Bangladesh: importing terror, exporting fear

02.07.2016 - Tony Henderson

Bangladesh: importing terror, exporting fear
Dhaka (Image by Tony Henderson)

The terrible attack on Holey Artisan café in the upper-end Gulshan business district of Dhaka, Bangladesh will have succeeded in announcing that ISIL is indeed in the country. The government was reluctant to admit this fact but it is difficult to believe otherwise now.

This suicidal killing goes toward explaining the steady build up of murders, of human rights fighters, Hindu’s, Buddhists, Christians, gay rights activists, and Atheist bloggers which incidents were confounding many social observers as the general state of society, though disgruntled at the political establishment were not the type of public to displace their tensions onto minorities. Who was it that would have the personal vindictiveness to go around killing others in this vicious manner?

It has become clear that a group with an agenda is in operation around Bangladesh and the authorities need to seek that group out and not act as though they were the ad hoc opportunistic doings of disaffected individuals. This makes much more sense.

It is quite common for the majority Muslims to go with their Hindu friends to Hindu festivals and celebrations while at the same time it is known that in this predominantly Muslim society the Hindu population has been subject to discrimination in the distant past and yes that same negative lingers today. This tendency was most severe during the 1971 war of independence against the then West Pakistan when so many Hindu intellectuals were singled out and killed by the enemy.

But today’s violent offences are different. The vast majority of Bangladeshi’s see the too-regular murders as an anomaly, as an absolutely unwanted phenomenon, which does huge dis-service to the nation.

There has been a problem with the Buddhist-Animists living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts as well, with the lowlanders encouraged by government to settle the hilly areas to the severe disadvantage of the hill people, this has been going on for decades and despite a peace agreement.

But these recent killings are different.

It was long ago reported that Bangladesh was a hotbed for terrorism as headlined in an article in the Far East Economic Review (a decade or so ago) and this caused such an outcry the magazine was publicly burnt by the Bangladeshi residents of Hong Kong. The act might not have been evidence against the reality of the import of that article but it did reflect the opinion and understanding of Bangladeshis.

Any society subject to poverty is prone to recruitment of people looking for a better life, or anything that evokes that possibility and Bangladesh with its population of around 140 million has a sizeable stock of the poor but the country’s populace has long accepted a way of life low on expectations – not that that in itself is of any merit. But very few among the people of Bangladesh would engage is rank killings and only when tempers are whipped up by political emotions is violence seen on the streets, likewise with politicised student factions.
The violence seen in Gulshan is of foreign origin, no doubt about that.

Categories: Asia, International issues
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