through Her Police Force and Her Machiavellian Malarkey
- Chapter 4. Sheikh Hasina’s Terror Police (Police League?) and the Brutal Repression of the BNP, the Largest Political Party of Bangladesh
- Chapter 5. Sheikh Hasina’s Egotistical and Egregious Personalization of Democracy and Her Steamroller Suppression of the People’s Choices and Voices
- Chapter 6. Sheikh Hasina’s Dirty Policy of Divide and Rule, Sabotage, and Subversion: An Impediment to Peace, Freedom, and Unity
- Chapter 7. Forty-Eight Questions for the Fantastically Fascistic Sheikh Hasina
- Chapter 8. Top-Notch Treatment of the Top Court in Bangladesh: Sheikh Hasina’s Convenient Redefinition of Contempt of Court
- Chapter 9. Strong Election Commission (EC) but Stronger Neutral Care-Taker Government (CTG)
- Chapter 10. Unwanted Indian Interference in the Politics, Economy, and Culture of Bangladesh
- Chapter 11. Muslim Rohingyas and the Buddhist Myanmar: Is Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh Hopelessly Abandoned by Her Too Friendly, Yet More Unfriendly Master Neighbor India?
- Chapter 12. On Those Bumps and Blunders and Bloopers by the Opposition BNP
- Chapter 13. Miracles? Only Plus (+) Hasina the Horrible? Only Minus (–) Khaleda the Admirable?
- Chapter 14. Conclusion and Postscript
- Part B. Five Political Poems on the Divided and Authoritarian Awami Bangladesh
- 1. Beauty of Bangladesh: The Obverse
- 2. Bangladesh: As Split as Us and They
- 3. No Matter What, Let’s Go Digital
- 4. The Awami Principles Versified
- 5. Beauty of Bangladesh: The Reverse
- Part C. Two Short Chapters on Academic and Cultural Divide in Bangladesh
- Chapter 15. Master’s Degree Holding Teaching Faculty and the Higher Education in Bangladesh
- Chapter 16. Standard/প্রমিত বা বিশুদ্ধ Bangla and Mixed/প্রভাবিত বা মিশ্র Bangla: In Favor of the Latter
- Part D. Pieces on Donald Trump: Lessons and Implications for Bangladesh
- Chapter 17. Hazlitt’s “The Indian Jugglers” and Donald Trump’s Visit to Riyadh: A Successful Circus?
- Chapter 18. A Pre-Election Who Said What Account of Donald Trump: Lessons and Implications for Bangladesh
- Chapter 19. On Certain Aspects of Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and Donald Trump
- Chapter 20. A Portrait of Donald Trump: Concordances With the Characters in Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (1913)
- Chapter 21. Barack Obama’s Last Presidential Looks at Michelle: Shakespearean, Da Vincian, and Wordsworthian Elements?
- Part E. Five Political Poems of International Interest
- 1. On Barack Obama’s Second Inauguration (20 January 2013)
- 2. Poetry, Critical Theory, and the Princess
- 3. Bosnia and Herzegovina, August 1995
- 4. CNN Footage of a Kosovar Mass Grave (1995/1996)
- 5. Happy New Year (2009) to Israel
- Part F. Appendices
- Appendix A: Displacement/Replacement of Islamic Religion in Bangladesh
- Appendix B: Alleged Conspiracies Behind the (25 February 2009) Pilkhana BDR Massacre
- Appendix C: 15 August: Know the Facts, Not Fiction by Abu Obaid Chowdhury (Ranu Chowdhury) USA
- Appendix D: Hasina’s Zia Phobia by Abu Obaid Chowdhury (Ranu Chowdhury) USA
- Appendix E: Unforgettable Zia That I Knew: A Flashback by Abu Obaid Chowdhury (Ranu Chowdhury)
- Appendix F: Three Summaries of How the 3–7 November 1975 Events Unfolded
- Appendix G: পরিকল্পনা ছিল রেডিও স্টেশনে নেয়ার নামে জিয়াকে খুন করা মেজর জেনারেল আ ল ম ফজলুর রহমান (অব.)
- Appendix H: A Declaration of Independence Article
- Appendix I: প্রেসিডেন্ট জিয়ার জীবন থেকে দুটি শিক্ষা শফিক রেহমান
- Appendix J: Selected Independence-Related Political and Historical Works on Bangladesh
- Appendix K: Links to a Few Media Reports of Endless Awami Vote Rigging on 30 December 2018
In writing both this follow-up volume and its earlier and longer twin, Bangladesh: Political and Literary Reflections on a Divided Country (New York: Peter Lang, January 2018) and bringing them to completion, I am immensely thankful to a group of Bangladeshi expatriates living across the continents. Our acquaintance of each other, however keen and close, has so far remained limited to our “via” electronic means, most of us never getting a chance to meet with each other personally. We utilize our cyberspace opportunities not only to concur but also critique the views of each other as necessary. I am proud of having been a part of such an illustrious company of beautiful minds, all patriotically and democratically imbued in their just and legitimate criticism of the beastly Awami excesses, atrocities, and brutalities in Bangladesh for many years since the early 1970s, especially the last ten years under the neo-and-near-and-more-than-partially fascistic Sheikh Hasina.
Two of this enlightened and outstanding circle were freedom fighters of Bangladesh. One is Ranu Chowdhury (sometimes known as A O Chowdhury), a resident of America for many years and author of many books and articles on the changing political map of Bangladesh. His critical comments do not fail to suggest his vast knowledge of Bangladesh’s political landscape since 1960s. His informative and perceptive insights—what he says and how ← xvii | xviii → he says—have always been welcomed and appreciated by the majority of this politically highly conscious and vibrant group—always alert and aware as it is.
