Rajshahi University, Bangladesh has been known for having a pool of progressive academics with secular bent of mind fostering cultural activities. On the other hand, there are fanatics who have been resorting to mindless violence killing the intellectuals in a systematic manner. The extermination of intellectuals in run up to the liberation struggle of 1970-'71 seems to be resonating even now.
The latest victim of this killing is professor Rezaul Karim Siddique (58), who was hacked to death mercilessly in Rajshahi. Slain Siddique was a cultural activist and Islamic extremists do away with such forces.
Earlier, seven bloggers, opposed to Islamic fundamentalism were hacked to death, beginning from 2013, when Rajib Haidar was killed followed by killings of Avijit Roy, Washiqur Rahman Babu, Ananta Bijoy Das and Niloy Chatterjee. We see a pattern in such killings. What's disturbing is the involvement of Ansar Al Islam, Bangladesh branch of Al-Qaeda. Complicity of such international terror outfit is an early warning signal for all the secular forces.
Significantly, Islamic State (IS) claimed that Jamat e Islami (JeI) grassroot workers of Bangladesh are being inducted into the IS. Shaykh Abu Ibrahim Al Hanif, IS modal man for Bangladesh, claimed in an interview in Dabiq that IS was responsible for targeting minorities in Bangladesh. According to Hanif, IS chose Bangladesh as its base in South Asia due to what IS described the country's important strategic geographic position, as then attacks in India and Myanmar could be coordinated from here. Isn't it a wake up call for all of us? This factor can not be ignored.
Bangladesh government has always been denying involvement of IS and Al-Qaeda in the killings stating that the violence was perpetrated by home grown terrorists. Either way, innocents continue to be the soft targets and government is seen as a mute helpless spectator to the never ending murders. By implication, one may infer that there is a possibility of collaboration by one section of the establishment. Or else, such activities can not go on and on.
Hindu minority, in the meantime, has been facing massive atrocities. According to a secular and cultural activist Kamal Lohani, there were 34 percent Hindus in Bangladesh soon after its independence in 1971. Now the figure stands at a meagre 8 percent. Many must have migrated to India while many became hapless victims of excesses by Islamic extremists.
Head of the minority association, Rana Dasgupta claimed that from January to March this year alone, there were 732 cases of Human rights violations against the minorities, especially the Hindus. This is no mean statistics. Such atrocities include forced conversions, murders, desecration of places of worship and illegal occupation of Hindu property. A section of the polity even accuse the ruling Awami League of direct connivance in such acts. And if there is state complicity and a deep rooted conspiracy in suppressing the Hindus, then it's really disturbing and has far reaching implications for India.
Under these circumstances, Indian and Bangladeshi security and intelligence agencies must work in very close coordination to stem the growing influence of IS in Bangladesh as evident by frequent killings. Till then, the secular forces and minority community remain vulnerable to threats emanating from powerful quarters enjoying IS support.
The author is an ex-IPS officer who has been following Bangladesh for the last many years.