Dialogue April-June 2008 , Volume 9 No. 4
Present Bangladesh Scenario and its Impact
on India's Internal Security
Political Sum-Up—Expansion of Islamic Fundamentalism
After assuming power in 1978 Zia-ur-Rehaman replaced Bengali nationalism by Bangladeshi nationalism. Consequent upon the post-independent economic and social crisis people lost their faith in Awami League (AL) and for about 21 years all other political ideologies became absolutely superfluous. People were totally confused by the impact of scientific socialism and extermination of class-enemy, in the name of Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD), Chasi Samiti, Sarbahara by means of underground armed activities against Awami League government launched by JSD and defeated Pakistani elements. Over and above, AL failed to project any inspiring ideology-based programmes, which deprived the people and particularly the youth to visualize the benefit of a recently liberated country and its future, and the Pakistan-oriented Islamic sentiment continued to influence their psyche, and in such a changed situation the Mujib regime dug out its own grave.
After this various organizations appeared on the scene soaked in Islamic fervour which were patronized by the Government. A large section of youth was attracted to this bandwagon and Bangladeshi nationalism totally lost its fervour in Islamic revolution. The adoption of Islam as the state religion has utterly demoralized Hindus. Bengali nationalism was branded as an off-shoot of Hindutwa or Indian ethos, Bengali nationhood was transferred into a Bangladeshi citizenry and the Bengali identity became a moderate Muslim identity. Consequently, what was the nationalist force became a Bangladeshi one and a Bengali meant a Hindu, or at best a resident of West Bengal. It became impossible for any Muslim to think differently when to this sentiment was added fundamentalist Islamic sense of values. Post Mujib-era turned the country almost one hundred eighty degrees from secular democracy to an Islam-centric state. Return of Islam in politics within four years of its liberation from Pakistan accelerated the growth of Islamic institutions and organizations both at the government and non-government levels. An abnormal increase of Islamic institutions like mosques, madrasas, etc created an Islamic upsurge in the country. This created a favourable electioneering ground for the nationalistic Islamic force strengthened by a canard in favour of crude communalism. After AL came to power in 1996 it was propagated that Bangladesh was going to be dominated by India and for that matter by the Hindus again. In the election of 2001 this propaganda took such a turn that it became a big question whether nationalistic Islamic force could survive and Bangladesh could preserve its independent identity if the people decided to vote for other than the Islamic forces. The Alem society and the Imams of the mosques resorted to a propaganda that if AL was voted to power the existence of Bangladesh will be jeopardized and Islam will wither. In such a situation the common Muslim people attached more importance to the preservation of religion and their own Imams. Democracy became a secondary issue. The four party alliance won the election with a thumping majority, and the agenda of uprooting the Hindus and the elimination of Bengali nationalism was afoot. The frightening reign of Islamic power during 2001-2006 culminated in an unparalleled torture, looting and lawlessness. Attempt was made to uproot, lock stock and barrel, the Bengali nationalism, communal harmony and all sorts of human values. Though Bangladesh did not became overtly a fundamentalist Islamic and religiously fanatic country it became impossible for the Hindus to live a normal life.
Jamat-e-Islam : How powerful it is !
After the gruesome murder of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975 JIB got the support both from the Islamic military power and dictatorial governments and shared the state power with the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and built up with the secret grant of petro-dollar an economic empire by opening Banks, Insurance companies, hospitals and various Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Compared to Pakistan the presence of the militant fundamentalism and its primary organization the JIB, is more pronounced in Bangladesh. The BNP-JIB alliance Government extended all kinds of help to Mosques and Madrasas working as training camps of the militant Islamic fundamentalists. A JIB minister, Amir Motiur Rehman Nizami had the courage to declare that there was no existence of a terrorist killer like Banglabhai in Bangladesh—this was all a creation of media. JIB established a strong economic foundation by both legal and illegal means. JIB enjoys a very powerful support and help, though secretly, both from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. It can be safely predicted that JIB will continue to enjoy support of the invisible government of Pakistan (Military Establishment) and Saudi monarchy. The Caretaker Government of Bangladesh did not dare to touch JIB for the fear of incurring displeasure of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. As a partner of the erstwhile BNP led government JIB has been able to build up a strong base in the civil, military administration, judiciary and educational establishments. It will not be easy for any democratic governments to uproot their bases from these establishments all on a sudden. Moreover, nearly 80% of mosques and Madrasas are in control of JIB, and these mosques and madrasas are of a great source of strength for JIB. But JIB also has a clay foot. It is still fresh in the memory of the Bengali nationalist psyche the cruel and murderous character of JIB as a killer of people in collaboration with Pakistani army during the liberation struggle of Bangladesh. There still exists an enlightened group and newly formed Sector Commanders Forum (SCF) who demand the trial of the war criminals. In spite of this impediment the present non-party care-taker government is too soft towards JIB in line with the erstwhile, Zia, Ershad and Khaleda Zia governments.They are going to eliminate voice of democracy keeping Sheik Hasina and other political leaders of democratic movement under bar with connivance of present army junta. Is it line of Burma? Whither Bangladesh?
