Demographic change may push Bengal the Kashmir way

Demographic change may push Bengal the Kashmir way

By Diptangshu Chaudhuri | 13 August, 2016
The danger is increasing Wahhabisation, which is displacing the Sufi doctrine among tens and even hundreds of thousands living or settled in the state.

Are we aware of the sinister plot being hatched by the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen of Bangladesh with direct support of the ISIS and the Lashkar-eTayyaba (LeT)? In West Bengal, in areas not too far from Kolkata, a silent jihad and a surreptitious ethnic cleansing are taking place. Are the concerned security agencies and representatives of the state government taking note of this? It’s a volcano that we are sitting on without realising the heat of the molten mass.

The demographic changes in West Bengal have reached a point where the consequence has been a wave of aggressive Islamisation, a jihadi consolidation and a suicidal politics that harks back to the genocidal era of 1946-1947. The congruence of all of this is resulting in a fresh Hindu Bengali exodus from what have traditionally been Hindu lands prior to 1947 where both communities were living peacefully without any religious divide.

Consequent to 1971, remote, and thus vulnerable, the mostly poor villages are being targeted under a greater project to merge West Bengal and Assam with Bangladesh by driving out the non-Muslims. According to a report titled “Greater Islamic Bangladesh (GIB): A Serious Threat to Indian Integrity, Sovereignty and Hindu Majority” is already with the highest security agencies in both countries. The danger is increasing Wahhabisation, which is displacing the Sufi doctrine among tens and even hundreds of thousands living or settled in the state.

The NIA (National Investigation Agency) has smelt a deeper conspiracy of the establishment of a Greater Islamic Bangladesh hatched by the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence) of Pakistan and a few radicals and fanatics of the DGFI (Director General of Foreign Intelligence) of Bangladesh with other terror modules engaged in the Kharaghar (Burdwan) blast. The revelations, through recovered documents by the NIA, suggest that a bigger conspiracy was being materialised in different parts of Burdwan, Murshidabad, Birbhum, Nadia, Jalpaiguri and in different madrasas stretched out in the border areas of West Bengal. This has nothing to do with religion as such, and should ring an alarm bell for security reasons.

Bangladeshi authorities too acknowledge the jihadist plan for an eastern Islamic caliphate. While reporting on the 21 February 2016 beheading of a Hindu priest of Deviganj temple near Panchagar, 500 km north of Dhaka by suspected Jamaat-ul Mujahedeen Bangladesh (JMB) militants, Pakistani newspaper Dawn quotes deputy director general of police, Humayun Kabir, as saying that “The motive for the killing was probably to create an unstable situation in the country and ultimately establish a caliphate.”

In areas where there is a substantial Wahhabi presence in the border areas of Bengal, entire villages are being targeted, with minority Hindus being terrorised, demoralised and displaced. The Hindu population is losing land and livelihood and is migrating as labourers to safer places.

The detention of a former Google employee in Hyderabad for allegedly wanting to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the discovery of an Islamic terrorist module in West Bengal (and lately in Assam), and the announcement of a new South Asia-focused (which means India) Al-Qaeda wing fit into a new sinister jihadi narrative that India and the world cannot ignore anymore. The Burdwan blasts tell us how unprepared we are for this new threat. Despite alleged differences between various fundamentalist groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda or Boko Haram in Nigeria, they are all united on one issue: that the world must be ruled by Islam. Which brand of Islam must prevail will be settled later, equally murderously. The assassination of two liberal bloggers in Bangladesh in quick succession in February and March raises some very disturbing questions. Avijit, a Hindu and his wife Rafida, believed in liberal humanity. Avijit’s blogs attacked religious extremism, which is prohibited by Bangladesh’s Constitution. This infuriated the Islamists who promised to get him. And get him they did, with some assistance from law enforcers.

It has come to light that the JMB has been expanding its base in the border areas of India. It is confounding that 60 JMB sleeper cells were discovered in West Bengal alone, and another 20 in Tripura and Assam. The outfit is also expanding to Jharkand. Yet, the Bengal intelligence and police seem to have no inkling of these developments.

Two of the three assailants of the 27-year-old blogger, Washiqur Rahman, who were apprehended by the police, were both madrasa students. When questioned by the police, both confessed that they had no idea what a blog was, nor had they read Rahman’s writings. They were simply acting on the orders of another person who told them that killing Rahman was a religious duty.

The case of blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider being hacking to death in 2013 remains unsolved till date.

So what was these young men’s crime? They were just opposing a trend, which appears to have become a force to convert Bangladesh’s Sufi oriented Islam to the obscurantist Wahhabi-ism, which is regressive, anti-inclusive and antediluvian.

