Attention – Due To Allegations of Plagiarism, This Article Is Highly Suspect

When Tahmima Anam went home to Dhaka to cast her vote in the now-postponed election, she found a nation in chaos, tormented by corruption and brutality.On 10 January 1972, my father came home to his country for the first time. It was three weeks after the end of the Bangladesh war, and he was making his way back from India, where he had enlisted with the newly formed Bangladesh army. When I think about that day, I always wonder what country my father thought he was returning to. Surely it was a thing of his imagination, born out of the years marching against the Pakistani occupation, the months touring India to gain support for the war, the gruelling training at the officers’ camp in West Bengal. I can picture the shock that he and his fellow freedom fighters must have felt when they finally did cross that border, seeing their imagined country and their real country meet for the first time. The Bengali phrase desh-prem means “love for the country”. Like many expatriate Bangladeshis, my desh-prem makes me believe there will come a day when I pack my bags and leave London for good. My desh-prem is a long-distance affair, full of passion and misunderstanding; often, my heart is broken. Many Bangladeshis never actually return home; it is more of an idea, something to turn over in our hearts before we go to sleep, but for me the prospect of returning is real. In 1990, after 14 years abroad, my parents left their jobs with the United Nations and moved back to Bangladesh. So many of their friends told them they were foolish to return to a country that had so little to offer, but in the latter months of that year, Hossain Mohammad Ershad’s military dictatorship was toppled by massive public action of a kind not seen since the days of the independence movement. So the country my family returned to was bathed in hope, and, almost two decades after the birth of Bangladesh, we finally seemed on the brink of becoming a functioning democracy

The political climate in Bangladesh remains as violent and unstable as ever… but has electoral politics, for the moment, derailed workers’ struggle? After a year of intense nationwide class struggle in 2006, (see our previous reports here) for the last 3 months Bangladesh has been in a different kind of turmoil. Media sources give the impression that the class struggle has been largely submerged by political conflicts between the ruling Bangladesh National Party (BNP) bloc and the Awami League-led opposition alliance, as they jockey for position in the run-up to the General Election (now postponed). The opposition has led several large blockades of major cities – involving strikes, riots, transport stoppages – as a political lever to influence the composition of the Election Commission overseeing the voting procedure; appointments by the BNP were challenged and some eventually overturned as being too favourable to the ruling party. The updating of the Electoral Register also remains a source of major conflict, with disputes over dead persons fraudulently registered to vote etc. 35 people have died in the street clashes; in one incident TV cameras captured the public lynching of several rival activists by Awami League militants.
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