By Manash Ghosh
12 August 2016
Had the Bangladesh security forces been late by a few minutes in raiding the Jihadi hideout in Dhaka's outskirts on July 26, a repeat of the Gulshan cafe massacre of July 1 was very much on the card. When the hideout was raided, Jihadis were busy taking pictures of themselves. Usually, such sessions are held before the Jihadis embark on a major suicide mission. The purpose of having such a session, where individual and group photos are taken, is to transmit themselves to the Islamic State (IS) so that the terror outfit can claim responsibility for launching such an attack and extol the slain Jihadis as its martyrs.
The Jihadis who were killed in the raid were home-grown terrorists, members of the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), who desperately tried to grab the attention of the IS to seek its endorsement that it represents IS in Bangladesh and is carrying out jihad on its behalf in the country. Like those responsible for the Gulshan massacre, all the nine terrorists killed in the raid were from well-heeled families. This goes to show the spread of Jihadi virus among the educated youth. One of those killed in the raid was the grandson of former Governor of East Pakistan Monaem Khan.
The raid yielded vital insights into home-grown Jihadi outfits like the JMB, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (HUJI) and the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), their leadership pattern, foreign linkages with IS, Al Qaeda and Taliban and the masterminds of the Gulshan café massacre. The UK and Canada-based Bangladeshi immigrants who had waged jihad in Afghanistan and frequently visited Dhaka, were the role model for young educated Bangladeshis. They had been providing Jihadi strategy to the runaway educated youth. The Canada-based Bangladeshi immigrant Tamim Chowdhury, a graduate from a Canadian univerisity, and Mohammed Ziaul Haque, a dismissed Major of the Bangladesh Army, who attempted to stage a coup in 2012, have been working as conduit between the home-grown Jihadi groups and IS and Al Qaeda. Tamim was specifically dispatched from Canada to revitalise the JMB for stepping up Jihadi activity and re-build JMB's countrywide network. Another Canada-based Bangladeshi immigrant, Tahmid Hasib Khan, a student of Toronto University, also came to Dhaka to step up Jihadi attacks. Hasib and Tamim, along with five Jihadis, carried out the attack at the Gulshan café to boost their morale with pep talk. Tamim and Hasib's other task was to recruit promising youth for the JMB and coordinate with other groups for executing Jihadi attacks.
As in the case of the Gulshan massacre, most of the Islamists killed in the raid were from well-known universities. One of the Jihadis killed was Sejad Rauf, a US citizen, a graduate from Dhaka's North South University who had also studied at the Kuala Lumpur campus of Australia's Monash University. Both the universities have of late earned the notoriety of being the breeding ground for young Bangladeshi Jihadis.
The rise of Jihadi Islam became visible only in January 1999 and February 200 when the first two attempts were made on the lives of noted poet Shamsur Rahman and well-known novelist Humayun Azad for upholding Bengali nationalist and secular ideals and for being stridently critical of the Pakistani concept in their writings. Azad's book, Pak Sar Jamin Saad Baad, drew a lot of flak from Pakistani-minded Bangladeshis for its unsparing criticism of the Pakistani state. Many had then warned the Sheikh Hasina Government not to take the two incidents lightly as their perpetrators and their foreign Islamic mentors wanted to induct a new brand of militant Islam into Bangladesh politics by banishing the Bengali nationalist and secular ideals which were the fulcrum of the country's 1971 war of independence. The Bangladeshi society, especially politicians, elites and the intellectual community were oblivious of the threat that the Jihadis posed to the founding principles of Bangladesh.
So, in 2013, when blogger Rajiv Hyder was hacked to pieces by Jihadis, there was no outcry of protest. On the contrary, the then Bangladeshis rulers, elites and the media, directly and indirectly, blamed the bloggers for inciting the Jihadis to go on the rampage by their reckless posts. When free-thinkers, rationalists and publishers were butchered, the same people said, “What all rubbish these people write and there are publishers to print them in book form to make a fast buck”.
And when the Hindu and Christian priests were killed they explained, “There are people and political parties which are intolerant towards minorities. This is a Pakistani hangover”. But the same apologists ran out of argument when noted professors and men of letters were slaughtered. So when the Gulshan café massacre happened, and their near and dear ones were butchered, they were heard wondering aloud — why has this tragedy befallen us?
To this, a young Bangladeshi blogger responded through a blog which read like an indictment of the Bangladeshis mindset. “Gulshan happened because you chose to remain silent when bloggers were being brutally killed in quick succession. You thought that since you were not a blogger, nor a poet nor a free-thinker, you were safe. It is your spinelessness that emboldened the Jihadis to get so daring. Now that you have been targeted, you have raised such a hue and cry and feel so helpless.”
Changing the mindset of educated Bangladeshi youth was not achieved in a day. It took years of imaginative planning, hard work, huge investment and resources in bringing about such a sea change in the psyche of Bangladeshi youth. Islamic outfits like the Jamaat-e-Islami, the Islamic bank, and Saudi-funded NGOs like Rabeta Al-Alam Al-Islam and Manarat, have successfully re-moulded the psyche of Bangladeshi youth on Jihadi line.
This was made possible by years of criminal indulgence and direct patronage given by the Bangladeshi state, political parties and society to radicalise the country's education system and politics and even everyday life. These outfits have created such a feeling of intense hatred in the hearts and mind of successive generation of young Bangladeshis by feeding them on such vicious propaganda against non-believers that it is now well impossible to knock that out of their head.