Self-declared Leader ‘Bangla Bhai’ Should be Brought to Justice
Picture courtesy: Prothom-alo
To whom it may concern
We the free spirit, secularists, and humanists Bangalees and other South Asians who belong to Mukto-mona ( www.mukto-mona.com ), a cyber forum that promotes secular humanism throughout the world, are unified to bring before you the news of an ominous development in Bangladesh. These are facts that we culled from the newspapers published from Bangladesh in recent weeks:
- For the last several months (March through May 2004) a group of Muslim extremists by the name Jagrata Muslim Janata or JMJ (Awakened Muslim Masses) under the leadership of person who goes by the name “Bangla Bhai” (Bengali Brother) is terrorizing the masses in the western and southwestern parts of Bangladesh. This vigilante group has taken law in their hands as they identify anti-social elements as per their narrow definition and mete out vigilante justice. In most cases, they kill the villagers in gruesome way often mutilating the victims’ body. In a particular case, one of the villagers was beaten dead by vigilante outfit and then hanged upside down from a roadside tree. Another act of cruelty of the gang of Bangla Bhai came to light last Friday as the three pieces of sliced body of a villager was dug out of a grave near the Islamist outfit's main camp in Naogaon.
- The police had condoned the barbaric acts of “Bangla Bhai” and JMJ cadres because they wrongly held the view that this Islamic vigilante force is hunting down a group of outlaws who belong to communist party. Starting from a lowly police constable and going all the way up to Deputy Inspector General of Police, the law enforcement folks in Bangladesh have aided “Bangla Bhai” and his vigilante force to carry out innumerable vicious attacks on rural people. Often they have targeted the Hindu minorities by labeling them as the sympathizers of the outlaw communists. The police not only refused to act on the marauding Islamic thugs but have given them a glowing encomium to hunt the communists. The thugs took the advantage of villagers’ aversion towards outlaw communist cadres but their real goal is to enforce their dominance and spread ultra Wahhabi doctrine among rural folks.
- Reportedly two members of the parliaments belonging to the ruling party who are from northwestern Bangladesh had abetted the JMJ cadres as they ushered in a reins of lawlessness in the affected areas.
- Under pressure from newspapers’ write-up and donor agencies, the government finally issued the arrest of “Bangla Bhai” but the arrest order took over two weeks to reach the distance of hardly 100 kilometers. Surprisingly, the government is yet to declare the Islamic outfit an outlaw organization.
- The coalition partner of the present government is avowed Islamists belonging to Jamaat-i-Islami party. They have distanced themselves from JMJ but the truth to the matter is JMJ is linked to Jamaat. The JMJ leadership and cadres aspire to make Bangladesh a truly Islamic country by enforcing Sha’ria laws. Furthermore, the JMJ men fought with the police on August 14, 2003 in Joypurhat under the banner of Jama'atul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB). After the government had outlawed JMB outfit, the same group now took the name Jagrata Muslim Janata.
- On May 21, 2004 the JMJ cadres staged a boisterous rally in Rajshahi, the largest town in western Bangladesh. The police, according to newspaper reports, had escorted the Islamists to keep them harm’s way from rival groups. However, hardly 5-6 days later, the same police said that JMJ men have gone underground and none of the cadres can be traced never mind the leader “Bangla Bhai.” The newspapers now report that the JMJ thugs have levied tax (read protection money) on villagers. Those who refused to pay the sum are subjected to physical abuse and property damage.
- The government of Khaleda Zia and the home mister had essentially given impunity to “Bangla Bhai” and his cadres for the crimes they have committed in which many innocent people have lost their lives.
- On May 28, 2004 several thousand Muslim activists of the International Khatme Nabuwat Movement tried to storm a minority sect Muslim (Ahmadiya)’s mosque in at Chittagong during a planned demonstration. The police under pressure from wide publicity generated by newspapers’ report were able to halt the aggression but the Islamists had defaced the mosque as they wrote slanderous remarks on the signboard against Ahmadyyas.
All in all, the spate of attacks by Islamists in Bangladesh has risen to a dizzying height. The writings are on the wall that this nation of 140 million impoverished people is on the way to become a hotbed of Islamic radicalism. Please use your good office to persuade the Prime Minister to take strong actions against the Islamists. If she kowtows Islamists to hold her coalition intact, the consequence could be disastrous and pernicious. We feel time is running out; therefore, strong actions are needed to stop the onslaughts of Islamists on innocent people. The secular fabric of the nation should be preserved at all costs. Lest we forget, the Bengalis fought with their lives in 1971 to establish a secular nation, which they did. Sadly, a handful of army generals and politicians have worked against the will of the people to make Bangladesh an Islamic Utopia. Please lend your helping hand so that their evil design is not materialized. The establishment of an Islamic nation in South Asia will be fraught with fear. History is replete with examples of what could go wrong if secular demeanor of a nation is compromised. And we do not want to see Bangladesh take a retrogressive journey, which the present government is preparing the nation to undertake.
Sunday, May 30, 2004