Monday, January 30, 2012

Are we facing external cultural aggression?

A common subject of discussion these days, apart from the sad state of our politics and economy, is about our culture. More precisely, a lot of people these days are talking about our culture being subjected to an aggression from outside. Clearly, India is the main focus. One need not look very far to see this. In Dhaka and in towns around the country, this is visible in the family.
In most families that have the cable TV, and these are the families where people who decide the future of the country also live, the impact of Indian TV serials; dances and songs  and the paraphernalia of TV programmes keep many hooked. While India is building barbed wire fences to keep us physically apart, it is entering our houses with consummate ease through the use of technology. Thus, in marriage ceremonies of the well to do; the impact of the Indian culture is palpably evident.  The songs and dances at these marriages are scripted and choreographed or copied from India.
 All these confuse me and make me apprehensive. I do not understand why and how a country that never stops in claiming such a great deal of excellence in terms of its culture, tradition and history can so easily accept to the extent of being dominated by what is most definitely no part of that culture and history. The same people in whose families such abundance of the Indian culture has penetrated come out publicly and say how different and culturally rich we the people of Bangladesh are! 

It is just not this cultural aggression that is a subject of concern of many these days; it is also the sudden visibility of the members of the major minority community in public life, particularly in places where the government has a role to play. I asked a friend who recently retired from a major Commission of the government whether his replacement would be from the service he belonged to before he joined the Commission. He said that was unlikely as the government was looking to replace him by one who belonged to the Hindu community. There are words of mouth afloat in Dhaka University circles about the preponderance of the members of the minority community in terms of recruitment, promotion and other privileges in this premier institution of the country.
In recent times, the media; particularly the electronic media, has established credibility that has been one of the very few major positive developments in our otherwise bleak political environment. Even here, we are seeing that the members of the minority community are being represented in a disproportionate manner. One cannot help being suspicious that an invisible hand may be working according to a plan. In fact, such a suspicion is fairly widespread in the country these days. 
We are also witnessing simultaneously resurgence of Rabindranath Tagore in a manner that is raising a lot of eyebrows.  In a Ministry of the Government, a cultural function was arranged recently that was scripted and choreographed heavily on the literature of Rabindranath Tagore. The songs, the dresses and the other paraphernalia left many of us who watched this function thinking that this programme would have better fitted culturally if it were held in Paschim Bangla rather than in Bangladesh. 
Without any offence to those who love and admire Rabindranath Tagore to the extent of deifying him, let this be said.  Let us read the works of the great poet as we read the works of any great poet of the world; may be read him more as he has written in our language. Let us not make him and his works the foundation of our lives and our culture. Let us not deify him for in the religion of the overwhelming majority of our people, it is blasphemy to deify any individual. Sadly as well, the works of Rabindranath Tagore reflects very little of the culture of the Muslims.
Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim country where a vast majority of our people is uneducated. Fortunately, they are not orthodox having been influenced for centuries by Sufism. Our Islam is tolerant. Nevertheless even this liberal and tolerant Islam has fundamental differences with Hinduism. We have also had bad experience of living for a century and a half under the oppressive Zamindari system that was dominated by the Hindus.   Therefore, one does not need much common sense to conclude that a disproportionate resurgence of the culture of the minority or minorities in public life would bring a backlash that is totally undesirable.
To add adversely to this situation is the issue of current status of Bangladesh-India relations. Since this Government came to power, it has gone out of the way to placate the Indians. The Government gave the Indians a blank cheque on their security needs. It also gave the Indians land transit from mainland India to its fragile northeast states. Bangladesh’s hopes were that India would give it a fair share of the waters of the common rivers and also stop killings of innocent Bangladeshis on the Bangladesh-India border together with accepting Bangladesh’s demands on trade, demarcation of land and maritime boundaries.
India instead failed to sign the Teesta agreement and abandon the Tippaimukh project. The killings in the border have not stopped. In using the land transit granted to it unilaterally on a trial basis, the Indians have been insensitive in defiling the River Teesta to carry heavy vehicles with heavy equipments to go to Tripura. As a consequence, feelings in Bangladesh for India are at an all time low.
This is where my apprehension lies. Apparently, there is reason to feel uncomfortable about a well thought out plan that may be in action; to bring Indian culture and those elements of Bengali culture that represent Hindu culture ahead of our Muslim culture and heritage. In this plan, one can also see visible favours being extended to the members of the Hindu community in the Government and in government funded educational and other institutions.  
Minority communities everywhere have grievances. In Bangladesh too, the minorities have their legitimate complaints. These complaints need to be dealt with overtly and not covertly. It is a reality that the major minority community in Bangladesh looks to India for a wide variety of reasons. India too has an interest in their welfare.  Those who perceive that they are being given favoured treatment believe that this is so because Indian wants it this way and the Government is eager to make India happy. The change in the treatment of the minority community is thus being attributed to India with our government obliging leading the BNP to openly accuse the latter of selling out to India.
The Indian High Commission is playing a very active role in this perceived cultural aggression. On my mobile, I have a SMS on a regular basis inviting me to cultural events at the Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre at Gulshan where people are treated to evenings of Indian culture free. The Indians are paying huge amounts of money in exposing us to their culture. Surely, there is a purpose behind such generosity.  A local elite club in Dhaka till recently had acted as almost an extension of the Indian High Commission in its efforts to win over Bangladeshis through culture. Luckily, those who acted as conduits for this have since been removed from the Club’s leadership and their over indulgence with the Indians on cultural cooperation was one reason for their removal.
The rich culture and tradition of the Muslims of Bangladesh enriched by the glorious war of liberation leaves enough space for legitimate hopes and aspirations of the minority community to be legally and legitimately accommodated. Equally, it can accept any writer of any stature without being submerged by his work or for that matter, anything India has to offer on the cultural front that is good for us.  The perceived external cultural aggression; special favours to the Hindu community and over indulgence with Rabindranath Tagore are potentially dangerous for peace in Bangladesh.  
Therefore, on the issue of the public perception of official indulgence in favour of the minorities, the Government needs to be transparent. If it is indeed doing so because of past indifference to the minorities, the government has a duty to take the public into confidence as it did with annulment of the vested property act. If the government is not providing special privileges to help the minorities, let it say so openly. The perception growing to the contrary needs to be nipped in the bud if it is not correct.
Rabindra Tagore’s creations are immortal. By trying to build a cult with him and his work, the Rabindra activists are making a mistake. His works will survive in Bangladesh without the need of activists. As for the role of the Indian High Commission on the cultural front, there is need for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to supervise and put some control on its activities for there is surely over-indulgence here. As for cultural invasion from India through the TV, this is difficult to regulate. We have only ourselves to blame a great deal for the steady and negative influence of Indian culture in our lives. May be our cultural roots are not as strong as our cultural activists publicly claim it to be.
Bangladesh was created in 1971 by blood where our National Poet Nazrul Islam gave us major inspiration to fight the oppressors. We did not need to seek assistance to fight and win our liberation from any source but what was ours, politically, historically and culturally. Therefore, on the issue of culture, it is that of the majority people that must dominate in Bangladesh.  On the issue of special privileges to the minority community, we have no need to do anything covertly for we have never had any public policy of discrimination. The government needs to take serious note of the public perceptions to save the country from moving towards confrontation on issues of culture and communal relations keeping in mind that on both, Bangladesh’s record is better than any nation in South Asia. 

BY : M. Serajul Islam.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

India Must Share The Blame

Sheikh Hasina has done so much unilaterally to foster good relations with India yet bureaucrats in Delhi are not allowing the implementation of the treaty that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inked with the Bangladesh Prime Minister. 

