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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Ahead of elections, Sheikh Hasina faces stiff challenge in Bangladesh

In a shocking but not altogether surprising move, fourteen Hindu temples in Thakurgaon in Bangladesh were vandalized on February 5 in a series of premeditated attacks. Nine idols in Sindurpindi and four in Collegepara area of Paria Union and fourteen idols in a temple in Sahbajpur Nathpara area of Charol Union were also desecrated.

Unfortunately, the police have not been as active as they should have been. Hindu community in Bangladesh, which is always in minority, is distressed by repeated assaults on their religion and deities by Islamic fanatics.

According to them, in the latest incident, many idols were not only destroyed but were found inside the pond waters along the temple locations. Local leaders say that such communal violence targeting Hindu idols in this particular region is unprecedented and undermines the interfaith harmony.

Meanwhile, Hindu social and cultural groups have angrily reacted over this incident calling for a fair and impartial investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice. Leading politicians assess that in view of the upcoming elections likely within this year, has spiked chances of such communal attacks in order to whip up communal frenzy to disturb tranquility and polarize the vote bank. Clearly, this is handiwork of the communally inclined fanatical elements who thrive only on politics of religion.

In the meantime, politicking for the next Bangladesh election is steadily entering into a feverish pitch and the opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) has intensified its meetings and rallies. They are into a mood for provocation so that the law and order agencies unleash a crackdown on them or spark a communal violence to discredit the present regime so as to deprive them of the votes they are ordinarily banking upon. Economic issues are highlighted time and again and the opposition in their rhetoric is raising apprehensions about a Sri Lanka type economic meltdown so as to confuse the countrywide electorate.

On its part, ruling Awami League (AL) has started highlighting its achievements in the preceding five years outlining the development projects, construction of Padma Bridge, and effective control over crime & law and order situation. AL has also projected in its progress report various successes attained on its external policies maintaining harmonious relations with many countries including the ones in the neighbourhood.

AL also claims, while assuring the people, that 2024 elections will be peaceful, inclusive and competitive. However, critics of AL feel that while development works in Bangladesh have shown stellar results and average income and life expectancy have increased, but development alone can not win popularity or people’s confidence. According to them, people want further freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of media.

AL leaders are hopeful that over the past 14 years, they have taken the country along the development highway, that the people will spontaneously vote for them and bring them to power in the next election. Surely, they recall, there was significant developments in Sheikh Hasina’s first term too. The allowances for poor and distressed people were initiated in that term. They had managed the floods well too. Despite World Bank’s opposition, the government had provided plenty of subsidies to agriculture and the people had reaped the benefits. But even after so much achievement and success, Awami League failed dismally in the 2001 elections.

On the whole, this time election is bound to be tough according to Dr Syed Mudassar Ali, a well-known Bangladesh academic and an election analyst. He recommends that the onus now is on the people of Bangladesh who should collectively join hands together to consolidate the developmental gains.

In other words, he means that much will not help if the people lookup only to Prime Minister and ruling party leader Sheikh Hasina and instead, they need to comprehend the directions given by her and convert roadmap into votes. Corruption is the other issue which is likely to dominate the electoral politics ahead of the elections. Opposition is certain to exploit this issue as this menace has seeped in deeply into the Bangladesh system of administration and it looks an uphill task to extricate it from the body politic.

All said and done, the Jihadi elements in Bangladesh are looking for an opportune movement to capitalize the communal situation so as to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere, divide the society, and sow seeds of discord to blame Hasina for her alleged pro-India and pro-minority policies. In this regard, the seculars, the progressive civil right groups and the intelligentsia must play a pivotal role in keeping the communal elements in check ensuring the deserving party is victorious to defeat the regressive forces for a strong and secular Bangladesh maintaining warm relations with India and other countries.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)

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