Sheikh Hasina has to take notice that the radical hotheads with international support are hell-bent to destroy the secular, democratic, inclusive and progressive legacy of Bangladesh’s liberation in partnership with India, a report by Shantanu Mukharji
Sheikh Hasina, the secular and progressive Prime Minister of Bangladesh is under severe international pressure. From the United Nations to Amnesty International, the world has been stunned by the frenzied attacks against Bangladeshi Hindus during Durga Puja. In India, emotions are running high, and threaten to damage the umbilical ties nurtured over centuries among the people of the two neighbouring countries. Unless the Bangladeshi Prime Minister does, and is seen to be taking decisive action against the culprits, who have spawned a deep conspiracy, it is possible that the powerful emotional connect among the people, built over centuries, may be severely hemorrhaged.
With the horrific attacks fully internationalised, and already a blot on the global human rights map, not only should the Hasina administration, quickly nab the ring leaders of the cascading bloodletting, but also eliminate the root causes of the searing violence that tore through the city of Cumilla-the epicenter of the carnage. That may include the institutional cleanup of several state organs, including the police and the intelligence services, which the radicals, unfortunately, seem to have infiltrated.
The sheer horror of the anti-Hindu pogrom during Durga Puja has prodded the United Nations to take serious notice of the tragedy. The UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh Mia Seppo joined the growing chorus against communal violence on Monday, calling upon the government to ensure the security for the country’s minority community.
In a tweet, she wrote: “Recent attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh fueled by hate speech on social media are against the values of the Constitution and need to stop. We call upon the government to ensure protection of minorities and an impartial probe. We call upon all to join hands to strengthen inclusive tolerant Bangladesh.”
Amnesty International, the global human rights watchdog, has also served notice on the Bangladeshi government to urgently seal the open communal wound. It warned that the anti-minority sentiment has been growing in the country. Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner, Saad Hammadi, said:
“Reports of a spate of attacks by angry mobs against members of the Hindu community, their homes, temples and puja pandals during the country’s biggest Hindu festival are symptomatic of the growing anti-minority sentiment in the country. Such repeated attacks against individuals, communal violence, and destruction of the homes and places of worship of minorities in Bangladesh over the years show that the state has failed in its duty to protect minorities. “
Hammadi stressed that targeting religious sensitivities to stoke communal tension is a “serious human rights violation and requires immediate and decisive action from the government to address the situation of minorities in the country”.
The fallout out of the anti-Hindu riots has triggered a straight fight between Hasina’s secular and progressive imagination, which has already turned Bangladesh into the next Asian tiger, and medievalist radicalization, fathered by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, which in any case has been mourning the loss of former East Pakistan for the last 50 years. The ISI, a rogue intelligence agency, is in turn, a key driver of an expanding terror international, with nodes in Afghanistan, South Asia and Central Asia. With Turkey now as Pakistan’s firm ally, the terror international’s wings spread far beyond the region’s borders-in fact, into the heart of West Asia, Africa and Caucasia.
The Bangladeshi Prime Minister’s fight it therefore exceptionally arduous. The forces that have turned the country into a communal furnace not only have local but regional if not international roots as well. Sheikh Hasina’s response therefore has to be multilayered, where local administrative action is informed by active collaboration with friendly countries, especially India, as well as UN organs engaged in the combatting global terrorism.
What else can Sheikh Hasina do?
First and foremost, the combative Bangladeshi Prime Minister has to take notice that the radical hotheads with international support are hell-bent to destroy the secular, democratic, inclusive and progressive legacy of Bangladesh’s liberation in partnership with India.
It is therefore unsurprising that the Durga Puja festivities have been brutally targeted so that bitterness of the riots overtakes in public memory, the progressive narrative of India-Bangladesh special ties scripted during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka to jointly celebrate 50 years of Bangladesh’s independence, through a series of events. To reinforce their counter narrative of radicalism, exclusivity and violence, the bigots are persisting, and are likely to do so, with the rioting. On October 16, the south eastern town of Feni saw renewed attacks in several places of Durga worship. Even Kali temples, Hindu shops and property were not spared. Other districts in Bangladesh are not ruling out more assaults on their property anytime and anywhere.
It is apparent that the ultimate goal of the Jihadis, emboldened by the recent victory of the Taliban in Afghanistan, is to destabilise the Sheikh Hasina government. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamaat- e -Islami are lurking in the shadows to take over state power riding on a sense of Islamic ascendancy, if not dominance, in the country.
Second, the government must steel and support the anti-extremist forces in the country. For instance, teachers and staff from Dhaka University blocked a major intersection in the city in protest at the ongoing violence. There has also been a flurry of protests from Dinajpur to Gazipur to Cumilla to Dhaka, all in demonstration against the arson attack on Rangpur Hindu community houses Sunday night.
Finally, Bangladesh can do well to clearly understand the geopolitical and ideological gradients of the region. It is clear that China and Pakistan are working ceaselessly to exercise nodes of influence in the Indo-Pacific region, including Bangladesh, which, as a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia is a pivotal democracy. Instead of balancing between India and China, the time has arrived that Bangladesh unambiguously bonds with the Indo-Pacific democracies, chiefly India, Japan, Australia and the United States to effectively counter the radical headwinds blowing from Pakistan, backed by a nefarious Sino-Pak nexus.
(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)