As the dust settles over an attempted coup or conspiracy in Bangladesh, it is now confirmed that Indian Intelligence agencies had warned the army brass in Dhaka about a plot against the Sheikh Hasina government. The Bangladesh army acted on the tip-off with alacrity and nipped the defiance in the bud. In 1975 too, ahead of the murder of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib-ur Rehman and his 15 family members by the army, Indian Intelligence had warned of an attack on Mujib. But that time, the top brass were in the thick of the coup and the army did not act deliberately. The result is known to the world.

That the Bangladesh army is not interested in taking over the country was clear when it returned power to the civil authorities in 2008 and held free and fair elections that returned Sheikh Hasina with a three-fourths majority in the country’s parliament. When the army was backing the caretaker government and cleaning the stables, it found top politicians of both Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League and Khalida Zia’s Nationalist Bangladesh Party involved in corrupt practices. Many in the army were worried that a revival of the democratic process would bring in its wake the same old graft. Yet the army preferred civilian rule and bowed to the prerogative of the people to have their representatives in power.

Things are not what the electorate expected and the administration has been found wanting in many respects. Corruption and nepotism are back with a vengeance. Yet, it is the people who have to fight such evils. The army cannot do the job because there is a difference between democracy and dictatorship. “Instigated by some non-resident Bangladeshis, a band of fanatic retired and serving officers led a failed attempt to thwart the democratic system by creating anarchy in the army, banking on others’ religious zeal,” reads a statement issued by Bangladesh’s army that claims “such heinous attempts are being foiled”. The statement further reads: “Some officers in active military service (were) involved in a conspiracy to topple the system of democratic governance through the army.” 

A top army officer is under investigation and another officer, Major Syed Mohamad Zia-ul Haq, is absconding. It is apparent that the coup had been attempted by a few religious fanatics and disgruntled army officers. The fundamentalists are unhappy because they have been firmly suppressed by the Hasina government which is liberal and secular. Yet, there are other forces that are inimical to India and they resort to all kind of methods to befoul the atmosphere. That was also the case when Sheikh Mujib-ur Rehman was killed. He too did not give any quarter to extremists and forces unhappy with the battle for Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina regrets that Islamists have penetrated the country’s army. It is ominous because this is what has happened in Pakistan as well.

My information is that coup leaders this time were helped by forces operating in India. The rump of Ulfa was part of it as were the hostile Nagas. The Manipur insurgents too had a hand in the plot. It is strange that while Bangladesh does not allow any anti-India forces to operate from its soil, as used to happen in the past, whereas India is lethargic and inactive.

For the larger picture, New Delhi must share the blame. It fails to improve connectivity with Dhaka. Promises made in the fields of trade, power and business have remained unfulfilled. Sheikh Hasina has done so much unilaterally to foster good relations that there are many people in Bangladesh who are resentful. Yet, bureaucrats in Delhi are not allowing the implementation of the treaty in areas of trade, power and money that Prime Minister Mr Manmohan Singh inked with the Bangladesh Prime Minister. The bureaucrats are not anti-Bangladesh but they can’t simply get over the red tape that retards the implementation of any plan or project in this country. 

The much-needed over-bridges that New Delhi was supposed to build in Dhaka cannot be found even on drawing boards. I recall when Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan, Delhi made a five-year plan to dovetail Dhaka’s economic projects with those of India’s. It was an undertaking to develop the entire region. The Sheikh reminded New Delhi many a time of its commitments but there was little follow-up. The only justification that New Delhi had was denial of facilities to India to reach its North-eastern states through Bangladesh but Shiekh Hasina took care of even this grouse long ago. 

The failed coup is not only a warning but also an opportunity for New Delhi. It must take some bold steps quickly to send the right message to the people in Bangladesh disillusioned with Sheikh Hasina’s government and to prove to them that India remains friendly and would go to any extent to help Bangladesh when it needs India’s help. But no such step has been taken yet.

Prime Minister Mr Manmohan Singh transferred a few tracts of land in Assam to Bangladesh, its rightful owner. He should bring a Constitutional amendment in the next session of Parliament to make de jure what is de facto now. The BJP and some elements in Assam are opposed to the transfer. But they must realise that this is a territory that belongs to Bangladesh and has stayed wrongly with India for some 40 years. One recurring complaint of Dhaka is that border police are cruel to Bangladeshis who stray into India by mistake. Television channels have recently aired footages of Indian border police beating a boy mercilessly because he had strayed into India.

West Bengal chief minister Miss Mamata Banerjee would be well advised to visit Bangladesh where she is popular and where the expectation is that she would make amends for her absence from the Prime Minister’s team that visited Dhaka last year. Were Miss Banerjee to announce more water from the Teesta for Bangladesh, something she had promised, the entire Bangladesh population would dance to her tune. She should tear a leaf from the book of former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu who accommodated Bangladesh on Farakka barrage water. 

Sheikh Hasina has undertaken a stupendous job of punishing those who not only opposed the birth of Bangladesh but also sided with the forces that were indulging in anti-national activities against the people during the war. Their atrocities are untold and many bright young men and women were killed in cold blood. Among the killers are the elements that had supported the attempted coup against her. When the country’s army says in a written statement after busting a coup attempt that “such heinous attempts are being foiled,” it suggests that Sheikh Hasina has faced similar situations before. This is a matter of concern. 

BY :  Kuldip Nayar.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

India not shining any more

It's a testimony to the lingering effects of a four-decades-old socialistic economy. Each time India makes a policy move towards creating wealth, it does so with a grudging sense of sacrifice and insistence it's doing the world, specifically the United States and the West, a favour.

The most recent example came in November when India's coalition government, headed by the Congress party, attempted to liberalise investment by foreign companies in organised retail. Protests from the opposition soon had the government retracing its steps.

Such backtracking and a logjam on reforms explain how India, in three years, has gone from being globali-sation's poster child to becoming the laggard among the major emerging economies. In 2008-09, India and China were the standout survivors of the financial crisis, invited to the Group of Twenty high table and expected to steer the course for 21st century commerce. As the sun sets on 2011, however, key stakeholders in the Indian economy are contemplating rough, cold nights ahead.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government had proposed that 51% foreign direct investment be allowed in the multi-brand retail space. This would have let companies such as Walmart and Carrefour, banned from investing a dollar in front-end retail stores in India, set up shop in Asia's third-largest economy. The Singh government also announced a decision to enhance permissible FDI in single-brand retail -- Marks and Spencer or Apple outlets being examples -- to 100% from the previous 51%. With the government's retreat, the multi-brand decision is off, though the single-brand policy change will go ahead.

The FDI-in-retail controversy is telling for three reasons. First, it's a reminder that despite the country being among the biggest beneficiaries of the globalisation process over the past two decades significant sections of Indian society remain deeply suspicious of foreign investment and are too willing to believe downright bizarre conspiracy theories. In the past fortnight, several public figures -- including Gandhian activist Kisan Baburao "Anna" Hazare, who has emerged in 2011 as India's leading anti-corruption crusader -- actually compared multi-brand retail chains like Walmart to the East India Company. Arriving in India in the early 17th century as a trading entity, the East India Company eventually raised its own army and government and became India's paramount power by the mid-18th century.

Second, the outcry has pointed to the difficulties of pursuing even fairly obviously needed economic reform and policy change in India's extraordinarily competitive and fractious democracy. Limits to foreign equity in retail are decided by executive order and do not require parliamentary approval and legislation change. 

Nevertheless facing broad opposition -- ranging from the Communists to the notionally rightwing but economically confused Bharatiya Janata Party -- and blackmail by junior parties in the ruling coalition, particularly the Trinamool Congress regional party that runs the eastern state of Bengal, the government had to capitulate.

Finally, the episode renewed pressure on the Singh government to restore India's momentum. Growing at close to 10% three years ago, the economy is showing alarming signs of slowdown. GDP growth in 2011-12 -- the Indian financial year runs from April to March -- is likely to fall below 7%, against the government's target of 9%. The fiscal deficit is certain to overshoot the 4.6% figure promised in the 2011 budget and could be closer to 6%. The rupee is sliding at a historic low vis-à-vis the dollar.

