BNP-Jamaat Pre-Election Terror in 2001: Minorities Barred from Going to Polling Centers, Fatwas on Religion & Brutality on Awami League Candidates

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Published on February 10, 2023
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A week before the 2001 general elections, the BNP-Jamaat terrorists became reckless in seizing the power illegally. These criminals began attacking, vandalizing, and looting the homes of over one crore minority voters to prevent them from casting their votes. The cadres of Khaleda Zia even targeted the election campaign booths of Awami League and created a chaos at public gatherings of senior candidates.

According to a report in the Janakantha, on September 22 and 23, BNP candidate KM Obaidur Rahman's supporters savagely attacked the convoy of Awami League candidate and former minister Sajeda Chowdhury in Nagarkanda of Faridpur. During the attack, six police officers were injured while trying to protect Sajeda Chowdhury. Shortly after the attack, BNP supporters went from house to house and looted the minorities in Chowara village. Additionally, identified BNP cadres attacked the convoy of Awami League candidate Noore Alam Chowdhury in Shibchar of Madaripur, injuring eight Awami League workers who were trying to protect him.

BNP leaders and activists carried out bomb attacks on Awami League supporters and vandalized their offices in Sariakandi in Bogra, Char Jabbar and Begumganj in Noakhali, Gosairhat in Shariatpur, and Boalmari in Madaripur. More than 100 people were injured in such rampant attacks. Along with the brutalities, the BNP also devised a plan to seize the polling stations and ballot boxes on Voting Day so that Awami League leaders and activists would be afraid to cast their votes.

Meanwhile, the BNP-Jamaat alliance targeted the country's minority voters, who are traditionally anti-extremists and anti-fundamentalists, by physically assaulting their women and children and torturing men. On polling day, Khaleda Zia's terrorists prevented minority voters from going to polling stations by blocking their path from door to door.

In 2001 and 2014, BNP-Jamaat carried out heinous acts of violence. In 2014, they burnt alive thousands of innocent women, children, students, and workers using petrol bombs. Similarly, in 2001, over 100 families were forced to flee due to the vandalizing and burning of Hindu houses in Bagerhat. Infamous war criminal Rajakar Rajab Ali and Jubo Dal leader Tariqul led the attacks by vandalizing the Awami League offices and injuring Awami League leaders and activists.

In Pirojpur and Nazirpur, Jamaat leader Delwar Hossain Sayeedi's followers threatened the minority voters, not to go to the polling stations. To secure Sayeedi’s victory, Shibir cadres, trained in arms, were brought from various parts of the country to Pirojpur. Under Sayeedi’s direction, cadre Elias banned more than 10,000 Hindu voters from accessing the polling centers in Balipara and Pandashi Union of Sadar Upazila. On September 16, Sayeedi led an attack on a Hindu village, resulting in 60-70 people being injured. Locals repeatedly sought help from the police and administration to escape the brutal violence inflicted by Jamaat.

The Jamaat-BNP alliance threatened the minority voters of Bhola's Tazumuddin, Lalmohan and Borhanuddin upazilas with death. Women in Hindu villages were forced to avoid staying at home at night due to threats of rape from extremists. A group of BNP leaders known as Moumachi Bahini (Bee Force) extorted Hindu business owners under the threat of violence. Approximately 20% of Hindu voters in Borhanuddin, 30% in Tazumuddin, and 22% in Lalmohan were threatened with sexual assault on women and the death of men if they went to the polling stations.

Khaleda Zia’s close aide and the BNP-Jamaat candidate in Narail, Muftia Shahidul, also the banned Harkat leader, made derogatory remarks and aggressive slogans. These Taliban-linked groups publicly issued fatwas in meetings claiming that voting for the Awami League would lead to ‘Kafir’ (infidelity).  Even by placing the hands of the rural ordinary women on the Quran, they said that if they did not vote for BNP-Jamaat, they would go to hell. These actions elicited strong public condemnation.