Bangladesh in grip of crisis:

Oppose all foreign interference in Bangladesh!

Elections to the Bangladesh parliament were held on January 5, 2014 in the backdrop of a severe political crisis in that country. The 28 party opposition coalition headed by the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) of Khaleda Zia boycotted the elections. As a result, the alliance of the ruling Awami League headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina swept the polls, with many of its candidates getting elected unopposed. Hardly 20% of the electorate is reported to have cast their votes.

These elections were preceded by a number of general strikes called by the opposition parties. Hundreds of people have been killed in clashes between the police and army on the one side and the opposition forces on the other. The announcement of the results of the elections have been followed by calls by the opposition for General Strike, on the one hand, and the arrest of principal leaders of the BNP on the other. The country is in chaos, with the army charged with maintaining "order".

The immediate reason for the boycott of the elections was the refusal of the government to concede the demand of the opposition to hand over power to an interim caretaker government to conduct the elections. The ruling party had used its parliamentary majority to amend the Constitution, which had earlier stated that an interim government must be put in place once elections were announced. The opposition parties refused to accept this amendment and demanded an interim government, which Sheikh Hasina refused. It may be recalled that the Awami League of Sheikh Hasina had itself earlier agitated for an interim government to conduct elections when it was in the opposition, following which the constitutional provision for the same had been introduced!

The Supreme Court of Bangladesh recently banned the Jamat Islami party, on the basis of its upholding of religious beliefs, even though this party has been a legal party for decades and has had elected members as ministers in an earlier coalition government led by the BNP. Earlier, the ruling Awami League instituted a War Crimes Tribunal in 2011 to try those accused of "war crimes" during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation struggle. This was a deliberate move to target the Jamaat e Islami, a party that had allegedly sided with the Pakistani Army in the 1971 war. In November 2013, one of the main leaders of this Party was hanged for war crimes, 42 years after the formation of Bangladesh. This triggered protests from the supporters of this Party. The main opposition Party, the BNP denounced the trials and the execution as targeting the opposition. It must be noted that the Jamaat e Islami is at this time an ally of the BNP. However, in the past, the Awami League and the Jamaat e Islami have collaborated in common struggles when both were in the opposition. Bangladesh society has been further polarised on the basis of those who support "secularism" versus those who support "Islamic fundamentalism". There has been an intensification of violence against the religious minority of Hindus. The Jamaat Islami has accused the Bangladesh government of organizing attacks on Hindus, while the ruling party has attacked the opposition forces for the same.

The workers and peasants of Bangladesh are severely exploited and oppressed. They have been waging many struggles for their rights. However, they are confronted with a government and a ruling class which is hell bent on attacking their rights and creating the most favourable conditions for the native and foreign capitalists to extract maximum profits. Bangladesh has been turned into an export hub for the multinationals in the garment industry. The terrible conditions of the workers were revealed in the fire that consumed the lives of several hundred workers of a garment export unit in the capital Dhaka in November 2012. The government of Bangladesh, instead of defending the rights of workers, even issued statements accusing the workers of resorting to "arson" and "sabotage". This was followed by the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in suburban Dhaka in April 2013, in which over a thousand textile workers were reportedly killed.

The crisis of Bangladesh is compounded by the open interference of foreign powers in that country's internal affairs. India has never made a secret of the fact that it wants the Awami League in power, as the best bet to advance its strategic interests in that country. Amongst other things, the Bangladesh government of Hasina has either turned over to the Indian intelligence agencies, or thrown out of that country, the leaders of various militant groups of the North Eastern states. The Indian state has termed the elections legitimate. At the same time, the Indian government is working behind the scenes to ensure that the crisis does not escalate, and is working for a deal with the BNP before fresh elections are organised.

The US has been openly interfering in Bangladesh as well. It has termed the elections as regretful, and expressed its support for the opposition BNP as well as the Jamaat e Islami. There is a clash between the strategic interests of India and the US over Bangladesh. The US would like to use the crisis in Bangladesh to weaken India on its eastern flank. It also wants to put pressure on India to line up behind its strategy of encircling China.

The working class of our country, and all those who want relations of peace and friendship between the peoples in South Asia, must oppose the interference of the Indian bourgeoisie and all foreign powers in the internal affairs of Bangladesh. 

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