«by AMM Quamruzzaman A thesis submitted to the Department of Sociology in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Queen's ...»
THE MILITIA MOVEMENT IN BANGLADESH
Ideology, Motivation, Mobilization, Organization, and Ritual
A thesis submitted to the Department of Sociology
in conformity with the requirements for
the degree of Master of Arts
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Copyright © AMM Quamruzzaman 2010
In the post-9/11 world, Bangladesh has been identified as a new hub of the Al-Qaeda network in
South Asia. Most of the contemporary national and international media reports, security documents, and even academic studies point to the fact that an Islamist movement is on the dramatic rise in Bangladesh in recent years. These reports and studies portray the Islamist movement as closely linked with terrorism and devoid of any historical roots and relations with other types of movement. Contrary to this view, this study argues that the Islamist movement is not an unprecedented phenomenon but historically linked with a broader militia movement which subsequently leads to the emergence of Bangladesh as a nation state in 1971. Since its inception, the nation state is dealing not only with the Islamist movement but also with two other types of militia movement almost simultaneously – the leftwing and the ethnic. Having identified these three types, this study defines the militia movement in terms of five analytical categories – ideology, motivation, mobilization, organization, and ritual – following Freilich and others. It analyzes the Bangladesh militia movement in terms of these five dimensions, providing historical-empirical data from both primary and secondary sources to show how the contemporary militias are carrying forward the legacy of their historical forerunners. This study concludes with policy recommendations on how informed decisions can be made to effectively deal with the militia issue.
ii Acknowledgements My interest in comparative criminology begins when I took a course on Advanced Issues in Socio-Legal Studies during the winter of 2009. Since then, I have always tried to relate various criminological theories studied in the course with the socio-legal issues in Bangladesh, the country I have come from. I am indebted to Professor Stephen W. Baron, the instructor of the course, for the inspiration, insight and encouragement that he has provided to me to study a contemporary pressing issue in Bangladesh – the militia movement.
I have also received insightful feedbacks, constructive suggestions, and encouraging comments from my thesis supervisor, Professor Rob Beamish. I was a Teaching Assistant of his course during the fall of 2008, which discussedon social movements, organization, ideology, and war among other topics. I have taken many ideas from his discussions and incorporated them into my thesis. With proper guidance and supervision from Professor Rob Beamish, I have completed my work on time. Thanks are not enough to express my gratitude to him.
To collect the data for the study, I visited my field in Bangladesh. For this purpose, I received a partial financial support from the Blakely Family Student Initiatives Fund. I am grateful to the Blakely Family for this generous support. I am also thankful to Wendy Schuler, Joan Westenhaefer, and Michelle Ellis for their overall assistance.
Finally, I acknowledge the contributions of my parents Mohd. Mowla Baksha and Shamsunnahar Begum, my wife Afroza Parvin, our beloved chilfren Cleon Aristo and Orion Alex, and the vibrant Bangladeshi community here in Kingston who have always provided me with much needed inspiration, mental support and understanding to complete my study successfully.
