By A. H. Jaffor Ullah


The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca visited Dhaka in the third week of May 2004. There were concerns on the part of Bush Administration vis-�-vis Bangladesh because the news coming from this impoverished nation is causing some concern worldwide.

For one thing, members of a virulent Islamic group emerging in the northwestern part of the country who goes by the name �Jagrata Muslim Janata� (JMJ) or �Vigilante Muslim Masses� have taken laws in their hand as they mete out �justice� by killing other Bangalees who they think belong to an outlaw political group. The leader of this group goes by the name �Bangla Bhai.� The other reason the U.S. authorities are perturbed is due to the rise in sectarian feud between the country�s majority Sunni population and a minority Muslim group by the name Ahmadiyya.

Many fundamentalist Muslim clerics in Bangladesh would very much like to see that the government of Khaleda Zia declares Ahmadiyya as non-Muslims. As an initial step, the government has banned the publications of Ahmadiyya, which is a direct assault on the minority sect of Muslims. This banning of their publications infringes on their rights to express their religious feeling guaranteed by the constitution of Bangladesh.

Many news reports and editorials were written in May 2004 on the activity of JMJ cadres and their leader �Bangla Bhai.� It turned out that the JMJ thugs were operating in few northwestern districts with the blessings from police and few BNP lawmakers from the same districts. Mrs. Khaleda Zia was powerless to suggest even to the Home Minister to issue an arrest warrant for JMJ chief �Bangla Bhai.� The police chief � a DIG - in the district of Rajshahi refused all along to arrest JMJ hoodlums and their leader on the ground that no arrest order came from Dhaka. The JMJ lawbreakers were acting as if they were the lawmen in the northwestern districts.

Nonetheless, the police looked the other way assuming that the JMJ goons violated no laws. Now upon questioning by newspaper reporters the same police officer say that no one from the village, where JMJ cadres were active, had complained against the forces of �Bangla Bhai.� These claims by the police are untenable, to say the least.

Bangla Bhai.

The police hierarchy in Bangladesh knows it darn well that in the 4-party coalition government of BNP the Islamists could exert more pressure on the Prime Minister. Two very powerful ministers from fundamentalist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, wield power and in all likelihood, they may have persuaded the lady Prime Minister to ignore JMJ men�s foray into law and order in the western districts. They must have opined something like this: the JMJ men are doing our agrarian society a huge favor by extra judicial killing of Sarbahara (communist) outlaw men. Why should the police interfere in the process?

There is no question about Khaleda Zia�s meek and weak personality vis-�-vis the Islamists that are in her cabinet. The Islamists wield way too much power. They are the ones who blocked the police from arresting the JMJ goons in the first place. The two ministers in Khaleda Zia government were also aided by two members of the parliament (MPs) from northwestern districts of Bangladesh where the outlawed communists (Sarbahara) are seemed to be very active. These two MPs according to published news report in Dhaka had sought the help of JMJ cadres to hunt the communists. The policy is popularly called as �playing fire with fire.�

Many people in the affected area in the northwestern district had complained to the news reporters that the JMJ men had harassed and physically manhandled many innocent people. For example, the women who would not dress a la Islamic fashion had received threats from JMJ goons. These ruffians had taken laws into their hand while police had asked the rural folks to give a helping hand to Bangla Bhai�s force, the JMJ goons.

Thanks to all the newspapers published in Bangladesh for bringing the news of JMJ cadres� activities in northwestern districts of Bangladesh. Because of the press� relentless efforts, the U.S. authorities came to learn about the lawlessness that was engendered by Islamic hooligans.

That is the reason when U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Ms. Rocca, called on Industries Minister and ruling coalition partner Jamaat-e-Islami, Amir Motiur Rahman Nizami, to convey her concerns about the Ahmadiyya issue and Bangla Bhai, who runs a vigilante force against outlaws in the northwest reportedly under government patronage, the Bangladeshi minister said the most outrageous thing to defend and extricate the Jamaat.

Maulana Nizami told one of the newspaper reporters in Dhaka that he defended the government ban of Ahmadiyya publications because �the claim by Ahmadiyyas as Muslims is not acceptable to Muslims", since �Ahmadiyyas distort Islam.� Being oblivious to repression against Hindu and Buddhist minorities since October 2001 the same minister added that he assured the US official that there is no religion-based confrontation in Bangladesh. What a liar he is!