The other is Zoglul Husain, a long-time resident of the UK, whose equally vast knowledge of the social and political affairs of Bangladesh and the region matches and competes with that of the former. Originally a computer consultant but now a full time political campaigner and analyst, Husain abandoned his doctoral ambition in order to contribute to the struggle for independence from Kolkata in 1971. “Dedicated to the patriotic cause of Bangladesh,” Husain’s vistas are vast, panoramic, and prospective. One of his thoughtful comments is: “Contemporary history is a witness and later history is a judge, and in that judgement, our stand would be vindicated and honored.” Husain maintains an incredibly useful archive of references from which he can easily dig out, with an amazing speed and ability, any biographical or bibliographical information that one requests him to be provided with. He has been our gifted human agent to the internet and electronic encyclopedia, not only for the contemporary but also the long lost and long buried research and resource materials, thus helping me, along with others, to document my sources beyond measure. With his amazing and incredible, almost supernatural, powers to dig up the archival materials, Husain is a master wizard, a master magician, holding Aladdin’s lamp into the hidden internet sources.
I am also deeply indebted to the following, all from the USA, who, besides their own professions, are excellent political commentators, all in possession of a great political acumen and a sharp critical bent of mind. They include: Dr Sultan Ahmad, a former Dean of Science at Chittagong and East West Universities, currently living in the USA and a man of perceptive and intriguing political thought; Electrical Engineer Aftab Sheikh working with an international consulting firm in the USA, who thinks “we need to fight the autocratic জালেম/zaleem regime intellectually and genuinely” and that my two books are “great works towards the betterment of the people of Bangladesh;” Mohiuddin Anwar, a freelance writer for a news agency; Shafiqul Islam of MUNA (Muslim Ummah of North America; and the well-published scholar Dr Taj Hasmi, until recently a political and security studies professor of both American and Canadian credentials. There is Electrical Engineer Rashed Anam, a powerful and penetrating political analyst of depth with a solid grasp of the underlying details. There is Engineer Mohammad Gani, extremely witty and satirical (our Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and Lewis Carroll), endowed with a remarkable presence of mind, who, apart from being an expert in retorts and repartees (therefore potentially a “celebrity” comedy/talk show host), who is ← xviii | xix → also an aspiring short story writer. It is he who provided me with the easy and useful Bengali font link that made it possible for me to furnish the Bengali words/phrases in Bangla font/script itself when and where necessary.
I must also mention Engineer Shahadat Hussein Suhrawardy, who is not only into sharing excellent political pieces of historical perspectives (by himself as well as others) but also into writing interesting political poems; Dr Zainul Abedin, a well-informed former journalist, who currently teaches at Mississippi Valley State University (and who is also a rising poet of nostalgic pastoral themes and thereby our “Pallikobi” Jasimuddin!); Mohamed Nazir, a retired accounts and audit officer with interest in the real estate investment, but never losing sight of the worm-and-insect breeding political bushes and swamps relative to the Bangladesh of Awami suppression and cynicism, which he establishes by endlessly providing significant historical documentary resources. All of them demonstrate a great “historical sense” by bringing national and international history to life (in terms of both “the pastness of the past” as well as its “presence,” to borrow the phrases from T S Eliot’s famous 1919 essay, Tradition and Individual Talent.
There are the following whom I must not miss to mention: health official Rezaul Karim, a committed supporter of anti-Awami causes; politically well-read radiation physicist Dr Muazzam Kazi; Quazi Nuruzzaman, a former UNDP official of international experience and a firm and committed supporter of the BNP; Mohammad Zainal Abedin, former journalist and author of a number of political books on Bangladesh; Computer Engineer Mohammad Aleem, who possesses a great insight into the politics of Bangladesh and a zeal and fervor for anti-Awami crusade; and the national award winning Shakera Akhter, a proud “Portia” of Sylhet (Belmont of Portia in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice), who once had a promising career in singing and dancing till she had to leave Bangladesh for her radiating “Bassanio” of Venice/USA (one of the above!).
All of the above were of great help as they posted their clips and comments, mutually appreciating and constructively reading through the views of each other that were being shared and are still being shared through our almost daily e-mail conversations for years now. All regularly took part in the “soft” discussions always making valid and valuable comments and thereby enhancing the quality of our politically informative and enlightening rapport. All were/are continuously feeding and flooding the forum with their striking views and vital ideas in support of Islam, Muslims, and the anti-Awami anti-Baksali friends and allies. ← xix | xx →
I am highly thankful to those of the UK, of whom I must single out Dr Khalifa Malik, a retired professor of chemistry who has authored a number of books and articles on sciences as well as the history and politics of Bangladesh. I am grateful to the highly active freelancer Isha Khan, who has been tirelessly shooting scholarly materials about the Awami misrule and malpractices that greatly helped me to enhance and augment my key and crucial anti-Hasina materials. Others I have come to know would include: medical expert and historically and Islamically knowledgeable prolific writer Dr Firoz Mahbub Kamal; and Capt Razzak Syed and medical expert Dr Fatima Ashrafi, both from Australia and both being of deep and daring political and religious convictions; and (Ret) Brig Gen Shamsuddin Ahmed of Bangladesh. All of them have demonstrated an unabashed audacity of hope against the devouring Awami claws and clutches.
I am pleased to acknowledge with thanks the help, cooperation, and encouragement that I received from the people I personally know: Dr Syed Serajul Islam of Political Science at Lakehead University, Canada; Dr Mohammad A Auwal of Communication Studies at California State University Los Angeles; Dr Abdullah Al-Ahsan of History at Istanbul Sehir University (previously, at IIU Malaysia); Dr Mohammad Saidul Islam of Sociology at Nanyang Technological University Singapore; Dr Abid Bahar of Dawson College, Montreal, Canada; and (retired) Dr Mohammad Rashiduzzaman of Political Science at Rowan (formerly, Glassboro) University New Jersey.
