Is this a party of Liberals?


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.

FemaleShahabaginiswith Stick

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)

oldman beating2 oldman beating

– 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

army beatingarmy kick 2

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.

মার্চ এগেইনস্ট হিপোক্রেসি


by শাফকাত রাব্বী অনীকঃ

৭০ বছরের একজন মহিলা, যার হাঁটুতে একাধিক অপারেশন, তিনি কেন রাস্তায় নেমে মিছিল করেন না তা নিয়ে টিক্কা-টিপ্পনী কেটেছেন একদল মানুষ। ঠিক সেই মহিলাই যে মুহূর্তে বললেন আমি মিছিলে যাবো, সাথে সাথে তার বাসাতে মোতায়েন হলো ৩ প্লাটুন পুলিশ, বিজিবি, আর ৩ ট্রাক বালু। যিনি হাঁটেনই খুঁড়িয়ে খুঁড়িয়ে, সেই তাকে বহন করতে যেন আসতে না পারে কোন গাড়ি তা নিয়ে সে কি প্রাণান্ত চেষ্ঠা- যেখানে লাজ-লজ্জার কোন লেশমাত্র নেই। বাই চান্স ভদ্রমহিলা যদি পায়ে হেটে বেড় হতে চান, তাহলে যেন তাকে শাড়ি পরা অবস্থায় ৩ ট্রাক বালু ডিঙ্গাতে হয় সেই ব্যবস্থা করে নিজেদের চেতনার রকেট সায়েন্টিস্ট ভাবছেন নির্বোধের দল। খিস্তি খেউরে অভ্যস্থ নিম্ন রুচির সমর্থকদের খুশি করতে এধরণের চটকদারি আইডিয়াই যে একটি দলের একমাত্র ভরসা, তা তো বলাই বাহুল্য।

মাত্র ক’দিন আগেই পতাকা মাথায় তুলে দাড়িয়ে থাকলো ২৭ হাজার মানুষ। পাকিস্তানীদের হাতে থাকা পতাকার রেকর্ড ভাঙ্গা হলো চেতনার জোসে। আর এই মহান রেকর্ড ভাঙ্গার রেশ কাটতে না কাটতেই, গতকাল থেকে পতাকা বানানোর নিষেধাজ্ঞা জারি হয়ে গেল বিভিন্ন স্থানে। গ্রেপ্তার করা হলো দর্জিকে, পতাকা বানানোর অপরাধে। স্বাধীন দেশে এখন নাকি পতাকা বানাতে পুলিশের পারমিশনও লাগে! এসব দেখে পতাকার রেকর্ড ভাঙ্গা চেতিয়ালের দল শুধুই মুচকি হাসে। এইতো তাদের পতাকা প্রেম!

১৬ই ডিসেম্বরে খবর বেড় হয়েছিলো কোথায় কোন পতাকা বিক্রেতাকে নাকি পতাকা বিক্রিতে বাধা দিয়েছিল কে-বা-কাহারা। তাই নিয়ে উত্থিত চেতনায় সেকি জ্বালাতন। অথচ গতকাল দোকানে দোকানে গিয়ে সরকারী পুলিশ বলে দিল কেউ যেন পতাকা বিক্রি না করে। পুলিশের মুরুব্বীদের শঙ্কা নাকি ছিল একটাই। চেতনার পতাকা যেন চেতনাহীন বিরোধী দলের হাতে না যায়! অর্থাৎ চেতনার ব্যাবসা যার, পতাকা যে শুধুই তার!

৫ লাখ লোক চৌরাস্তার মোড় দখলে নিয়ে, ২৪ ঘন্টা টিভি কাভারেজ দিয়ে, মিলনমেলা বসানো হয়েছিল প্রজন্মের সহবাস লাইভ টেলিকাস্টিং করতে। সে কি বাহবা, মারহাবা, মারহাবা, যেন পুরো দেশ, সংস্কৃতি, ইতিহাস, মুক্তিযুদ্ধ সব এক কাতারে উদ্ধার হচ্ছে। সাথে সাথে চলেছে বিরোধিদের দিকে টিটকারি। কোথায়? তোমাদের কোন জমায়েতে এতো লোক কি হয় কখনও?

হ্যাঁ, লোক হয়েছিল, একবার না দুই বার। তাও আবার ৫ লাখ না। কেউ বলে ৫০।

কিন্তু ওগুলোতেও হিপোক্রিটদের মন ভোলে না। ওসব পঞ্চাশ-ফঞ্চাশ ডাজ নট কাউন্ট। কেননা যারা এসেছিল ওরাতো ছিল হুজুর। যারা চেক্টিভিস্টদের চোখে ছিল প্রান্তিক, চেতনা বিবর্জিত লুজার। সুতরাং ওদের কেন গণনায় ধরবে হিপোক্রিটের দল?

