'Burn Indian saris first': Sheikh Hasina attacks 'boycott India' campaigners

Bangladesh has seen a 'boycott India' campaign after the re-election of Sheikh Hasina as the Prime Minister. Hasina attacked the backers of the 'boycott Indian products' campaign in Bangladesh with the sari and spices.
'Burn Indian saris first': Sheikh Hasina attacks 'boycott India' campaigners
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Opposition leaders in Bangladesh were trying to fan anti-India sentiments. Their attempt gained intensity as Sheikh Hasina, who has close ties with India, won the election for a fourth straight term. Silent for months, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has gone the whole nine yards in attacking the opposition over its 'Boycott India' campaign. Hasina loves the sari, and used it to take on her rivals.

Opponents of Hasina and her Awami League party have tried to brand her "pro-India" and claimed India helped her win the January elections. They started a campaign appealing to the people of Bangladesh to boycott Indian products.

After remaining silent for months as the issue simmered, Hasina hit out at leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Bangladesh's principal opposition party, and flipped the script of the 'Boycott India campaign'.

Hasina, who came to power after a landslide victory in the January elections, which the BNP boycotted, used the 'humble sari' to school the BNP leaders who had been backing a "boycott Indian products" campaign on social media.

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'Burn Indian saris first': Sheikh Hasina attacks 'boycott India' campaigners

Sheikh Hasina has hailed India as a "great friend" in various instances.

"How many Indian saris do their (BNP leader's) wives have?" Hasina asked last week.

"BNP leaders are saying #BoycottIndian products. Why are they not taking away their wives?," Hasina asked next, attracting a few chuckles at the Awami League office in Dhaka.

Hasina, who herself is known for her love for saris and gifting them to Indian leaders, then put forward a sari test for the opposition leaders.

"When they burn their wives' Indian saris in front of their party office, only then will it be proven that they are truly committed to boycotting Indian products," she said as she launched the sari-attack.

Not just the sari test, the Bangladesi Prime Minister also alleged that the BNP leaders and their wives used to buy saris from India and sell them in Bangladesh.

"When the BNP was in power, I had seen wives of their leaders flying to India, in groups, to buy Indian saris. They would sell the saris in Bangladesh," alleged Hasina.

It was not just the Indian Sari that Sheikh Hasina referred to. She sprinkled a handful of "Indian spices" in the pot too.

"I have one more question. We are importing 'garam masala', onion, garlic, ginger and many other items from India. Why don't they (BNP leaders) cook without Indian spices? They must cook and eat food made without these spices," said Skeikh Hasinsa on March 27.

"They must answer if they will be able to eat the food without the spices, they will have to answer that," she added.

Commotion over the 'Boycott India' campaign grew online, similar to the ones that trended in the case of Maldives's 'India Out'. Following Hasina's victory, instances of some degree of resistance to Indian goods and commodities were reported in February.

Dhaka markets, generally stocked with Indian products, were refused to take fresh deliveries. Indian products like cooking oil, processed foods, toiletries, cosmetics and clothing, saw a drop in sales.

Toxic anti-India posts surged online. #BoycottIndianProducts, #IndiaOut and #BoycottIndia started gaining traction on the Bangladeshi social media.

The online campaign, led mostly by the Bangladeshi diaspora and those in exile in Europe and the Americas, led to the boycott of Indian products, according to reports.

Paris-based Pinaki Bhattacharya, is said to be one of the main drivers of the 'Boycott India'.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party, then, was not among those calling for the boycott. Later, the BNP, because some of its leaders lent support, came to be associated with the anti-India campaign.

The BNP had been criticising Sheikh Hasina and her party, the Awami League, for their close ties with India. It has also opposed the alleged Indian involvement in the internal affairs of Bangadesh and its elections, saying the January polls were not free and fair.

The 'Boycott India' campaign, present mostly in the virtual world, made landfall recently when BNP joint secretary-general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi tossed away his Kashmiri shawl, as a symbol of defiance.

The BNP, which had earlier clarified that it had nothing to do with the 'boycott India' campaign, is now seen walking along.

As BNP's Rizvi tossed off the Kashmiri shawl on March 20, he said, "As a party representing the people, the BNP and 63 democratic parties and patriotic citizens are expressing solidarity with the boycott of Indian products."

The Awami League took the BNP's shaky stand on 'Boycott India', and said that the party had "lost its way".

“One leader of the BNP wants India's help to save democracy, while another leader calls for the boycott of Indian products. The BNP as a political party has lost its way”, Obaidul Quader, a minister in the Hasina Cabinet told the Dhaka Tribune.

That is when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina jumped in and used the 'sari analogy' to counter the 'Boycoytt India' campaign, which now saw some support from the BNP.

Following the remark, BNP leader Gayeshwar Chandra Roy called Sheikh Hasina and the ruling Awami League as the biggest Indian products and urged people to boycott the party and the leader.

"The country’s people will be freed only by boycotting the Indian product, and there is no need to boycott all Indian products," Roy said on Friday.

While social media handles tried to promote the "boycott India" sentiment, the Modi government allowed the export of 50,000 tonnes of onions, a key staple, to Bangladesh ahead of Ramzan and Eid.

Source: India Today

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