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    » 01/04/2014, 00.00

    BANGLADESH

    Elections in Bangladesh: strikes and violence push Christians and Hindus not to vote

    Sumon Corraya

    Christians, Hindus and Buddhists speak of nationalists threats not to go to the polls . The opposition led by Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party ( BNP) began a new 48-hour strike today. The aim is to disrupt the parliamentary elections tomorrow and unleash chaos in the country. Polling stations and vehicles set on fire in Dhaka, Dinajpur and Feni .

    Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Christians , Buddhists and Hindus fear for their safety ahead of nationwide parliamentary elections scheduled for tomorrow. What especially worries minorities are the violent strikes recently organized by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party ( BNP) of Khaleda Zia who are bringing the entire country to its knees . Today, the BNP launched 48 hour general strike in response to the refusal of the government led by premier Sheikh Hasina's Awami League to invoke a neutral party as a guarantor of the vote.

    Many Christians state they will not vote like Buddhists and Hindus members of religious minorities. "I will not vote - explains Joachim Costa a Catholic of 55 - the elections will not be free and fair and we already know who will win ." The woman explains that people are afraid to go to the polls because of the constant threats of the opposition party . Even the Hindus will not go to vote . Raton Das , 42, told AsiaNews that the elections " are for a single party and it is useless to vote. Unfortunately there is no alternative". The population is discouraged by the contrast between the government and opposition, which instead of dialogue has taken the hard line of constant protest. The man explains that the streets there are even campaign posters to attract people to vote , "usually the campaign should take place in a festive atmosphere ."

    Since January 1, BNP supporters have blocked roads, railways and waterways and in recent days there have been numerous incidents of violence and clashes with the police. Acts of guerrilla warfare, including the explosion of rudimentary bombs and the burning of automobiles, took place in Dhaka, Narayanganj , Bogra , Lakshmipur , Jhenaidah , Pabna , and Comilla . In Dinajpur ( North of the country ), two people died in a blaze of a truck set on fire by supporters of the BNP . Yesterday at Feni ( on the border with India ), five polling stations were set on fire .

    According to the population , the now rampant and systematic violence is the worst the country has ever experienced in 40 years since Independence . Tensions rose after the opposition leader Khaleda Zia rejected an offer  from Prime Minister Hasina to join the oversight committee for the voting format of all parties. In 2013, over 500 people were killed in violence related to politics.

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    See also

    27/11/2013 BANGLADESH
    More bloodshed in Bangladesh: 8 dead and 300 injured in clashes with police
    Violence degenerated during the hartal ( strike) called by the Nationalist Party to pressure the prime minister. Supporters of the government and the opposition trade homemade bombs and Molotov cocktails. Transport is paralyzed. To disperse the protesters, the police opened fire .

    03/02/2015 BANGLADESH
    Bangladesh, political violence threatens survival of population
    A new arsonist attack caused seven deaths and 16 seriously wounded. Traffic strike imposed by opposition "maintained" by constant attacks. The goal is to bring down the government. Material damage greater than number of victims: prices rise; raw materials, not delivered, waste away; ordinary people lose their jobs.

    11/12/2012 BANGLADESH
    General strike sets Dhaka on fire. Two dead and almost 300 injured
    The '"hartal" organized by the Nationalist Party (BNP) paralyzed the capital of Bangladesh. The opposition calls for early elections, but the government stalls . Increased social tensions, fueled by politically motivated violence.

    02/12/2013 BANGLADESH
    A 131 hour strike. Catholic activist : People victim of political conflict
    For Rosaline Costa , coordinator of Hotline Bangladesh, the country " is at the mercy of the ego of politicians." She warns that the "climate has to change, otherwise the situation will get worse". Since January, 347 people have been killed in violent clashes between political factions . Most of them are innocent citizens.

    27/12/2013 BANGLADESH
    Christians enjoy peaceful Christmas in Bangladesh but terrorism continues to cast its shadow
    As the authorities lifted a travel ban and police protected the country's churches, no attacks were reported against the minority during the holidays. With elections approaching, the government continues to deploy tens of thousands of soldiers fearing further unrest. For many Bangladeshis, "there has never been so much tension in 40 years of independence."



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