Skip to main content

Terrorism and right-wing politics in Bangladesh: Exploring the nexus

By Shafiqul Elahi* 
Although terrorism as broadly understood as violent extremism or militancy has long historical roots, in Bangladesh, it surfaced in the 1970s through leftist militants. Later, it shifted to Islamist extremism in the 1980s and flourished throughout the 1990s, and reached its peak in the early 2000s. The menace of terrorism particularly in the form of Islamic militancy has widely been felt in Bangladesh's society and polity since 1999. Since then, several militant groups have gained ground and started to challenge the government over the issues of the political process and social systems in the country. The central goal of the operations of the militant groups is to establish an Islamic regime in the country. The Fifth Amendment of the Bangladesh Constitution under the Zia regime in the late 1970s and the eighth amendments of the Constitution under the Ershad regime in the early 1980s have placed Islam at the state level to recognize its importance in the country that encouraged the religious and right-wing forces to grab the power of the state. On the other hand, the secular Constitution of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1972 separated religion from the state and prohibited religion-based political parties. This was reversed by the military dictators in the name of multiparty democracy. Since then, Bangladesh witnessed the emergence of right-wing Islamist forces.
Understandably, the contemporary variant of extremism experienced by Bangladesh is the religious one and is the product of the Afghan War (1979-1992). The connection with the Afghan war was established in 1984 when estimated 3,000 volunteers traveled to Afghanistan. On 30 April 1992, a week later the mujahideen emerged victorious, the Bangladeshi participants of the war expressed their delight at a press conference in Dhaka where the speakers identified themselves as members of HuJI-Bangladesh (HuJI-B).
In the second half of the 1990s, a number of religious extremist groups emerged in Bangladesh with different objectives. The first-ever terrorist incident inspired by this religious extremism experienced by Bangladesh perpetrated by one of these groups, HUJI-B is the bombing at a venue of the cultural program organized by Udichi, in 1999 killing 10 people and injuring around 150.
During the same period, other extremist groups viz., the Jagrata Muslim Janata, Bangladesh (JMJB) and the Jamaat-al Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB) also emerged and started functioning in Bangladesh. Their purported motivation was to wage ‘Islamic Movements’ in Bangladesh and ultimately establish an ‘Islamic state’ based on the Shariah law.
From 6 March 1999 to 29 November 2005, at least 23 significantly successful bombings were launched by different militant-terrorist groups, which left some 142 people dead along with thousands injured. Militant attacks escalate conflicts between the government and armed groups. Militancy reached its peak with the most heinous crime of grenade attacks on former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during a meeting on 21 August 2004, followed by the biggest terrorist incident on August 17, 2005, when activists of the JMJB detonated 459 bombs in 63 out of the 64 districts of the country. To mention some violent attacks: the bomb explosion at Ramna on the eve of Bengali New Year in April 2001; the 27 January 2005 attack in Habiganj killing the then Finance Minister; courtroom and court premises bomb blasts in October and November of 2005 killing two district judges in Jhalokathi district. Most of these attacks were carried out by JMB.
BNP-led government (2001-2006) initially failed to take action against it, due to limited law enforcement capacity but also sympathy for these groups within Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party and a member of the BNP’s governing alliance. However, Bangladesh successfully tackled that wave of terrorism with top JMB leaders facing justice, thanks to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB).
Following a hiatus of six to seven years, the resurgence of terrorism is evident in Bangladesh starting with the killing of Blogger Rajib Haider in February 2013, - an activist of the Gono Jagoron Mancho (mass upsurge stage) that emerged to protest the International Crime Tribunal verdict of Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant Secretary General Abdul Kader Molla. From 2013, about 70 terror attacks have been carried out, and about 52 in the next 18 months on diversified targets including bloggers, preachers, academic, social, and religious minorities, and also foreigners. In July 2016, the horrendous Holey Artisan Bakery attacks by the terrorists culminated violent extremism in Bangladesh.
It seems the incidents of extremism had been accelerated in the form of political violence with the linkages of religious fundamentalist forces and right-wing political parties. Major political parties that came to power since the mid-1970s formed alliances with Islamic groups. With direct and indirect linkages of Islamic political parties, radical Islamism has taken a durable shape in Bangladesh.

The leading factors of rising extremism in Bangladesh

Understanding the root causes of extremism is critically important to understand its uniqueness in Bangladesh. There are different sources of extremism in Bangladesh leading to the acts of violence and terrorism: (i) proliferation of Islam-based institutions and organizations in the country; (ii) rise of power-seeking Islamist extremism, (iii) rigid religious beliefs, grievances, and subcultures of conspiracy; (iv) misinterpretation of religious ideologies; (v) political instability that providing opportunities for extremists; (vi) radicalization; and (viii) regional and global connections.
Many analysts claim that a link exists between Islam-based political groups and extremists in Bangladesh. The proliferation of these institutions and organizations is an overt manifestation of extremism. The rejuvenation of the Islamic political parties in Bangladesh can also be explained in terms of the enhanced role of terrorist groups in Bangladesh politics. Many radical clerics also call against the secular segment of society.

