The Moving Finger Writes
What should we do with Bangladesh?
By M.V. Kamath
Something is fundamentally wrong with Bangladesh politics. And if India does not take immediate and strong steps things are going to get worse. Consider this: In the space of forty minutes, between 400 and 500 bomb devices were exploded in 63 out of 64 districts in the state with frightening precision. That, many devices were put together, despatched without being discovered to various stations and set to a particular point in time speaks not just of logistic skills, but the reach of the organisation responsible for the horrendous and barbaric act.
Targeted were government offices, markets and bus and railway stations, obviously to attract the greatest attention. The fact that so few were killed?some one hundred reportedly were injured ? shows that the terrorists were not so much anxious to kill as much as to show their strength, which should be more worrisome. What it means is that worse attacks can now be expected. It may be remembered that at least 134 people have been killed and over 1,000 injured across Bangladesh in bomb and grenade attacks in the last six years. The worst attack was in August last year when 23 people were killed, including the Bangladesh National Party'sWomen Affairs Secretary, Ivy Rahman. Sheikh Hasina was injured along with some 300 party activists. And yet one hears so little of government action.
Bangladesh is rift-ridden country which, in the first place, has no right to exist. Partition of Bengal under Lord Curzon had to be annulled for peace to be re-established in the province. If we have to have peace again, serious thought has to be given on how to handle present day Bangladesh. It is plainly silly to believe that the hardline outfits like Jamaat-i-Islami, Islami Oikya Jote, Islamic Shashan-tantra Andolan and Khilafat Andolan will give up their terrorism easily.
Leaflets found at the bombed sites make it clear what these outfits want. They say: “It is time to implement Islamic law in Bangladesh. There is no future with man-made laws.” The leaflets have warned NGOs to stop ?anti-Islamic activities? lest they are ?uprooted?.
In the past secular journalists, teachers and intellectuals were the targets. It will be remembered that poet Shamsur Rahman was attacked by Harkatul militants a few years ago. Others who have either been attacked or been threatened with death include Humayun Azad, a Dhaka University teacher and writer, journalists Arefin Siddiqui, Abed Khan and Shahriar Kabir and University teacher Muntasir Mamum.
According to Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, there is a strong current of secularism in Bangladesh, but if that is so, it does not show. Everybody apparently is frightened. If it was just a matter of establishing Islamic Law in Bangladesh, the matter can be of no concern to India. But the matter is much more serious than that. Bangladeshi Muslims have been steadily infiltrating into Assam and West Bengal and patrolling is of no use. Border patrolling and fencing have been tried?to no effect. District after district both in Assam and in West Bengal is being taken over by Bangladeshi Muslims and judging by events no one can take Dhaka'sassurance that the Bangladesh territory would not be allowed to be used by forces hostile to India.
The strategy of the Islamic extremists is clearly two-fold: One, to push more and more Bangladesh Muslims into Assam and West Bengal and virtually take over the two States. The Congress in the past, especially in Assam, and the CPM now ruling in Kolkata are responsible for this influx of outsiders.
According to Indarjit Gupta, a former Home Minister, as many as 10 million Bangladeshis were living in India illegally between 1996 and 1998. That number has since grown to 20 million, according to Bhibhuti Bhushan Nandy, as reported in The Statesman (June 23 2005 ). Letting them live unchecked is asking for trouble. One does not know exactly what went on between India'sForeign Minister Natwar Singh and Khaleda Zia'sgovernment when the former called on her recently. But the time has come for India to take not just ?stern? action?that is so much talk? but a full-length invasion of Bangladesh to make it clear to the terrorists that enough is enough.
District after district is being taken along India'sborders with Nepal and Bangladesh and they include Darjeeling, Uttar Dinajpur, Dakshin Dinajpur, Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia, Uttar 24 Parganas and Dakshin 24 Parganas. This is silent invasion with a vengeance. It cannot be tolerated.
There are two courses open to India: drive the aliens out, bag and baggage or mount an invasion to enforce the demographic balance that existed in pre-Independence times. It is no secret that both the ISI and, significantly enough China, have been encouraging the Wahabis in Bangladesh. It is not that Delhi has not been warned of Bangladeshi infiltration in the past. The report submitted as early as in 1998 by Lt Gen. S.K.Sinha, then Governor of Assam, is there for all to see.
In his report Gen. Sinha wrote: ?Large-scale illegal immigration from East Pakistan/Bangladesh over several decades has been altering the demographic complexion of this State (Assam). It poses a grave threat both to the identity of the Assamese people and to our national security. The unabated influx of illegal migrants from Bangladesh threatens to reduce the Assamese to a minority in their own State. This silent and invidious demographic invasion of Assam may result in the loss of geo-strategically vital districts in lower Assam. The influx of these illegal migrants is turning these districts into a Muslim majority region. It will then only be a matter of time when a demand for their merger with Bangladesh may be made.” That warning has gone unheeded. The latest developments in Bangladesh indicate that India must now get into the action mode before it is too late.
The United States should be told of the facts, though one can be sure it is fully aware of it. Washington has been involved with Bangladesh right from the beginning and an American journal has now disclosed that it was the CIA that was behind the assassination of Sheikh Mujibhur Rehman in 1975. It was the CIA that promoted the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan to fight Soviet influence in Afghanistan. Now the United States must be told in no uncertain terms that India will not put up with a failed State?as Bangladesh presently is?any longer, in India'sown interest, as well as in the interests of peace in the sub-continent.
Prevarication will only bring in more trouble. Dr Manmohan Singh had threatened Pakistan with a ?hard? line if terrorism is not stopped in Jammu and Kashmir. Dr Singh must go a step forward in dealing with Bangladesh. The Islamic terrorists in Bangladesh must know that India means business. And the sooner it is made clear to them, the better for all concerned.