South Asia and Beyond

‘Plot To Malign Bangladesh’

NEW DELHI: In this edition of the Gist, Two people from extremely diverse fields spoke on the recently concluded elections in Bangladesh, which brought Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to power for the fourth consecutive term. The polls, boycotted by the main Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, were described as neither free nor fair by the United States, although most other nations welcomed the result.

Dr Sharin Shajahan Naomi, an academic and activist from Bangladesh who’s currently pursuing a post-doctoral fellowship in India, holds a PhD in Tibetan Buddhism, Feminism and Autoethnography from Murdoch University, Australia, and has over a decade of research experience in the fields of human rights, good governance, legal aid and violence against women.

Major (retd) Shamsul Arefin, a veteran of the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, is a well known researcher, political analyst and the author of several books on the politics of the subcontinent, including three on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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Both, however, agree that Sheikh Hasina has been good for the country, and that it was under her leadership that Bangladesh has become a poster child for very high social and economic indices despite several challenges.

It is rare for a Muslim majority country to have a woman leading it, and Sheikh Hasina has ensured that the country’s image has evolved from that of a poor nation which was perenially dependent of foreign aid. It was the BNP and other vested interests which had launched this virulent campaign and conspiracy in the western world against Sheikh Hasina, she said.

Major Arefin, rejecting the US charges, said that although it had a Muslim majority, Bangladesh was isolated from the fundamentalist Muslim regions of the world, and was instead a moderate nation which focused more on development and upliftment of the people, and Sheikh Hasina was one of the torch-bearers of that movement. However, he also refuted the argument that the BNP with its ties to the Jaamat would take the country down a fundamentalist route, saying the people of the country would never allow that. Watch the full episode to get an insider’s view into a country which evokes such strong and varied responses across the world.