FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Bangladesh's Radical Problem
Posted:Jan 7, 2016
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Sudeep Chakravarti
 
Be safe and very vigilant,” Elite Force, a Dhaka, Bangladesh-based security firm posted on its Facebook page about a countrywide strike on 7 January. “Keep track on news, but don’t let silly rumours panic you. Take care.”
 
If ever there was a message for the country with which India shares its longest border, and which remains its security, trade and energy pivot in this populous eastern arc of South Asia, that was it.
 
The country was locked down on account of a strike called by Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami. The radical organization was protesting the confirmation by that country’s Supreme Court on 6 January of the death penalty given to a Jamaat leader, Motiur Rahman Nizami.
 
He stands convicted of counselling the killing of several hundred innocents during the war of 1971, in particular the massacre of intellectuals towards the end. Nizami was at the time chief of the Al Badr Bahini, a militia that stands accused of assisting Pakistan’s army in genocide.
 
The Jamaat is livid; last November, its leader Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed was executed for war crimes.
 
Some portray what is going on in Bangladesh as a fight of good against evil. A young Bangladeshi businessman with excellent access to that country’s prime minister’s office went as far as to tell me: “We keep telling you (India) we need 10 more years. We’ll finish them off.”
 
The gentleman reflects the point of view of several loyalists of the Awami League party, which has ruled since 2009—and practically unopposed since 2014, as major opponents such as Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotted general elections to the national assembly that year.
 
Basically, it’s the diminishing of ultra-conservative Islamist forces in the country. This list begins with the opposition BNP, its ally Jamaat (Nizami was a minister in a BNP-led government between 2001 and 2006), those accused of war crimes, relatively more recent extremist coalitions like Hefazat-e-Islam, and organizations like Ansarullah Bangla Team that have openly threatened and killed liberal bloggers these past three years. (In end-December a special tribunal in the capital Dhaka sentenced two Bangla Team members to death for the killing of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider in February 2013.)
 
These days, in-your-face extremism across the country is Bangladesh’s headlining global news alongside robust socio-economic growth, booming trade and worker remittances, and among the most successful rural credit networks in the world. Impetus to the latter aspects is the declared goal of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. She has also assiduously networked with India on a number of matters ranging from cross-border terrorism, trade and sharing of river waters, to settling long-pending disputes such as the agreement last May to swap 160 enclaves.
 
The spread and cultivated fury of extremism in Bangladesh is a subject that Dhaka liberals and Awami League stalwarts—not always the same species—prefer to downplay. The editor of a major Dhaka-based newspaper bemoaned to me the fact that his country’s critics are fond of highlighting the growth of madrasas, or Islamic seminaries—a recent article in the New York Times cited estimates that mapped an increase from 4,100 madrasas in 1986 to 14,000 in 2015, at any time schooling in excess of one million. Such critics rarely highlight that many times that number attend state- and privately-run schools in villages and cities that impart secular education.
 
While I agreed with the editor, I also suggested that we may need to recognize a shift: for the generations radicalized since 1971, sentencing their leadership for past crimes, even heinous ones, may amount today to sentencing Islam. For so many millions today, a future for Bangladesh is also a future for securing Islam. This may seem superfluous in a country where the state religion is Islam, but extremism follows its own distorted logic.
 
Ironically, Awami League may be adding to the distortion. Cronyism is rampant. Awami League cleaned up at the recently concluded countrywide mayoral elections, but its overall victory over BNP and others—the first time the parties have electorally faced off after the boycotted national elections of 2014—were replete with reports of stuffing of ballots. The government’s critics point to centralization of power, in some ways reminiscent of 1975, the year Hasina’s father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was assassinated in a plot led by army officers.
 
Thereafter, development arrived with large doses of state-mandated conservatism, including a pardoning of war criminals. For India, it meant two decades of diplomatic chill.
 
Something has to give, or radical forces may take more than what Bangladesh bargained for.
 
Sudeep Chakravarti’s latest book is Clear. Hold. Build: Hard Lessons of Business and Human Rights in India. His previous books include Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country and Highway 39: Journeys through a Fractured Land. This column, which focuses on conflict situations in South Asia that directly affect business, runs on Fridays. Respond to this column at rootcause@livemint.com
 
Live Mint, January 8, 2016
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina assumed office again in Bangladesh in 2009, bilateral relations between New Delhi and Dhaka have been on a steady upward trajectory.
 
read-more
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said that military dictatorship always halted progress in the country. The Prime Minister, who was in Karachi on a day-long visit, was speaking during the inauguration ceremony of the Pakistan International Bulk Terminal at Port Qasim.
 
read-more
Ruskin Bond’s first novel ‘Room on the Roof’ describes in vivid detail how life in the hills around Dehradun used to be. Bond, who is based in Landour, Mussoorie, since 1963, captured the imagination of countless readers as he painted a picture of an era gone by.
 
read-more
India’s foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has attained a level of maturity which allows it to assert itself in an effective manner. This is aimed at protecting the country’s national interests in a sustained way.
 
read-more
Braid-chopping incidents have added to the already piled up anxieties of Kashmiris. Once again they are out on the streets, to give vent to their anger. A few persons, believed to be braid-choppers were caught hold by irate mobs at various places. They were beaten to pulp.
 
read-more
The upcoming 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) has captured world attention. French newspaper Le Monde on Sunday published a front page article headlined "China, the rise of the great power" in Chinese characters and carried eight pages on the topic, the epitome of Western reporting on the 19th CPC
 
read-more
When Saudi women’s rights activist Manal al-Sharif was taken to a women’s prison in Saudi Arabia, the prisoners inside crowded around her in shock.
 
read-more
By refusing to certify the Iran nuclear deal, which curbed its nuclear programme in return for lifting global sanctions, U.S. President Donald Trump has put the two-year-old pact on dangerous footing.
 
read-more
It is a privilege to be invited to this most prestigious of law schools in the country, more so for someone not formally lettered in the discipline of law. I thank the Director and the faculty for this honour.
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699

 
Column-image

Could the North Korean nuclear issue which is giving the world an anxious time due to presence of hotheads on each side, the invasion of Iraq and its toxic fallout, and above all, the arms race in the teeming but impoverished South Asian subcon...

 
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive