Vijaya Laxmi Tripura
Bangladeshi Hindu rights leader Rana Dasgupta in an exclusive interview with Indian newspaper the First Post has compared Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, hinting both are religious extremists. In the interview –based article titled – ‘BNP is Bangladesh’s BJP, Hindus have no option but to vote for the Awami League, says civil society leader Rana Dasgupta’, has been quoted saying, “the BNP believes in religious nationalism. It is like India’s BJP or Pakistan’s Muslim League (PML). Since BNP is Bangladesh’s BJP, Hindus have no option but to vote for the Awami League.”
Commenting on the ruling party’s initiatives in protecting the rights of religious minorities in Bangladesh, Dasgupta said, “After the Hasina came to power in 2008, a commission was constituted to investigate the violence perpetrated against minorities between 2001 and 2006. We reported 15,000 incidents of religious persecution to the commission. Out of those, the commission took note of 5,000 incidents and made its recommendations. Its report was submitted in 2012. Neither was the report made public, nor did the Awami League government implement any of the recommendations the commission made.”
Regarding religious minorities fear of Bangladesh going under the rule of BNP-Jamaat alliances, Rana Dasgupta said, “..minorities fear the BNP’s return. This is because the Jamaat-e-Islami, which is part of the Jatiyo Oikyo Front [National United Front, the Opposition alliance], is an anti-liberation force [meaning it fought to crush the movement for the liberation of Bangladesh]. In 1971, in collusion with the Pakistani occupation army, the Jamaat committed genocide and war crimes. In fact, the International Crimes Tribunal described the Jamaat as a fascist organisation. So if the BNP-Jamaat coalition were to come to power, minorities will face negative consequences.”
Rana Dasgupta is the general secretary of the Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikya Parishad, or Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council. Gupta is known as an Awami League activist.
Meanwhile, Kolkata’s prestigious English daily The Statesman in an editorial titled ‘Nothing to Observe’ wrote: “As Bangladesh gears up for its eleventh parliamentary election this Sunday, 30 December, the next government in Dhaka will be on a weak wicket on the diplomatic front. On the face of it, it is the international election monitors who have suffered a setback, given the out-of-bounds policy of the Awami League administration. That fatwa in itself is suggestive of its intent to keep the sensitive details of the tryst with democracy under wraps.
“Judging by the contours of Bangladesh politics, it is almost certain that Begum Hasina’s party will be at the helm yet again, this time through a contested election. The decision not to allow election monitors from abroad to set foot on the tarmac, as it were, flies in the face of the government’s commitment to allow international observers for the sake of a credible election.
“The backtracking, therefore, is unacceptable. Effective monitoring is central to the conduct of an election, and this is no less crucial than summoning the troops on polling day, a decision that has been welcomed by Begum Hasina’s bete noire, Begum Khaleda’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Thousands of troops have been deployed across the country, which will once again bear witness to an election under the awesome shadow of the soldier’s gun, recalling the experience of January 2014.
“Which in itself is testament to the inherently volatile situation. The critical difference being that the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) has been forced to cancel its observation mission for the election after the government failed to issue visas within the stipulated timeframe to the majority of its international monitors. Rightly has the US, which funded the ANFREL mission, expressed its disappointment. Theoretically, a country’s “inability” (aka refusal) to issue visas for such a mission is usually deemed as rejection. The visa-delay was nothing if not deliberate.
“While ANFREL’s mission has been stopped in its tracks, the European Union ~ with Brexit uppermost on its agenda ~ will not send a team this time around. Barring a few international observers, the critical task of monitoring now devolves on “local observers”, who will quite obviously be handpicked by the incumbent ruling party.
“Furthermore, the government has put in place crippling curbs on their functioning, chiefly a bar on taking photographs inside a polling station or even interacting with the media. The election will, therefore, be “observed” on the terms of the Awami government and favourable observations can well be expected.
“The functioning of the Election Commission is under a cloud even before the first vote is cast. It has failed to ensure what they call a “level playing field”, indeed to protect the Opposition from random arrests, violence, and “ghost” cases. Monday’s attack on journalists with hockey sticks at Nawabganj, near Dhaka, exemplifies the inherent volatility. The plot thickens with the EC’s green signal to the fundamentalist Jamaat ~ an ally of the BNP ~ to contest the elections.”
According to analysts, this editorial of The Statesman is definitely crucial as it is India’s one of the most prestigious dailies. Observations made in The Statesman may leave negative signals to the Western policymakers about the very credibility of the December 30 general election.
Meanwhile, Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General in a statement said, “The Secretary-General in the run-up to the 30 December general elections in Bangladesh calls on all stakeholders to ensure an environment free of violence, intimidation and coercion before, during and after the elections, so as to enable a peaceful, credible and inclusive poll.
“All Bangladeshi citizens, including minorities and women, must feel safe and confident in exercising their right to vote. Civil society and electoral observers should be fully supported to play their role in the process.
“The Secretary-General reiterates the continued commitment of the United Nations to support a peaceful and democratic Bangladesh.”
Statement from the United Nations has already got coverage in the local and international media. Indian media also has covered this news.
Commenting on the statement issued by the UN Secretary-General, analysts in Dhaka said, “United Nations already is losing efficacy in most of the nations in the world. In the past, particularly in 2014, the UN had been extremely active centering Bangladesh’s general election. United States also had sent their Assistant Secretary of State, Nisha Dishai Biswal to coordinate negotiations between the ruling party and the main opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party. Despite the fact of the 2014 election been turned controversial, the ruling Awami League did not really face any real challenge either from the UN or any of the foreign nations. Moreover, India and China had been extremely supportive towards the ruling party. Particularly India has played extremely effective role openly in favour of the ruling party. This time again, once the election is held and the ruling party gets more than 240 seats and if there are even allegations of vote rigging or irregularities, the ruling party will comfortably complete its next 5-year-tenure. For past ten years, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has very boldly and effectively handled and even ignored interference of the international community into Bangladesh’s domestic affairs.”
They added, “Bangladesh’s economy is now strong and most importantly, India wants Awami League to remain in power. That is why, any possible pressure from the UN or the Western nations in future will be jointly handled by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the Indian government.”