The Path of Fascism
The Awami League government in Bangladesh presents the worst example of how democracy can be turned into fascism.
Continuing political violence in Bangladesh has disfigured the face of democracy.
Democracy in Bangladesh has a chequered history. The country’s founder and first president ( who later became prime minister), Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, betrayed a fascist streak and thus dealt a major blow to democracy. Like Adolf Hitler, he changed the name of Awami League (AL) to Bangladesh Krishak Shramik Awami League (BAKSAL) with himself at its head. Hitler, too, had changed the Weimar Republic to Third Reich and become its leader.
On 15 August 1975, a few hotheads from the army who could not suppress their resentment, mowed him down with his entire family - wife, three sons and a brother-in-law. The two daughters, Hasina and Raihana, survived because they were out of the country.
Less than three months later, Brig. Khaled Musharraf staged a coup, overthrowing President Khondokar Mushtaq Ahmad but was himself assassinated within a week. Gen. Ziaur Rahman who succeeded him was also murdered. After his death, Gen. Hussein Mohammad Ershad took over the presidency in 1981 and ultimately resigned under extreme political pressure.
The 1991 general elections therefore marked the launch of democracy in Bangladesh for the first time.
The virtual imprisonment of the leader of the 20-party alliance-cum-BNP chief, Khaleda Zia in her office by the Awami League (AL) government headed by her arch-rival, Sheikh Hasina, should cause no astonishment, because, Hasina has been dutifully following her father’s script.
As the elder of his two daughters, Hasina took up Bangabandhu’s mantle both as party chief and as a ruthless politician, with the same fascist leanings. Today, BCL, the students’ wing of the AL is therefore the prototype of the Nazi stormtroopers. They are encouraged by the party to assist the police in putting down the agitation led by the BNP and even to fight them.
Hasina filled the courts with loyal judges who dished out verdicts that would please her. The so-called International War Crimes Tribunals accordingly, sentenced senior leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami to death.
During 1992-96, the BNP government was led by Begum Khaleda Zia but the Awami League headed by Sheikh Hasina resorted to relentless hartals. The shutdowns intensified till they became week long and the government acceded to the AL demand for an election caretaker government and incorporated it in the constitution.
The AL introduced the culture of boycotting the parliament. Like the hartals, the boycott began with a few days’ absence which later extended to several months at a stretch, followed, ultimately by the en masse resignation of AL MPs. It was a severe blow to nascent democracy in Bangladesh insofar as the resignations left the ruling party without any parliamentary opposition and stymied the growth of the “check and balance” role of the parliament, which is the soul of democracy.
When the roles between Hasina and Khaleda reversed, post-1996, the