Rising Toll: 91 Dead in Six Months as Political Violence Escalates in Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh — A recent study highlights the brutal reality of political violence plaguing Bangladesh, where the first half of 2024 has been marked by a distressing toll: 91 political activists have lost their lives amidst surging conflicts. This figure reflects the perils faced by individuals despite their political affiliations, with a significant number of the deceased being supporters of the ruling Awami League.

The data, collected by the Human Rights Support Society (HRSS), detailed that the violence spanned various causes, including electoral disputes, territories scuffles, internal party disagreements, and confrontations involving law enforcement and opposition groups. Such a situation casts a shadow over the nation’s political stability, especially concerning considering the Awami League secured an unprecedented fourth consecutive governmental term in the January 2024 elections.

Between January and June of this year, over 1,000 incidents of political violence were reported, injuring at least 4,026 people. Arrests of political figures were also markedly high, with 714 detentions — the majority being members from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami. Opposition rallies faced substantial suppression, recording at least 99 interventions by authorities and ruling party supporters.

The tactics used against opposition elements raise questions about the legal and democratic processes in Bangladesh. Allegations of fabricated legal charges, arbitrary mass arrests, and prolonged pre-trial detentions were notable during the pre-election period, emphasizing a potentially systematic approach to weaken dissenting voices.

On a broader scale, the ruling party’s internal dynamics indicate a weakening of coherent leadership and strategy, evidenced by allowing “rebel” members to contest the election independently, causing further fragmentation within the party. This internal strife appears to have spilled over from disrupting the opposition’s activities to fostering conflicts that even led to Awami League members targeting each other. For instance, Sheikh Rabiul Islam Rabi, a three-term union parishad chairman from Khulna and an Awami League member, was tragically killed in early July.

These incidents illustrate a fuller spectrum of the political violence, extending beyond opposition suppression to include internal feud within the ruling party. Such conditions suggest a critical need for stronger governance, accountability, and reforms aimed at ensuring safety, justice, and cohesion within political ranks.

It is crucial for the ruling party to reflect on the adverse impacts its internal discord and the broader political violence have on public life in Bangladesh. Only through strong leadership, strict adherence to the rule of law, and genuine democratic practices can there be hope for stabilizing the political climate and securing a peaceful future for all political participants in Bangladesh. The ongoing violence not only destabilizes the existing political framework but also drastically impairs the democratic process in a country with a rich history of political engagement.