By Zakeria Shirazi
TERRORISTS committing violence in the name of religion are being caught and tried. Although they had almost got away with their acts with impunity, some are now being brought to justice. It will not be entirely true to say, therefore, that the military-backed interim government is altogether unmindful of governmental obligations in this regard but, as will be seen, the failings too are conspicuous. Some of those arrested were found to be in possession of arms and explosives which proves that while they were running fugitives from justice they had not abandoned their deadly designs. The law enforcers will claim credit for nabbing the absconders and the people are ready to give them the credit but a few arrests are only the commencement of a process that has long been shelved and must now be accelerated to free the country of Islamist terrorism.
After a terrorist is caught with arms and explosives, a few questions will naturally press themselves: how, when and from which source these were obtained, which is the transit/conduit, what was the source and nature of financing? What did the militants plan to do before the law of the land got them, where and from whom did they receive the necessary training for making or detonating bombs? The public have been kept in the dark about these matters. And as for the source of finance, almost nothing has ever been disclosed. If cooperation is sought from the public, they should be taken into confidence instead of being fed on periodic, officially-cleared handouts.
And there is the seminal question relating to the terrorists’ indoctrination. If an extremist is ready to immolate himself, it becomes very difficult for the security apparatus to foil him. The question is how he turns into such a single-minded fanatic as to commit chilling inhumanities and that too with no regard for his own safety. The source of the mind-bending indoctrination must be examined – the curriculum, text, tutelage, training, lecture, audio-video, peer-group influence, fatwa which effectively dehumanised him. And these perverse influences are very much present in the environment which shaped him, and continue to shape countless others.
What is more worrying is that these vicious influences enter society in the garb of religion. It will not be long before society itself degrades. Doubt is being raised whether the Bengali Muslims will be able to live up to their reputation as a pious but moderate and tolerant community. The sermons by some among the new groups of imams will be found to be less deferential to the humanistic values of Islam and even misinterpretation of jihad is not absent. The nature of these sermons is different from the traditional sermons which preached love, humanity, tolerance, harmony. The law-enforcers are not expected to make a study of the socio-economic and educational backgrounds of the terrorists but this will be a rewarding exercise for experts of the relevant fields.
According to newspaper reports, in the past ten months 245 militants have been arrested of whom 45 were members of Hizbul Towhid, 35 belonged to Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh, 25 were from Harkat-ul-Jihad and 23 from Allah’r Dal. The multiplicity of names does not necessarily mean diversity in character and aims; militants are wont to changing their names and masks too readily, as well as the names of their outfits. It is notable that militant leaders have a number of aliases. Abu Jindal, the Harkat-ul-Jihad member who along with his cohort Nazrul Gharami was given a jail sentence of 20 years recently by a court in Satkhira, had several aliases. Jamaatul Mujahideen was banned long ago but banning a clandestine organisation has no meaning. Even as arrests were going on, reports were appearing on the militants’ regrouping.
It is true there was a lull in bombing after execution of the six JMB men, but who can say the terrorists are not using this respite to reorganise themselves. Books, leaflets, CDs containing jihadi text and instigating the common people to join their jihad for bringing down the existing social order are reportedly being distributed in different parts of the country. It is not important, as noted above, under which names and addresses the extremist messages are disseminated as names and addresses are a camouflage.
According to some reports, the militants are masquerading behind the identity of madrassah teacher, religious teacher, imam of a mosque or even an NGO worker. In some limited territories they are enforcing a Taliban-type rule. A few days ago a report from the village Syedpur of Jagannath upazila of Sunamganj published in a Bengali daily of Dhaka related that an extremist religious group that calls itself Tehrikul Ulema is enforcing its own laws and justice system, in complete defiance of the laws of the state. The law court is sitting in the mosque, fatwa is issued freely, small girls are forced to wear burka, those who oppose are being picked up from their homes in the darkness of night, brought to the madrassah or the house of the outfit’s chief and tortured. The number of persons missing is growing. In short, a replay of Baghmara 2004 under Bangla Bhai. This group has been gaining strength for years but the government remained unmoved. Needless to mention, the victims are the poor or ultra-poor, as under Bangle Bhai’s brief rule in Baghmara, or under any extra-constitutional system. This village is not the only place where they are trying to establish a parallel rule or intimidating the people into submission. The jihadi booklets distributed among the people issue dire warnings against women moving out of doors without observing purdah and pursuit of music. Twelve thousand Islamist militants are reportedly active again in 12 districts.
In seven years since 1999, 40 major incidents of bomb and grenade attacks took place. More than 200 people were killed and about 600 injured. The most sensational incidents, which caused widespread shock and dismay in the country and abroad were the bomb blast in Udichi’s cultural event, near-simultaneous bomb blasts in 63 districts of the country, bomb attack in three cinema halls of Mymensingh, bomb attack in the Pahela Baisakh cultural event in Ramna Park, and grenade attack in sheikh Hasina’s rally. The enquiry committees that were set up failed to investigate convincingly and could hardly conceal their political subservience. But the enquiry committees were not left with much to do, and even before they could begin their task some high-ups would come out with accusations dictated by their own political design, thus foreclosing any findings of the committees (their usual target being India, either by name or implication).
The enquiry committees got the message and the result was the ‘George Mia’ episode – falsely implicating a poor innocent village lad. Lately charges have been pressed against 22 for the August 21, 2004 bomb attack on Sheikh Hasina’s rally. In this belated action those charged include influential figures. But even after four years some questions remain unanswered, like the source of the grenades. The shadowy figure of one Maulana Tajuddin is mentioned as the source, and nothing beyond that. Nor has any light been thrown on what punishment is being given to those guilty of tampering with or destroying the evidence or deliberately leading the investigation along the wrong track. We would like to think that the criminal investigation department which is handling the case is now serious enough but its chief made a naive remark when he said that the grenades were intended to kill Hasina. Who else could be the target? Were the grenades hurled to scare away the street dogs?
Many happenings of grave terrorist import occurred in recent years which were almost ignored by the government of the day. What was the mystery behind the shiploads of arms and ammunition that arrived in Chittagong from nowhere and disappeared to nowhere? Who killed the former finance minister Shah AMS Kibria?
The country does not have any anti-terrorist law or a special court to try terrorists but that is not important and the existing laws may be enough. But do the law enforcers possess any national data base on terrorists? Is forensic and computer technology updated? Is any DNA mapping done? Since terrorism is now a regional phenomenon, has any regional network been established?
We would again emphasise that pseudo-religious education and training which have wrongly moulded the minds of a section of the youth must be brought under the scanner. The seminaries are being moulded by perverse education and training. That being the case, it is not enough to nab the terrorist, the perverse curriculum must be reviewed. This is not a wholesale indictment of all the madrassahs. There are all types of madrassahs; reform and upgrade the good and promising ones and be merciless against those which are undermining religious values of tolerance and harmony.
Source: New Age, Bangladesh