Statistics released by the government report that in October 2011 industrial production declined 5.1% compared to the same month in 2010. The contraction in the capital goods sector was an astonishing 25.5%, indicating business pessimism and wariness in investing in new capacities. Declining FDI and investor confidence in India's capital markets are also causing concern.

Unremitting inflation and the government's use of fiscal measures to check it -- the Reserve Bank of India has raised interest rates 13 times in the past 20 months -- have created a vicious circle. "The economy," Anand Mahindra, managing director of the Mahindra Group and among India's best-known business tycoons, tweeted on December 12, "is in a perfect storm."

To optimise the advantages of an interlinked economic system, a country needs to keep its eyes not just on globalisation, but another "g" word -- governance. This is where India has faltered. Complacent about the inevitability of rapid growth, the Congress-led government has an internal dilemma as to the necessity and political legitimacy of deregulation, decontrol and market-friendly reform. While Prime Minister Singh is clearly a believer, his party president and political boss, Sonia Gandhi, does not see growth as an overriding priority -- and the mounting bill of a range of welfare and dole programmes she favours have combined to leave a devastating impact. Paradoxically, the rural constituency she is keen to protect would have benefited the most from the now botched reform. One Indian economist warns that India could easily become another Brazil: "We've been hearing about Brazil as the next great power since the 1960s. Every few years it offers hope, but never does take off."

The initiative to allow greater FDI in retail came after a considerable reformist lull. It was an attempt by Singh to break the perception of policy paralysis. As it happens, his government has been buffeted by a series of corruption scandals for the past year and depleted its reserves of political capital. As India's finance minister admitted while putting the FDI decision "on hold," to persevere with opening up retail at this stage was to risk a midterm election. Essentially the government waved the white flag.

Ironically, a robust presence of big retail could provide India medium-run solutions to some notably trenchant challenges -- food inflation, the lack of agricultural productivity and produce wastage. Deploying the wage-arbitrage principle, as exploited, for instance, by India's information technology industry, could have someday made Indian farmers meaningful exporters of food. That aside, the transcontinental supply chains of retail behemoths such as Walmart would also bring gains to Indian consumers, given half of India's gross domestic product is driven by private consumption.

Instead, the perennial chicken-or-egg conundrum has been used to thwart FDI in retail. Critics have argued global manufacture will swamp Indian markets and under-mine Indian manufacture. Others have claimed that a network of politically influential intermediaries -- who end up squeezing both food producers and consumers -- will lose out and deserve protection. The truth is every piece of policy change presents immediate losers and winners. Yet without short-term turbulence and risk-taking, the long-term potential may never be reached.

India's politicians, 20 years after their country opened its economy to the world, should have come to grips with this basic verity of policymaking. For some reason they haven't, or more likely wilfully refused. As a result, there is an unwillingness as well as inability to sell economic reform and globalisation to a broader domestic constituency using an idiom with expansive appeal. In their smugness, India's political leaders expect the rest of the planet to wait until they fine-tune that idiom. Meanwhile, the rest of the planet may decide to just get on with life and pass India by.

BY : 

Border Violence Tests Fragile Peace on India-Bangladesh Frontier

A video clip showing a Bangladeshi man being beaten by Indian guards is testing the fragile peace on what has been called one of the world’s bloodiest borders. The footage, which was released on YouTube, shows an alleged cow smuggler being stripped and beaten by guards somewhere along the 1300-mile frontier that abuts the Indian state of West Bengal. Although it is illegal to export cows from India, demand from neighboring Bangladesh fuels a $500 million market, and an estimated 1.5 million cows are moved across the border each year. The incident made headlines in both countries, sparking fear of escalation.

Although India helped Bangladesh gain independence from Pakistan in 1971 — Bangladesh was at the time “East Pakistan”, separated from its western half by the Indian landmass — relations between the two countries are frequently tense, particularly along the border. The illegal cow trade, arms smuggling, disputes over water rights and illegal migration regularly cause trouble. On Jan. 7, 2011, Felani Khatun,  a 15-year-old girl who was illegally crossing the border with her father to get married in Bangladesh, was shot dead. A man named Mohammed Rashed was shot and killed by the Indian border guards on Jan. 21, giving rise to anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh. Both incidents sparked outrage and are credited with fueling anti-Indian sentiment in Bangladesh.

Strained as the relationship may be, there are reasons for optimism. Over the last few years, the two countries have signed a series of agreements to ease tension on the border. In March 2011, both parties agreed on the use of non-lethal weapons by the border guards and in Sept. 2011, the neighbors inked a protocol agreement clarifying the demarcation of the land boundary. Experts say these modest steps may have prevented the violence from spreading. “When the news came out it created a lot of concern,” said Veena Sikri, a former Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh. But, she said, “ties between India and Bangladesh are very robust and one incident cannot be a setback as long as there is political will.”

Indeed, the reaction from both sides has been measured. India’s Border Security Force condemned the violence as “despicable” and eight soldiers were suspended. They also ordered a high-level inquiry into the affair. On Saturday, India’s finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, said that the incident would not impact bilateral relations and that there was “no need to blow up such incidents.” Mukherjee also assured reporters in Kolkata that the two countries will “settle the matter through dialogue.” In Dhaka, meanwhile, Syed Ashraful Islam, a government minister, dismissed the video as “nothing new.”

They are wise to be cautious. Bangladesh is one of India’s most important trading partners, with trade totaling $5.09 billion in 2010-2011.  There is also fear that anti-Indian sentiment could be used as a pretense for a coup in Bangladesh, an outcome that would surely hurt both sides. “New Delhi needs to guard against becoming an unwitting cause for political instability in its eastern neighbor,” warned a recent editorial in The Hindu, an leading English-language Indian daily. Prosecuting the guards is a start, but the real challenge is preventing another incident. “Human rights abuses anywhere, everywhere [have] to be looked at,” Sikri said. “Action has to be taken.”

Bangladesh coup bid or conspiracy?

India must take some bold steps quickly to let Dhaka know that as a friendly neighbour it is committed to help the country and its people.

As the dust over an attempted coup or conspiracy in Bangladesh settles, it is confirmed that the Indian intelligence agencies warned army top brass in Dhaka about the conspiracy hatched against the Shaikh Hasina government. On this occasion, the Bangladesh army acted in time and nipped the defiance in the bud. 

In 1975 too when Bangabandhu Shaikh Mujibur Rehman and 15 of his family members were killed by the army, Indian intelligence had warned about an attack on Shaikh Mujib. But then the top brass were themselves in the midst of coup and the army deliberately did not act. The result is known to all. 

That the Bangladesh army is not interested in taking over the country was clear when it gave back power to the civil authority in 2008 and held free and fair elections which returned Shaikh Hasina with a three-fourths majority in parliament. When the army was backing the caretaker government and cleansing the stable, it found the top politicians of both Shaikh Hasina's Awami League and Khaleda Zia's Nationalist Bangladesh Party involved in corruption. Many in the army were worried that the revival of the political process would bring in its wake the same old graft. Yet the army preferred civil rule and bowed to the prerogative of the people to have their representatives in power. 

Things are not what the electorate expected and the administration has been found wanting in many ways respects. Corruption and nepotism are back with a vengeance. Yet it is the people who have to fight against such evils. The army cannot do the job because this is the difference between democracy and dictatorship. 

Disgruntled elements
"Instigated by some non-resident Bangladeshis, a band of fanatic retired and serving officers led a failed attempt to thwart the democratic system by creating anarchy in the army, banking on others' religious zeal," said the army statement, adding that "such heinous attempts are being foiled." 

