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Under the Shadow of Banglastan

October 11, 2012

Plumes of smokes were still coming out of the debris of the burnt monasteries few days after riots broke out in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazaar. Both the print and electronic media are publishing and broadcasting special reports, articles, programs and views on the cause and culpable persons behind this heinous crime.

Views expressed and reproaches directed at in the media are pretty much similar. However, one can identify two distinct groups based on their views on recent riots.

First group believes the riots have its root in riots of Rakhine state of Myanmar. That violence forced thousands of Rohingya’s to take asylum in Cox’s Bazaar of Bangladesh. This group does not term the violence as a communal riot. The message one gets from their views is that in the wake any future riot in Rakhine state, the Bengali Buddhist community, which had no role whatsoever in the Rakhine state riots, would face further retaliatory attacks. Long before this recent violence, one columnist of this group,citing Maulana Azmal of AIUDF, supported the idea that it is ‘history to blame not religion for communal violence’ in a write-up on Assam violence.

The other group thinks this incident was a communal riot. It was a deliberate attempt to malign the image of Bangladesh, to hamper the ongoing war crime trial and to prepare the ground for the US intervention. According to them, Rakhine State violence is partly to blame for the Cox’s Bazaar violence since it is only part of the bigger plot to destabilize the region where the Americans have a plan to make a permanent presence.

Let’s have a look at the facts. Recent violence erupted when a picture showing defamation of Holy Quran was found in the facebook account of a Buddhist boy named Uttam Kumar Barua. Within hours communal cries like ‘Get those Baruas’ and ‘Teach them a Lesson’ shattered the calm and quiet city of Cox’s Bazaar.

Everyone knows anyone can tag anybody or post anything on someone’s wall in facebook. Subsequent events proved that it was a deliberate attempt to instigate communal riots .In fact, the moment I am writing this analysis Police detained a man called Muktadir for tagging Uttam’s name in that picture..

Rioters were prepared to cause the mayhem. Buses, trucks were at their disposal and substances like gun powder and gasoline were used to set the temples and houses in fire. At the initial stage, local leaders of all creed took part in the angry procession, but later Islamists , young Rohingyas and Jamaat-i-Islami party stalwarts took the lead in looting and in vandalizing the place of worships and hoses of the Bengali Buddhists and the Hindus. Unlike the Rohingyas, the Buddhists did not put up any resistance to the rioters.

In this case, the Baruas, who are Buddhist, were first identified as a community by the mob and then their places of worship and living had been targeted for attacks while those of the neighboring Muslims were spared. This is indeed a communal violence.

Another interesting thing is to look at the way the violence was triggered in Rakhine State and in Cox’s Bazaar. In Rakhine state, a leaflet on the alleged rape and murder of a Rakhine girl by three Muslims was distributed to fret the Rakhine community. In Cox’s Bazaar incident, blue tooth mobile phone sets were used to disseminate the Quran defaming photo. In both cases, law-enforcement agencies took a back seat at the onset of riots. An army battalion camped just few hundred meters away from a monastery while it was burning in Cox’s Bazar!

The first politician who shed light on the negligence of intelligence community over the incident was the minister without portfolio Mr. Suranjit Sengupta. Consequently, his disappeared driver reemerged out of nowhere and revived the railgate scam that fell into oblivion!

However, in Patiya and in Ukhia ,as some of the news reports tell us, few Muslim and police personnel stood up against their fellow folks despite being heavily outnumbered.

The second group observes that the US was very critical towards Myanmar and Bangladesh over the Rohingya issue. But this time it is notably quiet. The fact is the violence broke out just after the high profile visit of senior US State Department Officials. To identify the US intention of setting up a permanent base in Bay of Bengal as the cause of the violence has its origin in US-Bangladesh partnership dialogue, in the recent visits of US military commanders and in the joint drills between the armed forces of both the countries.

This leftist second group has an unusual ally in reproaching the US, the crescentader Hizb-ut Tahrir. Recently, they showed up again and put up posters protesting US’s growing influence in Bangladesh.

Apart from USA, China observes closely the developments in this region. It already expressed keen interest to build a deep-sea port in Chittagong with other foreign partners.

In the past, it is true that the West fathered and fed the communal politics. But this time it could be others, not the west, who unleashed the communal violence to fume anti-US anger. So it would be premature to put the blame for riots squarely on the US.

Rohingyas who straddle the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar have links with Islamists. Islamists have strong presence in Cox’s Bazaar and Bandar Ban. There is a news report that the order of mounting the attack against the Buddhist came from a ‘Maolana’. In Ukhiya a Jamaat-i-Islami leader, also a Union Parishad Chairman, let his party cadres loose on the Buddhists.

Following the Rakhine State riot, a Pakistani Islamist group warned the Myanmar government of severe consequences. Recently Detective Branch of Police detained a Jaish e Mohammad leader , trained in Pakistan and a former Jamaat-i-Islami cadre, who said they have camps in Cox’s Bazaar and they want to create an Islamic state in that region.

Now let’s go back to the ideas floated by first group. Nazis also blamed history when they committed atrocities against the Jews. It is the communal politics to be blamed that has its roots in religion. The idea ‘the Buddhist would be prey to violence if Rohingyas were ousted from Rakhine State’ sounds like the ‘Hostage Theory’ of Jinnah, which states that the minority Hindus of Pakistan will ensure the security of the minority Muslims of India.

The Pakistani psyche is showing up in our thoughts and deeds. I am once again gripped with fear that this country is on the way to become a ‘Banglastan’ instead of becoming the much cherished Sonar Bangla.

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