Islamic Militancy of Bangladesh—A Threat to Indian Polity
The works and speeches of Maududi and Delwar Hossain Sayeedi are the main sources of inspiration and guidance for the militants. Poor and illiterate people were motivated to sacrifice their lives in the cause of Allah and assured that they would go to heaven if they become martyrs. Hundreds of religious schools, mosques, NGO’s are working in different areas of the country mostly under JIB patronage. The same process was adopted in Pakistan in the 1980s to strengthen the Islamic militants under the state umbrella during General Zia-ul-Haque regime. Taliban was created in these religious schools (madrasas). Similar method is practiced in Bangladesh since the assassination of Sheikh Mujib in 1975. All the terrorist groups are rooted in a network of madrassas. The main source of funding for these groups is Saudi Arabia. Saudi and middle-east charities fetch money for the expansion of extreme orthodoxy with its own particular interpretation of Islam better known as Wahabism. JIB and other Islamic political parties, militant organizations, Qaumi madrasas carry the banner of conservative and fanatical views. They are relentlessly working for converting Bangladesh a sharia-based Islamic Republic. The militants using fake names have invested in a large number of shrimp farms and a good number of cold storages in the south-western region of Bangladesh. Dr Abul Barakat of Dhaka University has shown how JIB has acquired control over money-making institutions such as clinics, shopping plazas, schools, industries, real estate and business funneling resources for rearing and training the militants and supporting clandestine fanatic activities.
It is interesting that when the government took up extreme measures to ensure security as the SAARC leaders assembled in Dhaka for the thirteenth summit between 10 and 14 November, 2005, there were no incidents of terrorism in the country for about a week or more. But the day after the leaders left Dhaka there was severe attack on two judges in Jhalakati of southern Bangladesh. By and large it is well-known that these militants enjoy the patronage of JIB and then JIB was a strong constituent of the BNP led government.
Bangladesh’s Poverty—A Threat to India
According to the report of published in 2007-2008 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) the population of Bangladesh was 153.3 million, i.e. nearly 15.5 crores. The population is expected to touch 16 crores in 2008. As per the latest report of the Government (2005) about 40% of the population live below poverty line, out of this the poorest of the poor accounts for 20%. At present the number of poor people is six and a half crores. The food-crisis of the current year will definitely raise this number. Difference in income also varies significantly from one area to another. The maximum number of people living below poverty line inhabits the northern region of Bangladesh which is adjoining border region of India. Barisal, Rajsahi and Khulna account for 52.0, 51.72% and 45.7% respectively of the total people living below poverty line. The Islamic fundamentalist forces are very powerful in these regions, and their organization located in the border
During the last three and a half decades and even now all the major parties of Bangladesh have been very active in making India a scapegoat in their internal politics by manufacturing various anti-Indian issues to reap political advantage. This tendency is more marked in the border region. Consequently the bon-ami that was established in 1971, through the liberation struggle between India and Bangladesh, had gone to the winds long ago, instead an unfriendly relationship has developed in spite of introduction of the Maitree Express recently.