I would also like to mention that most of the people acknowledged above are proud to be champions of Muslims and Muslim causes. They possess enormous talents in terms of factual and historical details in support of the growth and development of Islam in the world, especially in the Indian sub-continent. Again, the posts by the regulars in the group were found to be as effective as a fighter jet in the demolition of Hasina’s despotic and dictatorial propaganda machine, her digitally corrupt and seriously dented and doubtful development agenda, and her autocratic and authoritarian repression and persecution of the political opposition.
Many of the above have been noted in my two volumes more than once, some of them more than the others. Their stimulating and perceptive remarks and observations—all expressed in excellent and impeccable English—represented the general opinion and common wisdom of the majority of Bangladeshis. As regards their command and coinage and communication in English—superb and outstanding as they are, it must be admitted that some of the above, having authored a number of books and numerous articles in ← xx | xxi → English, outshine many of their fellow native/non-native people and professors in other professions! Their proficiency in English must be an envy to many members of the educated elite in Bangladesh, who, no wonder, hardly write in English (except some easy and quick-fix copy-paste research) and therefore find it safe to refrain from dabbling in English, although many of them “strut and fret” as teachers of English who with a small pot and a smaller pail of political and partisan alms managed to obtain their promotions as if they were awarded their titles and positions from a charitable trust.
Expert in their own fields and professions, the political inputs of all of the above were enormously helpful for me to provide a perspective—fresh, charming, original, and authentic—different from the loose, discursive, disconnected, and disjointed Awami চেতনা narratives that are full of twisted distortions and of which—routine and hackneyed as they are—the people of Bangladesh are sick and tired. All members of my e-bloc have made and are making a great contribution to the noble discourse and lofty endeavor of creating an inclusive and unified, yet diverse (but not divided) political environment with the intention of freeing Bangladesh from the ongoing oppression and prosecution of dissent by the horrible and harrowing Hasina-led Awami League.
Finally, I cannot let my immediate family go unacknowledged. The terse retorts and teasing reactions of our three young children (Saiaz, Meehan, and O’Ami) and my three absolutely wonderful sisters-in-law (Nishith, Nadine, and Naomi), though made casually, supplied additional instigation and incitement into the narrative of my nonfictional excursions. I knew their innocent remarks came from their mute, passive, and understated frustration at the sad reality that the country of their parents’ origin has been painfully and forcibly witnessing for some time, especially during the present heavy and weary years of the Awami regime. Although they are not much interested in what is going on in Bangladesh, they happen to come to hear about it once in a rare while from their mixed peers or online media, and sometimes from their socializing parties and picnics at homes, public parks, or community convention centers at a North American location.
Q M Jalal Khan
6 October 2018
It is my pleasure to write this foreword to the twin volumes, this short one as well as the earlier and much longer, Bangladesh: Political and Literary Reflections on a Divided County (Peter Lang, January 2018), both by the same author, who I know for a long time as a keen observer of the social and political affairs of Bangladesh. I find in both volumes a highly intriguing and timely criticism of the regime of Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The titles of the two books neatly capture the regime’s unrelenting tyranny and brutal crackdown on political and press freedoms in the country. In both books, Dr. Q M Jalal Khan presents the readers with a captivating critical analysis that integrates an astonishing amount of Bangladeshi media reports with his keen personal observations and literary allusions.
The chapters in each publication, smoothly transitioning from one another, combine to form a fresh and original analysis of the political stagnation and desertification in the country over the last decade. Starting from the Notice and the Preface of the lengthy previous volume, which provide a nice preview of what follows in both books, the individual chapters provide a coherent critical reading of the political scenarios of Bangladesh under the crooked clutch of its cruel regime. Citing analogies from Westerns writers—all noted for their pronounced political attachments and affiliations—the two ← xxiii | xxiv → projects give a clear view of the Hasina regime’s heinous politics. Dr. Khan cites a host of sources and authorities, from the academia to the media to politics to other professions, to demonstrate how the police state established and maintained by the regime has killed, kidnapped, maimed, or disappeared tens of thousands of people asking for meaningful democratic participation as citizens of Bangladesh.
It is during the Hasina regime of Bangladesh, since 2009, especially 2013–2014, that politics, parliamentary democracy, media, civil society, and civil administration have taken a deadly turn. In fact, they all have reached the worst stage in the history of Bangladesh. Whatever democratic culture the country has ever had in the past has now been completely destroyed. The electoral processes have been marred by rigging and other irregularities that include violence and bloodshed. Coming to power with the blessing of a military general, Hasina’s government has changed the long-established caretaker electoral system so she can to stay in or return to power by hook or by crook. Her government has drastically curtailed the freedom of the media and the freedom of the political opposition, which can no longer function freely and peacefully.
I believe these two books represent a significant contribution to the interdisciplinary literature that informs and educates Bangladeshis at home and abroad. It will also be of great interest to students and scholars of South Asian studies in general and Bangladesh studies in particular. I believe both academic and common readers will appreciate the volumes as a testament to their author’s commitment to social and political justice in Bangladesh in as much as they analyze the current affairs in Bangladesh from the perspective of a native observer watching the political development of the country of his/her origin.
