The protests began last week after two students were killed by a speeding bus, but a combination of insensitive comments by a transportation union-linked government minister and the state's heavy-handed response against the demonstrators have enflamed the situation and contributed to turning an otherwise apolitical civil society awareness campaign into what increasingly looks to be a nationwide political crisis.
The ruling Awami League alleges that members of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have infiltrated the student movement and are inciting violence against the state, while the protesters have shared footage on social media of people being attacked by the police and what they claim are government-backed vigilante mobs. Political tensions in the country have already been boiling for some time now after BNP leader and two-time former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia's jailing earlier this year on corruption charges that she believes to be politically motivated. Although she was just granted bail at the beginning of this week, there's a chance that her party will boycott this year's elections just like they did during the 2014 ones that handed current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina her second consecutive and third all-time victory at the polls.
This nation of over 160 million people has seen the premiership vacillate between these two women since 1991, who are related by marriage or birth to two of their country's most important figures in the last century, thus making them torchbearers of Bangladesh's main political dynasties. The outcome of the upcoming elections, which look to be influenced by the developing crisis in the country, could have international implications because the Awami League incumbent is considered to be very close to India while the BNP opposition leader is extremely critical of it. This correspondingly puts New Delhi in a tough spot and makes this developing crisis a very sensitive issue in South Asia.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Khalid Ibn Muneer, Independent foreign affairs analyst from Bangladesh, and Ahmed Ashfaque, Bangladeshi political commentator and Founder & Editor of Qutnyti blog.
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