Violence in Dhaka: My Reaction

The more things change, the more they stay the same </cliche>. Back in 2007, one of my first blog posts was about about riots, curfews, and media blackouts. A lot has changed since then. The big one being that, instead of a military government running Bangladesh, there is now a duly elected government calling the shots. But, here I am, still talking about violence, curfews, and media blackouts 😛

Troops Gathering in Dhaka

Troops Gathering in Dhaka

If you’ve been watching the news or following me on Twitter you know that recently there was an outbreak of violence involving the Bangladesh border security forces and the government. Although information was sporadic at first (as journalists were initially banned from the area), it appears that this was started due to pay-related grievances by the border security forces.

Civilian Injuries

Civilian Injuries

A lot of friends contacted me worrying if I was alright. Unlike the riots of 2007, I definitely felt a lot safer. I was in a completely different part of the city than where the violence was happening. There was no risk of a stray bullet coming through my window or anything like that. Heck, I was so far away from where it was all happening, I couldn’t even hear the sound of gunfire.

Troops & Guns

Troops & Guns

But, like 2007, there was a lot of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Especially with initial reports being so sketchy, everyone I knew (family and friends) were worried about what was going on. More importantly, we were all worried that it would spread. Because, especially in Bangladesh, nothing ever stays contained. Afterall, the big nationwide riots of 2007 were were sparked by relatively small scuffle on the campus of Dhaka University.

For me, as someone who isn’t really an expert in the politics of Bangladesh, I really feel optimistic about the future of this country. That may not be the lesson that many people will gather from a situation that killed approximately 50 over 60 people and put tanks on the street. But that’s kind of the point – although the situation was very bad, it could have been a lot worse. Here’s what I think Bangladesh should be proud of:

Read about it after the jump.

  • Bangladesh has only had democratic rule for a couple of months. For all of last year, Bangladesh was (more or less) under the rule of the military. The military could very well have taken a “we know best” approach and ignored the Prime Minister. Instead, they followed their orders and showed restraint when restraint was ordered.
  • The Prime Minister, in the face of violence and injured civilians, could have easily taken a “this is an act of terrorism” stance and refused to negotiate with those that committed this violence. Instead, she not only agreed to negotiate but also offered amnesty and a promised to look into their grievances. When the violence continued, the attitude changed accordingly. What impressed me is the use of both the carrot and the stick.
  • The government could have taken a very paranoid approach to controlling information. Just like the riots of 2007, they could have cut off the internet and all cellphone traffic. Instead, whatever precautions they did take, went more or less unnoticed by me. People like me were able to blog, tweet, and report about it without being shutdown. That’s a huge step in becoming an open democracy.

But, like I said, I am not an expert in Bangladeshi politics. I really don’t know the nuanced differences between one political party and the next. What I do feel, however, is that even violence like this shows the importance of fighting poverty. Many of the grievances raised by the border guards included trouble having enough money to buy food or support their family. I’ve talked about how the elites of Bangladesh like to ignore the fact that Bangladesh is a poor country. Some well-to-do even refuse to bring the “p-word” to their lips (and look down on me for doing so).

If the well-to-do of Bangladesh continue to ignore the plight of the less off in their own country, than problems like this are bound to become more common. Poverty creates desperation – and desperation can lead people to do crazy things.

1 Response to “Violence in Dhaka: My Reaction”

  1. 1 Vuqar

    Thanks for looking at my iegams! I think you should come back and see the changes. Where I live was a rice paddy forty years ago! I think the lighting guys are standard issue hardworking Bangladeshi.

  1. 1 It’s Never As Easy As It Looks | the uncultured project

Leave a Reply