With power shifting only between two major political parties, political violence is nothing new to Bangladesh. The two parties, Awami League and Bangladesh National Party (BNP), are continuously clashing with each other. The highest position in the land that of prime minister have been shifting between Sheikh Hasina (Awami League) and Khaleda Zia (BNP) since 1991. Violent protests such as general strikes (locally known as hartals) and blockades (oborodhs) are used by whoever was in the opposition side against the government.
The worst violence experience, however, occurred during the 2014 General Elections. More than 18 protesters were gunned down on the day of the elections, itself. On the night before about a hundred polling stations were set on fire, resulting to a suspension of voting in nearly 400 stations. The BNP and 20 other opposition parties boycotted the election as a protest against the decision of the government not to hand over the election process to a neutral caretaker administration. Thus, Awami League was reelected for another five years, since 2009.
Violence still persists as Zia, the leader of BNP, urged her supporters to mass protest in the streets in order to force the Hasina for new electio. Arson attacks, strikes and blockades became the means of protest. More than a hundred were killed and injured with 10, 000 opposition activists arrested. In an arson attacks on buses, 30 people died and hundreds more injured. Viber has even been banned as it becomes the means of communication among the anti-government activists.
The conflict, however, may not only be political but also personal. It is believed by some that the late husband of Zia, former president and founder of BNP, Ziaur Rahman has connections with those who assassinated Hasina’s father, former Awami League leader and the country’s first president. Ziaur Rahman was also assassinated in the later years. Moreover, they are in conflict as to the national identity of Bangladesh; a secular country with Muslims as the majority population. Hasina leaned towards the country’s secularist principle while Zia is surrounded by Islamist supporter and those with Islamist ties (Burke & Hammadi, 2015; Mosbergen, 2015; Agence France-Presse, 2015).
Agence France-Presse. (2015). Bangladesh rocked by violence on election anniversary. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/05/bangladesh-violence-election-anniversary-khaleda-zia
Burke, J., & Hammadi, S. (2015). 30 dead as Bangladesh political violence escalates. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/23/bangladesh-political-violence
Mosbergen, D. (2015). We Need To Talk About Bangladesh. Retrieved from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/30/bangladesh-politics_n_7642602.html
PDF : Democracy in the Crossfire: Opposition Violence and Government Abuses in the 2014 Pre- and Post-Election Period in Bangladesh (Human Rights Watch: 2014)
Link : Bangladesh post-poll violence hits minorities (The Hindu: January 8, 2014)