I was speaking with a close friend of mine who is based in the US but is involved in Bangladeshi politics. We casually discussed among other things the current street protests taking place in Shahbag, Bangladesh where there have been over a hundred thousand protestors taking to the streets and calling for the death of leaders of the Jama’at Islami in Bangladesh who were politically active in 1971 during the formation of Bangladesh by separating from Pakistan. The old leadership of the Jama’ath is being held on trumped up charges of rape and murder during this period. The current socialist government of Bangladesh (socially socialist I’d say, I doubt that Bangladesh’s
badly managed economy can be explained by sound economic jargon) led by Sheikh Hasina , daughter of Mujibur Rahman the main figurehead of the 1971 movement is hell bent on taking revenge on the Jamaa’th for what I think was their lack of support to her father’s movement in ’71, a bit like George Bush wanted to settle his father’s scores with Saddam Hussein – though there are political underpinnings to all this.
Mahin Khan speaks here of the Bangladesh war crimes tribunal and the many structural discrepancies oozing from it, not to mention the pure hate filled pettiness. The tribunal has attracted widespread condemnation from world leaders and human rights institutions, from Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Turkish President Abdullah Gul to the British opposition leader Ed Miliband, all three of whom are amongst the many prominent world leaders who have called for a fair trial of the Jamaat leaders or condemning the large scale oppression of the Bangladesh Jamaat.
The media has given a lot of time and spotlight for the protests in Bangladesh, speaking of and amplifying their chants, though what is little understood by the international viewership is that more than hundred thousand protestors hardly are a credible representation in a country that has a population of more than a hundred and fifty million. The media is colluding with the Bangladeshi state to misrepresent much of what is actually taking place and to insulate the government and all its misdeeds.
As Mahin Khan says “Meanwhile, the media has continued its role in largely colluding with the state to minimise awareness and critique. State media, including privately run news channels and newspapers, most of which are subservient or fearful of the ruling regime, have maintained a telling silence over the ICT chair’s statement preventing the meeting of defence lawyers with their respective clients. The media critical of the tribunal or the regime have faced severe intimidation, not dissimilar to that experienced by defence witnesses. Mir Quasem Ali, owner of Diganta Media, an organisation critical of the Awami League-led government and the ICT in particular, has been arrested and locked away. This is not the only instance either; in 2010 the editor of newspaper, Amar Desh, Mahmudur Rahman, was arrested and tortured in custody while his publication was shut down for publishing articles accusing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s son of corruption. Although Mahmudur Rahman was later released and Amar Desh resumed, the intimidation of Diganta Media, and the continued harassment of journalists across the country reflect that the regime has not changed tack.”
In typical south Asia fashion, what is happening is a form of state sponsored mischief, where protesters are allowed to cause havoc and breach every possible tenet of law and order with the connivance of the Police and other security personnel. Though it has to be said that the current protestors in Shabagh claim to be non-political, but that they have the fullest support of Hasina’s government is enough to contaminate them beyond redemption. What is happening now is structurally akin to Sri Lanka in 1983 when Tamil shops were burned by hooligans and the Army and Police turned a blind eye, except that the current protestors in Bangladesh are an extremely sophisticated lot who are using the media well to their advantage, albeit soaked in unethical practices.
This blogpost was triggered by a shameless way in which misinformation regarding a tweet of mine was spread. A tweet I posted was changed and retweeted manually by one such cyber protestor.
Here is what I said –
With all these ‘revolutions’ taking place, that the protests in #Bangladesh are led by well meaning youth is such a travesty of goodwill.
— Raashid Riza (@aufidius) February 10, 2013
This is what was retweeted by Virtual Bangladesh –
— Virtual Bangladesh (@BangladeshiAmi) February 10, 2013
Virtual Bangladesh claim that ‘Virtual Bangladesh is an award winning site about the beautiful nation of Bangladesh.’, wonderful. I have screen shots of these tweets, so if Virtual Bangladesh has the conscience to delete the tweets, I will be delighted to post the screen shots here. Such is the level of misinformation currently taking place in Bangladesh, and from what I can gather this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Image from here.