Who is responsible for so many political deaths?

Who is responsible for so many political deaths?

A new study on political violence has once again highlighted the treacherous currents of politics in Bangladesh. According to a report citing findings by the Human Rights Support Society (HRSS), in the first half of 2024, political conflicts claimed as many as 91 lives. Strikingly, 71 of them were supporters of the ruling party. These incidents were linked to electoral violence, territorial domination, party infighting, and clashes between the police and the opposition. The fact that even affiliation with the powerful Awami League, which “used” a record fourth consecutive term in January, is no guarantee of security shows the overall deterioration of our political climate.

These figures are taken from an overview of the overall human rights situation between January and June. During this period, 1,004 incidents of political violence took place, resulting in at least 4,026 people being injured in addition to deaths. However, the death toll only gives a partial picture of the precariousness of political activists, as it is opposition activists who have suffered disproportionately in all other spheres. For example, 714 political workers and leaders were arrested during this period, of whom 574 belong to the BNP and Jamaat. In addition, law enforcement agencies and ruling party activists have foiled at least 99 opposition rallies. We have also seen how dubious legal tactics have been used to weaken the opposition ahead of the general elections, including through phantom cases, mass arrests, mass convictions, lengthy pretrial detentions, etc.

But the lack of a functioning opposition has also led the ruling party to allow its “rebel” members to run “independently,” pitting one segment of the party against another, further stoking the simmering tension within his party. It is as if the chaos he sowed to derail the opposition’s campaign has now come full circle to derail his own momentum, as HRSS data suggests. The lack of party discipline, however, long predates the January 7 elections, and its “maintenance” over the years has led to constant infighting, to the point where ruling party members are now killing each other for their own gain.

This is deeply worrying. These political deaths – an appropriate term would be “murders” – are an extreme manifestation of a rot that has been eating away at our politics for a long time, and which will continue to deepen unless steps are taken to bring party discipline, the rule of law and, of course, democracy to the country. As the ruling party, the fallout of any chaos within the Awami League inevitably spills over into public life and, as such, the party leadership must take responsibility for it and strictly discipline its members. It must also ensure equality of treatment and opportunities for all political entities.