Political Turmoil in Bangladesh: Study Reveals 91 Deaths Amid Intensifying Party Conflicts and Police Clashes

Dhaka, Bangladesh – A recent analysis by the Human Rights Support Society (HRSS) reveals a disturbing trend of political violence across Bangladesh, reporting 91 deaths in the first six months of 2024, with a substantial number involving supporters of the country’s ruling party. The period has been marked by intense electoral disputes, territorial conflicts, intra-party clashes, and frequent confrontations between law enforcement and opposition groups.

The data highlights not only the human cost but also an environment where political affiliations can become precarious liabilities. Despite the Awami League’s stronghold on power—having secured a historic fourth consecutive term in January—the political landscape has been anything but stable.

The HRSS findings indicated a sharp uptick in political violence incidents, totaling 1,004 occurrences in this half-year alone, leading to over 4,000 injuries. The breakdown of arrests during this period paints a grim picture of the pressures faced by opposition activists, with a significant majority being detained from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islami.

Espionage by the state and ruling party actors on opposition assemblies has frequently led to the suppression of dissent. Legal maneuvers ranging from spurious lawsuits to prolonged pre-trial detentions have skewed the electoral playing field, stifling robust democratic competition.

Beyond these confrontations, the ruling party itself has been grappling with internal divisions. Some members marked as “rebels” ran as independents, exacerbating tensions within the Awami League and inflicting damage upon its own unity.

The murder of Sheikh Rabiul Islam Rabi, a three-time union parishad chairman and local Awami League leader, in July underscores the treacherous political climate. Shot dead in Khulna, Rabi’s death is symptomatic of wider issues of intra-party violence that have been escalating alarmingly.

This pattern of instability dates back well before the January 2024 elections, with rival factions within the Awami League vying for power. Such strife suggests a longstanding neglect of discipline, with power struggles often culminating in violence among party members themselves.

This unsettling wave of political killings signifies a deeper malaise affecting Bangladesh’s political fabric. The continual erosion of healthy political discourse and the rule of law poses severe risks to the nation’s democratic health.

Responsibility for arresting this decline lies at the feet of the Awaim League, as the incumbent governing body. It becomes imperative for the party leadership to restore order within its ranks, ensure equitable treatment of all political groups, and uphold the principles of democracy.

Fostering a political environment where opposition can function without fear and internal party conflicts do not translate into violence is crucial for Bangladesh’s progress toward a stable and inclusive democracy. Yet, as the current trends suggest, much work remains to be done on this front. Addressing these challenges is not only imperative for the ruling party but is essential for the very survival of the nation’s democratic framework.