Recently the propaganda from the illegitimategovernment of Bangladesh, and its supporters is that their opposition, especially Jamaat e Islami is attacking Hindus, "just like in 1971". Yes, its the communal violence card folks played by your friendly native neighbourhood defenders of secular values.
Although evidence has been mounting for more than a year that Bangladesh's self-styled secularists are no protectors of minorities, the government and its allies, for example the head of the donor dependant Human Rights NGO Ain o Salish Kendra Sultana Kamal, believe that they can mislead the public on this one.
For their part what's left of Jamaat, the accused, have repeatedly condemned attacks on minorities and vowed that any member of theirs truly found to be involved in communal attacks prompt expulsion and punishment.
A Key into the Mind of Sheikh Hasina's Awami League: The Rentu Memoirs
Reliable reporting of the real nature of this kind of violence in Bangladesh remains elusive, and its worth knowing just who we are dealing with here. Amar Fashi Chai (They want my Hanging) is a fascinating book by late Matiur Rahman Rentu, a Bangladesh war veteran, Mujib loyalist and close aide of Sheikh Hasina for about 16 years. The memoir was banned when first published towards the close of the last Awami League government. I am told that bootlegs were widely circulated and that it had a noticeable impact. I am unaware of any equivalent book that chronicles the leader of the BNP.
I first became acquainted with the English translation during the rise of Bengali Fascism in early 2013. For Bangladesh watchers, it provides an eye-on-the-wall portrait of the psychopath at the helm of Bangladesh. Indeed Rentu could have added some spice to things, to exoneration himself from wrong doing (though not in this case) or other reasons. At times it reads like a BNPwallah's wet dream. Yet he did the brave thing and published it while Hasina was still in power, not when she had left. Having spent time in desh and consulted widely amongst different people, my view is that Amar Fashi Chai is like a time machine filled with treasure, as close to a Wikileaks cable as we are likely to get for a while.
Amar Fashi Chai takes us from Hasina's arrival in Dhaka from exile just before the assassination of Gen Zia in 1981, through to 1997 with Hasina as Prime Minister and the author falling into her cross-hairs. We learn a lot about her as a wife, mother and aunt also, as Rentu clearly had access to these realms.
1992: A Pact, a Pogrom and the Politics of Anti Hindu Attacks in Bangladesh
There are many gems in this book, which beg for further investigation; for example the Awami League-Jamaat Pact of ~1992 which is a crucial moment for present day younger generation Islamists to get their heads around whilst they are trying to avoid getting killed, maimed and detained.
It is a necessary head fuck because before Shahbag there was the Nirmul Committee, and the Nirmul Committee was energised by the decision makers of Jamaat deciding that it would be a good idea to have Ghulam Azam as their leader. It is alleged that Ghulam Azam met with Hasina and agreed to shift support from the BNP to the Awami League with Hasina agreeing to derail the Nirmul Committee (p36). The demonology of the Nirmul Committee lies at the heart of Bengali Fascism these days.
Later on in 1992, in the north Indian heartlands of Uttar Pradesh, Hindutva activists destroyed the Babri Masjid, in a symbolic planed act followed by communal violence across indian cities which claimed the lives of 2000 and fed the politics of the BJP. Anand Patwardhan's rather excellent documentary Ram ke Naam (In the Name of God) explores this episode.
Some darling has uploaded it to youtube.
Fascism is just a template that anybody can use to achieve a political objective.
"Good boy, you can deliver the goods. That’s why I need you so much."
It is into this regional context that Rentu's account of the Sheikh Hasina ordering anti-Hindu riots throughout Bangladesh plays out on pages 36 to 38. In 1992 the purpose was to kill two birds with one stone: prevent the visit of the Indian Prime Minister to embarrass Khaleda Zia, and to distract attention away from the Nirmul committee. Today's political calculus is worth investigating.