It is apparent that the coup was attempted by a few elements representing religious fanaticism and disgruntled army officers. The fundamentalists are unhappy because they have been firmly suppressed by the Hasina government which is liberal and secular. Yet there are other forces which are inimical to India and they resort to all kinds of methods to foul the atmosphere. That was also the case when Shaikh Mujib was killed. He too did not show any quarter to the extremists and the forces that were unhappy over the creation of Bangladesh.
Shaikh Hasina has regretted that the Islamists have penetrated the army. It is ominous because this is what has happened in Pakistan as well. 

My information is that the coup leaders this time were helped by forces operating from India. The rump of United Liberation Front of Asom was there and so were the hostile Nagas. The Manipur insurgents were also part of the conspiracy. It is strange that while Bangladesh does not allow any anti-India forces to operate from its soil, as it used to happen in the past, India is lethargic and inactive. 

For the larger picture, New Delhi must share the blame. It fails to have connectivity with Dhaka. Promises made in the fields of trade, power and business have remained unfulfilled. Shaikh Hasina has done so much unilaterally to foster good relations that there are many people in Bangladesh who are resentful. Yet bureaucrats in Delhi are not allowing the implementation of what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had signed with the Bangladesh prime minister in terms of trade, power and money. Bureaucrats are not anti-Bangladesh but they represent the red tape which retards progress of any plan or project. 

I recall when Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan, Delhi made a five-year plan which would dovetail Dhaka's economic projects with those of India. It was an undertaking to develop the region as a whole. New Delhi was reminded often but there was little follow-up. 

The failed coup is not only a warning but also an opportunity for the government in New Delhi. It must take some bold steps quickly to let the people disillusioned in Bangladesh with Shaikh Hasina's government know that India r will go to any limit to help Bangladesh in its needs and, at the same time, foster closer relations with Dhaka. 

Singh transferred a few tracts of land in Assam to Bangladesh, its rightful owner. He should bring the constitutional amendment in the next session of parliament to make what is de facto as de jure. The BJP and some elements in Assam are opposed to the transfer. But they must realise that this is the territory which belongs to Bangladesh and has stayed wrongly with India for some 40 years. One recurring complaint of Dhaka is that border police is cruel to any Bangladesh national who even strays into India by mistake. 

Television channels have shown recently how the border police was beating a boy mercilessly because he had crossed the border by mistake. 

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee would be well advised to visit Bangladesh where she is popular and where the expectation is that she would make amends for her absence from the Prime Minister's team that visited Dhaka a few weeks ago. 

BY : Kuldip Nayar.

Analysing the failed Coup in Bangladesh

The news of a coup attempt by ‘fanatic’ mid-level officers instigated and supported by some Bangladeshi expatriates and retired Army officials that was foiled by the Bangladesh Army did not come as a major surprise. There have been whispers about such a conspiracy in Dhaka’s power corridors for quite some time. The fear that such a possibility cannot be completely ruled out re-emerged after the 2009 mutiny by the Bangladesh Rifles, in which 59 Army officers were killed. There were indications that the BDR mutiny might have been instigated by Islamists who feared reprisals from the secular forces that had come to power in the December 2008 general elections. The Awami League government’s reluctance to allow an immediate Army operation against the mutineers was touted as a major source of anger among many army officers. Even though there were three inquiry commissions into the 2009 incident, the reason and motivations behind that mutiny have not been established in any conclusive manner. 

There are reports that some officers involved in the recent plot were linked to the urban radical Islamist group -- the Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT) -- which was banned by the Bangladesh government in 2009. HuT has been active in Bangladesh since 2001 and had been campaigning against the Awami League. Its activists were seen distributing pamphlets in various mosques during the military-backed caretaker regime. In spite of the crackdown on them during that period, they had remained active. It needs to be emphasised that like the Jamaat, the Hizbut Tahrir has strong links with Bangladeshi expatriates in the UK, who subscribe to its views. The HuT Bangladesh website reads “O Army Officers! Remove Hasina, the killer of your brothers and establish the Khilafah to save yourselves and the Ummah from subjugation to US-India” (

After assuming office in January 2009, Hasina has taken steps to deal with Islamic radicals. Regular raids, arrests of radicals and seizure of arms and ammunition have paralysed the Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and other terrorist groups. The war crime trial for the purpose of which five Jamaat-i-Islami leaders and two BNP leaders were arrested is also in progress. Coupled with these efforts to address the rise of radicalism, the Bangladesh Supreme court declared the 5th and 8th amendments to the country’s Constitution as illegal and termed military coups as unconstitutional, thus facilitating the Awami League’s objective of restoring the 1972 constitution. The government, keeping in mind the present political reality, has restored the four foundational principles of liberation and Article 12 which dealt with secularism, while retaining Article 2 (b) pertaining to Islam as the state religion. It also retained the article that allowed religious political parties to operate on a non-communal basis. 

All this has angered many Islamists who feel that their electoral base will shrink if Hasina continues in power. The Islamists hope that the Army will come to their rescue as they have openly supported military rule in the past. 

The Army has always been politically divided along party lines, although traditionally its sympathies have been with the BNP. Nevertheless, in the past, the tussle between officers who fought for the liberation and those who did not has led to as many as 19 coup attempts; the previous unsuccessful attempt came in 1996 and was led by General Abu Saleh Mohammad Nasim, a freedom fighter.

Interestingly, the latest arrests of Army officials plotting a coup was made public against the backdrop of Begum Zia, Chairperson of the BNP, alleging at a rally held in Chittagong on January 9 that the government had a role in the disappearance of Army officers and is engaged in confining and torturing them. While Khaleda’s statement was publicly refuted by the Inter Service Public Relation (ISPR), the Army admitted that it was indeed trying some officers for dereliction of duty as per its rules. Perhaps, the Army felt compelled to admit to the coup attempt after various media reports revealed the arrest of some Army officials. 

According to the ISPR statement, the coup was unearthed in December 2011 when some middle level officers numbering around 16, whom the Army termed as ‘religious fanatics’, were attempting to recruit sympathizers for carrying out a coup. Some of these officers who were approached informed senior Army officials about it. 

At the centre of the controversy is a Lieutenant Colonel who has been arrested and a Major who is absconding. According to media reports, the Facebook profile of the main conspirator, Major Zia, noted that “Army is soon going to bring change”. This has to be seen against the backdrop of fears raised by certain quarters in Bangladesh that some cadres of religious parties recruited into the Army during the BNP-led coalition government rule may act as supporters in such a coup.

The coup attempt was not just aimed at derailing democracy but at stopping the ongoing war crimes trial. The BNP, which initially supported the trial, has come out openly against it. It has questioned the objectives of the trial and has been pressing the government to stop it. Initially, some Muslim countries had tried to dissuade Bangladesh from opening the cases in this regard. However, in the face of popular demand to try the people involved in war crimes, the government refused to buckle under such pressure from foreign countries.

To bring about any political change in the country which is currently ruled by a party that has overwhelming majority, it was imperative for the Islamists to enlist the support of the Army. But the fact remains that the Army itself is struggling to wriggle out of its historical legacy of military coups and the resulting stigma. The latest coup attempt by radicals within the army indicates the penetration of Islamists and more specifically that of the Hizb ut-Tahrir whose main support base is among the educated youth, who are highly motivated and belong to affluent families in urban areas. The coup attempt is also an indication of the nature as well as future direction of radicalism whose fulcrum lies in the relatively more affluent urban space rather than in the impoverished madrassas that are generally believed to be a source of fundamentalism in Bangladesh.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tipaimukh Barrage: India’s Unlimited Thirst For Water

All the major rivers in the subcontinent including the Ganges, the Jamuna, the Brahmaputra have their origins at the foot of the Himalaya and then flow through different states of India before entering into the Bangladesh territory and merging into the sea. Since these rivers flow through the territories of more than one country, as per international law, the concerned countries have also got inalienable right on the use of the waters of the rivers. The countries where the rivers have their origins do not have the absolute right to divert, preserve and withdraw water without the concurrence of the lower riparian country. The Danube in Europe, the Mississippi in the North America, the Amur in central Asia, the Mekong in the Far East and the Nile in Africa have flown through the territories of several countries and all the countries of the delta enjoy equal rights on the waters of these rivers.

