Read the extremists threat correctly
It was like the extremists thumbing their nose at the law enforcing agencies. To target a police officer's wife in broad daylight requires a good deal of planning and a great deal of audacity, and they, it must be regretfully admitted, displayed both. We understand several persons have been arrested in this connection and the motorcycle used in the killing mission impounded. The telltale signs are very evident and predictably the SITE Intelligence quoted the IS as having carried out the killing of the police officer's wife.
Thankfully, unlike in the past cases, the home minister did not refer to the killing as an 'isolated incident', but drew a link with the extremists. One must add though that the deputy of Rab still insists on calling it so and with an inexplicable persistence. On that very day another member of the minority community was hacked to death, and there have been several more added to the list of unfortunate victims since.
Though there is a particular message that the extremist killers would want to convey through this particular killing -- that anyone going after them will be targeted directly or indirectly, as in this case -- there is a wider purpose of the recent killings.
We should understand the very underlying motivation of these radicals. The real target is not the victims. They are symbolic. It is the state that they are aiming at. And by choosing individuals of a particular creed they are propagating their agenda. What they have been able to achieve through these killings is quite in proportion, in our context, to what other international extremist and terrorist groups like the ISIS, and to a lesser extent, al Qaeda achieved by large scale attacks and killings in Europe and the Middle East.
Apart from inculcating fear in the minds of the minorities they have been able to bring to bear on the government tremendous international pressure. The US and the West feel that the scale of terror acts have increased in Bangladesh in recent times. It was exactly what the extremist had wanted; it is not the number of killed that the extremists are interested in but in the number of attacks carried out, and the nature of targets, to elicit the kind of reaction internationally that has been forthcoming. The choice of target is significant. Starting with bloggers, the victims include Muslim clerics Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, foreigners. The purpose is not restricted to drawing reactions only, it is also to provoke a situation that would prompt the minorities to seek 'safer grounds' and cause our big neighbour to react. We have already heard two very significant statements form the Indian side. Firstly a BJP National Executive Committee Member has told the BBC that, "Hindus in Bangladesh do no feel safe and that they would be forced to flee to Bharat if the attacks on them continued." The reaction stemmed from his visit to this country recently to attend a religious conference. But what is reflective of the fear in the minds of the minorities in this country is his comment that, "the Hindus at the meeting raised the issue of their protection and said if protection was not ensured, they would migrate to West Bengal."
While one could question the locus standi of any political party in India to talk for minorities in other countries given the state of minorities in that country, and least of all BJP, these sentiments, coupled with the intention of the Indian government to bring amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955, is significant. The amendment will exempt minority citizens of Pakistan and Bangladesh, who have come to India due to fear of religious prosecution, from being categorised as "illegal migrants". And once the amendments are made, "the refugees will be legally allowed to stay in India and also apply for citizenship."
The developments are very significant for Bangladesh which the government cannot overlook. Although the BJP has given a clean chit to the Awami League vis-à-vis their treatment of the minorities, one can anticipate a degree of pressure from our big neighbour in this regard whenever Hindus are perceived to be under threat. And this is also what the extremists want, to generate pressure on the government by creating a situation to engender minority unrest. How that will help the extremist to achieve their political objective at the end should be a subject for further research for government policy makers.
The government must realise that it is against heavy odds, that it faces an organised group that is well led both at the strategic and tactical level as evident from the recent conduct of the killings. What is needed is a coherent assessment and rational policy to meet the challenge. Rhetoric doesn't help. Regrettably, when what is needed is to arrive at a consensus on the means of addressing this menace cutting across party lines, accusatory fingers are being pointed at political opponents. It helps the extremists only.
The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.