তো আজ যখন বিএনপির ডাকে আসতে চাইলো নন-হুজুরদের দল, সাথে সাথে করা হলো সারা দেশ অচল। হুজুরদেরতো তাও মিটিং এর পারমিশন দেয়া হয়েছিল। নন-হুজুরদের তাও দেয়া হলো না। চেতনার ফেরিওয়ালার আবার সেই মুচকী হাসি। পারলে পায়ে হেঁটে আয়না, দেখি তোরা কতগুলো নন-হুজুর।

যখন পায়ে হেঁটেও আসবে বলছে মানুষ, ঠিক তখন চেতনার পাইকারের শেষ সম্বল হয়ে দাড়ালো হুঙ্কার, লাঠি, বন্দুক, গুলি আর চেতনার সমন্বিত শিৎকার।

আর এই উন্মত্ততার মাঝেই ৫০ বছরের বেশিকাল ধরে টিকে থাকা আওয়ামী লীগ আজ নিঃশেষ হয়ে যাচ্ছে শুধু তার নেতৃত্ব ও সমর্থকদের হিপোক্রেসির বন্যায়। যদিও জাতীয় জীবনে কমবেশি হিপোক্রেসি হয়েছে আগেও । কিন্তু ক’সপ্তাহের ব্যাবধানে একের পর এক নির্লজ্জ হিপোক্রেসির এমন কন্টিনিউয়াস খেলা এর কেউ আগে দেখেছে বলে জানা নেই।

Bangladesh’s Pro-Government Supporters : Are they Intellectually defendable?


By Shafquat Rabbee:

Although decreasing in number, openly enthusiastic defenders of the current Bangladesh government should find their defense of the government intellectually un-defendable. The ruling Awami League, which traditionally have been a center-left political party, with a massive organization from the cities to the rural towns, is behaving more like a cult of delusional suicide-teens, following an increasingly demented leader.

Gone are the concerns for ever having to contest in a democratic election or care for human rights and dignity. Even self-interest driven concern for preservation of wealth accumulated during the last 5 years seems to be missing among the ruling class. With ever increasing political brinkmanship, which defies popular and global will (excluding that of India’s), the Awami League supporters are now running the risk of losing both their “tangibles” and “intangibles”, if/when Sheikh Hasina, leaves the scene — willingly or unwillingly.

In this write-up, a few key examples of intellectual bankruptcy of the Awami League supporters will be highlighted. It is to be noted that, by Awami League supporters, one has to take into consideration its coalition partners, most of who are from a number of communist parties. Besides the communists, there are the new kids-in-town: the Shahabag movement youth– popularly known as the Shahbagis. All of these elements of the Bangladeshi political spectrum are now can safely be deemed as “pro-government”.

Tricky waters of Caretaker:

Pakistan, the country from which Bangladesh earned its independence only 42 years ago, has just held its general election using a Caretaker government in 2013. It is to be noted, Bangladesh’s political disharmony is almost as chaotic as that of Pakistan; absent just the car-bombs and the Talebans. Another South-Asian country Nepal, which is almost equal in land size as Bangladesh, is using a Caretaker administration to fix its constitution. And of course, Bangladesh, one of the laboratories of the Caretaker system for poll time administration, had held 4 of its last 23 years’ general elections using caretaker administrations. Yet, fully knowing the South Asian and Bangladeshi realities, the government supporters and intellectuals, are now supporting complete abolition of the caretaker system based on a court verdict.

One has to remember that only 7 years ago, the Awami League did not accept a university professor and another retired Chief Justice, both with solid professional track records, as the head of caretaker/poll time administration, accusing them of being partisan. Yet, the same Awami League now has no qualms forcing its own leader, Sheikh Hasina, as the head of the poll time administration, as both a player and a referee in the upcoming national election!

“Fetish” over the constitution:

Several scientific polls conducted by globally respected polling firms have shown solid 80% support for the caretaker government system in Bangladesh. Even Awami League’s own poll, conducted by party sympathizer Aly Zaker / Iresh Zaker’s polling firm MRC Mode showed more than 70% support for the caretaker government. Yet, the Awami League and its supporters defend the abolition of the caretaker system, taking their fetish-like adherence to the constitution.

