By Anand Kumar *
The recent violence against minorities in Bangladesh has taken many people by surprise. It is not that violence against minorities is unknown in Bangladesh, however, it was certainly brought under control after Sheikh Hasina came to power. Violence against Hindu minorities erupted again in Cumilla this year during the Hindu festival Durga Puja when a disbeliever perhaps at the instigation of some extremists put the Holy Book of the Quran in a Puja Pandal.1 By the As a result, the violence also spread to other regions due to rumors on social media.
Over the past decade or so, Bangladesh has succeeded in prioritizing economic progress over religious extremism that engulfs a number of other Muslim-majority countries. The country has grown at a decent rate2, even as the whole world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. The growing prosperity of Bangladesh is seen as one of the main reasons for the strong support of the Bangladeshi people that Sheikh Hasina enjoys. However, the recent violence against minorities can prove damaging if the appropriate measures are not taken by the Awami League government.
After the violence erupted, the government placed eight units of Bangladesh border guards in various parts of Chattogram district to maintain law and order. Minister of State for Religious Affairs Md Faridul Haque Khan has warned people not to take justice into their own hands. He said the local administration will investigate what really happened in Cumilla. A week later, Bangladesh police succeeded in arresting Iqbal Hossain, identified as the prime suspect in the incitement to violence at Cumilla in Cox’s Bazar. Civil society in Bangladesh has also protested against violence against minorities. They demanded that the government of Bangladesh enact a new law to guarantee religious freedom for all. However, the situation still remains tense in the country.
After coming to power in 2009, Sheikh Hasina’s government took strong action against anti-liberation forces, largely represented by Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh. The other extremist groups in Bangladesh were an outgrowth of the Jamaat because they thought the Jamaat was not radical enough. The Awami League government has conducted war crimes trials against top Jamaat leaders. A number of them were hanged for crimes committed during the war of liberation. When the war crimes tribunal in Bangladesh sentenced Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla only to life imprisonment, large numbers of people in Bangladesh were infuriated, and this led to the Shahbag movement in 2013, in which pro-liberation forces demanded the hanging of Abdul Quader Molla for his crimes during the war of liberation.3
Unfortunately, along with the Shahbag movement, Bangladesh also saw the rise of Hefazat-e-Islam, another radical Islamist movement in 2013.4 Hefazat-e-Islam sacked Dhaka when he launched his protest against the organizers of the Shahbag movement. He viewed them as atheists.5 Ironically, subsequently, the Awami League linked up with Hefazat-e-Islam perhaps to gain electoral mileage.6 It was not easy for a government of one. majority Muslim country to follow a secular policy. This dilemma has also been seen in the policies of the Awami League. He acted against the Jamaati but could not change the status of Islam as a state religion.
Hasina also acted against radical and terrorist organizations. Once in power, she declared a zero tolerance policy against terrorism. This kind of policy was only expected of her as she was nearly killed in a terrorist attack in Dhaka in 2004 while addressing a rally. In this attack, 24 Awami League employees, including one of his close associates, were killed.7
Hasina took action against Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), a group that was active in Bangladesh but also carried out terrorist strikes in India. It has also taken action against other Bangladeshi groups such as Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). Pakistan-based Islamist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed used Bangladesh as a transit route. Hasina’s tough measures ended their use of Bangladesh as a springboard for terrorist activities against India.
India was pleasantly surprised when Hasina took action against Indian insurgent groups active in northeast India. These groups were using Bangladesh as a base for their terrorist activities in northeast India. Bangladesh’s previous political and military regimes consciously allowed these insurgent groups to operate from Bangladesh. In fact, when Sheikh Hasina took action against them and handed over most of their key leaders to India, these forces criticized Hasina for losing a major pressure point against India.8 Sheikh Hasina’s cooperation with India in the fight against terrorism has significantly improved relations between India and Bangladesh. and took it to a whole new level.
However, Sheikh Hasina’s return to power and his pro-India policies have not been appreciated by his national and international opponents. Nationally, it faced strong resistance from the main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Islamist political party Jamaat-e-Islami. Although Jamaat was struck off by the Bangladesh Election Commission for failing to recognize the legislative power of the Bangladeshi parliament, it still has significant influence in the country. Jamaat, as part of the ruling BNP-led government coalition, controlled two important ministries. During this period, he attempted to Islamize Bangladeshi society. Jamaat’s influence also increased in the Bangladesh army, bureaucracy, and police force.
Pakistan is one of the main international actors hostile to the government of Sheikh Hasina. When Sheikh Hasina declared his intention to try war criminals, it was not appreciated by Pakistan. Pakistan had sent Zia Ispahni as its special envoy to dissuade Sheikh Hasina from carrying out the trials. However, given that she remained adamant about war crimes trials, it is widely suspected that the ISI was the instigator of a rebellion within the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), then the border guard force. of Bangladesh.9 This rebellion almost toppled the political regime of Sheikh Hasina., but it managed to save the situation but with great difficulty.
Sheikh Hasina’s actions against Jamaat and the prosecution of BNP leader Khaleda Zia on corruption charges have succeeded in weakening the opposition, but they are still a force to be reckoned with. The opposition has been in power for three terms, and to return, they would like to create a situation of political crisis in Bangladesh so that either the army is provoked to take control of power or to create an interim government. . The army in Bangladesh has undergone significant changes as most of the officers of the Pakistani era have now retired, but it still remains an important factor in Bangladesh politics. The easiest way for the opposition in Bangladesh is to create a political crisis in Bangladesh by inciting community conflicts.10 Perhaps the forces hostile to Sheikh Hasina’s government are trying to do just that. The Awami League government should remain vigilant to the designs of the forces hostile to it and not allow them to undo the work it has done over the past decade.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Manohar Parrikar IDSA or the Indian government.
* About the author: Anand Kumar is an associate researcher at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analyzes
Source: This article was published by * About the author: Anand Kumar is an associate researcher at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis (IDSA)
- 1. Tenzin Zompa, “Puja Pandals, temples attacked in Bangladesh for” dirtying “the Koran, the government promises to act”, The imprint, October 14, 2021.
- 2.Mihir S. Sharma, “Bangladesh becomes the star of South Asia while India and Pak lag behind”, Commercial standard, June 1, 2021.
- 3.Tanim Ahmed and Biswadip Das, “Quader Molla hangs, finally, for war crimes”, bdnews24.com, December 12, 2013; also look, “Abdul Kader Mullah, Islamist from Bangladesh hanged for war crimes”, BBC News, December 12, 2013.
- 4.Zia Hassan, “In Bangladesh, a year to live dangerously”, The Hindu, June 19, 2013.
- 5. Sabir Mustafa, “Hefazat-e Islam: Islamist Coalition”, BBC News, May 6, 2013.
- 6.“How Hefazat-e-Islami became Sheikh Hasina Govt’s Frankenstein in Bangladesh”, The imprint, March 31, 2021.
- 7.“Bangladesh will hang 19 for deadly attack in 2004 rally”, BBC News, October 10, 2018; see also Ashutosh Sarkar, “Grenade attack of August 21, 2004: 17 years later, the road to justice is not yet over”, The Daily Star, August 20, 2021.
- 8.Haroon Habib and Vijaita Singh, “Dhaka hands over ULFA’s top leader to India”, The Hindu, November 11, 2015.
- 9.Sen summit, “Jittery Pak instigated the Bangla mutiny?”, The time of India, March 16, 2009.
- ten.“Offer to tarnish the image of Bangladesh: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on temple attacks”, The gallery, October 25, 2021.