Terrorism has been defined as the systematic use of violence to create a general environment of fear in a society to achieve a particular objective which could be political, economic and even religious. This particular tactics of terrorism has been practiced by political organisations with both rightist and leftist objectives, nationalistic and religious groups, revolutionaries, and even by state organisations both civil and military.
Every society is subjected to or experiences this phenomenon at various points of time for different purposes of the perpetrators of terrorist activities.
It also takes different forms depending on the philosophies behind them. Bangladesh has also in the past experienced such phenomena that were in overwhelming cases were political in nature. But in recent years the religious groups has resorted to terrorist activities to establish their particular religious order in the society and the country at large. Bangladesh is predominantly a Muslim majority country (about 90%) with a population of more than 160 million. But it needs to be recognised that the sheer number of the rest 10% with other religious background is quite sizeable. This fact is important in the context of terrorist activities that are in many cases are targeted towards them. Here it needs to be mentioned that religion based terrorist activities are on the rise in the world and Bangladesh is no exception to that. Scholars suggest a number of reasons for the rise of such terrorism.
An analysis of the geo-political position of Bangladesh suggests that such religion based terrorism has regional implications. It should be stated that Bangladesh is bounded by India from three sides. Only in the south-east we have a small stretch of border with Myanmar. In the south, it is bounded by the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh has long borders with a number of Indian states. Bangladesh-India borders in these states are very porous are very difficult to manage. Other important fact is that these borders have been drawn on maps at the time of the partition of India in 1947 not having any remarkable noteworthy natural differences or barriers. Close kin’s still resides on both the sides of these borders. Of these states, West Bengal, Assam and Tripura have sizeable Muslim population. In the South-east, Myanmar is causing exodus of the Rohinga population by using brute force without paying any heed to the opinion of the international community. These Rohingas are Muslims by faith and this phenomenon of expelling them from their homeland is taking place for more than a decade. It also appears that the Myanmar authorities are also very reluctant to take back their Rohinga population living as refugees in Bangladesh in spite of mounting international pressure.
The above realities suggest that the religion based terrorist activities will likely to have spilled over affects on the bordering Indian states and Myanmar. Some of the recent incidences across the borders of these states (India and Myanmar) support the above assumptions. The other important reality that might also play a role in these activities is the international connections of the national and regional terrorist organisations.
Because of these regional implications Bangladesh might face turbulent relationships with its close neighbours. The other causalities will be the religious minorities living across the borders. There will be widespread violation of human rights of all kinds. Some of these are currently happening in Myanmar which has already been recognised by the UN and other international and bilateral agencies. But unfortunately responses from the Myanmar authorities are very discouraging.
With respect to both Bangladesh and India situation in this regard are equally threatening to each other. Because further escalation of religion based terrorist activities in both the countries will cause immense sufferings to the common men and women. In all likelihood, it will also lead to widespread violation of human rights and dignity. As such, a concerted effort of all concerned countries is needed to contain these forces and find out ways to eradicate this menace by implementing well thought out confidence building measures among different religious communities.
The writer is Professor and Chairman, Department of Public Administration, University of Dhaka and Member, National Human Rights Commission, Bangladesh.
The author acknowledges with gratitude the different sources of information.