The Bangladeshi newspapers are reporting that 9 men have been arrested for being involved in a “criminal conspiracy” to instigate a riot in the textile manufacturing districts. The interviews with the men arrested make it seem as as though they are not in the union leadership, but they will clearly be scapegoated for much of the violence and be used as a pretext for cracking down on the other labor unions. The Rapid Action Battalion officials are already saying that they suspect “Some 10 to 15 workers’ organisations are being funded to instigate violence.” What is also clear is that the arrests that are being made now are for incredibly petty things, like stealing a pair of sunglasses, which means that this is one of the most incompetent raids of working class unions ever performed (not that I am in favor of competent raids against unions). And in typical fashion, the RAB is attempting to link the violence to the influence of “foreign elements” who are attempting to destabilize the all-important garment industry.
At the same time, if you look at the footage of the protests, it’s pretty clear that this is not being orchestrated by 9 sunglass thieves, but is genuinely a mass protest movement:
And what’s also clear is that the police have to be held accountable for the indiscriminate use of violence against the people involved in the protests (though there is no sign that this is in the works):
The Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Export Agency (BGMEA), the main organization of the textile industrialists, has asked for more police during Ramadan. The RAB has dutifully responded: they’ve already begun setting up new police stations (Savar-Ashulia, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Chittagong) to help them ensure the security of the textile manufacturing areas (though these will undoubtedly be used to spy on the work of the unions). That they are this worried seems to mean that we can expect another round of protests sooner rather than later. Meanwhile Home Minister Sahara Khatun lost no time in pinning the blame on the BNP and the Bangladeshi Jamaat-e-Islami.
Incidentally, the intense competition inside of the garment industry globally means that clothing prices are not likely to rise. This basically means that factory owners will have to find new and more vicious ways of squeezing their employees.