Continued threat of terror inspired by Islam – 3 – the strange case of Bangladesh

Posted on July 30, 2008. Filed under: Bangladesh, India, Muslims, Politics, terrorism |

In 1971, at the end of what is typically referred to in Bangladesh as “Muktijuddho” or in the English language media as the Liberation War continuing in its “direct actions” stage for approximately 9 months beginning in March and ending in the official surrender of the Pakistani Army’s eastern command in December, East Pakistan formally was recognized as an independent nation called Bangladesh by among others, India. India’s involvement in this campaign has roots in quite complex and intricate historical and geo-political strategic considerations. India actively participated in the final phase of the campaign by directly invading East Pakistan, and forming a joint military campaign referred to by Bangladeshi media when at its gracious best, as the “Mitra Bahini” (or Allied Forces – to preclude any controversy, I am simply using standard military history terminology as applied in the case of Allied Forces in WWII – and as this term is typically translated in Bengali). Prior to this, India allowed a Provisional Bangladesh Government to be formed with its later headquarters in Calcutta, India. India also allowed one of its radio transmitter stations to be used for broadcasting under the aegis of “Swadhin Bangla Betar Kendra” (Independent Bengal broadcasting Centre). Apart from this, both countries allude to the existence of training camps for volunteer Bengalees from East Pakistan with the aim of producing guerrilla fighting units. East Pakistan’s extensive borders with India, in some of the most inhospitable and well “covered” terrain helped fluidity of guerrilla movements across the border. As will be noted later, this feature of the “border” remains a factor of crucial importance.

What happened in the roughly 9 months of the Liberation War has been highly controversial. Without going into the actual incidents, how this Liberation War has been seen and represented is highly relevant and illustrative for our current discussion. There are broadly three distinct classes of opinions within Bangladesh –

(1) The Liberation War was won by the “MuktiJoddha”‘s ( although the English translation of this term first were actually used by the Salvation Army) whom I will refer to as Liberation Soldiers (Some of them definitely aimed for “freedom” but freedom has a much wider connotation than “liberation” – freedom from parochialism, religious bigotry, etc) with some “tactical” input at the final stage from the Indian Army. The political leadership and inspiration of this struggle was from Sk. Mujibur Rehman. Three million “martyrs” (“Shahid” is the term actually used, and is reserved in Islam for fighters who die fighting in the cause of Allah, and are greeted in “Behest” or paradise with the “sherbet” of “Shahidi” as well as other “gifts and pleasures”) gave their lives and thousands of Bengali women were raped or enslaved in sex-slavery or enforced prostitution for the pleasure of the Pakistani Army. In this the Pakistani army was helped by a section of Bengali Muslims organized under the names of Rajakar, Al Badr or Al Shams (all Arabic words referring to important and significant phases in early Islam) as paramilitary forces with the political leadership being given by the “Jamaat” (originally an Arabic word meaning gathering, usually religious gathering) with deliberate massacres by the paramilitary to liquidate Bengali intelligentsia when facing defeat.

(2) The Liberation War was won by the “MuktiJoddha”‘s led by the rebel breakaway regiments of the East-Pakistan Army under the command of Maj. Zia and General Osmani[ there was some unfortunate oversight about the then military rank of this superb military talent causing some protocol problems with the Indian Army – authors comments]. The Indian Army joined this liberation campaign because of its own strategic considerations in its on-going war on the western front with Pakistan. Three million “martyrs” gave their lives and thousands of Bengali women were raped or enslaved in sex-slavery or enforced prostitution for the pleasure of the Pakistani Army. Some “misdirected” Bengalees helped the Pakistani Army.

(3) The Indian Army overran Bangladeshi territory. There is now “nothing wrong” in the “then” formation of Bangladesh, but the greatest danger was the possibility of “colonization” by India. This was “rightly” opposed by the truly “patriotic” and “properly Islamic” leadership of the “Jamaat”. Many Bangladeshis gave their lives in this fight between India and Pakistan. Bengali women were not raped or enslaved in sex-slavery or enforced prostitution for the pleasure of the Pakistani Army, or even if they were, it was not done by Rajakars, Al Badrs or Al Shams. This “fact” is proved by the inadequacy of evidence as well as the failure of succeeding Bangldesh governments to “make their case” in courts of law.

