Bangladesh 2023: Year of freedom or tightening of fascist noose


Mahmudur Rahman

The year 2022 ended in Bangladesh with an encouraging sign of people’s participation in the on-going anti-fascist movement. Enthusiastic common people in large numbers joined the street demonstration in the capital in the form of a huge, peaceful procession called by BNP-led opposition political parties on 30 December. The sloganeering mass forcefully demanded resignation of the incumbent regime and to hold a free, fair and inclusive election under a neutral, caretaker government. It took more than three years for the shell-shocked people of Bangladesh to recover from the trauma of 2018 midnight election farce and subsequent crackdown of the fascist apparatus to gather courage to register meaningful protest against the most vicious ruler the country has ever seen. The 2021 US limited sanction against a selected few violent perpetrators of human rights abuse gave the rather late message that the world has not completely forgotten the misery of 170 million people living in a 21st century Orwellian state and that particular action definitely helped to give hope to the oppressed.

During the last fourteen years of draconian governance, Sheikh Hasina has dragged Bangladesh to Myanmar-like situation. In the case of Myanmar, China is calling the shots, with a tacit approval from India. The fanatic Hindu government in New Delhi is satisfied with the military regime in the neighboring Myanmar so long they do not give shelter to the north-eastern rebels fighting against the central government forces in the turbulent seven sisters. Ideologically Modi government also supports the ethnic cleansing of minority Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. After all, the present rulers in New Delhi are also in the process of marginalizing the minority Muslims in India. Although Aung San Suu Kyi has strong Indian connection, but Indian establishment decided to keep silent on the issue of her persecution by the junta in exchange of peace within the Indian federation. In addition to the common Islamophobia, India has considerable economic interest in Myanmar also.

Part of a quid pro quo, Beijing accepts Indian political hegemony in Bangladesh in exchange of unrestricted market access and fulfillment of other economic interests. Although China is aware that Sheikh Hasina is not free to take independent decision on sensitive projects like Teesta Barrage that may annoy New Delhi, the communist leadership has apparently taken the strategic policy to keep India happy in regards to Bangladesh in order to achieve the greater geopolitical objective to prevent the US from interfering in the eastern theatre of South Asia. Among the four countries in the region, India has been directly controlling the foreign policy of Bhutan since 1948. The tiny Himalayan Kingdom is not even allowed to establish formal diplomatic relation with any of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. India and China are engaged in fierce competition to establish hegemonic control over land-locked Nepal, the other Himalayan state. India has succeeded to establish hegemonic control over Bangladesh by keeping a stooge in the power since 2009. Fourth country, Myanmar, although technically not a South Asian state (It is an ASEAN member-state), but next-door neighbor, is controlled by China. During the period of British Empire, Tibet, Sikkim, Bhutan and Nepal were used as the buffer states by the colonial administration to counter the advance of China from across the Himalayan belt. Myanmar was also a colony of the British Empire. During the last seventy years of the post-colonial era, the table has gradually turned. In the 21st century, China and India have come to a tacit understanding to jointly block the entry of the western powers in the region.
The then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited India in 2005 to give the clear message in the region that India figures high on the strategic radar of the Bush Administration. New Delhi was given a carte blanche in the affairs of South Asia by Bush and subsequent Obama and Trump Administration. Bangladesh became the most tragic victim of the US policy. The country lost its sovereignty and the people, their freedom. The strongest democracy and the largest democracy together not only imposed a demonic ruler in Dhaka, but also allowed her to dismantle democracy, brick by brick. Fourteen years later, China has replaced the US as the second most influential country after India to support the fascist Sheikh Hasina regime. After signaling a policy change in December 2021, Washington has given a respite to Sheikh Hasina by not announcing any additional sanction against her death-squad in 2022. The US policymakers may still hope that they can lure away Sheikh Hasina from the influence of China. European Union and UK are continuing their business as usual policy with occasional expression of mild displeasure at abysmal human rights and democratic situation in Bangladesh.

The present tenure of the current regime will end in December this year. Sheikh Hasina has already started necessary mechanism to arrange another round of farcical election. It is no surprise that Beijing doesn’t care about democracy anywhere in the world. Myanmar is an example of the geopolitical strategy of China. New Delhi will actively work with Hasina to devise the plan to deprive the people of Bangladesh from the right to democratically elect their leader. Washington and its allies will probably wait to see the outcome of the next fraudulent election. Under the circumstances, a peoples’ revolution is the only option to free Bangladesh from the tyranny of Sheikh Hasina and reclaim sovereignty of the nation. No fascist in history has given up power without resorting to violence. BNP-led opposition parties have shown extreme patience in the face of state terror and severe persecution. The spontaneous protest of the common people has started gaining momentum. We hope, a peaceful revolution supported by the democratic world would eventually be able to defeat the sole lady fascist ruler of the 21st century. There will be a catastrophic consequence for Bangladesh and the region if Sheikh Hasina is able to continue her rule by oppressing the popular movement.

Editor, Amar Desh