Table of Contents
List of Tables, Figures, Images
List of Acronyms
Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 Literature Review
Chapter 3 Militia Ideology
Chapter 4 Militia Motivation
Chapter 5 Resource Mobilization
Chapter 6 Militia Organization
Chapter 7 Militia Ritual
Chapter 8 Conclusion
Appendix A Major Militia Groups in Bangladesh
Appendix B JMB Leaflet 2005
Tables Table 1: Basic Data about Bangladesh
Table 2: Quantities of arms and explosives recovered (April 2004 – December 2007).............. 122 Table 3: Ideology and other features of major militia groups in Bangladesh
Figures Figure 1: An analytical model of the militia movement
Figure 2: Map showing distance between West Pakistan and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh)... 59 Figure 3: Map showing internal displacement in Bangladesh
Figure 4: Map of Bangladesh showing the locations of major rebellions (1947-2003)............... 112 Images Image 1: Banners, festoons, and placards used in Hizb ut-Tahrir's demonstration in Dhaka...... 137 Image 2: A demonstration of the networks of influence in New York
Image 3: A public display of violence
Image 4: Training of SB militias in jungle warfare
Image 5: Ceremonials of a public meeting
Image 6: JMB leaflet 2005
v List of Acronyms
AHAB Ahl-e Hadith Andolan (People of Hadith Movement) AL Awami League (Mass Peoples League) BAKSAL Bangladesh Krishak Sramik Awami League (Bangladesh Peasants, Industrial Workers, and Mass People's League) BDR Bangladesh Rifles BIISS Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies BJP Bharatiya Janata Party BNP Bangladesh Nationalist Party CCOMPOSA Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organizations of South Asia CHT Chittagong Hill Tracts CID Criminal Investigation Department CUFL Chittagong Urea Fertilizer Limited DGFI Directorate General of Forces Intelligence EBR East Bengal Regiment EBWM East Bengal Workers' Movement EPR East Pakistan Rifles GMF Gono Mukti Fouz (People's Liberation Soldiers) GOB Government of Bangladesh HUJI Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (Movement for an Islamic Holy War) HWF Hill Women's Federation ICS Islami Chhatra Shibir (Islamic Student Camp) IOJ Islami Okiya Jote (United Islamic Front) ISI Inter Services Intelligence (Pakistan intelligence agency) JMB Jamaat-ul Mujahidin Bangladesh (Party of Mujahidin Bangladesh) JMJB Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (Awakened Muslim Masses of Bangladesh) JI Jamaat-e-Islam (Party of Islam) JSD Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (National Socialist Party) LWE Left-Wing Extremism NAP National Awami Party NBCP New Biplobi (Revolutionary) Communist Party vi NSCN National Socialist Council of Nagaland NSI National Security Intelligence PBCP Purba Banglar Communist Party (Communist Party of East Bengal) PBSP Purba Bangla Sarbohara Party (East Bengal Proletarian Party) PCJSS Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (Chittagong Hill Tracts People's Solidarity Organization) PCP Pahari Chattra Parishad (Hill Students' Council) RAW Research and Analysis Wing (Indian intelligence agency) RCP Rangamati Communist Party RIHS Revival of Islamic Heritage Society RPF Rohingya Patriotic Front RSO Rohingya Solidarity Organization SATP South Asia Terrorism Portal SB Shanti Bahini (Peace Army) TJ Tablighi Jamaat (Proselytization Society) UAB Ulema Anjuman al-Baiyinaat (Clerics' Circle of Clear Understanding) ULFA United Liberation Front of Assam UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund UPDF United Peoples Democratic Front USAID United States Agency for International Development VDP Village Defence Police
Demonizing the militia movement as terrorism has often increased the suffering of common people rather than solving their problems. If the pressing problems the common people persistently suffer from are addressed properly and with good intentions, then there is no need to declare wars against terror by the hegemonic powers at national and international levels. Wars and fights – when they persist – only benefit those who exercise the power while those who have to follow their commands and those who are not one of the parties in the battle are the common victims of all misfortunes. Even wining a battle by those who fight against the incumbent hegemonic powers does not end the mass suffering.
The US-declared global war on terror after the September 11, 2001 incidence led to two subsequent invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the sufferings and sacrifices of the common people in these countries did not end. Thousands of innocent people died and they are still dying as victims of the invasions. The global war on terror has in fact globalized terrorism and it particularly labeled Islamist militias as terrorists, firstly by calling it a 'Crusade' and secondly by directing it towards Muslim countries only. Moreover, short-sighted "politicization tends to indiscriminately cluster together nationalists, freedom fighters, resistance movements and out-and-out terrorists," equating the militia movement with terrorism.1 Bangladesh, a small Muslim country in South Asia, is not out of the globalizing impact – it has been identified as the hub of the Al-Qaeda network in South Asia. Consider, for example, The Washington Post article on "A New Hub of Terrorism? In Bangladesh, an Islamic Movement with Al-Qaeda Ties is on the Rise." The author of the article Selig S. Harrison comments: "While 1 Mufleh R. Osmany, "Chairman's Speech. Global War on Terror: Bangladesh Perspective" in Mufleh R.