On the whole, the dominant regime sponsored opinion in Bangladesh has remained heavily inclined towards (2) and (3). We can see that in all three major trends, India is cause for lots of unease. The fact that all Bangladesh governments, including those led by the “followers” of Sk Mujib (his assassination “miraculously” made the way clear for his erstwhile follower Khondokar Mushtaq who happily collaborated with the Army leadership involved in the assassination) as well as the current “care-taker” government (“backed” or “not-backed” by the Army, depending on “occasion” and “spokesperson” ), have managed not to bring alleged perpetrators of atrocities to trial in spite of the issue being a strong theme in the public consciousness as reflected in the media implies one thing only – the overwhelming social, political and military clout of sections represented by opinions (2) and (3).

I have seen media interviews where (1) those from the military typically react quite angrily to any suggestion that links atrocities with Islamic name bearing groups – implying that any group bearing Islamic name cannot be involved in “atrocities” (2) a well known Bangladeshi intellectual comments with a beaming face, that a British “Lord” praised Sk. Mujib’s greatest achievement to be his ability to “force” out the Indians after the liberation of Bangladesh. It is interesting to note that the Indian Muslim’s (apologies Titumir, Ashfaqulla or Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his Khudai Khidmatgars) admiration and courting of the British has not changed its nature right from the days of the Partition -leading to the sheer audacity and lunacy of implying that India wanted to annex East Pakistan (without any concrete proof and given completely opposite indications in India’s real actions such as recognizing the independent state of Bangladesh or recognizing a provisional government in exile etc) and gloating in the certificate of a doyen of an Imperialist regime famous in history for its “extreme reluctance” to leave any conquered territory before sucking it dry.

Like Pakistan, the essential grip of Islam over the society of Bangladesh has not loosened substantially over the last 60 years. Given the continued development and trends in Bangladesh society, we can infer that (1) in 1971, the forces for liberation of Bangladesh as a separate cultural entity distinct from Pakistan with the cultural element overriding the only link with Pakistan, Islam, were more or less evenly balanced against the forces identifying with the driving principles of Pakistan – reorganization of society on Islamic lines (2) India’s entry into the campaign tilted the instantaneous military balance in favour of the “cultural supremacy” pro-liberation component (3) as in any revolutionary campaign, the forces for change usually suffer greater casualties, and even if successful almost inevitably come out with a depletion of the most dedicated and the most revolutionary among its ranks, for these are the people who are foremost in the battle-lines. Survivors have a greater proportion of fence-sitters and opportunists than before the revolution. This was true also of the pro-liberation movement.

Thus once India was removed from the scene, with a weakened revolutionary force, the balance shifted in favour of orthodox Islamic resurgence, and it has continued to grow in strength. Some would try to say that there were economic motivations behind the liberation movement. Yes to a certain extent, but if it was economic motivation alone, the overwhelming exploitation of the East Pakistan should have led to the triumph of the spirit of the “Muktijoddhas”, as collaborators or “compradors” benefiting from this exploitation would have been few. A significant economic motivation in maintaining hostility towards India however could be the continued enjoyment of “enemy properties” of Hindus on the part of some. There will be continued hostility towards Indian culture, by portraying Indian culture as monolithic, “Hindu”, Hindi and mainly “Bollywood” , decadent and therefore distinct from, “pure”, Islamic and “Bengali” culture – (the latter, “Islamic+Bengali” therefore subtly merged together to bridge the distinction that led to the fracture between Pakistan and Bangladesh). There are sometimes attempts to portray the “Kolkata” language as no longer “Bengali”, etc. At the same time there are conspicuous attempts at avoiding Bengali words from Sanskrit roots and try to substitute as much as possible by words of Arabic or Persian origin. (A cliche would be the persistent use of “pani” for water, a word shared by Hindi and Urdu but not used by the non-Muslim Indian Bengali, similarly words for social relations etc). This type of Arabic or Persian admixture is noted much more in the elite of West Bengal society (probably from historical contact with Turko-Afghan/Mughal administration) rather than the general West Bengal non-Muslim population – e.g., use of “Saran” (from Sanskrit/Prakrit “Sarani” meaning road) among the non-elite rural populations in some regions compared to the more common elite usage “rasta”.

Some would even try to say that the recent capture of some of the leadership of Islamic extremists supposed to have been behind blasts killing hundreds, and their almost secret trial, and execution points to determination to move away from the Islamic Jihadist path. Not really, as a large number of these extremists are likely to be hiding in India, as well as being protected or covered by sympathetic forces within Bangladesh. It is even more likely that extremists are regrouping with proper “help” using the complacency sought to be generated after the executions. The supporting networks were never revealed or evidence for liquidation of these networks provided.

