As 527 bombs exploded on August 17, 2005, in the 64 districts of Bangladesh, the world was shaken.
It was a well-orchestrated attack that killed judges and journalists, among others. The nation finally came to terms with the reality that terrorism was right at its doorstep.
As Bangladesh goes to elections on Monday, some vital issues are in front of the electorate — price rise, corruption and lack of good governance. But for the international community, particularly India, the one and only issue that is vital is the issue of tackling terrorism.
For long now, India has been crying hoarse about the presence of 112 terror camps on Bangladeshi soil. There has been systematic denial from the successive Bangaldeshi governments.
But this is an era of international surveillance. Investigations into several blasts in India have proved beyond doubt the Indo-Bangla border is a favourite route of Pakistani militants.
Just a few days back when election campaign was at its peak, three terrorists were caught near Sheikh Hasina’s rally. Hasina had a escape on August 21, 2004 when a grenade attack killed 24 people. She was injured and since then developed serious problems in hearing.
The government has so far banned four Islamic militant organisations Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, Huji, Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh and Shahadat-e al Hikma.
However, besides these four, there are 29 listed outfits with suspected militant links. These include the Bangladesh chapter of international organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir Bangladesh, banned in many European and Middle Eastern countries and most importantly, in Pakistan.
Under the new regime of the caretaker government which ruled for about two years, the crackdown against militant outfits has strong but inadequate.
Abdur Rahman and Siddiqul Islam, the mastermind who led Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh was executed.
A lot remains to be achieved. Little effect has been made at the grassroot level to spread awareness of the threat of militancy. The problems are far reaching and deeply entrenched in the social system of the mostly illiterate rural population.
The network of militancy has been spread for years, through NGOs and religious organisations.
A daawat is a common form of invitation by any outfit to the village. There are songs, recitations and at the end of every session a fiery speech, invariably propagating the thought of fundamentalism and the reason to fall back on fundamentalist ideals.