The same minister of Khaleda Zia told a reporter in Dhaka that when Bangla Bhai issue came up during the conversation with Secretary Rocca he blurted out, �I told her that neither I nor my party knows this so-called Bangla Bhai... I told them that we did not know of the existence of any Islamic militant group in Bangladesh.� Is Maulana Nizami suffering from Alzheimer disease? Or, is he lying through his teeth? We all read news account of a violent confrontation between armed Islamic group, Jama'atul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), and the police on August 14, 2003, in Joypurhat. In that clash, the JMB cadres snatched guns from police and that ensued a bloody confrontation resulting in the injury of six policemen. Two police officers were reprimanded for negligence in duty.

The police, however, were able to arrest 12-13 JMB men. But because of the influence paddling by the Islamist politicians close to Khaleda Zia, the PM, all arrested men were released. What a mockery of governance and justice! There is a wide belief that Maulana Nizami was instrumental in persuading the authority to release the JMB men. Now hardly before a year could pass by, Maulana Nizami says that he has no knowledge of Bangla Bhai or his force, JMJ. Mind you, the vigilante force of JMJ (of Bangla Bhai) is the same force that used to be called JMB. After a bad publicity in the press in August 2003, the JMB had mutated the name into JMJ.

It is exactly the same organization, which had a close connection to Jamaat-e-Islami. Many experts in Bangladesh had opined that in the aftermath of Joypurhat incident JMB was an armed cadre of Hurkat-ul-Jihad (HUJ) � a notorious global Islamic outfit. Knowing all this information by heart how could Maulana Nizami resort to prevarication of high order. Does he think that people will fall for his cooked-up story?

The government of Khaleda Zia knows fully well that inside Bangladesh all kinds of virulent Islamists have begun their assault against the secular forces. But still they are in the denial a big time. On May 17, 2004, several newspapers reported some quite revealing information on JMB (same as JMJ) outfit. The armed group is the brainchild of one Maulana Abdur Rahman who formed the underground organization in 1998. Maulana Rahman went to Saudi Arabia to receive education who later worked in Saudi Embassy for many years. There, he must have been indoctrinated to Wahhabi teachings and ultimately to the cause of Jihad. It is hardly a coincidence that assault on secular organizations and minority�s house of worship had started right after the formation of JMB.

The first two bombs rocked the town of Jessore on March 6, 1999, killing 10 people attending a cultural soiree hosted by Udichi, the cultural wing of Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) in Jessore. Is it coincidental that the same virulent Islamic group is now hunting CPB armed cadre in the western districts.

The industry minister of Bangladesh, Maulana Nizami, should stop lying through his teeth. He is pretending to know nothing about the identity of Bangla Bhai�s marauding group. Both he and Khaleda Zia know the very identity of various Islamic goons operating in Bangladesh with their blessings. The present government is soft on Islamic groups that are waging Jihad on communists and other secularists. It is an ideological war, undoubtedly. Unfortunately, the police have taken side already.

Just the other day the JMJ cadres and their commander, Bangla Bhai, went underground after police had alerted them to lie low. Even then, Bangla Bhai went to visit one of his fallen jihadists who were recuperating from an injury in the government-run hospital in a nearby town under the watchful eyes of the police. So what in the world is going on?

The bottom line is that the police perhaps under order from Khaleda Zia Administration are helping the jihadi brigade to go underground. Instead of arresting, the police were helping them. To add insult to injury, the police said that no arrest order had come from Home Ministry. On top of it, the Industry Minister who himself is an Islamist of high order lied through his teeth to Secretary Rocca telling her that he (the government) had the slightest clue who these Islamic goons were.

In his heart, Nizami knows very well that Bangla Bhai�s organization, Jama'atul Mujahedin Bangladesh (JMB), had mutated its name into Jagrata Muslim Janata (JMJ). Soon we will hear from the Prime Minister who will also give us her usual song and dance telling the newspaper reporters that the identity of Bangla Bhai�s organization was not known to her until very recently. When will this litany of lies from government stop? I for one have no clues.
Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans, USA

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