To any progressive, dispassionate observer of Bangladesh politics, one thing must seem very puzzling and intriguing. He would wonder, why Awami League, one of the two main political parties that has experience of governing this diverse country for many years, is still so intolerant, fundamentalist and exclusionary in its words and outlook? Why cannot Awami League accept that there are other political parties in the country that have values and programs that are respectable and legitimate by the criteria of any other democracies in the world? Why does Awami League think that it has a divine mandate to rule the Land of Bangalees and all other parties with stints in power are usurpers? Why does Awami League supporters still so underestimates the popular support base of their opponents in spite of suffering repeated humiliating defeats in fair elections accepted by everyone else? Why do Awami League intellectuals still think that they can pass off their highly parochial, ethnic and history based cultish ideology as progressive liberalism in this day and age?
The answers to these questions are surely complex and require analysis comprising hundreds of thousands of words but I think a deceptively simple answer underlies as a unifying strand among all the analyses. I think a simple answer is that Awami League didn’t have the benefit of a simple rite of passage that would hand deliver it to political maturity and normalcy. In the absence of that rite of passage, Awami League is still stuck in an emotional age of political juvenility.
Rites of passage are ceremonial occasions that celebrate a person’s passage from one significant stage of life to another. Everybody knows about popular rites of passage like the Jewish Bar Mitzvah or the Baby Shower of the first expectant mother. The political rite of passage that Awami League missed out is the normal Bangladeshi experience of a governing party to lose power in face of wide and violent popular unrest. Awami League has not yet lost power by yielding to a popular street movement and thus missed out its rite of passage.
[This was a Bangla post before, now it is translated for timely relevance]