Bangladesh, since its bloody birth in 1971, has been going through a war of its own, full of political turmoil and controversies over a host of issues that include: (1) one party rule or multi-party rule; (2) development with or without democratic freedom for all the political opposition parties; (3) creation of ruthless paramilitary forces parallel to the army; (4) debate over the national status and military assassination of the two top political leaders—Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Ziaur Rahman; (5) the questionable choice of the national anthem; (6) what to do with those who collaborated with the Pakistani army during the liberation struggle; (7) the ineffective rubber-stamp parliament; (8) the government’s heavy-handed autocratic and authoritarian persecution of the opposition; and (9) its relentless politicization and ← xxiv | xxv → interference with the law enforcement agencies, such as the police, judiciary, civil administration, human rights commission, anti-corruption commission, and, most importantly, election commission. All these have led to a deeply divisive and destructive political culture plunging the nation into a severe state of strain and stress that has seen thousands of innocent lives lost, leaving the country mired in what Anthony Mascarenhas called “a legacy of blood.”
The twin volumes seek to spell out the causes for the continuously expanding cycles of violence that have been creating nonstop unrest and untold public suffering. They are a narrative of democratic freedom and openness in sharp and sudden decline, from limited to nil, illiberal to nothing, especially from the 2006 murderous লগি ও বৈঠা (poles and sticks) assault on the people by the Bangladesh Awami League (BAL) till today. Since coming to power in early 2009, BAL has killed, kidnapped, and disappeared hundreds and thousands and locked up many more in prison in violation of their human and democratic rights.
In these two publications, Dr. Khan exposes the atrocities of the Hasina regime and argues for democratic fair play and level playing field for all political parties. His analysis asks the regime to refrain from resorting to the fascistic repression through the police and the BAL cadres and to ensure free and fair elections to return the country to its previously functioning democratic norms and practices. Written with a literary flavor, the volumes expose in details the despotic and fascist nature of the current regime in Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina has achieved a notoriety for being brutal and ruthless. The author challenges the current regime’s rampant and repressive killing of democracy in widespread human rights abuses and gross violations.
Dr. Khan uses literary references while commenting on the current affairs of Bangladesh. The analogies he draws between literature and politics in Bangladesh are highly original compared with other political writings on Bangladesh, which safely follow an official or conveniently neutral line of thinking. Most of the political and social commentaries on Bangladesh lack the literary coloring that saturates both these publications. This kind of analysis with literary allusions makes an interesting reading and adds a new flavor to the ongoing discussion of Bangladesh politics and society.
The books are distinguished from the existing literature not only in terms of their unique critical style but also in terms of the issues that they address. They cover some of the burning issues that divide the people of Bangladesh: Should they aim to achieve democracy first or live through corruption and development before having democracy? Is it their destiny to live under a ← xxv | xxvi → one-party rule/reign with a sickening suppression of the political opposition? Should politics divide and rule them or should they strive for the unity of the nation as one people? Should they remain a slavish and servile subject to India or reassert their freedom and sovereignty as an independent yet friendly neighbor? How long should they remain stagnant in the politics of partisan and self-seeking convenience before they establish a democratic plurality of openness and tolerance with the transfer of power through credible, inclusive, and participatory elections?
As a significant contribution to the study of the political narratives of the country in question with a tinge and taste of Western literary references, the strength of the publications lies in exposing the cruel fascist character of the despotic ruling party that virtually killed the future of democracy by changing the electoral policies to secure its hold on power for indefinite periods of time. The two works deal with many issues currently and constantly being debated in the political circles of Bangladesh and beyond, among the Bangladeshis and the people of Bangladeshi origin in all other countries. By giving voice to an overwhelming majority of the people of Bangladesh whose political and civil rights have been snatched away by the partisan police and the biased judiciary, the publications merit a wide readership both at home and abroad.
I believe the two volumes are a long overdue record of the current BAL regime’s reckless reign of terror and torture. They dismantle and destabilize the partisan narratives of the government machinery in Bangladesh, which is why they are likely to appeal to numerous readers. Their main audiences will, therefore, be Bangladeshi academic as well as non-academic communities (in and outside the country) from all professions, including history, communication, journalism, political science, international relations, and literary, cultural, and interdisciplinary studies. The companion volumes are expected to intrigue the international community, as well, especially those interested in South Asian and Southeast Asian Studies and policy professionals concerned about the future of democracy and human rights in the region.
Mohammad A. Auwal, PhD
Professor of Communication Studies
California State University Los Angeles
Bangladesh was the 92nd in the world ranking in 2017, and 84th in 2016, according to the British-based Economist’s Democracy Index. It is all under the despotic, draconian, and dictatorial domination of the ruling Awami League and its sadist supremo Sheikh Hasina, tyrannical Fuehrer of absolute authority. Resorting to all crooked and crocodilian means of unbridled profit and ruthless persecution, her petty and paltry Awami “Nazis” are of no ideological commitment whatsoever. Under them and their slashing and sluttish rule headed by Hasina, there prevails a political culture of repression, division, decadence, and degeneration. It is a culture that is “thriving” and “flourishing” in a state of dastardly denial, bloody violence, illegal prosecution, and blanket detention of political opponents.