The Bangladesh elite attitude towards India continues to be hostile. Media appears to equate “India” with “Hindu”, and only softens its language when Indian help is badly needed. In general the popular entertainment items project Hindus as “inferior”, with “sampriti” (harmony) typically manifesting only in situations like a Hindu girl falling in love with or marrying a Muslim boy (never the other way round) – or being designated by the disparaging “malaon” (probably referring to the importance of garlands in certain Vaishnavite sects of Hinduism – the most popular form in East Bengal – unfortunately the rosaries of Catholics also contain the same number of beads as in the Hindu and Buddhist “japamalas” – 108, and the “Tasbi” in certain Muslim sects are also connected to religion and have similar functions). Proportions of Hindu population in Bangladesh will continue to decrease as revealed in “missing populations”, most likely to be explained as basic “hatred” Hindus have towards Islam and therefore their unpatriotic flight to “India”.

Thus the balance of forces, including the military, the lumpen proletariat, and the elite is overwhelmingly in favour of classic Islamic attitude towards non-Muslims, and Hindus in particular – probably because of the typical excessive zeal in distancing from the parent culture of the newly-converted (the “Hindu” Bengali adage “natun Mussalman goru khawar jom” – a newly converted Muslim is an extra-avid beef eater). India can expect continued covert support of Islamic radicals and extremists from powerful sections within Bangladesh society and establishment. Formally the issues under which this agenda will be carried out are “border incidents” – resulting from impossibly difficult to demarcate boundaries on extremely fluid eco-systems, cross-border smuggling of both animals and humans -(animals from India and humans from Bangladesh – both persistently denied by Bangladesh and insisted on by India), sharing water resources, and extraction of economic favours from India.

Typically the language used by the media and the elite is quite revealing in these issues – the India bashing is carried out in popular media including the printed in the total absence of any voice or views from the Indian side. These bashing campaigns are usually dominated by essentially political personalities – for example, the most ardent discussions on water sharing will be led not by hydrologists, and even if they are present they will carefully avoid the scientific issues of effect of climate change on overall precipitation in the Himalayan catchment areas and blame shortfalls in water supplies entirely on India, the issues of landgrabbing and unplanned constructions within Bangladesh that cause flooding will be carefully avoided and flooding blamed entirely on India, and sometimes this will reach to the level where India’s own huge populations and its needs are completely neglected with the demand being placed that amounts to demands for guaranteed maintenance of whatever Bangladesh wants and when it wants. The elite knows quite well that such demands are unrealistic and will never be met.

Bangladesh will demand investment from India but if such investments are actually initiated, they will be vehemently opposed, and any presence of anything connected to India will be immediately equated with “Indian Imperialism”. By this duality, Bangladesh maintains its propaganda for its sympathisers in the West that India is “hostile” towards it by not “investing”, and reveals its real ideological considerations that override real economic considerations – its essentially Islam inspired hostility towards “Hindus”. Similar imperialist charges are not leveled at initiatives coming from “proper Islamic” sources – for example buying up Bangladeshi financial institutions from the Middle East were welcomed even if the offer finally did not materialize but Indian industrialists such as the Tatas would be vehemently opposed. In the case that an “Islamic” investor turns out to be a failure, there will be no criticism at all – but the harshest of propaganda reactions will be reserved for India if the Indian investor withdraws.

These are the indications of an essentially ideological hatred against India and its majority community, the Hindus. And there is no reason why this should actually decrease. India should expect much more sophisticated collaboration of powerful sections of Bangladeshi society with the Pan-Islamic movement now shaping up. Deception, pretension, and protestations of peace and harmony will be employed only until militant, terroristic strength to overcome non-Muslim populations on the subcontinent has been achieved. It will be a huge mistake on India’s part to be lulled by such protestations of innocence.

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One Response to “Continued threat of terror inspired by Islam – 3 – the strange case of Bangladesh”

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Completely unpardonable is how the westernized and self loathing bengali bhadralok led the namasudras up the garden path and handed them to the islamists. Especially the bose family must never be forgiven for this great crime.The racism against the bangals(even other jatis) as they are called by hypocritical bhadralok,is profound and deep;even if they did not choose to mix with them,they should have at least informed men like jogendranth mandal about the realities of islam,to which they turned a nelson’s eye angling for a united bengal. The east bengalis should have been supplied with arms and asked to decimate the rampaging hordes which they would have managed(as proved in the kolkata riots);Poor jogendranath,misled by the equality rhetoric had to come back shaken to the very caste based society he dreamed of ending.
This gross deception against coreligionists which has resulted in their extinction has no parallel.


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