In case of the Indian sub continent there has been an exception. Since many of the major rivers have originated from the hills and mountains in India, Delhi felt it has absolute right on the waters of the rivers. India, in flagrant violation of international law, began diverting the water from the Ganges to Hugli and Bhagirathi rivers in order to ensure all weather navigation of the Calcutta port. It began constructing a barrage at Farakka in 1961 in order to preserve and then divert water before it could flow into the territory of Bangladesh. Pakistan Government objected to this water diversion plan but India argued that the Ganges has mostly flown through its own territory and therefore it has got all the rights to build any project on the river. India at the end agreed to discuss with the then Pakistan government on the sharing of water. Meanwhile it continued the construction and in 1974 the Farakka barrage was completed. In April 1975 India secured the consent of the then Bangladesh Government to have a test run of the project for six weeks but the project continued even after the six weeks period came to an end. Following the change of political scenario in Bangladesh, India began massive withdrawal of water at Farakka since mid 1975 causing colossal damage to agriculture, navigation and ecology of the districts under Khulna and Rajshahi divisions.

Farakka long-march
Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, the veteran leader lodged a strong protest to India against its unilateral decision to divert the Ganges water. He sent a personal letter to the then Indian Prime Minister asking her to take steps to immediately decommission the project. The Maulana also decided to lead a long-march to the project which people from all walks of life whole heartedly supported. He addressed a huge public meeting at Chapai Nawabganj, close to Bangladesh – India border on 16 May 1976 and asked the Indian Government to let Bangladesh have its rightful share of the water. He also advised the Bangladesh Government to seek a solution of the problem through diplomatic means. The Maulana had thus united the entire nation on this national issue. Later on at the relentless efforts of B.M. Abbas, the distinguished water resource specialist, India and Bangladesh concluded Ganges water sharing agreement in 1977 for five years. This agreement was at later stage extended through modifications and amendments but specialists claim that Bangladesh continues to be deprived of its due share of water.

No Teesta deal
On the sharing of water from the river Teesta India dragged its feet for decades. Pakistan Government took up the issue with New Delhi as early as in 1955 but India always sought more and more data on the flow of water. Later on Bangladesh Government sought a water sharing agreement but India remained non committal.  At the same time India began diverting water from the Teesta to the river Mahananda at the point north of Bangladesh territory.  An interim water sharing agreement was reached in 1983 under which Bangladesh was allocated 36% of the available water while India got 39% and remaining 25% kept as reserve which was ultimately squandered by India. Bangladesh lobbied for a long term agreement but India showed little interest. Following protracted negotiation India agreed to sign the Teesta water sharing agreement during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Bangladesh in September but at the last moment India backed out. Bangladesh Finance Minister claimed that within the next three months the Teesta agreement would be concluded. Since then three and a half months have passed, no progress has been made. Indian Prime Minister has reportedly said recently that it would take some more time to conclude Teesta water sharing agreement. Meanwhile the flow of water at the site of Teesta project in Rangpur has continued to decline and should the situation remain unchanged there would be severe adverse effect on the agriculture, navigation and ecology in greater Rangpur, Bogra and Pabna districts.

It was in mid 2009, the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka announced his government’s decision to go ahead with the Tipaimukh project located hundred kilometres northeast of Bangladesh-India border. People from all walks of life reacted strongly. They believe that the Tipaimukh project would bring about a colossal damage to the northeast region of the country of the scale equal to that of the Farakkha. People advised the government to take a firm position and dissuade the Indian Government from implementing the project. Bangladesh Government sent a delegation to India to discuss with Indian officials and visit the project. The delegation comprised of the members of the Parliament but none of them were either engineer or water resource experts. They went to India but could not visit the site of the project due to inclement weather. Upon return they submitted the report but nobody knew their findings as it was never made public. Couple of delegates reportedly dismissed any fear of damage on Bangladesh due to the construction of the project. Indian High Commissioner further clarified that the proposed project would be different from the Farakkha as it would not divert water from the river Barak. It would instead, arrange storage of water to generate electricity.  Our leaders and officials felt a sigh of relief.

Tipaimukh project details
The Government of India decided to build the Tipaimukh project as early as in 2003. The 390 meters long and 163 meters high dam, once completed, would likely to generate 1500 megawatt of electricity but experts claim the electricity generated would not be more than 400 megawatt. The reservoir would store 15.5 billion cubic feet of water equivalent to the annual rainfall of the entire Barak delta. By retaining such a huge quantum of rain water at the reservoir the project would dangerously disrupt the flow of water to the rivers Surma, Kushiara and the Meghna and their tributaries. The water levels in the low lying areas of Sunamganj, Habiganj, Kishorganj and Netrokuna would also decline. The flow of water on the twelve rivers in the region connected to Surma and Kushiara would reduce causing severe damage to navigation, irrigation and ecology in the area.

The Government of India has recently signed contracts with three local firms for the construction of the Tipaimukh barrage. Once this was highlighted by the media in Dhaka people rose in strong protest. They dismissed the recent assurance of the Indian Prime Minister that India would not do anything at the Tipaimukh that would be harmful to Bangladesh. Sensing the anger of the people the Bangladesh Prime Minister sent two of her advisors to New Delhi to convey the deep concerns of the people of Bangladesh. Upon return they dismissed the concerns of the people and one of them even suggested that Bangladesh would gain if it invested in the project. Earlier the Foreign Secretary mentioned at a press briefing that he felt assured at the assurance of New Delhi. The Foreign Minister echoed similar feelings. The irony is that none of these officials, advisors and Minister is expert on water resources but feels confident on the assurance of the Indians that the project would cause no harm to Bangladesh. This raised questions on their wisdom and competence.

Can the Indians be trusted?
Is there any scope to trust the Indian leaders and officials? They commissioned the Farakkha barrage only for six weeks in April 1975 but the project continued to withhold and divert water for decades. The massive withdrawal of the Ganges water has brought about colossal damage to the agriculture, navigation and on all aspects of the rural economy in the north western region of Bangladesh worth billions of dollars. Bangladesh and India signed Long term Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation in 1973 but soon after the political change in Bangladesh, India began training and arming the dissidents. Under the cover of the Indian security force the dissidents armed with weapons supplied by India carried out subversive activities inside Bangladesh. This was a wanton disregard of the Treaty.

India began building fences along the Bangladesh-India boarder. Indian infiltrators with the support of the BSF move deep inside Bangladesh territory to take the harvest and steal the livestock. People passing around the fences are shot and killed by the BSF. According to the Human Rights Watch 74 Bangladeshi nationals were killed, 72 were wounded and 43 were abducted by the BSF in the year 2010 alone. Only a few months ago a young girl was killed by the BSF and her dead body was kept hanging on the fences for several hours before it was handed over to the Bangladesh authority. Assurances from different levels of Indian authority have not changed the situation at all.  Around 52 rivers have originated from the hills and mountains in India and flew over Bangladesh territory before being exhausted into the sea. India has built dams almost on all these rivers and continued to withdraw water at its own requirement. During the lean season Bangladesh does not get required quantum of water while in rainy season huge amount of water is released to cause flooding in the area. India ignores the concerns made through the Joint River Commission and at other forums. These are flagrant violations of the long term Treaty.