In addition to hundreds of sources and references cited throughout this book and the earlier Bangladesh: Political and Literary Reflections on a Divided Country (New York: Peter Lang, January 2018), the following statements and commentaries about the sickening and frightening political landscape that appeared in the local but mostly international outlets and social media have been reproduced here in support of the central argument of this book and the previous one. Apart from being my contribution to Bangladesh’s ongoing second liberation war (this time against the overwhelming onslaught of the Hasina ← xxvii | xxviii → brand of fascism), the two books are in confirmation, reaffirmation, elaboration, and illustration of the same reports and estimates as reproduced below:
1. On February 1, the world famous news magazine The Economist consigned Bangladesh, in the words of the former US Ambassador to Bangladesh (and also Pakistan) William B Milam, “to permanent authoritarianism, a political malady that has lately seemed to overwhelm the immune system of democracies.”1 In an article called “Obituary of a democracy: Bangladesh,” The Economist said,
The country’s parliament commences rubber-stamp duties today, when after a transparently fraudulent election last month, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League will begin her fourth term […] And so parliament’s first session will be all ceremony and smiles. The League has successfully done away with the opposition, captured the courts and silenced critics in the media. Sheikh Hasina will promise to deliver on economic development while Bangladesh’s tolerant and democratic roots lie forgotten. In an earlier article, published right after the election, The Economist elaborated on the full-throated fascist tactics the government used to win its smashing victory, “The Awami League … flagrantly wielded the full power of state institutions, from the police to courts to the Election Commission, to promote its chances. Sheikh Hasina’s party also resorted to virtually every electoral trick in the bag.” This article described the multi-fold neo-fascist blitzkrieg at the polls by the AL in graphic detail (my emphasis).2
2. In his two articles, “Bangladesh: Politics of revenge and vengeance” and “Bangladesh: The story of Sheikh Hasina’s rampant corruption,” published in the Asian Tribune of 11 and 12 September 2018, Benzamin Mendez, a research-scholar and former university professor, gave a detailed account of Hasina’s corruption and her reckless Indianization of Bangladesh. Interestingly, Mendez’s assertions and arguments against Hasina’s acts of fiendish ferocity and fierceness are exactly similar to those of the Hasina-ousted former Chief Justice of Bangladesh, Justice S K Sinha, who is quoted from in Chapters 3, 8, and 10 (particularly in Chapter 8) of this book. Mendez wrote:
This is just a tip of the iceberg! Sheikh Hasina has been looting wealth of Bangladesh more notoriously than Ferdinend Marcos of the Philippines. She had renewed her second consecutive term with the active help of India in 2014 and now again she has begun the same game plan. For India it is essential to keep Sheikh Hasina in power as she has been the most faithful ← xxviii | xxix → individual who has been compromising the national interest of Bangladesh for safeguarding Indian interest. For such reason, India being the largest democracy in the world remains totally silent on the continuous violation of human rights and constitutional rights of the people of Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina can only be compared with Adolph Hitler as her brutalities and crimes against humanity had long crossed all past records of any fascist. Though Bangladesh is heading towards another general election in December this year, there is really no hope of even holding of a free and fair election. Very unfortunately, once proven patriotic armed forces also have turned into abettors and active defenders of this dictator. It is well known, Sheikh Hasina has purchased the conscious of the top brasses of the military establishment in exchange of huge compensations and indirect bribes.3
3. The former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Pinak Ranjan Chakravorty wrote in South Asia Monitor of 5 September 2018:
Allegations against Hasina’s government include authoritarian govternance, hounding of the opposition and rampant corruption. These issues and the India factor will dominate the electoral campaign. The sustained harassment of political opponents has only added to the growing sullenness among sections of the people and a pervasive feeling that the ruling AL government has assiduously subverted democratic norms and institutions. There is growing consensus that if elections are free and fair, the AL will be reduced to an embarrassing minority in the next Parliament. Many critics believe that the Hasina government will “manage” the election. This is popularly called “rigging” in South Asia. Critics allege that every national institution has been compromised and packed with party sympathizers … The Hindu minority, normally very supportive of the AL, is agitated and angry because AL leaders have grabbed Hindu properties with impunity. AL leaders think that India has no option but to support the AL and will not complain about harassment and discrimination against the Hindu minority. On the positive side, the government’s action against militant religious extremists and terrorists has been effective. The economy has also done very well under the stewardship of the Hasina government, though rampant corruption and crony capitalism have marred the economic landscape.4
4. In The New York Review of Books, dated 15 August 2018 (15 August 1971 being the day when Sheikh Hasina’s dictator father Sheikh Mujib was killed in a military coup), Salil Tripathi wrote about Mujib’s daughter and far worse dictator Hasina’s authoritarian rule:
To that, add the deadly toll of extrajudicial killings in a so-called war on drugs (more than a hundred people summarily executed in recent months); ← xxix | xxx → and a rising number of disappearances of political dissidents, at the hands, many suspect, of shadowy government-linked agencies. In this political environment, in which Hasina faces virtually no challenge to her rule, the government feels empowered to stifle all forms of dissent. Those who even appear to stand in the way, including a former chief justice, other opposition leaders, and certain journalists, are criticized by ruling party supporters and politicians as “collaborators,” a slur that tries to tag them as opponents of Bangladesh’s independence movement. One prominent critic of the government, Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, faces dozens of politically motivated lawsuits. … Hoodwinking international donor countries and suppressing internal dissent, Hasina hopes to be re-elected virtually unopposed. Noisy students, witnesses taking photographs, and critical journalists have been warned.5
5. It is directly in scathing criticism of the satanically despotic and dictatorial Sheikh Hasina, chronically and characteristically suffering from her crooked ways as a fascist, that Bangladesh’s first Prime Minister Tajuddin Ahmad’s son, an Awami leader, Sohel Taj of New York (himself a former state minister of home) put out a Facebook status on 7 August 2018 in which he identified five characteristics of modern fascism, which rendered into English, are as follows: (1) when people are scared to exercise their freedom of speech and thought, and when there is in fact no freedom of speech and thought left for them to exercise; (2) when the ruling party, the government, and the state lose their distinct individual identity and are all merged into one single entity, thereby regarding any criticism of them as sedition; (3) when they abuse the old laws and make more and more of new draconian laws in their favor in order to oppress, persecute, and incarcerate the critics and members of the opposition by detaining, remanding, and jailing them; (4) when people are abducted and killed without trial and justice; and (5) when state institutions and machineries are used to perpetuate the reign of the regime without rein.6 Tajuddin’s eldest daughter and Sohel’s sister Sharmin Ahmad Reepi also would not disagree with her brother’s comment targeted at the totalitarian Hasina regime that has completely banished democracy, human rights, freedom of expression, social justice, and rule of law with the help of its primitive and barbarian police force and their ruthless and relentless oppression and repression of the innocent civilians and the opposition political leaders and supporters. In her book Tajuddin Ahmad Neta O Pita/Tajuddin Ahmad: A leader and a father (2014), Reepi is ← xxx | xxxi → critical of Mujib and the Hasina-led Awami League. She thinks (as her father did, who, according to his 11 April 1971 speech, thought it was it was the fearless Zia who first declared the independence of Bangladesh and started the effective and winning rebellion from the very beginning) Mujib did not want independence in 1971 when he wanted to become prime minister of Pakistan and his popularity was very low during the few years before his assassination.
