So, the battle line is drawn: a battle between the secular and the Islamist forces in Bangladesh. Very familiar plot, indeed. Read this interesting blog piece here:
Future scenario for the Indian subcontinent - 1 : Bangladesh elections hopefully
The future scenario for the subcontinent is intricately linked with what happens in what we can loosely call the “greater” Bharatavarsha - the original Sanskritic name in literature for not only the subcontinent as we understand today but also including adjoining areas currently in Afghanistan, Iran, and central Asia. India derives from Graeco-European corruption of possibly Persian rendering of Sindhu [the Satem/Hatem divide in Indo-European] and is used mostly in European colonial terminology.
I am starting this series with what I choose to call the “immensely significant periphery”, the countries of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. I feel that the force of historical development is accelerating now in all the countries of the “immensely significant periphery” and the future trends are dangerous, revolutionary on the one hand and hold also tremendous possibilities for positive change on the other hand and at the same time.
I will deal with the case of Bangladesh first, as it has been going through a peculiarly significant phase in its tumultous political history. I have already written about my analysis of the balance of forces in Bangladesh society as developed through its separation from India during the Partition, and its separation from Pakistan in 1971, previously in this blog. I see no reasons to change my estimate, that forces of modernization and Bengali nationalism is slightly weaker than Islamic retrogression. The 1971 war against Pakistan was an anomaly in the sense, that apparently this weaker force managed to get rid of Pakistan’s grip on Bangladesh. However, we can see, that this tilting the balance in favour of the nationalists and modernizers was essentially due to the long covert and finally short overt support given by India. The two forces within Bangladesh fought under their respective leadership which however as in most Asian nationalist struggles, were mostly derived from the same social elite class networks. Factions within the elite fight it out for their personal ambitions and look for support among potential social groups whom they can manipulate to bolster their personal claims for state power. Thus, at the upper levels of this political contest, dividing lines of ideology tend to get blurred. As members of elite have the same social networks tugging on their sentiments, leanings and deep hidden inclinations.
It is critical to understand and identify this distinction between supporting social groups and their leadership to understand the evolution of subcontinental politics. In Bangladesh for example, the “nationalist” faction leadership originally evolved out of the Indian Muslim League (both radicalized under and radicalizing Jinnah), and contained leaders like Suhrawardy (a great hero of “nationalist” Bangladesh) whose role in the Calcutta riots has remained questionable. The core elite leadership around Mujibur Rehman, managed to retain elements like Khondokar Mushtaq, and representatives of the strong force of Islamic fundamentalism which in the case of Pakistan or Bangladesh is usually only expressed in ethnic cleansing of Hindus or Buddhists, or abduction, rape and forced marriages of non-Muslim women, and grabbing non-Muslim property. Mushtaq later turned out to be the figurehead of a coup by officers of the Bangladesh Army that assassinated Mujibur and his entire family then present, in classic Islamic style reminding us of the great traditions of Caliphate - wipe out even the toddlers, so that no male descendants can turn up later to become focus and claim for political power (another sign of the medieval Islamic thought patterns of the Bangladesh elite that dominated the Army).
Subsequent history of Bangladesh has shown clearly that its armed forces are dominated by an Islam leaning leadership. The Army managed to liquidate “left leaning” army officers and members, (like Col. Taher) but brought to power commanders with overt, distinct, and explicitly Islamic agenda - like Gens Jiaur Rahman and his successor H.M.Ershad. These army regimes protected, and revived the Islamic fundamentalists represented and regrouped under the Jamaat e Islami, an organization openly against the nationalist liberation movement and many of whose leadership are also implicated in genocide, organized rape, and torture of people they considered “pro-India”, Hindu, and anti-Pakistan or anti-Islamic. The military regimes saw to it that war-crimes accusations were never seriously taken up, promoted Islamic education and propaganda machinery primarily through the madrassahs, and began to steer the country back towards the Islamic axis of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan.