Friendship spurned
In the past forty years successive governments in Bangladesh have extended their hands of friendship and cooperation to India but India behaved in its own way. India took whatever she needed and in return let loose terrorism at the border, resorted to water theft and undue interference in the internal affairs of Bangladesh. In disguise of secularism India has emerged as one of the most vicious communal countries in the world.

Muslims, Christians and low caste Hindus in India live as secondary citizen in their own homeland. Even after sixty years of independence the minority communities undergo untold sufferings at the hands of the radical elements of Hindu Mahashaba and Jana Sangha. The historical Babri Mosque was demolished by these communal forces in connivance with the central government in New Delhi. Arunditi Ray has brilliantly articulated the sufferings of the minority communities in India. This is why she earned the wrath of the communal forces and became person non-grata back at home. India has shown very little respect to human rights in suppressing the freedom movement in Jammu and Kashmir.

Kashmiri-Canadian Council, a human rights watchdog reported that 47,455 people have been killed in Kashmir since October 1989. The Independent Peoples Tribunal led by Justice H. Sharma, a retired Judge of the Bombay High Court confirmed that “in quite a number of cases where the victim had been killed, the courts have not even awarded any compensation to the next of kin. We have also some cases where the complainants have been made to go from one court to the other for nearly two decades, with no relief whatsoever.” India is brutally silencing the activists demanding greater autonomy for their regions in Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram and the Tribal areas in Madhya Pradesh.

Bangladesh is not the only victim of India’s hegemony. India trained and armed the Tamil militants who unsuccessfully fought to partition Sri Lanka. The civil war lasted for more than twenty five years, killed over sixty thousand people and made millions homeless. India suspended the transit facility to landlocked Nepal in 1991 which was fully dependent on Calcutta port for its external trade. The transit facility was restored only after the international community mounted pressure on India. Her attitude towards the arch rival Pakistan is well known. India is quick to blame Pakistan for all outlawed activities happening in the country. Sikkim was annexed to the Indian union through coercion. Kuldip Nayar tries to remind Indian leaders and policy makers that the fair play would bring more dividend than the benefits extracted from neighbours through coercion and manipulation. But his advice falls on deaf ears.

Record of broken trusts
Given India’s records of broken trusts the Government and political leadership in Bangladesh will be well advised not to fall prey to India’s false assurances. Instead, effective political steps should be taken to safeguard national interests. An all party resolution asking the Government of India to refrain from constructing Tipaimukh project should be immediately tabled in the parliament. This will be a significant step in building national unity. India is taking advantage of our lack of unity and striking hard on our national interests. A nation of 160 million people, once united, cannot be bullied or harassed. In this critical juncture our hope rests with the youth. They will have the courage, determination and patriotism to challenge the enemies of national unity and sovereignty.
BY :  Abdur Rahman Chowdhury.

Bangladesh Unveils Cyber Watchdog

Bangladesh unveiled a new cyber watchdog to thwart internet crimes after reports suggested that the plotters of last week's botched coup wanted to use internet facilities to spearhead their campaign to oust the Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina's government.

'Bangladesh Computer Security Incident Response Team (BD-CSIPT)' started operating today with an aim to secure the country's information and communication system.

The reports said some serving and retired army officers who allegedly participated in the botched coup plot wanted to social networks like Facebook for their communication and draw support for their campaign to overthrow the government.

"The BD-CSIRT is mainly assigned to identify the sites and persons or institutions who will engage in operating harmful activities against the state, society, political and religious beliefs using the mobile phone, website and different social networking sites," Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) chairman Major Gen (retd) Zia Ahmed told state-run BSS news agency.

It will also recommend taking punitive measures against the offenders, and in some cases it will take action directly as per the authority given by the telecom act, Ahmed said.

The regulatory body chief said that three cyber crime experts of the BTRC who took training from abroad has already started work in full swing to monitor the country's cyber world and it would continue relentlessly.

Ahmed said the BD-CSIPT has been formed to ensure the country's security for information and communication system as different kinds of value-added services like e-banking, e-ticketing and many others have been initiated, which require strong security system.

Politics In Bangladesh : Turbulent House

The army claims to have thwarted a coup.


IT WAS, says Gowher Rizvi, a close adviser to Bangladesh’s prime minister, “very quickly nipped in the bud”. He was talking of a coup plot foiled by the army. The schemers—16 were involved, and some are on the run—included disgruntled mid-ranking officers, retired officers, and others abroad. He claims investigators found a list of prominent people to be assassinated, and another list of generals expected to be “potential partners”.

Bangladesh has faced dozens of coups, failed or not, in its 40 years. But for an army spokesman to give details of one, on January 19th, was unusual. He named the plotters and blamed them for inducing others to revolt (by passing on provocative e-mails and posting on Facebook). The conspirators, he said, shared extreme religious beliefs.

The official view is that dogged opponents of Sheikh Hasina Wajed’s elected regime must now be rooted out, especially from the army. These include Islamists—many supposedly recruited to the army in the early 2000s—and those who oppose ongoing war-crimes trials (over killings during the secession war of 1971).

Mr Rizvi says the government’s legitimacy is assured and reports “absolute calm” in Dhaka, the capital. The army’s discipline looks admirable, he says, encouraged by a popular desire (in contrast to a few years ago) for men in uniform not to meddle in politics.

The equanimity is not shared by all. Many normally garrulous Bangladeshi commentators this week shunned requests to talk. A wide presumption exists that phones are bugged. Speak to one of the men accused of leading the plot, who is in hiding abroad, and a murky picture emerges. Ishraq Ahmed concedes that the arrested men are his friends, but denies religious extremism (indeed, he complains that the authorities have seized his painstakingly collected cellar of wines, Armagnacs and malt whiskies). He says the government “can show no troop movements, no guns, anything” to prove the plot.

Mr Ahmed is a former high-ranking officer from a liberal family. He says he fought “with great responsibility” for Bangladesh’s independence. Now he and other nationalists are merely trying to oppose what they see as a coup-by-stealth by Sheikh Hasina, who is letting Bangladesh be “turned into a Bantustan” run by India.

He makes many claims. Among the more plausible and specific is that spies from India’s Research Analysis Wing (RAW) operate in the country. He claims, too, that for two years RAW has had an office within the headquarters of Bangladeshi Intelligence in Dhaka and a “direct submarine cable for communications” back to India. He claims that Indians conduct electronic surveillance in the country and kidnap suspects from Bangladeshi cities. Indian prodding, he adds, encourages the government to crack down on “anyone with beards. Any practising Muslim is vilified and portrayed as Taliban.”

Mr Rizvi denies all this, saying he is “totally unaware of any Indian presence in Bangladesh”. Yet he accepts that many are uneasy about Bangladesh’s rapprochement with India under Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh has also met Indian demands to root out Islamists’ training camps, and he concedes that some individuals—though not Bangladeshis—are taken over the border for prosecution in India.

Fractiousness will grow ahead of a general election in 2013. Returned to power three years ago, Sheikh Hasina has seen her popularity slump from 81% to 39%, according to an opinion poll published by the Daily Star on January 8th. More telling, 74% say they oppose her constitutional meddling last year, which changed how elections are organised. That may bode ill for stability. Mughal kings struggled to rule the territory over four centuries ago, lamenting that Bengal was “a house of turbulence”. Little has changed.

Islamist conspiracy against Bangladesh government

By now, the news of Bangladesh Army foiling a coup bid by the Islamist agents within the armed forces have already reached all major news outlets in the world. Brigadier General Muhammad Mashud Razzaq, director of Personnel Services Directorate, and Lt Col Muhammad Sazzad Siddique, acting judge advocate general of the army, for the first time in the military history of Bangladesh, addressed the Bangladeshi media on January 19, 2012, where they disclosed the extremely sensitive information of how Bangladesh Army foiled a coup attempt of some "Islamist" agents inside this disciplined force. In the written statement, they said, "Recently at the instigation of some non-resident Bangladeshis some retired and serving army officers with fanatical religious views and capitalizing on others' fanaticism led a failed attempt through their ill motivated activities to thwart the democratic system of Bangladesh by creating disorder in the army. The attempt has been foiled with the sincere attempts of the members of Bangladesh Army."