6. David Bergman, a famous journalist who also runs the Bangladesh Politico blog, wrote about why the Bangladesh Government was scared of Shahidul Alam in The Wire of 8 August 2018:
The photographer’s arrest shows that the government wants to make sure that not only will Alam keep his mouth shut in the future, but also ensure that other independent minded non-partisan individuals do the same.
The arrest of eminent Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam by over 25 detective branch officers on Sunday night is a clear indication of an increasingly nervous and authoritarian government in Bangladesh as national elections approach. Far worse things, of course, have happened to many more people in recent months and years under the current Awami League government. Hundreds have been picked up by law enforcement agencies and disappeared for weeks or months at a time, with the whereabouts of many remaining unknown. Extra-judicial killings have been widespread, resulting in the deaths of over 200 people under the rubric of a war on drugs in the last few months. Many thousands of others have been arrested under false cases and detained for months before receiving bail for saying the wrong things or belonging to the wrong political party. And of course, just in recent days, students and journalists have been attacked by governing party student wing members, with some suffering serious injuries. So, in the context of these widespread human rights abuses, the detention of Shahidul Alam—who has a significant national and international following demanding his immediate release —may not appear that significant.
However, it is. This is because the government is scared of people like Alam who are not only independent minded, widely respected and non-partisan but also willing to speak their mind. Whilst such people are few and far between in Bangladesh—it is difficult to think of many others with his boldness right now —the government of Bangladesh wants to make sure that this remains the case by scaring those few others who, like him, have the confidence, ability and eloquence to articulate a holistic critique of the current political situation. It seems that the only rationale for Alam’s detention is that the government wants them to know that they too will be picked up, detained and charged if they try to do something similar […]. ← xxxi | xxxii →
However, what the government must really be concerned about is what Alam said in an interview he gave on Television just hours before he was picked up. These are things that the government does not want others to say from within the country. whether the protests, triggered by the death of two young school students about road safety, suggested that something “larger was going on”, he answered, “very much larger.” He then set out a litany of concerns that people had against the government; starting with its “lack of a mandate to rule” as the majority of MPs were elected unopposed in the most recent 2014 elections since the opposition parties refused to take part. As a result, he said, the government “has been clinging on by brute force”. Alam then went on to refer to, “The looting of banks, the gagging of the media … the extra-judicial killings, the disappearances, the need to give protection money at all levels, bribery at all levels, corruption in education. It is a never ending list.”
He then talked about the lack of credibility held by the prime minister referring back to protests carried out earlier this year by university students against the use of quotas for government jobs that meant that general students were competing for just 46% of all the jobs. “Under pressure the prime minister offered reforms but then reneged on them,” Alam said. “So this time when students did go on protests [on road safety], … the prime minister has promised that she will cede to their demands, but of course people no longer believe. She has no credibility.”
He then went on to expose how the law enforcement agencies were allowing “armed goons” to attack the school and university students who were that day protesting on the streets. “The police specifically asked for help from these armed goons to combat unarmed students demanding safe roads. I mean now ridiculous is that,” he said. “Today I was in the street and there are people with machetes in their hands chasing unarmed students and the police are standing by watching it happen. In some cases they are actually helping it out.”
One thing that Alam did not say—suggesting that even he was exhibiting some self-censorship—was that these armed men belonged to the student wing of the governing Awami League party. The Al Jazeera presenter then asked Alam a question about how the government was going to deal with these student protests.
However tough his previous response, his final answers must have been the ones that most likely riled the government. “I think the Government has miscalculated,” he said. “It certainly felt that fear was enough, repression would have been enough, but I think you cannot tame an entire nation in this manner.” And then he talked about the forthcoming elections—which just about everyone in the country assumes will be rigged, but few dare to talk about.
“And of course, they are approaching elections, so the nearer it gets to elections, the more sensitive they are,” he said. “They know that if there ← xxxii | xxxiii → is a fair and free election, they will lose. But they haven’t got an exit plan [and] as they have misruled for so long so that if they do lose, they will be torn apart. So, they have to hang on by any means, so that is exactly what they are doing. They are clinging on using the entire might of the system plus the armed goons at their disposal.”
