Political culture in Bangladesh has never been healthy ever since the birth of the country in 1971. Politics of fear and intimidation was inaugurated in Bangladesh by the very first regime that established an elite terrorist militia force named Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini to perpetuate the Mujib regime and to stifle dissent voices.
The scale of deaths and destruction perpetrated by this militia force was unprecedented in Bangladesh. Subsequent political developments in Bangladesh have not been very positive. Observers of Bangladesh politics may agree with me that, political demonstrations and violence are always the worst when Awami League is in the opposition. Frequent hartals, destroying properties and killings of the cops seem to be Awami monopoly. The number of hartals called by Awami League in the first 33 months of BNP rule beginning from 2001 was 33. In the same period of Awami League rule beginning from early 2009, BNP called 8 hartals (Amar Desh, Dhaka, 23 September 2011).
This record does not give the current Awami regime any moral ground to prohibit opposition hartals. Moreover, during Awami hartals the extent of deaths and destruction crossed all limits. They uprooted rail tracts, torched innumerable government and private vehicles including train compartments, killed police personnel and stripped government officials naked in the streets of Dhaka. Compared to ruthless Awami brutalities and indecencies especially during hartals, other political parties may seem to be babies.
While the police are the occasional targets of Awami street cruelty, the regular recipients of their maltreatment are the Islamic forces in Bangladesh. Since Awami League came to power in early 2009, members of its student wing Chhatra League (many of whom are non-student hired hooligans) have beaten up members of Islamic students' organizations on college and university campuses around the country and illegally ousted thousands of them from college and university dormitories. On top of that, the Awami regime has been using the police and administration in an obscene manner to repress people of opposition parties including Bangladesh Jamaat Islam and Islamic Chhatra Shibir. Jamaat-Shibir people have been denied their democratic rights to organize political rallies and have been detained illegally from demonstrations and even from residences. It has happened on many occasions that, Shibir students ousted from their legitimate college or university residential accommodation rented private houses to live and continue their education, which caused them many material and financial difficulties in terms of spending time to attend classes and money to pay the rent. However, that is not the end of their ordeal. Then the police hunted hundreds of them and put them in prison. In some cases police arrested guests or parents who came to visit Shibir students living in privately rented properties. After arresting them, the police fabricate false accusations and sue them in law courts where the magistrates have to comply with the government wishes of incarcerating them.
Oppression and tortures on Jamaat-Shibir people have gone unabated in forms mentioned above and in many other varieties of methods. On top of political repression on Jamaat-Shibir people and on other Islamic forces in Bangladesh, the local and domestic media have not been very fair to them. For example, when violence committed by Awami League, the BBC and other international media outlets maintain some kind of strategic silence. However, when members of Islamic parties demonstrate and try to resist police and Awami atrocities on them, both international and domestic media brand them as violent and militant. Unfortunately, when the police and hostile forces mistreat and torture them such media outlets turn a blind eye and never bother to report their sufferings.
For instance, on 13 September 2011, Jamaat people brought out a demonstration in the streets of Bianibazar Thana in the district of Sylhet. The police intercepted it and started beating up the processionists. Many Jamaat members were injured and many were arrested. The local and international media were not very enthusiastic in reporting that incident. However, few days later on 19 September 2011, Jamaat people brought out a demonstration in the streets of Dhaka and the police intercepted it and started beating them up in their usual undemocratic manner. Perhaps, Jamaat people's accumulated anger because of oppression on them for such a long time gave them an extra impetus to fight back, and they did. After some time the police had to retreat and could not stand the Jamaat resistance. Both Jamaat members and police personnel were injured in the clash. Surprisingly, the media hype on this occasion crossed all limits. BBC has reported it and the local media published exaggerated versions of the incident and treated it in a manner that may suggest that such incidents of clashes between the police and political activists are rare in Bangladesh. Moreover, they did not highlight the oppression on Jamaat. The dominant media does not seem to consider few pertinent questions, such as: What would the Awami League do if their democratic, political demonstrations were intercepted again and again, and if their party members were tortured and beaten up on the street? How would Awami League activists react if their pre-announced demonstration were stopped by the police?
We should be fair to Jamaat people and should respect their rights to do politics in a democratic manner. Oppression on Jamaat has crossed all limits, and it is time for all of us to raise our voices against political repression in Bangladesh. Awami League seems to have been using the slogan of secularism to practice fascism in Bangladesh, and this is how its leaders are making fool of the secular West. For their own interests and for the interest of Bangladesh, the Western governments and political forces should know the real facts in Bangladesh. Prejudice against Islamic forces and giving accolades to the Awami regime for its repression on Islamic forces are not good for anyone.