It has come to light that the JMB has been expanding its base in the border areas of India. It is confounding that 60 JMB sleeper cells were discovered in West Bengal alone, and another 20 in Tripura and Assam. The outfit is also expanding to Jharkand. Yet, the Bengal intelligence and police seem to have no inkling of these developments.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has not condemned these developments. She is obviously under the belief that obscurantist maulvis and mullahs will garner Muslim votes for her.

With such policies of the state government some maulvis have been encouraged to experiment with the imposition of Sharia law in small ways. A women’s exhibition football match in Malda district had to be cancelled because of objection from local Wahhabis  that the players’ jerseys were against the Sharia. The state administration took no action, despite the fact that local Muslims were involved in organising the event. Even in Kolkata, progressive madrasa teachers are being physically assaulted and intimidated by religious extremists.

In this, the big picture of the growing threat to India’s security is being missed. Available information suggests that ISIS is partnering with Al Qaeda. Some Bangladeshi youth have joined the ISIS, and their organisation is spreading its influence among some Indian Muslim youth.

While Wahhabi forces prepare the ground for the inclusion of West Bengal in an Islamic Caliphate, mainstream media and intellectuals in Bengal and the rest of India seem to be completely disinterested and disconnected. They do not cover any of this stuff.

If this situation does not change, the story of East Bengal will soon be repeated in West Bengal. Hindus, just a few decades ago, were 40% of the population of East Bengal. Today they make up just 8% of the population. In West Bengal, officially, the minorities have grown from 8% to 28%, but unofficially to 34%, and more than 45% in some border areas.

Have we forgotten the night of 19 January 1990 in Kashmir? That night witnessed macabre happenings, something that had not been witnessed by Kashmiri Pandits after the Afghan rule. For future generations, it will be a constant reminder of the brutality of Islamic radicals, who had chosen the timing very carefully. Farooq Abdullah, whose government had all but seized to exist, resigned. Jagmohan arrived during the day to take charge as the Governor of the state. He took the charge as Governor just the previous night in Jammu. He made efforts to reach Srinagar during the previous day, but the plane had to return to Jammu from Pir Panjal Pass, due to bad weather. Though curfew was imposed to restore some semblance of order, it had little effect. The mosques continued to be used to exhort the people to defy the curfew and join the jihad against the Pandits, while armed cadres of the JKLF marched through the streets of the valley, terrorising them. As night fell, the microscopic Pandit community became panic-stricken, since the valley started reverberating with the war-cries of the Islamists. A host of highly provocative, communal and threatening slogans, interspersed with martial songs, incited the Kashmiri Muslims to come out on the streets and break the chains of “slavery”. These slogans, broadcast from the loudspeakers of every mosque, numbering around 1,100, exhorted the hysterical mobs to embark on a jihad. All too many, including their children and the aged, wanted to be seen to be participating in this jihad. Those who had organised such a show of force in the middle of a cold winter night, had only one objective; to put the fear of death into the hearts of the already frightened Pandits. At that moment of collective hysteria, the Kashmiri Muslims’ “secular, tolerant, cultured, peaceful and educated” face vanished.

Many behaved as if they did not know who the Pandits were. This frenzied mass hysteria went on until the Kashmiri Pandits’ despondency turned into desperation as the night wore itself out. For the first time after Independence, Kashmiri Pandits found themselves abandoned to their fate, stranded in their own homes, encircled by rampaging mobs. In the frenzied shouts and blood-curdling sloganeering of the assembled mobs, the Pandits saw true face of radical and intolerant Islamists. It was a complete antithesis of the ethos of the so-called Kashmiriyat. Their pleadings for help were incessant. But not a soldier came to their rescue. So they found best protection in huddling together indoors, frozen in fear, praying for the night to pass. The Pandits could see the writing on the wall. If they were lucky enough to see the night through, they would have to vacate the place before they met the same fate as the butchered Tikka Lal Taploo. By morning, it became apparent to the Pandits that the Kashmiri Muslims had decided to throw them out of the valley. Broadcasting vicious jihadi sermons and revolutionary songs, interspersed with blood curdling shouts and shrieks, threatening Kashmiri Pandits with dire consequences became routine, forcing them to flee.

It’s time the intellectuals, mainstream media and the political parties stopped burying their heads in the sand. We must realise that this issue is not about religious divide but that changes in demographic profile and growing radicalisation will certainly have an effect on the socio economic and political future of Bengal. We do not want Krishnanagar to be Kishtawar or Burdwan to become Baramullah or to cry like the Kashmiri Pandits, who were thrown out of their ancestral land.

Col Diptangshu Chaudhuri (Retd) is a retired Army man


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