Alam’s interview and the government’s response should give pause to those who still think that the current Bangladesh government is anything other than an authoritarian regime unwilling to hand over power peacefully in any future elections. One need not agree with every word to recognize that this is a legitimate critique based on reality. […]
Of course the government could change course and take steps to open up the country to proper multi-party democracy and freedom of expression that could allow a free and fair election. There must be those within the government who think that this would be a far wiser course of action rather than the current autocracy and repression. A first good step to this end would be to immediately release Alam, accept that they made a mistake, and drop the charges against him. A good next step—of course —would be unblocking The Wire and allowing it to be read in Bangladesh.7
7. Rahnuma Ahmed, wife of the celebrated Dhaka-based photographer Shahidul Alam, wrote on his arrest and torture by the Bangladeshi authorities:
Bangladesh has turned into a police state, made invisible by the mantra of “development” which is spouted incessantly, and the competition between privately-owned TV channels to outdo each other in creatively putting forth government propaganda. With the parliamentary elections approaching, the government has become suspicious and scared of its own shadow. […] There is only one thing authoritarian governments fear: courage, a human quality they cannot control or predict. Shahidul’s courage and defiance has become iconic, but he, and all of us are inspired by the youth of our country, who have refused to be cowed down by state terror.8
8. Engineer Rashed Anam and former army officer Ranu Chowdhury, who was also a decorated freedom fighter, both American residents, made excellent posts in an email of 10 and 11 August 2018 respectively to hundreds of members through more than a dozen google and yahoo groups.9 Anam wrote:
National crisis, national interests, safety, and the fundamental rights of entire people should not be held hostage to partisan politics and should not be the sacrificial lamb of partisan views! We do not live in a bubble! Everything that happens in the society affects us, more or less, one way or ← xxxiii | xxxiv → another, in near term or in long term. Be an engineer or doctor or a day labor or a journalist, regardless of your profession, atrocities and tyrannies committed by dictatorship do not discriminate in choosing victims! Just as it did not discriminate in Syria when millions of victims tuned into fleeing refugees as a result of dictatorship! The national GDP growth rate is of no value when one’s life and one’s most fundamental rights are under attack. The 7% GDP did not save the innocent girls from getting raped! The 7% GDP did not save the students from getting chopped up by Awami terror Chapati! The 7% GDP did not save the academics and opposition politicians from being abducted, imprisoned, and extra-judicially killed! The 7% GDP did not save the famed journalist and photographer Shahidul Alam from getting abducted and bloodied! The 7% GDP surely did not show any mercy to the Rajshahi University student from being extra-judicially killed by the government forces because he dared to demand the end of discriminatory 56% brutal quota system! The 7% GDP did not save the retirees from losing their life savings in epidemic Bank and share market looting! The 7% GDP did not spare the chief justice from getting kicked out of the country or the judicial system from being straight-jacketed in Mujib-coat!
You should know that during the BNP era once GDP was more than 7%, and for the last 20 years Bangladesh has been enjoying 5.5–6.5% GDP. So your proclaimed 7% GDP means nothing and cannot be not a measuring stick when it comes to measuring people’s fundamental human rights, democratic rights, and road safety! The multi-facetted life cannot be measured in one dimensional GDP number. There is something called social justice! Something called inalienable rights that people are born with which cannot be violated! GDP means nothings if their inalienable rights, the natural rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are trampled! When the governed cannot self-determine who they want to be governed by and how, when they cannot live with dignity, cannot expect safety of life, cannot enjoy their right to express, then the longest bridge or the highest flyover is nothing more than the salt to his injured rights and self-worth! They are not even sustainable in the long run in absence of social justice, rule of laws, and democratic rights! The unbridled corruption on the back of tax payer’s money that accompanies such accountability-less autocratic regime will bankrupt the system as well! You may choose to live in your own private comfortable self-centered island of aloofness in distant land and not want to be bothered with any compunction of prisoner of conscience, but a lot of us still have the loved ones back in Bangladesh and still care about the sorry state Bangladesh has been plunged into.
Chowdhury responded: “This developmental index has little relevance to national peace and prosperity. It did, however, allow some ruling coterie to build Himalayan wealth within the shortest possible time at the cost of national exchequer. In absence of the total Rule of Law, the common people are groaning under the heavy wheels of state fascism; development, whatever, has no meaning to them.” ← xxxiv | xxxv →
9. Al Jazeera’s Faisal Mahmud reported about Bangladesh’s autocratic and repressive administration: the BAKSAL-II under Sheikh Hasina, dated 4 Apr 2018:
Is Bangladesh moving towards one-party state? Hasina government faces allegations of a concerted persecution of its opponents [The Associated Press] The controversial jailing of former Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and the state persecution of dissent have raised fears that the next parliamentary election could turn into a violent sham. Fear of a 2014 repeat, when the parliamentary elections were boycotted by almost all the opposition parties and marred by large-scale violence and killings, runs high in Bangladesh as the ruling Awami League (AL) government faces allegations of a concerted persecution of its opponents. While activists and political workers opposed to the government live under an increasing threat of being jailed or worse, there is widespread concern, even among the common people, over what lies ahead in an election year.
It’s a government and a political party which believe that they are not accountable to anyone. It’s a dangerous sign in a democracy, said Asif Nazrul, Professor Dhaka University. Nadia Tabassum Khan, an employee of a multinational company in Dhaka, told Al Jazeera that the Awami League has suppressed all dissent to such an extent that she doesn’t think “anyone would dare to protest against them”.
Enforced disappearance: Since the controversial imprisonment of Bangladesh’s opposition leader and two-time Prime Minister Khaleda Zia last month, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to reject allegations of turning into an authoritarian regime [….]. The arrest and subsequent imprisonment of the former prime minister, which Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) called the Hasina government’s conspiracy to keep the opposition party out of politics, led to widespread violence in cities across Bangladesh, with BNP supporters clashing with police and ruling party members. Police records say nearly 300 leaders and supporters of the BNP were arrested on the day of Zia’s verdict. Since February this year, over 3,000 members of the opposition party have been put behind bars.
Hasina and Zia—both women are related to former Bangladesh leaders—have dominated the country’s politics for more than two decades. In fact, the bitter rivalry between the country’s most powerful “begums” has pushed Bangladesh in the grip of violence and unrest for years.
