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The point of no return

  • Published at 06:59 pm August 16th, 2017
The point of no return
On Tuesday morning, just across the street from the Dhaka Tribune offices, 21-year-old militant Saiful Islam was holed up in a hotel room, knowing there was no way out for him. His plan, which could’ve ended in the deaths of a large number of people, had failed. But he wasn’t surrendering -- in his mind he was going to a better place, perhaps a place where things forbidden in this life were all the rage. Perhaps his martyrdom would give him all the celestial virgins he could ever want, and everything else this cruel world never gave him in this life. With no escape in sight, he set off a couple of bombs, ending his own life. Nobody else was killed. And even though his belief system sees suicide as the gravest of sins, in his warped mind, somehow what he did was OK. Was it the method -- suicide by explosion -- that justified his actions? Or was it his grand plan to carry out mass murder on the death anniversary of the Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, just a stone’s throw away from Bangabandhu’s home in Dhanmondi Road 32? We will never know exactly what went through the mind of this fanatic, what led him to the point of no return causing him to blow himself up, and what his last thoughts were as his life ended. What we do know, though, is that Saiful was not the only one of his kind.
He will be spoken of as just another faceless, misguided youth who tried to do something extremely stupid before even getting to be old enough to know what’s what
There are many others out there, brainwashed into a similar manner of thinking. And these confused, hurt, angry young men (and I use the word men as opposed to people, because, let’s face it, how many women militants can you really think of?) aren’t away in some shady lair doing bad things in another world. They’re here, very much a part of this country. They grow somewhere inside our own rotting value system, in a place where critical thinking is not allowed, in a society where extremists are pacified at every turn.

*****

As I write this, I look out the window at my desk, and I can see the exact spot where the suicide bomber’s dead body lay. An entire wall is gone, and bricks and debris lie strewn across the footpath. The cleanup job seems to have been decent, and the substantial amount of rubble no longer seems to be blocking the main road. However, an AC still precariously dangles from the building, threatening to fall on a pedestrian. A green sign of Hotel Olio, proclaiming something about honesty and courage bringing success, once part of the third floor, lies shattered on the footpath. It looks almost symbolic. Olio now looks like someone, well, blew themselves up. But traffic on Panthapath, both on foot and on the road, seems almost normal. Life goes on, and that’s a good thing.

*****

If Saiful could see the aftermath right now, he would probably be utterly disappointed by the general response to his work. No one is singing his praises. His name will not be etched in the list of great martyrs. He will be spoken of as just another faceless, misguided youth who tried to do something extremely stupid before even getting to be old enough to know what’s what. But looking at this sad sight, will all other Saiful-wannabes wise up? Will they realise that they have been brainwashed into playing a game where nobody wins? Ever since Holey, we have been talking about the serious need to stop militancy at the source, to make sure more young people don’t fall prey to militant bosses who use young people as pawns in their game of death. To be fair, several successful raids have been conducted, and many lives have been saved. Operation August Bite was a triumph of law enforcement, and the brave men and women behind the operation deserve our heartfelt thanks. A militant was successfully taken out, and a tragedy was averted. But a bigger question remains -- how many more such raids will we need? When it comes to really rooting out the belief system behind militancy, how much progress have we made since Holey? As one battle gets fought with good intelligence, timely action, and well-executed raids, another should be waged on the social and cultural level, to educate young people, to make it clear that terrorism is not a viable career option, and that there is no glory whatsoever in blowing yourself up. Abak Hussain is Editor, Editorial and Op-Ed, Dhaka Tribune.