It said, "With the motive of creating disorder in the army a retired Lt Colonel on December 13, 2011 instigated a serving Major to join him in executing his malicious plan. The Major instantly passed on the matter through his chain of command and the retired officer was arrested under articles 2 [1] [D] [i] and 73 of the Army Act.

"Another accomplice of the retired officer Major Syed Ziaul Haq on December 22, 2011 met with a serving officer and instigated him to engage in activities subversive of the state and democracy. The serving officer informed the proper authority of the matter, as a result of which the leave and transfer order of Major Zia, who had recently completed his long term training, was cancelled. He was informed over telephone on December 23, 2011 and ordered to immediately join Army headquarters Log Area in Dhaka. Major Zia, who was on leave, remained fugitive and has been trying to continue "subversive" activities against the army".

In the above written statement Bangladesh Army said, "Newspapers with vested interests, banned religious militant organizations and platforms of such political parties have been used for conducting their propaganda."

It may be mentioned here that, a vernacular daily named Amar Desh, which houses people with Islamist and even jihadist mentalities carried a front page report by using the contents of the alleged email sent by Major Syed Ziaul Haq. Subsequently, few hired intellectuals with heavy Islamist affiliation as well as some in-house columnists, such as Abdul Hye Sikder [a former leader of the cultural wing of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, who also was connected to Freedom Party's publication] wrote lengthy post-editorial with the clear mission of giving instigation to anti-government sentiment of the Islamist forces within and outside Bangladesh Armed forces. It may be mentioned here that, Amar Desh plays the role of forerunner of anti-Indian and anti-West notions in Bangladesh, where columnists and reporters with heavy Islamist affiliations are placed into various important positions.

During the press conference, the officials of Bangladesh army, when queried as to whether any steps would be taken against Hizb ut-Tahrir [a banned jihadist outfit] and those talking about "disappearances of the army men", Brigadier General Mashud said, "if the probe body recommends, action can be taken as per the law of the country".

It was already clear from the statement of the senior officials of the Bangladesh Army, who appeared in the press conference that, the officer involved in the foiled coup attempt were connected to Islamist militancy group Hizbut Tahrir.

While Bangladeshi intelligence are now actively trying to combat the activities of the outlawed Jihadist group, Hizbut Tahrir [especially now the drive would even intensify after the foiled coup], it misses greatly in keeping another notorious group named Hizb Ut Towhid into surveillance radar. It was already learnt from numerous reports published in local and international media that, this notorious outfit, under the command of one Bayejid Khan Panni aka Selim Panni had been very secretly expanding Jihadist network within and outside Bangladesh. Few years back, Hizb Ut Towhid already established its strong base in Malaysia by setting a camp office. This organization runs several business enterprises within and outside Bangladesh.

It may be mentioned here that, Sajeeb A. Wajed, [popularly known in Bangladesh as Sajeeb Wajed Joy], who is Information Technology specialist, political analyst and advisor to Sheikh Hasina [Prime Minister of Bangladesh] is a naturalized to establish excellent relations with various important figures in United States and is quite regularly invited by various institutions for giving his thoughtful lecture on Bangladesh issue. He also is considered as a knowledgeable writer on Bangladesh affairs.

Couple of years back, Sajeeb Wajed Joy wrote and article titled 'Stemming the rise of Islamic Extremism in Bangladesh' in prestigious Harvard International Review jointly with Carl J. Ciovacco, who graduated from the Kennedy School of Government with a Masters of Public Policy in International Security and Political Economy. His thesis on Al Qaeda's media strategy and was written for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. He received his Bachelor of Science in International Relations from West Point and served as an Army officer in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It is well assumed that, Carl J. Ciovacco has substantial knowledge on defense related issues.

At the beginning of this report-type article, Mr. Sajeeb Wajed Joy and Carl J. Ciovacco, commenting on rise of Islamist influence in Bangladesh wrote: "Islamic extremism is also on the rise in Bangladesh because of the growing numbers of Islamists in the military. The Islamists cleverly began growing their numbers within the Army by training for the Army Entrance Exams at madrassas. This madrassa training was necessary because of the relative difficulty associated with passing these exams. The military is attractive because of both its respected status and its high employment opportunities in a country where unemployment ranges from 20 percent to 30 percent for younger males. High demand for military posts has resulted in an entrance exam designed to limit the number of recruits. Before this madrassa Entrance Exam campaign, only 5 percent of military recruits came from madrasses in 2001. By 2006, at the end of the BNP's reign, madrassas supplied nearly 35 percent of the Army recruits. In a country that has seen four military coup d'etats in its short 37 year history, the astronomical growth of Islamists in the military is troubling to say the least."

According to this information, Bangladesh Armed Forces is experiencing "astronomical growth of Islamists" and madrassa [Islamic School] supplied nearly 35 percent of the Army recruits.

They further wrote, "The military is attractive because of both its respected status and its high employment opportunities in a country where unemployment ranges from 20 percent to 30 percent for younger males."

Commenting on funding of madrassas, Mr. sajeeb Wajed joy and Carl J. Ciovacco wrote: "Since madrassas are educational institutions within the country, they are under the purview of the country's educational ministry. While almost all funding for these institutions comes from private donors in Saudi Arabia, there is no statute against their regulation by proper national authorities."

They further wrote: "…Relying on Saudi and Kuwaiti funding that dictates rote Koranic memorization is counterproductive for a nation that desires growth, productivity, and a brighter future, because it limits the population's skill-set."

On growth of Islamist forces in Bangladesh, they wrote, "Islamists have capitalized on the poverty-stricken nature of Bangladeshis in recent years. They have harnessed the age-old recruiting technique of telling the people that they are destitute and that only complete servitude and support for an Islamic state and a radical interpretation of Islam will solve their problems. Many poor Bangladeshis have fallen prey to this line and have begun to internalize the hope for a better life in an Islamic state. If, however, poverty is reduced and Bangalis see the potential for progress, they will not be as beholden to radical Islam. Simply put, if the economy gets better, the grip of JI [Jamaat-e-Islami] and Islamists will weaken."

Bangladesh government and its armed forces did not confront or reject any of the information provided by Sajeed Wajed Joy and his co-writer in this article. And now, for obvious reason, international community would surely take the contents of the article as an endorsement of the given facts by Bangladeshi authorities.

Moreover, the recent press briefing centering the foiled coup gives further credibility to what Sajeeb Wajed Joy said about Bangladesh Army of housing 35 per cent of its total members with Islamist connections. In such case, in every five, one in Bangladesh Army is from madrassa education, and according to Joy and Ciovacco, they are Islamists.

Certainly, the Bangladesh Armed Forces and its intelligentsia deserve high appreciation for foiling the coup bid. It is hoped that the investigation will ultimately locate all those elements within and outside army, who were conspiring this coup and would be brought into book. But, at the same time, one important point should be taken into serious consideration both by the Bangladesh Armed Forces as well as the government. It was already reported by Sajeeb Wajed Joy that 35 percent of the members of Bangladesh Army are connected to Islamism or jihadist mentality. Now the matter is certainly proved following the latest statement of army officers of the foiled coup attempt having connections with outlawed jihadist group – Hizbut Tahrir. In such case, possibly the matter will ring wrong bells within the policymakers of United Nations, as its Peace Keeping Forces are regularly hiringmembers of Bangladesh Armed Forces as peace keepers. Top policymakers of United Nations or United Nations Peace Keeping Forces [UNPKF] may now become seriously concerned knowing, a large proportion of members of the Bangladesh Armed Forces are having Islamist connections.

