By Shafquat Rabbee:
Bangladesh Awami League is the de-facto choice of Bangladesh’s liberal political class. This write up will seriously question how this party is currently manifesting clear attributes of intolerance, and often fascism. Despite its ever-growing authoritarian tendencies, how the party still maintains the loyal support of educated liberals, should be a topic for an academic undertaking.
To explore whether the Awami League is demonstrating fascist tendencies, one has to read the following excerpt from Wikipedia defining the term “fascism”:
“….Fascists sought to unify their nation through a totalitarian state that promoted the mass mobilization of the national community and were characterized by having a vanguard party that initiated a revolutionary political movement ……. fascist movements shared certain common features, including the veneration of the state, a devotion to a strong leader, and an emphasis on ultra-nationalism …. Fascism views political violence, war, and imperialism as a means to achieve national rejuvenation….
Fascist ideology consistently invokes the primacy of the state. Leaders such as Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany embodied the state and claimed indisputable power….”
Please check the appropriate references provided in the Wikipedia page on fascism for further theoretical queries and for ascertaining the validity of the above characterization. Now, as per the above characterization of “Fascism”, please see below some of the recent activities of the Awami League to formulate your opinion as to whether this is a fascist party:
– “Fascists sought to unify their nation through a …. vanguard party that initiated a revolutionary political movement…” – Awami League is spending enormous energy to achieve this via its relentless reference to its leadership role in the 1971 Liberation war of Bangladesh.
According to the above definition, fascists share the following common features:
a. The veneration of the state: The Awami League Party and its supporters often show jingoism and superficial affection to a mythological state that they refer to as “Bangla”, which some critics struggle to confine within the current geographical region of Bangladesh. The Awami League supporters, and their latest ultra-purist clan known as “Shahabagis”, have a tendency to defy global opinions even on matters related to human rights or civil liberty buoyed by their superficial confidence on the mythological state of “Bangla”.
b. A devotion to a strong leader: Awamis and Shahbagis have Godlike reverence to their political leader Late Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who is often referred as the “Father of the Nation” and “Friend of the Nation” or Bongobondhu– both at the same time.
Today’s Awamis and Shahbagis end all of their political utterings with the slogan “Joy Bangla” [victory for Bangla] and “Joy Bongobondhu” [victory for Bongobondhu].
The Awamis and Shahbagis are seen using these two chants like religious pronouncements in almost all of their political events, including ceremonial burials of party activists, formal and informal political communications, social media writings, political gatherings, and even during political fightings while they attack their opponents! The uttering of “Joy Bongobondhu” was heard on December 29, 2013, while the Awami-Shahabagis attacked Bangladesh’s supreme court building and inhumanly beat Supreme Court lawyers, many of whom were unarmed females.
The zeal and political importance of these two sentences are so intense that party adherents start quarrels if one of the two sentences is missing in anyone’s speech. For example, only a few days ago, one of the most prominent leaders of the Shahabagis found faults with even the grandson of the Bongobondhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for failing to type both “Joy Bangla” and “Joy Bongobondhu” in his Facebook status (the grandson only wrote Joy Bangla!).
c. An emphasis on ultra-nationalism: Awamis and Shahabagis use ultra-Bengali Nationalism as their main political philosophy. Although historically Bengalis have always had a hybrid cultural heritage, borrowing deeply from Arabs, Persians, Portuguese, Spanish, British, Turks or Moguls, Indian-Aryans, Pakistanis etc, the so-called Bengalism propagated by today’s Awami-Shahabagis align itself more with present day Indian heritage, than any of the other cultural lineages of Bangladeshis.
The Awami-Shahbagis go as far as to posit their ultra-Bengali nationalism as a counterpart of Islam- the religion. This particular overreach of a Bengali linguistic-ethnographic heritage against Islam. Awami-Shahbagi Bengali ultra-nationalism often believes in their ability to even overtake religious identity using an ever-changing Bengali cultural identity.
– “Fascism views political violence, war, and imperialism as a means to achieve national rejuvenation”: This characteristic of Fascism is exemplified in Awami-Shahabagis’ call for another “Mukti Juddho” or “Liberation War” every other week. The Awami-Shahabagi leadership regularly calls for violence against their major political rivals, the latest of this was seen on December 29, 2013, when the following happened:
– Awami-Shahabagi activists attacked Bangladesh Supreme Court premise. This is the first such instance in Bangladesh’s 42 years of history, where party activists of any political party went inside the Supreme Court premise and beat up Supreme Court Lawyers (see video).
– Awami-Shahabagi activists attacked Bangladesh Press Club. This is perhaps the second instance in Bangladesh’s 42 years of history, where political party activists attacked the Press Club. Both the attacks were carried out by Awami League activists, once during the early 70’s and the second time on December 29, 2013. The attackers were carrying Bangladeshi flag, and wearing bandanna made out of the Bangladeshi flags (see video).
– Awami-Shahbagi activists attacked female Lawyers, who were completely unarmed. The Awami-Shahbagi activists used Bangladesh’s national Flag stands as weapons for beating the female lawyers, and the attackers were wearing the national flag in their head (an overt example of Ultra-nationalism). See pictures below.
– Awami-Shahbagi activists attacked Dhaka University professors, a very rare occurrence even in Bangladesh’s turbulent political standards.
The Awami-Shahbagis earlier in the year of 2013 took possession of Shahbag Square of Dhaka (hence the name Shahabagi), and demanded death sentences of key accused of the 1971 War Crimes. All major independent observers like the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists etc have termed the War Crimes Tribunal flawed and lacking international standards. The US Senate passed a resolution number 318 where the tribunal was termed as lacking international standards. Yet, the Awami-Shahabagis continued for months their so called “Second Muktijuddho” or “Second Liberation War”, where they were demanding “specific verdicts” instead of “proper trial”, as a lynch mob. The trial remained popular across the board in Bangladeshi society, although a vast majority, according to scientific opinion polls, remained skeptical about the fairness of the trial proceedings. The Awami-Shahabagis, disregarded all calls for fairness in the trial proceedings, and found it to be their ultra-nationalistic duty to defy all credible international calls for remedial actions regarding the trial proceedings. Such misguided ultra-nationalism now has squandered Bangladesh’s only chance to render proper justice to the victims of 1971 atrocities.
Awami-Shahabagis call for violence can be further exhibited in the below incidences:
– Awami League activists for the first time in the history of Bangladesh conducted processions with sticks against Supreme Court Judges back in the early 2000’s
– Awami League activists for the first time in the history of Bangladesh asked its party men to show up in the streets of Dhaka with oar and sticks to beat up their opposition, which ultimately resulted in the first nationally televised live killing of a opposition party men (see video)
– The fact that Awami-Shahbagis can beat up old folks due to political disagreement, is perhaps worse than even fascism (see pic)
– Awami League activists for the first and only time in Bangladesh’s history attacked and beaten up Bangladesh Army personnel (see pics), clearly showing the ultra-nationalistic invincibility felt by the Awami-Shahbagi activists
Despite all the historical evidences above, and being a textbook case of fascism, Awami-Shahbagis are still the favorites of Dhaka’s liberal elites! The world needs to study this phenomenon closely.