Bangladesh is an old Islamist lab with new ISIS signboard

Abhijit Majumder
Abhijit MajumderJul 02, 2016 | 21:36

Bangladesh is an old Islamist lab with new ISIS signboard

Islamists in Bangladesh may assume new identities and take new names, but they stick to their signature. They prefer to kill with machetes, a medieval weapon with a wide, heavy head, which gives it axe-like force.

In Friday’s terror attack in Dhaka, foreign hostages were hacked, not shot, most likely with machetes. While ISIS trumpeted the handiwork of its south Asian franchise, the cold local statement was unmistakable.


It is also a reminder that violent Islamism runs deeper than the rivers in Bangladesh.

An Al Qaeda or ISIS have just discovered a perfectly ready, functioning laboratory for terror. 

Genocide has struck Bangladesh in waves of blood. It pre-dates 1971 Mukti Juddho or war for liberation from Pakistan, in which an estimated three million, mostly from the Hindu minority, were killed, 200,000 to 400,000 of their women raped as trophies.

It competes shoulder-to-shoulder with the Nazi Holocaust, the massacre of Soviet prisoners of war, the Indonesian killings of 1965-66, and the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Bangladesh was a hotbed of breeding Islamic militancy, long before ISIS came knocking. 

The country’s Islamist violence pre-dates the 1950 Barisal riots in which 750 Hindu homes were set on fire on Vijaya Dashami.

It pre-dates even the 1946 Noakhali riots, which started on October 10, the day of Kojagari Lakshmi Puja, led by local leader Gholam Sarwar Husseini. His private army, Miyar Fauj, attacked the house of Rajendralal Chowdhury, president of the Noakhali Bar Association. 

They killed 22 in his family and burnt his house down. They presented Rajendralal’s head on a dish to their master, Gholam Sarwar. Two of his daughters were presented to Gholam's trusted generals.


While a section — both Hindus and Muslims — were touched by the Bengal Renaissance and formed the progressive, intellectual class, a large section of Muslims remained in the shadow of a cloistered ideology. Throughout the last more than 100 years, this section has repeatedly raised its head, trying to defeat the progressive strain in bloodiest way possible.

What was Miyar Fauj of ’46 were the foot soldiers of Operation Searchlight in ’71 and are today’s Al Qaeda-backed Ansarullah Bangla Team and ISIS’ Bangla branch. The ideology is not new. Nor is the weapon of choice.

The killing machetes continue to etch the signature of the forces that want to take the country back to a primeval, violent existence.

Those who witnessed Noakhali riots or the 1971 genocide recall little children being lifted by their hair, head chopped off with machetes, and dumped in village wells.

Rapid Action Battalion of Dhaka stationed at Gulshan area on July 1 night.  

Fleeing Hindu families would stop their boats in the middle of the Padma, and drop sacks containing valuables one by one in the river, so that at least Islamists on the border do not get to enjoy their lives’ earnings, savings, and belongings. Their land, of course, they couldn’t bring or drown. 


Beneath the delicate muslin of intermittent democracy since 1971, there has been simmering Islamist bloodlust in Bangladesh. Novelist Taslima Nasreen, who so evocatively described the trauma of a Hindu family in Bangladesh, now lives in exile and under the constant shadow of death threats.

Nearly a dozen bloggers have been butchered for criticising Islam.

What should really alarm India is that in 34 years of Left rule and now under Mamata Banerjee, millions of radical elements from Bangladesh have found sanctuary in Bengal in the name of secular politics to bolster vote banks.

They have rioted in Malda and other places, run amok in Kolkata, blocked progressive writers from attending literary festivals and certain serials from being beamed on TV.

Terrorists usually do not create trouble in places where they can lie low and launch attacks elsewhere. But eventually, the monster comes back burn its home down, as is evident in Pakistan, and in a smaller but telling way in parts of Europe like Belgium.

So, while blood flows in Bangladesh, West Bengal faces clear and present danger. It is accentuated by the irony that while Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and a progressive citizenry fights a grim, gritty battle to quell and drive out Islamists, Bengal is indifferent — if not downright welcoming — towards those troublemakers.

Hasina is the best bet we have to pull the country out of an Islamist cesspool and put it on the path of modernity and progressiveness.

Bangladesh is a Syria or Iraq in the making if the world continues to look away.

Last updated: July 04, 2016 | 16:53
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