Osmany and Mohammad Humayun Kabir (eds.), Global War on Terror: Bangladesh Perspective (Dhaka:
APPL and BIISS, 2007), p.10.
1 the United States dithers, a growing Islamic fundamentalist movement linked to al-Qaeda and Pakistani intelligence agencies is steadily converting the strategically located nation of Bangladesh into a new regional hub for terrorist operations that reach into India and Southeast Asia."2 There are hundreds of reports like this made available to the public by national, regional and international news media and intelligence sources. The major claims of these reports are as follows: (i) the Islamist militancy is on the rise in Bangladesh; (ii) Bangladesh is being Talibanized by Islamist militants; (iii) Bangladesh is going to be another Afghanistan; (iv) Bangladesh is becoming a regional terrorist hub linked with Al-Qaeda; (v) Bangladesh is emerging as a new hub of pro-Bin Laden jihadi terrorism, and so forth.3 Two things are noteworthy about the claims: (i) it seems that there is only Islamist terrorism or Islamist militancy in Bangladesh which is mainly linked with the Al-Qaeda network, and (ii) the Islamist militancy is on the rise only after September 11, 2001. In reality, there are at least three types of militants – I would call them militias – in Bangladesh, one of them being the Islamist. The other two types – leftwing and ethnic – are as important as the Islamist because they have been waging a movement for a long time to initiate a change in the society. Since independence from Pakistan in 1971, Bangladesh is dealing with these three types of militias almost simultaneously.
In August 1947, the British rule in India came to an end. According to the popular demand of that time, British India was divided into two countries – Pakistan as a separate homeland for the Muslims and India as a homeland for the majority Hindu population. The partition of the two 2 See Selig S. Harrison, "A New Hub of Terrorism? In Bangladesh, an Islamic Movement with Al-Qaeda Ties is on the Rise," The Washington Post, August 2, 2006; available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/01/AR2006080101118.html, accessed January 30, 2010.
3 For a comprehensive list of sources that made those claims, see Congressional Research Service report on "Bangladesh: Background and U.S. Relations" by Bruce Vaughn, updated on August 2, 2007, available at http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33646.pdf, accessed January 31, 2010; and South Asia Analysis Group report on "Bangladesh & Jihadi Terrorism" by B. Rahman, updated on January 7, 2004; available at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers9/paper887.html, accessed January 30, 2010.
2 countries was done in such a way that from the very inception, Pakistan was divided into two separate geographical parts, East and West. The distance between East Pakistan and West Pakistan was over 3,000 km with vast Indian territory in the middle. The two parts of Pakistan were not only geographically separate but also ethnically distinct. Of the total population of federal Pakistan, East Pakistan was the home of over 60 percent people who spoke in Bangla, unlike the people of West Pakistan who spoke in Urdu. However, the Urdu-speaking West Pakistanis dominated the politics and administration of Pakistan and through their discriminatory policies created wide-spread grievances among the Bangla-speaking people in East Pakistan. This ultimately led to the Bangladesh movement which was advanced on the principles of Bengali nationalism, secularism, socialism, and democracy, rejecting the religion-based ideology of the Pakistan movement, and resulted into the independence of Bangladesh as a nation-state in 1971 through a violent war largely fought by scores of private militia groups assisted by India. The Bangladesh movement is the first militia movement in the history of the new nation.
Ironically, within a couple of years after the formation of Bangladesh, the key leaders of the Bangladesh movement were assassinated in a military coup in 1975 and the country was under the military rule for the next fifteen years. The military rulers were those Bengali Muslim Generals who served in the Pakistan army before the liberation war and fought a battle against India in 1965. After 1975, they took pro-Islam policy and tried to keep a distance from India.
They removed the fundamental principles of Bengali nationalism, secularism, and socialism from the original constitution of 1972 and created opportunities for the Islamist parties, which were banned in the newly independent country, to take part in the open politics. They utilized Islam to legitimize their rule. Although about 90 percent of the population in Bangladesh is Muslim, most of them are liberal Muslims who do not support radical Islamism. However, with the support
create a fairly wide support-base in the country by now.