There are two major events taking place. One is the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh Liberation from Pakistan and another is State Assembly Election in West Bengal which is scheduled to take place in April. Both events are under the scanner of Jihadi groups.
Since 2009, India-Bangladesh relations have been moving on a positive note. A number of agreements were signed between the two countries. The successful initiatives have subsequently been completed to showcase a new model of bilateral relations between the two. Indian PM, Narendra Modi is going to Dhaka to commemorate an important moment in the subcontinent’s modern history. The Pakistan PM has refused to be part of the celebration. There are distinctive differences visible in Pakistan and Bangladesh. The very impressive economic and social progress in Bangladesh is a source of inspiration. Bangladesh has frog lifted itself from being one of the world’s poorest countries in 1972, to be in the world’s top 25 economies by the end of this decade.
Bharat Identifies Bangladesh Terrorists
Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country and West Bengal is a Hindu majority State with Muslim majority districts along its border with Bangladesh. This border is long, porous and poorly managed, resulting in trans-border crime and the cross-border movement of terrorists. More than 30 per cent of the border areas are not fenced due to the difficult topography. The Pakistan supported terrorists groups were always active in Bangladesh. Jama’at-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) is a fountain head of Jihadis in Bangladesh. The Narendra Modi government designated JMB as a terrorist group after intelligence inputs suggested that its leaders in Dhaka have joined hands with the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e- Tayyiba (LeT) to expand the group’s activities in India.
JMB’s chief Salaudin Salehin, through its official media “Al-Ehsar”, has already announced the terror group’s India chapter. According to senior home ministry officials, the JMB had plans to make permanent bases within 10 km of the India-Bangladesh border (on the Indian side) in the districts of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura.
JMB used the ethno-religious links to spread its Jihadi channels in West Bengal and Assam. In several cases, JMB has used cross-border marriages to find shelter in West Bengal. Extremist publications have been produced by both IS and AQ in Bengali to mobilise Bengali Muslim youth in efforts to liberate Kashmir, fight Hindutva and establish an Islamic Caliphate in Hind. Such declarations have been linked to the Ghazwa-e-Hind prophetic narrative which talks of a final battle for the Indian subcontinent.
Misusing Madrassas to Create Menace
In July 2019, India’s State Minister for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy accused Jama’at- ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh of using some madrassas (religious schools) in West Bengal for radicalisation and recruitment activities . The claim came a week after Indian police arrested four members of the pro-Islamic State (IS) faction of JMB in West Bengal. The current West Bengal political system has created fertile ground for Jihadis to extend their tentacles. The Assembly elections preparedness proves the proximity of Jihadis with the ruling party in the West Bengal.
Muslims constitute 30 per cent of the West Bengal population and their votes are decisive on 100-110 of the 294 Assembly seats, situated mostly in the districts of Kolkata, Murshidabad, Malda and Dinajpur. Mamata-led Trinamool Congress had retained office in 2016 by winning 204 Assembly constituencies with the crucial help of these Muslim-dominated seats. West Bengal’s State government has not been able to check the spread of radical and extremist ideologies.
Gandhi Peace Prize for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
The prestigious Gandhi Peace Prize for the year 2020 has been awarded to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, considered the Father of the Nation in Bangladesh. Modi is visiting Dhaka to confer the award on the late Bangladeshi leader (1920-1975) for his contribution to social and political transformation through non-violent methods.
Prime Minister recently paid homage to Bangladesh’s first Prime Minister, also referred to as Sheikh Mujib or simply Mujib, on his birth anniversary. He described the late leader as a hero for all Indians. “My heartfelt homage to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, a champion of human rights and freedom, on his birth anniversary,” Shri Modiji had tweeted. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, also known as Bangabandhu meaning friend of Bengal, was born on March 17, 1920.
Critics accuse the Trinamool Congress of being soft on extremists because it looks at the Muslim community as a vote bank. The link with terror and TMC was proved in 2014 when an explosion occurred in a house in the Khagragarh locality of Burdwan, West Bengal. The police seized 55 improvised explosive devices, chemicals and equipment. The building was owned by Nurul Hasan Chowdhury, a TMC leader. The ground floor of the building had been used as a TMC party office and an election office in the past.
Breeding Ground for Jihadis
When a community is used as a vote bank, its social and economic developments get stalled. Same thing happened with Muslim community in West Bengal. There is limited access to mainstream education in West Bengal’s Muslim majority districts. This void was filled by Madrassas that lacked accountability for and commitment to quality education. TMC has been accused of doing nothing to create access to mainstream education for Muslims. A large segment of the community therefore remains dependent on the madrassas, many of which are outside the oversight of the State. The mushrooming of Madrassas invited the Jihadis to flourish in the bordering districts with Bangladesh. The politics of Madrassas has linkages with Jihadis.
Islamist militancy in Eastern India has increasingly developed in the last two decades. The JMB started its Indian chapter in 2018. JMB originated from the sub-group of a local Salafi movement known as the Ahle Hadis. They have followers in both Bangladesh and West Bengal. In 2018, JMB opened a new wing in India — Jama’atul Mujahideen India (JMI). The group proclaimed its belief in qital, armed struggle to ‘uproot polytheism and establish Islam’. It also claimed that the Indian subcontinent is a future battlefield to establish the Caliphate as per the Ghazwa-e-Hind prophecy. The Indian chapter could be used to recruit from the Muslim community in West Bengal and to send them to various parts of India for fundraising and operations.
Celebrations under the Scanner
The Golden Jubilee celebration is also under the scanner of Jihadis in Bangladesh. The opposition parties are looking for opportune moments to distract the Indo-Bangladesh high speed train. The same threats exist in India. The opposition parties are rallying behind TMC to feed the terror groups in West Bengal and Assam. TMC has never liked cementing ties with Bangladesh. An attempt has been made by TMC in the past. During the UPA government, Mamta Banerjee tried to pull the chain. But PM Modi chose to fully back the agreement and mobilised enough political support to get it approved by the Parliament. The PM also backed an international tribunal’s award resolving the maritime territorial dispute with Bangladesh.
(The writer is Professor Political Science, IGNOU, New Delhi)