BY : Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.

Jihadist outfit Hizbut spreading in Bangladesh

Notorious jihadist outfits Hizbut Tahrir and Hizb Ut Towhid, in affiliation with members of Islami Chhatra Shibir [student front of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami] have reportedly established a number of training camps with hill tract areas in Bangladesh, especially Banderban and Cox's Bazar. Members of Islami Chhatra Shibir are also continuing propaganda in favor of these jihadist outfits by using various means, including social networking sites.

For past few days, one of the members of Islami Chhatra Shibir, named Shaokat Osman has been continuing to comment "We have Islam in Egypt, now we need in Bangladesh." He also has been propagating in favor of Professor Golam Azam, Delwar Hossain Sayeedi and other leader of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, who now are facing trial into their alleged war crimes. Shaokat Osman also continues to put jihadist slogans and notions as well as critical comments on the ruling Bangladesh Awami League in the social networking sites. It is seen from searching the social websites that, various individuals as well as jihadist groups in Bangladesh are now using the social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube in spreading propaganda materials as well as hate materials against the ruling party in Bangladesh.

Staffs of Weekly Blitz, getting the scoop of the activities of Shaokat Osman, started investigating into the matter and found fearsome information on the spread of jihadist groups such as Hizbut Tahrir or Hizb Ut Towhid, through the help of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and its wings in Bangladesh. It is also learnt from various sources that hidden agents of Hizbut Tahrir and Hizb Ut Towhid are actively trying to propagate the "Khelafat" [Caliphate] mission of these groups amongst the students of various English medium schools and colleges. This was particularly done by some of the colleague teachers and friends of Mohiuddin Ahmed [kingpin of Hizbut Tahrir in Bangladesh] as well as some affluent members of Hizb Ut Towhid.

In attracting youths towards jihad, agents and members of Hizb Ut Towhid use the social networking sites and continue to spread hate materials against the West as well as neighboring nations of Bangladesh. These members also publicize imaginary stories on repression of Muslims or even non Muslims being oppressed in the non Muslim nations. They portray the Western societies as "perverts" and even try to draw a picture, where youths in Bangladesh would see the Western people growing up with extreme hatred for Islam. In some sites, such as Facebook, jihadist group Hizb Ut Towhid publishes portions of the hate materials from their infamous book and DVD named 'Dajjal' or even sermons of Wajed Panni aka Selim Panni, the kingpin of this group. In most of such sermons, people are called towards jihad against the West. This group has established an office in Malaysia few years back with a Bangladeshi national as the chief of this outlet of the jihadist group. Hizb Ut Towhid donors send millions of dollar every month to this Malaysia representative, who maintains several luxurious vehicles as well as a posh apartment, wherefrom the activities of this group in Malaysia is continuing. Hizb Ut Towhid publicity materials are secretly distributed from this office, while one of the main tasks of the Malaysia representative of Hizb Ut Towhid is to coordinate with various jihadist outlets in the world. According to sources, currently Hizb Ut Towhid alone has more than 98,000 activists inside Bangladesh, many of whom have joined this group from other jihadist outlets such as Harkatul Jihad or Lashkar-e-Toiba. On the other hand, Hizbut Tahrir has already expanded its network in most parts of Bangladesh, recruiting above two hundred thousand people. Major segment of these activists of Hizbut Tahrir are from affluent or educated class in the society.

It is learnt from a number of sources that, both Hizbut Tahrir and Hizb Ut Towhid are secretly planning bomb attack on a number of posh hotels and bars in Bangladesh along with some of the foreign NGOs during the Valentine's Day. Members of these groups are secretly collecting information on the targeted places to finalize their bombing plan. It is even apprehended that these groups are planning for suicide bombing or planting car bombs or bombs inside rooms of some posh hotels in the country. Prime targets of these groups are Westin Hotel, Radisson Hotel, Dhaka Regency Hotel, Royal Park Hotel, Sonargaon Pan Pacific Hotel, Dhaka Club, Fu Wang Club, Royal Park Hotel, Pyongyang Restaurant, Arirang Restaurant, Ruchita Bar, bar at Zakaria International Hotel, bar at La Vinci Hotel etc.

Why are BSF men so angry?

NEWTON'S third law of motion certainly doesn't work on the India-Bangladesh border, because what Indian Border Security Force does unto Bangladeshi citizens aren't reportedly done unto Indian citizens by Border Guards of Bangladesh and weren't reportedly done by its predecessor Bangladesh Rifles. The comparison is not intended to provoke retaliation from the Bangladesh side, but to draw an obvious contrast between the border guarding forces of the two countries for a valid reason. If BGB or BDR could exercise restraint on this side of the border, why is BSF on that side so brazen in its behaviour?

The Indian border guards have been in the news again after eight of their men stripped, kicked, and mercilessly beat up a young Bangladeshi named Habibur Rahman apparently because he refused to bribe them or didn't bribe them enough. Should every action have an equal and opposite reaction, Indians should have occasionally received similar treatment in the hands of Bangladeshi border guards. But that didn't happen in last one decade when BSF killed at least 1,000 Bangladeshi nationals and maimed many times more.

This is not only amazing, but also interesting. How is it possible that two forces on two sides of the border could be so dissimilar in temperament? One side is decent and composed. The other side is psychotic and ruthless.

In his reaction to the latest depravity of BSF men, our LGRD Minister Syed Ashraful Islam said something that ought to shock sensible people out of their wits. In his view the state doesn't need to worry about everything that happens on the border. He listed smuggling, drug dealing and cattle trade as causes of border incidents, which lead to disputes followed by abominable atrocities. 

If we are to believe in that grandiose theory of state minimalism, then India shouldn't have so promptly suspended those BSF jawans involved in the December 9 incident and ordered a full investigation into the matter. It's obvious that our honourable minister has missed the point. The state is like a circle whose center is nothing unless one has also drawn its circumference. 

An Indian diplomat once told me that the border incidents merely revealed the sultry side of paltry business interests when deals go sour between the smugglers and the security forces. If that is true then it makes the title question of this essay ring out even louder. Why do deals always go wrong with BSF men, since BGB men are not involved in harsh treatment of Indian citizens?

How it happens is a mystery. If it takes two hands to clap, so does smuggling. Smugglers carry goods across the border from one side to another, and every transaction encompasses both sides. That means every transaction must have the blessings of both sides, which should have similar interests in the game. But what disturbs BSF so much that they must get more upset than BGB?

Perhaps the Indian authorities should investigate more into that aspect of their border security men. It's more important to find why they get so angry instead of what they do after they get angry. May be they should also compare and contrast their men with our men to understand why two groups handling similar burdens of anxiety and temptation should demonstrate such disparate mindsets?

If the members of a trained force of the world's largest democracy can so brutally torture an ordinary foreign national as shown on the video clip, it should be a matter of grave concern for rest of the world. As neighbour, we should be particularly worried about what lurks in the heart of that monolithic state that raises so much aggression in its men. That is where, our LGRD minister should know, the state is responsible for its border more than merely defending it.

Because a nation is both centrifugal and centripetal in the nature of its business that simultaneously pull it towards the centre and push it towards the circumference. Indian daily The Hindu has asked its government to apologise for the misdemeanour of its security men. It was the Indians who nursed Habibur after he was left for dead in a mustard field. It was Indian television channel NDTV which first broke the news of the barbaric act.

These are telltale signs that Indians are lucky to have achieved a certain amount of balance when the state can't avoid responsibility for what happens on its border. But that is all the more reason to ask why Indian border guards should be inordinately ruthless. Last week the Indian smugglers abducted a BGB member subsequently returned by BSF, which was a disturbing sign of sordid connections between the law and the outlaw. 

India should know that BSF is destroying more bridges in the hearts of Bangladeshi people than Delhi hopes to build and repair. 

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