Bangladesh Opposition Follows Muizzu’s ‘India Out’ Campaign – OpEd

Bangladesh’s leading Opposition party BNP has launched an “India Out” campaign on the lines of Maldives’ present ruling party led by President Mohammed Muizzu that helped him come to power. 

Leading social media outlets supporting BNP, including a popular YouTube program run by doctor Pinaki Bhattacharya,  have called for wholesale boycott of Indian products, to “punish India for supporting PM Hasina’s return to power by fraudulent means”.

Bhattacharya is a Bangladeshi Hindu Brahmin who cut his teeth in the Communist Party and he has through his YouTube channel been calling for the Awami League’s ouster. 

In his latest episode, Bhattacharya said Bangladesh is now India’s fourth largest trade partner and could soon be the third, so boycott of India’s goods would hurt India because its exports to Bangladesh would soon cross the $20 billion mark. Bhattacharya also called upon Bangladeshis to stop visiting India for tourism of all kinds – medical, educational or sightseeing.  Bangladesh sends most tourists to India — so Bhattacharya called for “doing to India what India has done to Maldives”. 

Bhattacharya’s line is followed by many other anti-Awami and anti-Indian social media outlets known for backing BNP-JAMAAT coalition. Slogans such as “India is not a friend of Bangladesh” and “India is destroying Bangladesh” have emerged, with online activists attempting to incite anti-India sentiment not only within Bangladesh but also extending their reach to Nepal through social media platforms.

A Eurasian Times report said that the orchestrator of the ‘India Out’ movement is Tarique Rahman, the convicted terrorist and acting chairman of the BNP, who operates from London. Rahman allegedly instructed party members to replicate the anti-India movement observed in the Maldives, further fueling anti-Hindu and anti-Indian sentiments in Bangladesh. The cyber wing of the BNP has begun spreading hatred through social media, with specific instances identified on platforms like Twitter.

That such a pitch will appeal even to a lot of erstwhile elements has been stressed by many independent observers. ” Pro-liberation elements even within the Awami League and other secular democratic platforms are aggrieved with PM Hasina for pandering to an Islamist agenda like the creation of 560 Ideal Mosques Islamic Cultural Centres and going back on promises for a return to the 1972 Constitution. And they think she is getting away with it because India is not pushing her hard enough,” said a former Awami League MP who was decorated for acts of bravery during the 1971 Liberation War against Pakistan.

“I have lost my respect for India because its BJP government seems only bothered with pursuing business interests of their corporate cronies like the Adanis, who won a lucrative power purchase deal,” said another senior Awami League politician who once ran a powerful anti-Pakistan campaign over the 1971 war crimes. “I hate Pakistan but how can feel good when the present Indian government pursues Pakistan-style religion-driven politics and be oblivious to Awami League’s growing Islamist agenda.”

None of them want to be named for fear of vendetta in an atmosphere where Bangladesh is emerging as a one-party and one-leader state with PM Hasina’s close lieutenants like Adviser Salman F Rahman and Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud well known for pursuing an pronounced Islamist agenda within the Awami League. But anti-Hasina and anti-India feelings are growing even in ruling Awami League, specially at the grassroots,  specially over Salman Rahman’s growing ‘rapport’ with senior Indian ministers . “The man whose company issues advertorial for observing Pakistan Independence Day now openly brags about his meetings with Indian topshots,” said a former senior Bangladesh military official, again wishing to remain anonymous. “Is India not bothered about its traditional supporters and just wants business for some cronies,” he asked.

Bangladesh watcher Sukhoranjan Dasgupta used an old Bengali proverb to describe the situation. “India will loose both the mango and the sack,” said Dasgupta, author of “Midnight Massacre” on the 1975 Bangladesh coup.

He said Modi’s neighborhood policy lies in tatters in South Asia from Maldives to Nepal to Sri Lanka, but Bangladesh soon will be no different. 

“The irony is that none even in the Opposition is calling for boycott of Chinese goods though Beijing has defended Hasina’s return to power as firmly as Delhi. Bangladesh will turn more to China as its economy deflates over loan repayment pressures, higher global energy prices and extensive money laundering by Hasina’s cronies. And like in Pakistan,  China will extract its pound of flesh in Bangladesh,” said former Intelligence Bureau official Benu Ghosh, who has followed Bangladesh for years.

A real double-whammy India is destined for in Bangladesh.