Today in Dhaka was very eventful for the group considering that we were basically confined to the hotel and surrounding neighborhood. Today the opposition BNP party in Bangladesh declared the day as “Democracy Killing Day” and held protests against the government.
The violence today has roots in the long opposition between, the BNP leader Begum Khaleda Zia and the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, they have both been alternating control of the government for the past 20 years when the military hasn’t been in power. During the last election a year ago in 2014, the BNP refused to participate when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who was still in power then refused to step aside and allow a neutral power to take control of the election. The BNP fearing election rigging boycotted and refused to participate. The United States along with other human watch organizations did declare the elections to be unfair.
Today marks the one year anniversary of the elections and the opposition applied to hold a rally to mark what they referred to as “Democracy Killing Day.” Of course the government also applied to hold their own rally which they were going to call “Democracy Preserved Day.” However, the police refused to give permits of either rally, fearing violent clashes among those who attend. The Government decided to back down but the opposition refused to stop to protests and rally.
Since Saturday evening the police have been making hundreds of preliminary arrests hoping to curb any major outbreaks of violence. They have also confined Zia to her office in Gulshan since Saturday evening to stop her from meeting with protectors and attending the rally. Since this office is a few streets away from our hotel, it would be interesting to go see her. Maybe we could even convince her to end the protests, just to allow us time to complete some meetings and interviews. I mean TEEAL is important for development and the people as well!
It was very quiet all day in our neighborhood but around the country protesters and police have been clashing throughout the day. Currently there are three deaths reported and Zia has called for a strike tomorrow and a blockade of all roads, trains, and waterways until the opposition party is able to hold a rally without police interference.
It is interesting witnessing this occur in Dhaka. Talking with the hotel staff there appears to many different opinions on whether or not the opposition is right to hold these protests. Chandrashekhar, our consultant from, Sathguru Foundation, said that it wasn’t fair to call it Democracy Killing Day when they freely chose not to participate in the elections. While one is able to see that point, at the same time it would have been better for the government to set up a neutral party to oversee the election to stop any accusations of rigging.
The big adventure for the day was our walk to a nearby mall with a supermarket to buy some snacks. On the way there we saw a roadblock of police who were stopping vehicles entering Gulshan and checking passengers. However, in general the neighborhood surrounding the hotel was very quiet today. There is a new hospital ten feet away from the hotel so at least we are covered if anyone gets sick. Also they are having a badminton tournament, so if things get too constricting at the hotel we can always register a TEEAL team! The walk was very pretty, we were able to pass by a rivulet which produced a nice cooling breeze for the walk. At the end of it there was netting to keep the sewage being dumped into it from joining the main river way. While not completely effective, this was an interesting perspective on how to clean up that particular waterway.
The mall was interesting, the supermarket had anything you could ask for including some clothes. There were also a lot of imported items, more than I had anticipated. We picked up some snacks and beverages for our hotel rooms, I decided to try Lychee water and some Aloe Vera juice.
Based on news reports and talking to the hotel staff, it doesn’t appear that with the violence today anything will stop tomorrow. We are hoping to at least be able to go to our meeting with BARC, Bangladesh Agriculture Research Counsel. But for now the Hotel isn’t the worst place to stay and at east we know one of the major risks to consider for TEEAL when setting up here in Bangladesh.
I must admit, our hotel is very beautiful at night! 🙂