Crackdown on student protesters threatens future stability of Bangladesh

A ruthless crackdown is underway in Bangladesh as the government attempts to stifle dissent among the young.

Two students were killed on 29th July after a speeding bus crashed into them leading to protests by thousands of young people who blocked roads in Dhaka, the Bangladesh capital.

Official figures show that more than 7,000 people died in accidents in Bangladesh in 2017 but the real number is believed to be between 15,000 – 20,000.

In recent days the student protests have reduced in scale but the Bangladeshi government is now using the student’s Facebook posts to track down any involved. Students and political organisers alike have realised the downside of always being connected too late to remain free after posting the addresses of safe houses for their friends on the social media network.

None will be spared

“We are in the process to identify all those who spread rumours in the social media and incited violence,” Bangladesh’s home affairs minister, Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal, said on Wednesday according to a report in The Guardian. “None will be spared, be they students, teachers or political leaders.”

Over 200 protesters have been injured and over a dozen journalists attacked including renowned Bangladeshi photographer, Shahidul Alam.

The tracking down of student protestors is the latest indicator that the Bangladesh government is extremely nervous of any form of dissent gathering momentum ahead of elections later this year.

Keeping it in the family

The ruling Awami League (AL) party of Bangladesh is led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed is controlled by the Mujiz or Sheikh–Wazed dynasty. Sheikh Hasina is the daughter of the ‘founding father’ of Bangladesh late president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Sheikh Hasina’s son is being lined up to be the next Prime Minister.

The Awami League’s bitter rival is the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) led by Begum Khaleda Zia. She and her allies boycotted the 2014 elections.

One million Rohingya refugees

The Bangladeshi government’s intolerance of dissent by students shows it is far from being a democracy and may lead to other nations being less inclined to helping Bangladesh deal with the Rohingya refugee crisis.

An estimated one million Rohingya people fled ethnic cleansing in neighbouring Burma for Bangladesh, with this imposing extra strains on the Bangladeshi authorities.

Risk of return to politics of violence

Bangladeshi media reports (well, reports by the journalists the government has not thrown into jail) reflect the genuine risk that the ruthless crackdown on protesting students by Sheikh Hasina risks tipping the country into chaos.

The student protests were about far more than a traffic accident, they were only one symptom of a deeper intolerance of the ruling party and its style of government.

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