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BANGLADESH : Behind the Politics of Over Reaction
Subir Bhaumik Former BBC Correspondant
BANGLADESH : Behind the Politics of Over Reaction
PHOTO : Bangladesh bowler Rubel vs Virat Kohli show in World cup. Rubel sledging Kohli. TIWN /IANS

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said her country was "made to lose" the cricket World Cup quarterfinal against India. She reassured her Tigers in green-and-red that there was nothing to be upset as everyone has seen ‘how we were made to lose’. ‘’We will win in the future," she told Mashrafe's boys who were defeated but not disgraced in defeat. This was their best ever World Cup campaign.

The prime minister's comments follows a furious outburst by International Cricket Council (ICC) president Mustafa Kamal, Bangladesh’s planning minister and a senior leader of the ruling Awami League, who has questioned the integrity of on-field umpires, England's Ian Gould and Pakistan's Aleem Dar. Kamal , as entering the field with an agenda. Kamal  later said his response should be seen as that of a ‘Bangladesh fan’ after he was reprimanded by the ICC for shooting his mouth .

But when two senior politicians of a party which is a self-declared friend of India in Bangladesh – one of them the Prime Minister – make such accusations, there are reasons to believe there is more to such outbursts than mere cricket and sentiments that peak during such crucial matches.

Since the progress of the Bangladesh cricket team into the quarterfinals for the first time had generated huge public reaction across  Bangladesh to the extent of forcing the BNP into calling off its ongoing strike-blockade programme for a day, Hasina and Kamal would naturally have great political interest in an unexpected victory over India. That would have , if it happened, generated sentiments that would have swept away the Opposition agitation. After all, Bangladesh’s victory over England that took the Tigers into the quarter-final compelled actress Naznin Akter Happy to withdraw her serious charges of cheating and rape against paceman Rubel Hossain after he had bowled superbly  in that match. So when it became obvious that Rubel had not bowled above the waist and that Rohit Sharma should have been given out – something that might have impacted on the ultimate outcome of the match --  national outrage was only to be  expected.

For politicians , specially those  from a party that is pushed to the wall by a relentless Opposition agitation lasting for more two months now , it is only natural to tap into the groundswell of nationalist sentiments . The Awami League as the party that spearheaded the 1971  Liberation War understands the dynamics and intensity of Bangladesh’s nationalism only too well . And faced with constant allegations from the Islamist Opposition that it could remain in power because of india’s unstinted support and because it was delivering on Indian interests, the outrage over the poor umpiring provided the Awami League an unique opportunity to prove its nationalist credentials and prove it is no lackey of India.  That is something the Awami League  is not expected to miss , faced with huge domestic pressure as it does now.

But some would like to see in Hasina’s outburst a deep angst with India’s failure to deliver on her outstanding promises, specially in  the implementation of the Land Boundary  agreement  and the failure to conclude the Teesta river water sharing agreement.  When she came to  power six years ago, Hasina went ahead boldly addressing India’s various concerns., specially pertaining to her security , by attacking the rebels from India’s northeast lodged in her country who had been  encouraged by her predecessor regime. She did not insist on reciprocity but she was sure to expect it.  Her hopes rose when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Dhaka with the draft of the Teesta agreement . But when that was not signed because Mamata Banerjee threw a spanner, Hasina suffered a huge setback. 

The political returns she would naturally expect by  investing in a friendship with India has not come , despite repeated promises  first  by Manmohan Singh and then by his successor Narendra Modi. The inordinate delays  on both the Teesta and Land Boundary issue seems to be finally telling on her patience, specially when she is under much pressure from an  unrelenting Opposition .  How long can she remain in hope of the agreements materialising so that she can go back to her people and say this is what we got from India. ! Her terse reminder to Mamata Banerji that hilsa exports to West Bengal would happen only if the agreement on Teesta materialised was an indication of the change in her attitude. The outburst over the World Cup defeat and the poor umpiring  is perhaps Hasina’s way of signalling to  Delhi  that all will not be hunky-dory unless Delhi delivered on her promises soon enough.
(Mr. Subir Bhaumik is a veteran journalist, former BBC correspondant and author of  two well acclaimed books ‘Insurgent Crossfire’ and ‘Troubled Periphery’ ) send your appreciation and comments pl. send email to or  or post online below
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