‘When They Burn Their Wives’ Saris…’: Bangladesh PM Hits Out At Oppn’s ‘Boycott India’ Call


Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has thrown down the gauntlet to opposition leaders advocating for a boycott of Indian products, challenging them to disclose the number of Indian sarees owned by their wives and to burn them publicly. The Bangladeshi Prime Minister, known for her elegant collection of traditional Bengali saris, used the occasion of the country’s Independence Day on March 26 to call out opposition leaders, leveraging the cultural significance of sarees among Bengali women.

“How many Indian saris do their wives have?” she asked at an event, as quoted by The Telegraph. “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 added, evoking laughter from the gathering at the Tejgaon office of the ruling Awami League.

“When the BNP was in power, the wives of some ministers used to go to India. They used to buy sarees and travel here and there… They used to go with one suitcase and returned with six-seven suitcases,” Hasina remarked as she recalled what she got to know from her contacts during her time as an Opposition leader between 1991-1996 and 2001-2006.

“All the items like hot spices, onions, garlic, ginger, which we need for cooking, come from India…. These should not be seen in anyone’s kitchen,” said Hasina at the party programme, according to a report by The Telegraph.

As per the report, the remarks came after a recent “Boycott India” campaign that gained some traction on social media platforms following Bangladesh’s general election in January.

What Triggered Bangladesh PM Hasina’s Challenge To Opposition

The challenge to the Opposition from Bangladesh PM Hasina stemmed from an incident when Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, senior joint secretary-general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), discarded his Kashmiri shawl. Rizvi had highlighted the growing dissent on social media against the import of Indian goods, advocating for boycotting Indian products in solidarity with 63 democratic parties and citizens.

This sentiment, rooted in general discontent since the 1990s over alleged Indian interference in Bangladesh’s politics, gained momentum after this year’s Bangladesh general election, which saw Hasina’s return to power for the fourth consecutive term.

Since the poll results, the BNP’s social media army has been trying to curate a narrative that the “one-sided election” gained legitimacy only because of New Delhi, calling for Bangladeshis to boycott India and Indian products, the report mentioned.

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Did BNP Get Inspired By Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu?

The Telegraph cited a source in Dhaka close to the BNP as revealing that the idea for a boycott-India trend was inspired by the recent events in Maldives, where Mohamed Muizzu used the anti-India rhetoric to win the country’s presidential election.

“The plan was to make it look like a people’s movement, which gathered momentum on social media…. And then use popular sentiment to embarrass the Hasina government and create chaos as India is an emotive issue,” The Telegraph quoted the source as saying.

While the BNP has attempted to rally support for the boycott, questions arise over its potential impact due to the indispensability of Indian products in Bangladesh.

Farida Yasmin, an Awami League MP and the National Press Club President remarked that the BNP was using the anti-India rhetoric after failure to make any impact on electoral politics. “This is nothing but a conspiracy, but it won’t have any impact,” she said, as quoted by the report.

The report also cited trade bodies like the India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry as stating that the boycott call did not impact the demand for Indian products. 


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