Shameful violence in aftermath of PM Modi’s Dhaka visit 

New DelhiWritten By: Shantanu MukharjiUpdated: Mar 31, 2021, 08:59 PM IST

A file photo of Bangladesh police. Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

Modi’s powerful and emotional rhetoric in praise of Sheikh Mujib and India’s relations with Bangladesh augured very well as Indo-BD ties were placed on a new pedestal by the historic recent trip by the Indian Prime Minister and Bangladesh exuded immense warmth and enthusiasm on the visit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi added much lustre to the ongoing birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Golden jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh’s independence on his Dhaka visit (March 26-27). His bilateral talks on a wide range of issues with the top Bangladesh leadership, visit to a couple of Hindu temples, meeting with a cross section of politicians and minority leaders, and homage to father of the nation, Mujibur Rahman at Tungipara were well received. Similarly, awarding the Gandhi Peace prize posthumously to Bangabandhu was an outstanding gesture. Modi’s powerful and emotional rhetoric in praise of Sheikh Mujib and India’s relations with Bangladesh augured very well as Indo-BD ties were placed on a new pedestal by the historic recent trip by the Indian Prime Minister and Bangladesh exuded immense warmth and enthusiasm on the visit. 

However, madarsa inspired fundamentalist religious outfit, Hefazat-e-Islam displayed while flexing its muscles by organising anti-Modi protest demonstrations in Dhaka and other cities of Bangladesh airing its ire on the Bangladesh government for having invited the Indian PM, who was alleged to have carried out discriminatory policies against the Muslims of India. Law enforcing agencies in Bangladesh used force to keep the protesting Hefazat cadres at bay. Closer to PM Modi’s departure to India, the elite Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) [equivalent to the Border Security Force (BSF) of India] was also deployed in Dhaka to maintain tranquil arising out of the Hefazat acts of vandalism and destruction of public property. That shows the seriousness and gravity of the prevailing emerging situation, then. It was indeed threatening.  

Coincidentally, or otherwise, Hefazat led well planned and orchestrated violence engulfed parts of Dhaka, Narayanganj, Sunamgunj, Habigunj, Chittagong, Brahmanbaria, Sylhet and Munshigunj. Police stations were set alight, police officers in uniform targeted and worse, in many cases, Hindu temples were desecrated and in some places of worship, ornaments of the deity were allegedly looted. This instilled a sense of insecurity amongst the Hindu minority feeling terribly unsafe by the onslaught of the communal forces. In Brahmanbaria, the renowned Ustad Allauddin Khan music academy came under violent attack. Ustad Allauddin Khan, the legendary maestro, and father of Annapurna Devi and sarod player Ustad Ali Akbar Khan belonged to this city who later established the Maihar gharana in India. The assault on the academy named after the famous musician, shows to what extent the religious extremists can go to harm the hapless. 

Amid these unfortunate unfolding of violent happenings, it becomes imperative to quickly examine how Hefazat e Islam got emboldened to go on such a violent spree when the government was at its feet to foil any protests? How could Hefazat be able to organise such large scale demonstrations in places other than the port city Chittagong which is its principal bastion? What are the internal and external forces which lent moral and material support to the protestors? These questions need to be answered sooner than later. Hefazat led violence cost more than scores of lives and wanton vandalism of property. Worryingly, violent attacks on the Hindu temples and defiling of the idols need to shake up the establishment more so as the country celebrates the twin occasions of Mujib centenary and 50 years of independence. 

Minority communities have legitimate expectations from the Hasina-led government in place in Dhaka. She is seen as the saviour and protector of the minority. That trust merits to be maintained with no cushion for any deficit. Also, there has been a public perception that Hefazat was close to the ruling dispensation and enjoyed its patronage. In the year 2013, many liberals and bloggers were hacked to death. Hefazat was reportedly complicit in the killings. Subsequently, this outfit was extra vocal in removal of statues from the Supreme Court describing their presence as un-Islamic. Their demand was met giving rise to speculations that the government was accommodative to Hefazat diktats. During and after the Modi visit, they have raised their ugly head, again. 

In the light of these developments, it’s equally important for the intelligence and security agencies to ascertain the source(s) of funding to such destabilising communalists’ inspired agitation. If any extraneous and hostile forces are involved, they ought to be exposed to prevent recurrences of such unsavoury incidents bringing embarrassment to a regime thought to be progressive. Further, we know Jamaat e Islami (JeI) stands de franchised but the elements remain and possibly alive and kicking. They, by deduction, may have infiltrated into Hefazat. Many Jamaatis who had collaborated with Pakistani occupation forces in 1971, had been hanged to death after trials by a tribunal. The communal forces fifty years ago had connived with the then West Pakistan army. It’s a sad commentary that when the country is celebrating today its half a century of independence, the same very forces are now attempting to undermine the spirit of liberation and supreme sacrifice of the millions of proud Bangalis. It’s time for harsher measures to contain the menace. The space being vulnerable, political opposition like the BNP may also like to fish in the troubled waters trying to capitalise on the developments. Prime Minister Hasina and her government would do well to act astutely and disallow any breathing space to their political adversary to surface over ground for any revival in active association with zealots.  

(Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. Nor does WION or ZMCL endorse the views of the writer.)