It was the first week of December, 1992. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Khaleda Zia was the current chairperson of the South Asian Agreement for co-operation (SAARC). The summit meeting of the seven SAARC member countries had been scheduled to be held in Dhaka. The date, time and place of the summit had all been slated. Begum Khaleda Zia as the chairperson was to inaugurate the conference. Quite a few Heads of Governments had already started arriving Dhaka. The Indian Prime Minister was expected any time. In the meantime, however, there was a serious outbreak of communal riots in India following the demolition of Babri Mosque. The leader of the opposition, Sheikh Hasina promptly summoned the rider of the motor-cycle’ (i.e. the author) to her official residence at 29 Minto Road.
On reaching there, he learnt that Sheikh Hasina had left a message asking him to meet her at Bangabandhu Bhaban at Dhanmnondi. The author was taken to the library room of the Bhaban. The conversation that took place between Sheikh Hasina and the author is as follows:
Sheikh Hasina: Organize Hindu-Muslim riots throughout the country.
Author: (Surprised) No, this is not proper.
Sheikh Hasina: Don’t think about what is right and what is wrong. I am asking you to organize the riot. Do it.
Author: I have gone to different areas of the city and asked the youth to be watchful and prevent any attack on the Hindus. Now you are asking me to organize communal riots’?
Sheikh Hasina: Yes.
Author: No my leader. It is unethical.
Sheikh Hasina: (Angry). Hell with your principles. I am your leader. Do what I ask you to do.
Author: I deeply respect your command. However, if there are attacks on the Hindus, they will certainly leave this country. Remember, they always vote for
Sheikh Hasina: The Hindus here have no place to go. You just do your job.
Author: (Unconvinced) If the Hindus leave for India. (following a large scale riot all over), there will be an influx of Muslims from India. They may be inclined to vote for BNP. Have you considered this point?
Sheikh Hasina: You fool. Don’t you understand that a situation has to be created that will make the holding of SAARC conference impossible. The conference will be chaired by Khaleda Zia. The Indian Prime Minister, Narhsima Rao has not yet arrived. This is the time for starting a communal riot. (This will create a situation that will make the arrival of the Indian Prime Minister inopportune. The absence of the Indian Prime Minister will abort the SAARC Conference).
Besides, Jahanara Imam is getting popular and many of the Hindus are now behind her. She is increasingly becoming a threat to my leadership. She has to be cut down to size. The riot will kill two birds with one stone-SAARC aborted and Jahanara Imam cut to size.
The author was entrusted with the task of organizing communal riots in Dhaka. It was decided that telephones at 29 Minto Road and at Bangabandhu Bhaban would not be used for the purpose. Instead the telephone of Sheikh Hafizur Rabman, a cousin of Sheikh Hasina and the Secretary General of Bangabandhu Trust would be used to communicate instructions to outlying districts for organizing Hindu-Muslim riots. This was measure to prevent possible leakages of the plan. The government of Khaleda Zia should not get any scent of the plan thus hatched.
A number of thugs, goons and terrorists of the city were organized according to the plan of Shiekh Hasina and given Taka Five lacs in cash. They were assembled near Shivbari Temple east of Jagannath Hall in the University area. After distributing 100 Taka notes among them, they were told, “Muslims are being butchered in India, women violated, their property looted. Should we the Muslims of Bangladesh watch it in silence? Go, start your work,”
The thugs and looters immediately began to plunder the property of Shivbari Temple with great enthusiasm. The next targets were Dhakeshwari temple and Ramkrishna Mission. Both cash rewards and inflammatory speeches had their effects on the looters. The looting soon spread to Tantibazar, Shakharipatti, Banglabazar. Millharrack, Goshaibari. Narinda, and Islampur areas of the old city. Hindu shops were the main targets in the old city. Since the local agent provocateurs were known faces, inflammatory speeches could reveal the link between Awami League and the organization or the riot. Currency notes, rather than provocative speeches w~te more extensively used in the old city.
As the looting continued, Sheikh Hasina was contacted at 32 Dhanmondi after three to four hours of its commencement. She was informed of the successful execution of her plan. Jubilant Hasina praised the work of the author in the following words, "Good boy, you can deliver the goods. That’s why I need you so much. I will have you elected as the member of the Parliament from Moksedpur-Kashiani constituency of Gopalgonj at the next election.”
The riot spread to fresh areas. Narshima Rao did not arrive. SAARC summit was effectively sabotaged.