This is a drawing of a young opposition protester, badly beaten by the police in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. This is a drawing that pictures the days yet to come.
This drawing is the first piece in a series that will picture and document the story of the upcoming general elections in Bangladesh in early 2014. That election, its results and the politics that mar it, will be consequential. It will either complete the foundations of the ruling Awami League’s first-term seemingly liberal and foreign investment-friendly policies (compared to the rather more rightist and isolationist opposition party, BNP). Or, in just the case the BNP wins (unlikely at this writing), the election will throw all sensible politics up in the air. This, because the AL is bound to grind the world in Bangladesh to a screeching halt. In either case the election and its fair passage will be important to both American bi-lateral relations and its foreign policy in the region.
The story until today: the ruling Awami League had offered a national unity coalition to run the gamut of politics and electioneering in the face of the upcoming election, a returning, unblessed occasion that has been marked by shuddering violence and murder. Streets and cities shutdown, curfews imposed, election season has been hell in Bangladesh throughout much of its young 42 year history. The AL’s move was a way to be seen to get around. In response the BNP offered its own gambit that everyone knew would be unacceptable to the ruling party. Just today, the parliamentary session as the locus of power expired and the opposition is calling for a massive strike that threatens to paralyze and polarize the country. This can’t be good; this won’t be good.
There are signs that conciliatory talks might yet get off the ground, but given Bangladesh’s politics, its history, those signs might well be illusory.
Keep watch here for drawings that picture those days. Click on them to see them in a separate window as they are meant to be seen: large, crisp, clear, perhaps a bit disconcerting and entirely beholden to artist Zainul Abedin’s documentary impulse.