Monday, May 13, 2013

Bangladesh now: A proto-fascist kleptocracy

My thanks to Max Horn for submitting the following thought provoking article.

'Having been in Bangladesh - a country much in the news these days for all the wrong reasons - for two years with an NGO recently provided me with a first-hand experience ; of precisely what it feels like to live in a place where the bully is the government itself.  In fact, it's a country which has been transformed by the ruling clique into a 'photo-fascist kleptocracy'.  That is as close tot he reality as one can get.

'By brazenly utilizing the law enforcement apparatus and arming its party cadres - and giving all of them the freedom to shoot to kill into assemblies of political adversaries - the ruling clique has in deliberate steps succeeded in spreading sheer fear among the people of the country.  And killing its unarmed people is evidently easy; witness the shootings into a rally on May 5 when at the very least a few hundred people were shot to death by the police.

'Of course they also have other ways of making dissenters think before talking - hundreds have been made to disappear; often dead bodies are found floating in the rivers and canals all across the country.  Not surprisingly so far, in spite of repeated demands, none of those who have disappeared has been traced by the police (more on the shenanigans of law enforcers and the media in subsequent articles).

'Certainly, none of these facets is unique to Bangladesh; they have all been the characteristics of every nation that has been ruled by tyrranical - and often corrupt - forces.  And while talking of corruption one has to note that members of the ruling clique and its hangers on have been looting the nation blind; a fact that is well-known to the so-called development partners (ie donor agencies and countries) with the World Bank only recently cancelling a loan to build a bridge - what would have been the largest infrastructure in Bangladesh - because of corruption in the proposed project.

'The most unfortunate factor for the people of that country is that not only is that nation deprived of democracy, the freedoms enjoyed by the citizens of any democratic country and respect for the lives of its people but the rulers are also bringing unabashed shame to the country internationally.  Which in future may impede its development.

'Additionally, the rampant sleaze bolstered by cronyism has brought the major foreign exchange earning industry to the brink of collapse, especially since the administration and the industry owners were phlegmatic in heeding the warnings about recurring disasters in the clothing factories.  Consequently, the present government presided - without an iota of regret - over the worst catastrophe in the history of textile industry resulting in the deaths of well over seven hundred workers - and counting.

'Apparently the only solutions the administration has to settle any issue - political, intellectual, law and order - is to arrest, torture, incarcerate, kill or make people disappear without trace as has already been done a number of times over the past few years.  Regarding the latest onslaught on a demonstration (on May 5-6) this is in part what hte country's most trusted human rights organization (Odhikar) had to say:

' "On May 6, 2013, at around 2.30 am, over 10 thousand members of police - along with the armed cadres of the ruling party attacked thousands of leaders and activists of Hefazate Islam Bangladesh, a non-political religious group - in the capital.  The demonstrators gathered - after their 'Dhaka blockade' program with the permission of the government for a public meeting.

' "The law enforcement agencies began by removing journalists from the area and shutting down the power supply.  During this time, they opened fire with live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and threw tear gas shells and sound grenades indiscriminately at the unarmed leaders and activists of Hefazate Islam, many of the m were sleeping after the day-long program.

' "The government removed media people from the area and attacked the unarmed people in complete darkness.  It was obvious that they wanted to hide the brutality of the operation and numbers of dead and injured.  It has been reported that hundreds of people were killed as a result of this attack.  Hefazate Islam claimed that more than 2000 people were killed and thousands were injured.  Odhikar is trying to ascertain the actual number of deaths, but it is very difficult at this stage with substantial evidence.  (Because of) the nature of the operation and information received so far from the survivors, the number could be very large."

'The ruling clique has taken the old saying - 'give the dog a bad name and hang it' - to an unprecedented level.  Call anyone an Islamic fundamentalist/hardliner and you can do anything inhuman to her/him (the reasoning being, since once you give those persons that classification they do not have any rights whatsoever).  [Personal Disclaimer:  the writer does not subscribe to any view or opinion of any religious group in Bangladesh nor does he know anyone in any such outfits.]

'One of the saddest aspects of the extant situation in that country is the role of the media.  Most of the news outlets and TV stations are owned by beneficiaries of the present government, and, hence, follow the administration's wishes while a few others are blatantly engaged in obvious biased reporting for their own reasons, and some are way too scared and desist from reporting the facts.  The result is that disinformation and misinformation are disseminated by the ruling clique freely.

'Given these circumstances, in Bangladesh and elsewhere, one thing that demands serious considerations is that international human rights organisations need to ponder more effective ways of stopping rogue governments from trampling at will the very basic rights of citizens.  Merely appealing to them and encouraging others to send missives to the leaders of these countries is too weak a response and time-consuming as well.  In the process precious lives are lost with the protests barely registering with the errant administrators.'


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