Bangladesh's effort to curb terrorism

The leadership of Sheikh Hasina who came to power in 2009 with a strong determination to curb extremist forces from Bangladesh and the re-emergence of non-communal and secular forces has reversed the political environment created by the erstwhile political regimes. The Hasina government introduced a zero-tolerance policy and amended Anti-Terrorism Act to combat politically and religiously motivated extremism in Bangladesh. The government has taken a two-pronged strategy to deal with radical, fundamentalist, and communal forces. The counter-terrorism and anti-terrorism capacity of the state have been bolstered and cultural, social and community engagement have been expanded. And, the role of civil society actors has been emphasized at the government and non-governmental levels.
Society has quickly witnessed a positive outcome of the zero-tolerance policy. However, the threat of terrorism looms large in society as terrorism only changes form and method. The emergence of a nascent organization, Jamatul Sharqiya, and Al-Qaeda Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) is now posing threat to the country and the region.
The right-wing and Islamist political forces that have always maintained connections with violent extremist forces are exerting their influence in society. This is an ominous sign in this part of the world. Bangladesh should not become a state, run by right-wing forces having linkages with militant and extremist forces. This reminds the era of the 1990s and 2000s when they created a reign of terror. This was the time when many analysts predicted Bangladesh to become like ‘Taliban ruled Afghanistan’. Many terrorist and radical groups even chanted slogans that Bangla (Bangladesh) would become Afghanistan. Therefore, the nexus between right-wing and terrorism must be seen from a proper perspective for peace, stability, and prosperity in Bangladesh and the greater sub-region of South Asia.
---
*Retired government official of Bangladesh

Comments

TRENDING

Clive Lloyd among great batsmen Alan Border, Javed Miandad, Rahul Dravid,Ted Dexter

By Harsh Thakor  Few batsmen struck a cricket ball with such vengeance or contempt as Clive Lloyd, who was the ultimate embodiment of power. Perhaps no left-hander batted more like Gary Sobers. Hard to think of any left hander in is time, with such wide range of strokes or at best batting in a more cavalier or imperious manner. At his best Clive could take domination to the scale rarely transcended and was a spectacle to witness.. It is hard to do justice to the joy Clive radiated out on the middle. Clive Lloyd nurtured and knitted a bunch of talented individuals to transform into possibly the best test team ever in the 1980's.Literally led a renaissance or gave a new dimension to Caribbean cricket. Never did West Indian cricket nurture such father figure.  Clive made a great contribution in elevating the morale or epitomising the spirit of the Afro-American West Indian Community and image of black people in the eyes of the white Community. As a cricketer he gave the ultimate knock

Vishwanath has been unfairly excluded from global list of 100 best cricketers

By Harsh Thakor  Gundappa Vishwanath scaled zones in batting artistry or wizardry unparalleled amongst Indian batsmen. The best of his batting was a manifestation of the divine. He was also the epitome of cricketing sportsmanship. Sadly 40 years ago he unceremoniously bid farewell to the International cricket world, after the concluding test at Karachi in 1982-83., in January end. Very hard to visualise a character like Vishwanath being reborn today His memories are embedded in cricket lovers today when sportsmanship and grace have virtually been relegated to oblivion with the game of cricket turned into a commercial commodity. Today agro and unsporting behaviour is a routine feature Vishy shimmered cricket’s spirituality. His behaviour on the cricket field was grace personified, No one in his age defined cricket more as a gentleman’s game, than Vishy. Vishwanath could execute strokes that were surreal with his steel wrists. His strokeplay resembled the touches of a painter’s brush,

Abrogation of Art 370: Increasing alienation, relentless repression, simmering conflict

One year after the abrogation by the Central Government of Art. 370 in Kashmir, what is the situation in the Valley. Have the promises of peace, normalcy and development been realised? What is the current status in the Valley? Here is a detailed note by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties , “Jammu & Kashmir: One Year after Abrogation of Art. 370: Increasing Alienation, Relentless Repression, Simmering Conflict”:

Reproductive, conjugal rights of women in India amidst debate of uniform civil code

By IMPRI Team  A Three-Day Immersive Online Legal Awareness and Certificate Training Course on “Reproductive and Conjugal Rights of Women in India” is an initiative of the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), at the IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, and ran for three consecutive days starting from December 22, 2022 to December 24, 2022. The online paid certification was aimed to provide attendees with an enriching experience on the gender discourse with a special focus on women’s rights and the much-discussed reproductive rights in India.