Popular discontent with the political and military regimes have erupted from time to time, which were most likely to have been prompted and utilized by elite factions desperate in their “prolonged” lack of access to state power. But the character of the social elite that thrived on Islam, in their early land-grabbing from Hindus under the Sultans or the Mughals (or conversion of Hindu elite to preserve their land), and Islam sanctioned Jihads or Ghazwas to loot women and property of non-muslims, never changed. This elite is obsessed with possession of land, (the only country in the subcontinent that maintained and justified looting of non-Muslim land and property under an “enemy property act” was Pakistan, and Bangladesh continued to enjoy this law long after its independence from Pakistan - a clue to the mindset of the Bangladeshi elite) and they need Islam to complement and maintain the semi-feudal rural social structures that ensure elite control (just as in Pakistan).
The latest feather in the cap of the Bangladesh army is what is popularly mentioned in the Bangladeshi media as “1/11″ (1/11/2007) in that the army engineered what can only be seen as a coup - with possibly active involvement and covert support from a host of Western powers - a formal replacement of the “caretaker” government with a group that quite ruthlessly moved towards dismantling the established political power centres. The military elite quietly and quickly eliminated the captured alleged leaders of extremist Islamic outfits, in total secrecy from the media - possibly to suppress any potentially damaging leaks of connections to the elite itself, and we cannot completely rule out the possibility of covert connections between military intelligence and the so-called Islamic extremist as part of a much broader pattern of connections and support of the military of Islamic countries provided to hardline Islamic militant organizations like that of the ISI in Pakistan.
The military continues to be extremely shy of appearing to be “hard” on the Jamaat, or any Islamic organization - the latest parody being the “inability” of the police to arrest the secretary general of the Jamaat, who freely roams the country and the capital giving speeches or meeting politicians from the Right side of the political spectrum.
The army had managed to chastize the existing politicians under corruption charges, and given the history and record of Islamic armies or secret services, it is safe to assume that substantial doses of torture and ruthless psychological manipulation was liberally applied to neutralize the leadership or make them sufficiently pliable - the favourite method of dealing with those whom the Bangladesh Army finds unpleasant was recently illustrated by the fate of an expat Bangladeshi barrister from London by Air Force personnel. What the army is aiming for is quite clear : it wants the ruling social-military elite’s interests protected. Given the close alliance the Bangladesh army has developed over the years with the Islamic axis, this also means forwarding the agenda of Islamic absolute control over the subcontinent.
The army needs the two main factions within the ruling class to converge to this overall agenda, and for this it is prepared to sacrifice or coerce individuals from among its own class who have become more a liability than an advantage - as it eliminated Jia or sent Ershad to jail, and turned the “next generation of political inheritors” either “physical wrecks” like Jia’s sons or ensure Haseena’s son’s virtual exile in the USA. Political legitimacy independent of Islamic control and dependent on charismatic tradition is an obstacle in the army’s overall plans, and it appears that the army is desperate to ensure subservience of the two elite factions into a national “consensus” framework, and in this a key role will be played by the hardcore Islamic faction led at least superficially by the Jamaat. The Jamaat’s involvement in crucial “dark episodes” of Bangladesh’s history ensures its continued influence within the elite including perhaps even the core driving the military - with mutual dependence and “sensitive knowledge” about each other. The Jamaat is the hidden trump card to “soften up” one faction and “threaten” the other, and will be used by the military to enhance its agenda for Bangladesh.
The promised elections in December will not be held unless concrete commitments are obtained from both elite factions to follow and toe the line given by the army, and this will involve the strengthening of the Jamaat’s role in Bangladeshi politics, as well as overall gradual manifestation of the agenda of Islam for the subcontinent. In its turn it means continued sheltering of Islamic militants for infiltration into India through the border state of West Bengal ruled at present by a sympathetic “Left”, continued protection and enhancement of the madrassah system of education, continued attacks on cultural items deemed “un-Islamic”, and providing a second base for the flourishing and operations of the Islamic theologians hell-bent on returning the world to the looting, raping, genocidic, ethnic cleansing ideology of 7th century Arabic Islam.
The media has had a field day in blaming the politicians for this situation. But in reality the politicians were never strong enough to override the military, and the nationalists who emotionally fought for a “Bengali culture” as distinct from the “Urdu-Pakistani” Islamic state were of necessity too humane to match the cunning, ruthlessness and pathologically Sadistic upbringing of the Islamic elite of Bangladesh. It was only a matter of time, before the Islamic leadership panicked sufficiently that if they delayed any further they might never recoup their agenda at all.