It has become a habit of the government supporters to state that the election will be held “as per the constitution”. However, no one ever states the fact that the very constitution in question was changed only a year ago. And comically, the same people who changed the constitution are now defending tooth-n-nail the amended constitution, clearly defying more than 70% of the popular will!

The government’s handling of the constitution have become so farcical, that Sheikh Hasina, herself has now become the constitution! Often time several key senior leaders and eminent pro-government scholars have been noticed saying sentences as follows: “Things will happen as per the constitution, but if Sheikh Hasina wants, she can decide to entertain opposition demands … …!!” Translation: Sheikh Hasina can always find her preferred way, as long as the constitution is concerned.

Hindu minority oppression by the government goons:

The Awami League, as a party is known to be popular among the Hindu population of the country. Yet, they pro-government supporters go silent when there were glaring evidences suggesting that the Hindu minority population of the country were victims of heinous crimes committed by the local leaders of the Awami League. Case in point, there were clear evidence of involvement of a Minister’s supporters in burning of several Hindu houses in Pabna. Several venerable dailies, including the Daily Star, published photos of goons responsible for the Hindu house burning incidence, standing right behind a Minister in a political procession. Yet, the pro-government supporters remained quiet in general.

There are several other instances of Hindu minority oppressions in the hands of the government party operatives. For example, an eminent TV journalist Anjan Roy’s ancestral land was illegally taken away by pro-government goons. Anjan Roy, himself being deemed as a pro-government intellectual, eventually took up his pen to write Op-editorials detailing his sad situation. Such land related issues between Hindu minority and the pro-government goons are widespread across Bangladesh at the moment. Yet, very few pro-government supporters have been seen voicing the issue, despite the fact that the Awami League often claims itself to be the protector of the Hindu minority,

Super-partial defense of human rights:

It started with the arrest of four bloggers who were victims of the government’s uncivilized detentions according to international standards, after they published religiously offensive rants. The pro-government supporters voiced strong oppositions and protested those arrests citing those very standards. However, these same supporters then became ecstatic when another writer cum Editor of a national daily, Mahmudur Rahman, was not only illegally detained, but also remanded and tortured by the government forces, violating all internationally accepted standards.

Then came the night of 5th May, where the government supporters logically and validly criticized some of the violence orchestrated by the Hefajot activists. However, these same individuals became ecstatic when the government very clearly violated international norms of crowd control and used excessive force on that fatal night of May 5th, for which the death toll is still a matter of serious contention.

Defying all international norms and protests, these same government supporters were happy when the government arrested Bangladesh’s leading Human Rights activist Adilur Rahman for merely carrying out and providing an estimate of the death toll on the night of May 5th.

Currently the government supporters are validly and reasonably concerned about the bus-arsons and countrywide violence during the days of anti-government protests. However, these same folks are not questioning the excessive use of force, i.e., rubber bullets, metal bullets, which are being randomly shot by the police all across the country to disperse even the most regular of street protests. Point to note, direct firing of bullets was never a common occurrence in Bangladesh before the current government. In fact, there was even a myth among the political activists in Bangladesh that “a minister’s signature is necessary before police can open fire”. No such myth exists no more!

Making matters even more horrific, plain clothed gun-men (as seen in the picture above), are shooting unarmed protesters from point-blank distance. Many of the guns are allegedly from the legitimate government forces, but their bearers are often not known,. Government party leaders have been seen wearing government forces uniforms, according to eye witnesses. Yet, no government supporting intellectual questions such wanton violation of police norms and human rights!

Disregard for almost every international institution:

The situation has become so reckless and unprofessional, that the government supporters and party operatives ridicule and question the credibility of almost every international organization; let that be Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, The Economist, The Guardian, The New York Times, The House of Lords or The European Parliament. Almost any observer that voices any concern about issues that the pro-government folks care, gets the accusation that it was bought by money! There are no qualms about professional dignity or concerns.

The latest episode of such delusion was visible when The New York Times published a very direct editorial criticizing the Bangladesh government for its blatant abuse of human rights. The pro-government folks immediately accused The New York Times for being bought with money!

In this delusional state of affairs, the pro-government supporters appear almost like a group of paranoid schizophrenics, who believe that a global web of conspiracy is buying-off everything to destroy what the Awami League finds near and dear!

Emotional and intellectual bankruptcy of the pro-government supporters, intellectuals, and media personnel have created a situation where the most legitimate of grievances of the opposition camp is being suppressed in the crudest of manners. Such humiliating disregard for human rights and dignity can only result in radicalization and irreparable division among the population, where the moderate and the centrists will take the side line, and only the extremists will collide.

We are sitting on a ticking time bomb, and all relevant parties should be strongly warned.