Covid jabs: Pretexts cited to justify young, healthy succumbing to heart attacks

By Jay Ihsan   Truth is stranger than fiction – when dedicated doctors raised the red flag against the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, they were persecuted and their concerns barred from being heard. These honest doctors unequivocally made it known the Moderna Pfizer vaccines injure the heart and human body. One of them, Dr Peter McCullough, an American cardiologist, has repeatedly issued the clarion call to people to reject these harmful vaccines. An equally alarmed World Council for Health said the harmful Covid-19 vaccines should be removed from the market and the global inoculation must be stopped. “In Japan the vaccines were not mandated or made compulsory. The vaccines are not safe or effective enough to mandate them. The day the vaccines go away will be a day of celebration,” Dr Mccullough had lamented during an interview with India’s media outfit, Qvive several months ago. Meanwhile, the number of people jabbed with the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines died soon after or have developed lifelong

Gender gap 17%, SC and ST levels of education between 7% to 14% below upper classes

By IMPRI Team  The treatment of school education in a holistic manner and improving school effectiveness in terms of equal opportunities for schooling and learning outcomes has been the aspiration of all and multiple challenges are faced to maintain and provide proper education. On the occasion of India@75: Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, as part of its series- the State of Education- #EducationDialogue, #IMPRI Center for ICT for Development (CICTD), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organised a special deliberation on The State of School Education In India with Prof Muchkund Dubey, who is the President of the Council for Social Development, New Delhi. The moderator for the event, Dr Simi Mehta CEO and Editorial Director of the IMPRI. The chair of the event was Prof Jandhyala B.G. Tilak, an Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) National Fellow, the Distinguished Professor at the Council for Social Development, New Delhi and also a Former Professor & Vice-Ch

Rahul Dravid exhibited selflessness in heights unscaled by any other Indian batsman

By Harsh Thakor*  On January 11th maestro Rahul Dravid turned 50. No Indian batsmen were ever more of an embodiment of temperament or grit.as Rahul Dravid. Dravid was the best ambassador of sportsmanship in cricket in his day and age. In his time no Asian batsmen did what the doctor ordered, to the extent of Dravid. Dravid was manifestation of single-mindedess, tenacity and selflessness in sport. One hardly has an adjective to the ice coolness and craft Dravid exhibited in adjusting to the given situation. Rarely did any batsmen exhibit such a clinical o methodical approach to batting.

NHRC blindly followed BSF status report on fencing farmland off Indo-Bangladesh border

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM) writes an open letter of protest against the action taken status report on restriction imposed by the BSF personnel upon the villagers of Changmari near Indo-Bangladesh border: *** I have the honour to inform you that we received one action taken status report dated 11.01.2023 from your Commission in respect of the above referred case from where it is revealed that your authority closed the case based on the report of the concerned authorities. In this connection I again raise my voice as the enquiry in respect of the above referred case was not properly conducted. Hence I submit this open letter of protest for the ends of justice. From the action taken status report of the Commission dated 11.01.2023 it is reported that concerned authority submitted a report dated 18.01.2022 where it is reported that the concerned area comes under the OPS responsibility of BOP Chengmari, 62 Bn BSF and is highly susceptible to trans-bo

Data analytics: How scientific enquiry process impacts quality of policy research

By IMPRI Team  Given the multidimensionality of policy and impact research, tech-driven policy prescriptions are playing a dominant role in the 21st century. As such, data analytics have become integral in this space. IMPRI Generation Alpha Data Centre (GenAlphaDC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute New Delhi has successfully conducted a #WebPolicyTalk 6-Week Immersive Online Hands-on Certificate Training Course on Data Analytics for Policy Research, spanning over 6-consecutive Saturdays from October 15th to November 19th, 2022. Along with this, datasets for hands-on learning were also provided for data analysis and learning. Participants were required to make a submission for evaluation at the end of the course, to obtain the certificate. This course comprised hands-on data learning sessions and various expert sessions on data discourses. The course especially catered to data and policy enthusiasts – including students, professionals, researchers, and other individuals lo

Brutal assault on Delhi Univ students as fear grips present rulers on rise of dissent

By Arhaan Baaghi  Various democratic student organizations (bsCEM, fraternity, DSU, SIO, AIRSO) had planned a screening of the BBC documentary "India: The Modi Question" in the Delhi University Arts Faculty, but the guards of the university and the Delhi police along with paramilitary forcefully detained the students just because we were trying to watch a documentary that scrutinizes the role of Modi in 2002 Gujarat riots. At first when the students started screening the documentary, the electricity of the department building was cut down. Students were brutally beaten by the police and university guards. Female students were also brutally manhandled and beaten. This whole incident shows the Brahmanical Hindutva fascist nature of the government and the university authority that is working as its puppet. An activist of bsCEM was manhandled by a male security guard, who tried to pull out his T shirt. Also various female activist were dragged by male security guards and their h