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Growing Extremism in Bangladesh

Bangladesh seems to be the right place of extremist operations exploiting the sentiments of a disgruntled youth force, reports Anirban Chodhury.
None | By Anirban Chodhury, Dhaka
UPDATED ON MAY 09, 2007 08:46 PM IST

August 17, 2005: In one of the most daring attempts in the history of Bangladesh, 434 home made bombs exploded in 63 districts all over the country. It was a well chalked out plan and all the bombs went off within an hour's time. Between August and December there were further explosions and suicide strikes resulting the in the death of 12 persons.

The bomb of extremism had been ticking for too long and Bangladesh now is faced with the greatest challenge of diffusing them. The care taker government has made its intentions clear by hanging the master mind of the 2005 blasts, Bangla Bhai, soon after assuming power. A senior government official told


that top intelligence officials have been asked to monitor movements of the groups and suggest crack down on the militants.

Bangladesh seems to be the right place of such extremist operations exploiting the sentiments of a disgruntled youth force. "Last 36 years have witnessed failure of the governments to provide relief to common people. This has given fertile land to the fundamentalist groups who are trying to seize political power", says Abul Barkat, Professor of Economics, Dhaka University, who has done in-depth research on fundamentalism.

Is India affected ? "Certainly and 100 per cent", he said. "Notice the name of the groups. Jamaat-e-Islam, Bangladesh. Its like a corporate group having a branch in Bangladesh. They all work closely". He feels that these groups are having links with each other and are assimilating religion with politics to grab power.

The two main outfits operating in Bangladesh are Jama'at-ul-Mujahideen, Bangladesh and Harakat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh. These outfits have been organizing attacks on religious minorities, a section of intellectuals and politicians. The agenda is simple, establishment of Islamic way of life. Their operations are part of the Global Jehad but the agenda in the country is very local in nature. Many groups have selected different zones of the country for their area of operations.

The coastal area stretching from Chittagong along the Myanmar border is notorious for nefarious activities like smuggling and arms trading. The main operative in the zone is Harkat-ul-Jehadi-E-Islami. The Jagrata Muslim Janata has spread its tentacles in the North West Regions like Rajshahi, Satkhira, Naogaon, Jessore and Khulna. The Jama'at-ul-Mujahideen is strong in northern districts of Natore and Bogra. Most of these forces have training camps.

Abdul Jalil General Secretary of Awami League feels drastic steps should be taken immediately to curb the forces otherwise the entire political process to elections would be jeopardised. "The worrying factor is that most of the extremist forces have been trying to grab political power for which they are ready to go to any extent."

But the government's hands are full. It is running a crumbling administration in a state of emergency and is under tremendous pressure to hold early elections. It has also launched a massive anti-corruption drive throughout the country trying to nail the top bosses coupled with it is the counter offensive drive of Sheikh Haisna and Begum Khaleda Zia's parties.

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