Bangladesh in cross-hairs of Hindutva

  • India and Bangladesh have a number of unresolved disputes


India does not take formal credit for the liberation of Bangladesh as it uses the plea that due to the alleged military crackdown on Bengalis, one million Bengalis were forced to seek asylum in India. The exodus of the Bengali refugees “compelled” India to take military action because of which Pakistani forces in East Pakistan surrendered. The Bangladesh operation, beginning with sowing seeds of dissension, led to the Agartala Conspiracy, and the creation of Mukti Bahini and under its cover sneaking into East Pakistan for guerrilla operations to blow up bridges and other installations, which damaged the morale of Pakistani troops and won the war even before the battle began— thanks to RAW as its agents had infiltrated every nook and corner of erstwhile East Pakistan. Indian interest did not wane with the creation of Bangladesh. Of course, West Pakistan’s apathy towards East Pakistan acted as a catalyst to the uprising.

Through its surrogates, India maintained pressure on Sheikh Mujibur Rehman whenever he appeared to be weakening in his anti-Pakistan stance. After the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, RAW recreated the Kader Bahini led by the notorious Kader Siddiqui. Operating from Indian territory, he was a constant source of trouble both for the Zia regime and, after his assassination, for the Ershad regime through various acts of terrorism. The revolt of the Chakma tribe in Chittagong Hill Tracts is supported by RAW through the Shanti Bahini, which indulges in cross-border terrorism with bases and training camps in the Indian Tripura State at Amarpur, Sabroom and in the vicinity of Baghban-Tilla.

Indian influence on Bangladesh intensified ever since Sheikh Hasina Wajid became Prime Minister in her second stint, but Hindu extremism is targeting Islamic sentiments and fomenting trouble. Bengalis maybe led astray by demagogues of the ilk of Sheikh Hasina, who thrives on feeding venom against Pakistan to hide her own government’s ineptness and at the behest of India, but when there is the matter of targeting Islam, the people of Bangladesh are in the forefront for defending their faith, as may be observed in the recent case of Indian Occupied Kashmir being in a continuous state of lockdown after losing its autonomy.

Deaths of Bangladeshi citizens in the Indo-Bangladeshi border region at the hands of Indian Border Security Forces (BSF), which follows a ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy, is a serious concern for Bangladeshi citizens, but Sheikh Hasina Wajid would not like to rock the boat with big brother India, which allegedly supports her holding on to power.

There have been numerous incidents in the near past. In the latest, according to Dhaka Tribune on 2 September 2019, ten Bangladeshis were injured as BSF rained a barrage of rubber bullets on farmers who were cutting grass in the vicinity of Khanpur near the Rajshahi border with India.

Like its maritime boundary issues with Pakistan, India is also using coercion against Bangladesh in this sphere too. Due to competing claims of the two countries, delimitation of the sea boundary and determining Bangladesh’s exclusive economic zones (EEZ) have remained unresolved

When the Dhaka Tribune sought clarity, the BSF made a cock and bull story that the Bangladeshis joined forces and started attacking the BSF, and in self-defence the BSF shot rubber bullets.

In a separate incident, members of BSF handed over the body of Bablu Mia, 24, resident of Kaliganj village in Dimla Upazila, 15 days after they had shot him at the Patgram border. According to media reports, on September 3, BSF opened fire on Bablu and Saidul Islam, 14, when they were crossing Patgram border in Lalmonirhat with cattle, leaving Bablu dead on the spot and Saiful injured. The BSF then took the dead body and the injured Saiful into their custody. The dead body was returned only after people from all walks of life participated in a protest rally on September 11, forming a human chain demanding the sending back of the body.

In a separate incident on September 6, the body of another Bangladeshi man, who was gunned down by BSF along the Nimtola border in Sadar upazila of Chuadanga, was been returned to his family. Najim Uddin 34, a cattle trader by profession, was killed when trying to cross the border with seven others to bring cattle from India. BSF troopers from Gede Baganpara camp opened fire at them, killing Najim, but the others managed to flee. The BSF handed over Najim’s body to Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), after autopsy at an Indian hospital, following the holding of a flag meeting.

