Communalism raises its ugly head yet again
Prime Minister Narendra Modi added much lustre to the ongoing birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Golden jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh’s independence on his Dhaka visit on March 26 and 27. His bilateral talks on a wide range of issues with the top Bangladesh leadership, visits to a couple of Hindu temples, meetings with a cross-section of politicians and minority leaders, and homage to the Father of the Nation at Tungipara were well-received.
Similarly, awarding the Gandhi Peace prize posthumously to Bangabandhu was an outstanding gesture. Modi’s powerful and emotional rhetoric in praise of Sheikh Mujib and India’s relations with Bangladesh augured very well as Indo-Bangla ties were placed on a new pedestal.
However, madrasa-inspired fundamentalist religious outfit Hefazat-e-Islam displayed while flexing its muscles by organizing anti-Modi protest demonstrations in Dhaka and other cities of Bangladesh, airing its ire on the Bangladesh government for having invited the Indian PM, who was alleged to have carried out discriminatory policies against the Muslims of India.
Law enforcing agencies in Bangladesh used force to keep the protesting Hefazat cadres at bay. Closer to PM Modi’s departure to India, the elite Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) was also deployed in Dhaka to maintain tranquility arising out of the Hefazat’s acts of vandalism and destruction of public property. That shows the seriousness and gravity of the prevailing emerging situation, then. It was indeed threatening.
Coincidentally, or otherwise, Hefazat led well-planned and orchestrated violence in parts of Dhaka, Narayanganj, Sunamganj, Habiganj, Chittagong, Brahmanbaria, Sylhet, and Munshigunj. Police stations were set alight, police officers in uniform targeted, and worse. In many cases, Hindu temples were desecrated and in some places of worship, ornaments of the deity were allegedly looted. This instilled a sense of insecurity amongst the Hindu minority feeling terribly unsafe by the onslaught of the communal forces. In Brahmanbaria, the renowned Ustad Allauddin Khan music academy came under violent attack.
Amid these unfortunate unfolding of violent happenings, it becomes imperative to quickly examine how Hefazat got emboldened enough to go on such a violent spree when the government was on its feet to foil any protests. How could Hefazat organize such large-scale demonstrations? What are the internal and external forces which lent moral and material support to the protestors?
These questions need to be answered sooner than later. Hefazat-led violence cost more than scores of lives and wanton vandalism of property.
Minority communities have legitimate expectations from the Hasina-led government in place in Dhaka. She is seen as the saviour and protector of the minorities. That trust merits to be maintained. Also, there has been a public perception that Hefazat was close to the ruling dispensation and enjoyed its patronage. In the year 2013, many liberals and bloggers were hacked to death. Hefazat was reportedly complicit in the killings. Subsequently, this outfit was extra vocal in the removal of statues from the Supreme Court describing their presence as un-Islamic. Their demand was met giving rise to speculations that the government was accommodative to Hefazat diktats. During and after the Modi visit, they have raised their ugly head, again.
In the light of these developments, it’s equally important for the intelligence and security agencies to ascertain the sources of funding to such destabilizing communalists’ inspired agitation. If any extraneous and hostile forces are involved, they ought to be exposed to prevent recurrences of such unsavoury incidents bringing embarrassment to a regime thought to be progressive.
Further, we know Jamaat stands de-franchised, but the elements remain possibly alive and kicking. They, by deduction, may have infiltrated into Hefazat. Many Jamaatis who had collaborated with Pakistani occupation forces in 1971 have been hanged to death after trials by a tribunal. The communal forces 50 years ago had connived with the then West Pakistan army.
It’s a sad commentary that as the country celebrates its half a century of independence, the very same forces are attempting to undermine the spirit of liberation and supreme sacrifice of the millions of proud Bangalis. It’s time for harsher measures to contain the menace.
Shantanu Mukharji is a security analyst and a freelance columnist. He was also the former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius.