Bangladeshi Islamists Find Easy Shelter in West Bengal. Mamata’s Govt Won’t Let Police Go After Them

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Jun 12, 2016 11:05 AM +05:30 IST

Bangladeshi Islamists Find Easy Shelter in West Bengal. Mamata’s Govt Won’t Let Police Go After Them Mamata Banerjee (MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images
  • Mamata Banerjee is impeding the elimination of Bangladesh’s Islamic radicals.

    According to reports, she refuses permission for the West Bengal police to go after Islamists taking shelter in her state.

Even as Bangladesh launched a countrywide crackdown on Islamic radicals, especially those belonging to the Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), from Friday, the security establishment in that country apprehends that Islamic militants and criminals have started entering India and finding safe shelters in West Bengal. Bangladesh’s battle against Islamic militants, feel many in that country, cannot be won unless West Bengal stops being the haven for these militants that it is now.

The crackdown in Bangladesh was launched following a string of brutal killings of Hindus, secular activists and bloggers, gay rights activists and other minorities since 2013 when the massive protests in Dhaka’s Shahbagh square pitted the country’s liberals and secularists against Islamists.

The protests erupted over what many saw was the lenient sentencing of Abdul Quader Mollah, an Islamist accused of war crimes during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.

Mollah was sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Crimes Tribunal, Bangladesh, and liberals saw it as too lenient and launched the protest movement that spread throughout the country. The sentencing was revised and Mollah was put to death subsequently.

Since then, eleven persons, including top leaders of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami have been sentenced to death for their involvement in the horrific genocide that involved killings of over 30 lakh Bengali-speaking Muslims and Hindus and rape of an estimated 4 lakh women by Pakistani army and Islamic groups.

Alongside the sentencing of war criminals, the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh also started acting against the Jamaat-e-Islami and other Islamic radicals. Many arrests were made and militants were even killed in shootouts. The radicals, blaming liberal and secular activists, started targeting them. The government reacted with more stringent force.

The latest crackdown was sparked by the barbaric killing of Mahmuda Khanam Mitu, the wife of the police superintendent in Bangladesh’s second-biggest city of Chittagong. The police officer had planned and led raids on Islamist militant groups and the killing of his wife was seen as revenge by these militants.

Officials in Bangladesh’s security establishment told Swarajya that along with the regular police, the elite Rapid Action Battalion and the Border Guards Bangladesh have been drafted to nab Islamist militants responsible for the killings and many other heinous crimes in Bangladesh. But rooting out the militants is easier said than done, and they (the militants) have repeatedly demonstrated their capability to kill soft targets and embarrass the government.

Even as the government launched the crackdown against the militants on Friday, the latter cocked a snook at the government by hacking to death a volunteer at a Hindu monastery, one Nityaranjan Pandey. This was closely preceded by the similar killing of a Hindu priest, Ananda Gopal Ganguly, earlier this week.

The primary concern among Bangladesh’s police and intelligence officers is that the country’s Islamic militants have started crossing over to their safe refuges in West Bengal. It is a proven fact that the Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) has many safe houses in Bengal.

The Khagragarh blast in Bengal’s Burdwan district on October 2, 2014, laid bare the fact that the JMB had an extensive presence in Bengal and, according to the chargesheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), the JMB was preparing bombs in its bases in Bengal for use in extensive bomb blasts to topple the Sheikh Hasina government in Bangladesh.

The NIA has, subsequently, arrested many Islamic radicals from Bengal and many of the arrested have links with JMB and other radicals and militants in Bangladesh.

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s extreme reluctance to crack down on Islamic radicals in her state is the major reason for the JMB and militants of other Islamist groups from Bangladesh succeeding in establishing bases in Bengal.

Mamata, whose owes a major part of her latest victory in the Assembly polls to the almost en bloc votes of the Muslims, is vehemently opposed to even investigating activities of suspected radicals. She is known to have stopped at least half a dozen such investigations and vetoed an equal number of proposals from the state police to nab Islamic militants.

All because she wants to pamper her Muslim vote bank and keep them happy. Cracking down on Islamic radicals, she fears, would alienate the Muslims since many of these radicals are actually maulvis and maulanas in the lakhs of mosques and madrasahs (the unregistered ones) that have mushroomed across Bengal in recent decades.

Mamata, thus, is impeding the elimination of Bangladesh’s Islamic radicals. These are the same same Islamic radicals who are targeting Hindus and other minorities and liberals and secular activists of that country and posing a direct and grave threat to the Sheikh Hasina regime that is on very friendly terms with India.

It is solely due to the cooperation of the present Sheikh Hasina government that the backbone of militancy in Northeast India has been broken; and transit rights granted by Bangladesh have majorly boosted trade and commerce in the landlocked Northeast India.

India’s national interests thus dictate that Bangladesh’s Islamic radicals and militants be denied safe havens in West Bengal; to act otherwise for narrow political interests would amount to a grave anti-national act.

Also read: Jihad Comes To Bangladesh

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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