Politics On Terror: Making Both India And Bangladesh Lose The Battle
How the lack of a strong political consensus against jihadi terror is causing serious damage to the counter-terror efforts of India and Bangladesh
Seven militants stormed an affluent restaurant complex in one of Dhaka’s diplomatic quarters. While the Bangladeshi government has attributed the attacks to a home-grown terror outfit, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), media reports showed the Islamic State (IS) claiming responsibility for the attacks.
One of the things that has become apparent in the aftermath of the attack was the lack of a strong, political consensus against Islamism in Bangladesh. The ruling Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) are at war with each other to the point where national security has lost priority, and events of growing radicalisation and extremism are either overlooked or exploited to score political points. Neglect of growing radicalisation for years has arguably facilitated the rise of transnational terrorist groups like the al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and the Islamic State (IS) in Bangladesh.
Lack Of Strong Political Consensus Against Terror
Terrorism and extremism grew in Bangladesh between 2001-2006 when the BNP was in power. The alliance between BNP and Jamaat-e-Islami provided a fertile ground for the growth of groups like Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (HuJi). Since then Bangladesh has witnessed a growth in the number of madrassas. After the Shahbag movement in 2013, attacks on Hindus, Christians, liberals, secular writers, bloggers and other intellectuals have escalated.
The arrests made by the Awami League government, as part of counter-terrorism operations, were perceived and propagated by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party as political arrests. Although more than 90 percent of the arrested had no direct linkages to terrorism, these arrests limited the threats of extremism as most of the suspects were members of the radical Islamist Jamaat, an ally of the BNP.
The absence of a strong, political consensus between the two parties has compromised national security and provided a fertile ground for home-grown terrorist groups like the JMB and Ansarul Bangla Team (ABT) and also for transnational ones like AQIS and IS.
Lessons For India
In the Indian case, the politicisation of religion to expand vote banks has left deep scars on India’s counter-terrorism efforts.
The 26/11 Shame
Despite evidence coming in the form of interception of conversations between the terrorists and the handlers, and revelations made by Ajmal Kasab, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh did not shy away from holding the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) responsible for the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
While the terrorists came from Pakistan, an attempt was made to give the attacks a ‘saffron coating.’
Nevertheless, Indian security agencies were fortunate to have caught one terrorist alive and also obtain confessions from David Headley, which put such ridiculous assertions in their place.
Digvijay Singh had hogged the limelight earlier too when he allegedly said that the Batla House encounter of 2008 that killed two Indian Mujahideen (IM) terrorists was fake. However, later investigations have proven that the slain militants belonged to the IM. Also, the one terrorist who slipped away before the police raid has appeared in an ISIS propaganda video.
Malegaon, Hyderabad And Ajmer
In the investigations following the attacks in Malegaon, Hyderabad and Ajmer, the jailed suspects were both Hindus as well as Muslims. However, as the late B. Raman wrote here, political intervention on communal lines derailed the investigations to an extent that investigations and prosecutions have remained murky even after nearly a decade.
Nitish Getting Cold Feet On Bhatkal
In 2013, the arrest of IM leader Yasin Bhatkal in Bihar was followed by reports like this one in India Today—that the Bihar police had been instructed to go slow on investigating and catching Bhatkal. As the report says:
“The Bihar police are believed to have developed cold feet at the last moment, following a discussion at very senior levels . . .”
Madani And His Political Alliances
In the 1998 Coimbatore blasts, one of the key alleged conspirators Abdul Nasser Madani— leader of People’s Democratic Party in Kerala— Syed Mohammed Bukhari and others were acquitted only to resurface in the Bangalore Blast case of 2008.
It must be noted that when Madani was under-trial custody for the Bangalore Blasts case, the Congress Chief Minister of Kerala, Oommen Chandy, told the State Assembly that the Government regarded it as a case of human rights violation. The CPI (M), too, had similar views about Madani. In 2006, when Madani was in jail for the Coimbatore blasts, the Kerala assembly itself had passed a resolution ‘seeking justice for him’.
Think About The People Fighting Terror
Political interference or lack of political will in counter-terror operations is also a threat to the professional integrity and commitment of security and judicial officials.
Two cases that stand out to highlight this point are the Ishrat Jahan encounter case and the hanging of Yakub Menon, a 1993 Mumbai Blasts convict.
In a report carried by the Sunday Guardian, a retired Intelligence Bureau (IB) Director termed the Ishrat encounter case as “one of the best undercover operations” while calling himself “a victim of UPA’s political encounter.”
Such acts destroy the fighting will of the soldiers and officers who have to confront the terrorists on a day to day basis.
Needed: United, Bi-partisan Will Against Terror
India and Bangladesh find themselves in a spot where security experts are contemplating various security measures to deal with terrorist attacks. However, those efforts are not very effective if the political parties fail to address terrorism and radicalisation as a national threat. AQIS and IS have overtly advertised their will to establish themselves in the subcontinent, and consequently, radicalisation among the youth of both the countries is on the rise. While political battles in Bangladesh between Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina have led to overlooking such dangerous developments, political divide in India has opened doors of tacit support from the political class.
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