August 28, 2007

Curfew ends in Bangladesh but not the discontent

At lasts the curfew which was imposed last Wednesday following the massive unrest started by student protests has been lifted. Now the talk of the town is a report published in several newspapers in Bangladesh declaring the unrest as a co-ordinated attempt to unseat the current Government. What is notable is that the reports quoted unnamed *intelligence* sources and allegations without any references or evidence.

For an example, the articles published in the Daily Amader Shomoy and the Daili Amar Desh were true copies. These reports claim that the arrested teacher Dr. Anwar Hussain sent DU students to the University Gym ground to create trouble in a planned manner. On 22 August, when government ordered to vacate DU halls, Dr. Anwar Hussain used mega phones to urge the students to stay in the halls. The report went on with massive conspiracy theory maligning many politicians, businessmen of the country and also a Indian Embassy official. Some newspapers reported spending of Taka 1.5 crore to generate street agitations. Mash has details on Dr. Anwar Hossain's arrest.

The Government also claimed that they have saved the nation from another civil war.

Mash in E-Bangladesh slammed the US high commissioner in Bangladesh for his remarks supporting the Caretaker Governments actions:
“Our assessment from what we have heard is that it was initially spontaneous and then it was not. It became much more than the incident. It soon became something much bigger, something much sinister. A lot of money and coordination came into the equation.”
Mash remarks:
If indeed the High Commissioner has not gone off the reservation and was representing the position of the British government, it is incumbent on the United Kingdom to back up Mr. Choudhury’s claim with some evidence. Otherwise the British government is simply spinning conspiracy theories into a cauldron that is already spilling over with rumor and innuendo.
The British High Commission was quick to act in issuing a press statement confirming UK did not seek to offer its own assessment of the nature of recent unrest in Bangladesh.

However there are other interpretations of the events that took place last week. Discontent had been rising in recent months among the low income groups, especially over the increasing cost of living. Abeer Mustafa writes in the progressive Bangladesh: must have taken a good deal of pent-up anger for people to raise their fists in front of black-clad policemen and armored vans, especially at a time when the state has suspended the fundamental right to protest. Not only did these students riot in different parts of Bangladesh, they came to be supported by locals, hawkers, rice-sellers, small businessmen, bostibashi—basically, the under-classes. Teachers got involved as well. The flames spread to at least a dozen cities, and threatened more.

The authorities may treat this as a pre-planned event. But the reality is much simpler.....

What brought people together is also simpler. It was not an ‘evil force’ guiding their behaviour, unless the word ‘evil’ means people’s desire to be able to afford food, not to be evicted on whim and without warning, not to be arrested without showing reason and treated guilty unless proven innocent, not to be labeled readily as corrupt plotters or scheming hoarders or blackmailing bankers or thugs in the guise of students.

What was driving this is clear. Rebels are usually straightforward about what they want, because a rebellion is a way to publicise demands. What got the rebellion to expand was really a longing for democracy.
Democracy is no where in site now and the discontent is growing.


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