The three incidents narrated above pertain to the month of September, but such ruthless slaughter of innocent Bangladeshis continues unabated.

Last week this scribe’s article ‘Hindutva’s next target—the Gyanvapi Mosque’ outlined the sinister plot of Hindutva to demolish ancient historical mosques in India under the plea that they were constructed on Hindu temple sites. While Indian PM Narendra Modi and his other RSS Parcharaks (activists) continue to destroy mosques in India and have prepared a list of hundreds of mosques all over India, which are on the hit list, Hindutva is hindering the construction or renovation of mosques in Bangladesh, located in the border region.

On September 14, it was reported that an Indian BSF team from Amit camp under the Shitalkuchi police station of India stopped the construction of Keramatia Boro Mosque when its windows were being installed. The patrol interrupted the construction of the two-floor mosque in the Borolekha Dolpara border area of Hatibandha Upazila in Lalmonirhat, Bangladesh, which has been under construction in its latest design since 2011. Locals say, in Mughal times a dervish (holy man) by the name of Keramatia Huzur built a mosque in the Dolpara area. Adjacent to the mosque, a shrine was later built around his grave and the mosque was developed further over time. In Partition, the mosque and the shrine fell in no-man’s land, but thousands of Muslims go there to pray every Friday. Over a period of time, since the number of devotees increased, thus there was a need to add more space. The mosque committee’s secretary, Alimuddin, has confirmed that the reconstruction of the mosque was approved in 2011 by the authorities of both Bangladesh and India, and construction work began on April 29 that year. Indian BSF, following the diktat of Hindutva to place impediments in the path of Muslims to the fulfilment of their religious rites.

Bangladesh also faces a Border Dispute with India, which has problems with each of its neighbours. India’s land border with Bangladesh as per the Ministry of Defence is 4,351kms. running through five states, viz, West Bengal (2,217kms), Assam (262kms), Meghalaya (443kms), Tripura (856kms) and Mizoram (318kms), including nearly 781kms of riverine border. The border traverses through 25 districts.

The border is used as a route for smuggling livestock, food items, medicines and drugs from India to Bangladesh. Moreover, illegal immigrants from Bangladesh cross the border to India in search of improving their lives. Because of a large number of illegal immigrants crossing from Bangladesh into India, a controversial shoot-at-sight policy has been enforced by the Indian border patrols. This policy was initiated with reports of violence between the illegal migrants and Indian soldiers. The border has also witnessed occasional skirmishes between the Indian Border Security Force and the Border Guards Bangladesh, most notably in 2001.

Like its maritime boundary issues with Pakistan, India is also using coercion against Bangladesh in this sphere too. While Bangladesh, having concave coastlines, delimits its sea border southward from the edge of its land boundary, India stretches its claim southeastward, covering thousands of miles in the Bay of Bengal. Due to competing claims of the two countries, delimitation of the sea boundary and determining Bangladesh’s exclusive economic zones (EEZ) have remained unresolved. Moreover, in terms of determining the continental shelf, the presence of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands puts India in a favourable position.

The unresolved issue of the status of the Chittagong plains of Bengal as part of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) on the grounds of ethnic affiliation continues to be a source of concern. The CHT problem has been a national integration problem from the inception of Bangladesh. In fact, this area is an isolated region of Bangladesh. From the very beginning, the people of this region had to face different types of crucial problems. Ethnicity or Adibashi, Bengali or Bangladeshi, was the first step in this respect. Settlement of Bengalis in tribal areas was another problem. In an incidental manner national integration is to be considered the precondition of a strong nation. Without overcoming the nation-building problem, overall development of the state is almost impossible. Unfortunately, whenever India wants to twist the arm of Bangladesh, RAW agents rekindle the issue.