Infiltration –A growing menace to demography and internal security
A new dimension in the political and social arena has emerged in the eastern and north-eastern region of India after independence of Bangladesh in 1971. An alarming demographic phenomenon started looming larger and larger on the bordering states of India centering around Bangladesh. During the last three and half decades infiltration/ illegal migration from Bangladesh to India are going on unabated. Our experience will show that the governments of West Bengal and Assam have been considerably shy and indifferent to the consequences of such changing socio-religious process. Of late, the dimension further widened owing to growing Islamic fundamentalist / terrorist activities in this part of India. It has sufficient reasons to express this views that the problems of infiltration, persist in this region, under local political patronization and support. Apparently, this cross-border infiltration of Muslims from Bangladesh has became a perennial process. The primary reason in many cases may be economic, yet other possible causes, can not be ruled out. It is relating to infiltration of Islamic militants. However, the net effect is that this huge influx of alien population is creating a fast growing poverty- ridden several Muslim enclaves in the state of West Bengal. During the last three and a half decades, there has been a spurt in the construction of mosques and madrassas, particularly in the bordering districts and a rapid growth of attendant religio-cultural activities has been noted. Growth of the radical Islamic fundamentalists (pro-Taliban) in this region has to be examined in this context. It is interesting to note that a rapid growing trend of Muslim enclaves have emerged in this region consisting of the following districts like Uttar Dinajpur, Daskhin Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad and Birbhum. Hindu—Muslim population share in this region was 49.94% and 49.31% only in 2001, though it was 59% and 40% in 1951. Growth rate of Hindus and Muslims in this region are 206% and 342% respectively during 1951—2001. Apart from that, many smaller Muslim enclaves have either already come up or are in the formative stage in the districts of Nadia, South and North Twentyfour Parganas, and Howrah. In West Bengal, growth rates of Hindus and Muslims are 198.54% and 310.93% respectively during 1951—2001. Population share of Hindus and Muslims in 1951 was 78.45% and 19.85% respectively, but during the last fifty years, the share of Hindus in West Bengal has come down to 72.47% — a decrease by 6% —whereas the share of Muslims has increased to 25.25% — an increase of 5.40%. As observed from Bangladesh Population Census 2001, the share of Hindu population has come down to 9.3% only. During the last fifty years since1951, the comparatively lower growth rate of Hindus indicates a steady migration of Hindu population from Bangladesh to India, particularly to the state of West Bengal. On the other hand, a steady growth of Muslim population since 1951 has enhanced their population share from 76.9% in 1951 to 89.7% in 2001. During the last five decades (1951—2001), the growth rate of Muslim population is 244.68% as against 23.16% of Hindu population, i.e. the growth rate of Muslim population in West Bengal in the same period is much higher than in Bangladesh. How can it be possible when the growth rate of Hindus in West Bengal is 198.54% in spite of massive Hindu immigration from East Pakistan and Bangladesh? It clearly indicates a massive Muslim infiltration from Bangladesh to West Bengal.
In the last three and a half decades powerful economic push factors combined with politically and economically motivated pull-factors in India have generated an unending flow of Muslim infiltrators into the border states of India. This process is fast changing the demographic and communal composition of our border population. Here I quote P.M. Sayeed, former Minister of State for Home Affairs from his speech in Parliament in 1995. “There has been a continuous influx of Bangladeshi nationals into India for a variety of reason, including religious and economic considerations. The demographic composition in the border areas has been altered with new entrants flooding the area and the locals migrating into the interior. Besides, the Indo-Bangladesh borders are inhabited by a population which is ethnically, culturally, linguistically and religiously identical. Large scale infiltration of Bangladeshi nationals is one of the factors responsible for growth of Muslim population (almost homogenously) in West Bengal and other border areas.” On the other hand, innumerable economic and political problems have been created in Assam, Tripura, West Bengal and other North-Eastern States as a result of the continuous influx from Bangladesh. These problems have also started afflicting the other states of India. The political parties are utilizing this demographic situation coupled with conspiratorial policy adopted by Bangladesh to get political advantage. Since neither the Central nor the State governments have yet been able to take suitable steps to curb this problem, its magnitude is ever increasing. India’s secular polity is being threatened. This is fast creating an atmosphere of distrust between the Muslims and non-Muslims of the entire region and is becoming a threat to the communal harmony prevailing in the states. There is also the other side which is no less disturbing and no less dangerous. This ceaseless increase in infiltration assumes a new dimension when it slowly and steadily takes a shape of the demographic expansion and its consequent socio-political disturbances that can possibly destabilize the entire North-Eastern regions. This ‘distress infiltration’ can finally turn volcanic enough to disrupt and bring disintegration of the country. “It is a serious matter. Serious and honest attempts should be made to stop illegal infiltration to the North-Eastern States where it is threatening the demography” said the Chief Justice of India, Justice A. S. Anand, while hearing a public interest litigation.
1. Bimal Pramanik, Endangered Demography, Kolkata, 2005.
2. Ittefaq 27.03.08 (a Bengali news daily from Dhaka)
3. Jugantor, 16.04.08 (a Bengali news daily from Dhaka)
4.Bhorer Kagoj, 16.04.08 (a Bengali news daily from Dhaka)
5. Bangladesh Awami League News Letter, vol.4, no.12, Dec 31, 2005.
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