The BNP alleges that over 500 of its supporters have been killed and nearly 750 “abducted” by the police and thrown in various jails since 2014. The party claims around 150 more of its missing workers have either been killed in extrajudicial encounters or have been forced to disappear. The main opposition party says it has not yet decided on a plan of action following the Zia verdict. The party has largely resorted to non-violent protests← xxxv | xxxvi → against the crackdown on it. However, as permissions for political rallies are denied, many in the BNP are losing patience with the strategy of holding peaceful protests. The specter of large-scale violence now threatens to destabilize the parliamentary elections in the country scheduled to be held in December this year.
Last week, German think-tank Bertelsmann Foundation released a report that said the country is now under an autocratic rule. Listing 13 countries “where the political situation has become significantly worse”, the report said in five of these countries, namely Bangladesh, Lebanon, Mozambique, Nicaragua and Uganda, “democracy has been gradually undermined for years” and that they no longer meet its minimum standards.
Scepticism over elections:
Political commentators in and outside Bangladesh concur with such a damning reading of the Hasina government, especially in the context of the state conducting free and fair elections. In 2014, Hasina had returned to power for a second consecutive term through a controversial and bloody national election, which was boycotted by the centre-right BNP. In her 10-year tenure as the prime minister of Bangladesh, Hasina has been accused of using the state’s law enforcement apparatus as well as the judiciary to suppress the voice of the opposition.
Rights groups, both local and international, have reported a deteriorating human rights situation in Bangladesh in recent years. Bangladesh rights group Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) says as many as 519 people have allegedly fallen victim to enforced disappearances since 2010 while over 300 people are still missing. “My father has been missing since December 4,” said Shabnam Zaman, daughter of former Bangladesh ambassador to Qatar and Vietnam, Maroof Zaman, who was accused of sharing “anti-government posts” on social media and was allegedly scooped up by unidentified abductors in Dhaka in December last year.
“The police stopped their investigation when they came to know about the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of my father,” she told Al Jazeera. On March 13 this year, Jakir Hossain, a leader of Chatra Dal, which is the BNP’s student wing, died in police custody after he was allegedly tortured by the police. A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report last year said the Bangladesh government had secretly arrested hundreds of people, mostly activists and political figures, opposed to the Hasina government […].
“Dangerous sign in a democracy”. But the experts and rights activists are not buying the government’s defence. Meenakshi Ganguly, who is the South Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, says Bangladesh may have won international praise for its humanitarian response to the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya by Myanmar but the domestic human rights situation remains a cause for concern. “The government continues to deny enforced disappearances … It must release individuals taken into custody by the security forces. Many of those disappeared are linked to the political opposition,” Ganguly told Al Jazeera. ← xxxvi | xxxvii →
Ganguly said Bangladeshi journalists and activists operate in a climate of fear, while many citizens have been slapped with cases for criticising the government on social media. Ali Riaz from the Illinois State University in the United States told Al Jazeera that the current political and human rights situation in Bangladesh is “not suitable” for holding an election, let alone an “inclusive” one. Riaz thinks if the beleaguered BNP is forced to boycott the next national election, along with other parties of the political alliance it leads, the election will be “hollow without any moral legitimacy, just like the 2014 elections”. “Continued persecution of the opposition is not only unwise, but also counterproductive. There is a tendency among the ruling parties here to forget that,” said Riaz. Asif Nazrul, a professor of law at Dhaka University, said that the government denies the BNP and other opposition parties permission to hold rallies and processions “on security grounds”, while it continues to hold large rallies in the run-up to the elections. “It’s a government and a political party which believe that they are not accountable to anyone. It’s a dangerous sign in a democracy,” said Nazrul.10
10. According to the US State Department Country Report on Bangladesh for 2017 (that came out in 2018):
The most significant human rights issues included: extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary or unlawful detentions, and forced disappearances by government security forces; restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of speech, press, and the activities of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); a lack of freedom to participate in the political process; corruption; violence and discrimination based on gender, religious affiliation, caste, tribe, including indigenous persons […] and gender identity also persisted and, in part, due to a lack of accountability. Trafficking in persons remained a serious problem; as did restrictions on worker’s rights and the worst forms of child labor. There were reports of widespread impunity for security force abuses. The government took limited measures to investigate and prosecute cases of abuse and killing by security forces. Public distrust of police and security services deterred many from approaching government forces for assistance or to report criminal incidents.11
11. Human Rights Watch 2018 Report on “Security Force Abuse and Impunity”:
Bangladesh security forces—particularly the Detective Branch of the police, Bangladesh Border Guards (BGB), the Directorate General Forces Inspectorate (DGFI), and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)—have a long history of enjoying impunity for serious violations including arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings, a pattern that did not abate in 2017. Law enforcement authorities continued ← xxxvii | xxxviii → to arrest opposition activists and militant suspects, holding them in secret detention for long periods before producing some in court. Several others, according to security forces, were killed in “gunfights,” leading to concerns over extrajudicial killings. At time of writing, scores remained victims of enforced disappearances. Bangladesh security forces—particularly the Detective Branch of the police, Bangladesh Border Guards (BGB), the Directorate General Forces Inspectorate (DGFI), and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)—have a long history of enjoying impunity for serious violations including arbitrary arrests, torture, enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings, a pattern that did not abate in 2017. Law enforcement authorities continued to arrest opposition activists and militant suspects, holding them in secret detention for long periods before producing some in court. Several others, according to security forces, were killed in “gunfights,” leading to concerns over extrajudicial killings. At time of writing, scores remained victims of enforced disappearances.12
12. The New York Times Editorial of 28 July 2017, captioned “The Opposition Disappears in Banglades,” reported:
- LII, 506
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2021 (June)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. LII, 506 pp.