Capture of large parts of Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and declaration of establishing a Caliphate signals the start of a new phase of expansion of a powerful Sunni Islamic group in its well declared aim of establishing an Islamic empire encompassing the entire globe. The phenomenon of extremism and sectarian violence unleashed in Pakistan by the so-called strategic assets of the Pakistan army is not under anyone’s control now, and south and central Asian nations should be highly concerned about the shape of things to come after the ISAF’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Illegal immigrants from Bangladesh have been a cause for concern for India since a very long time, but recently, the problem of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh once again came into limelight because of a major communal clash between the settlers and ethnic Bodo militants in the backdrop of the general elections in Assam. Time has come to find an amicable solution to this problem.
After their ouster from Afghanistan, al-Qaeda retreated into Pakistan, went underground and decentralised. But it soon resurfaced in various countries of west Asia and Africa.
Declaration of Jihad against the West
In the 1990s, Osama bin Laden and associated militant groups shifted focus toward the West – the Far Enemy – calling them oppressors of Muslims worldwide. Osama called for a ‘global jihad’ against Western interests around the world to counter the enemies of Islam.
In 1996, Osama bin Laden issued a declaration of war against the United States and called on Muslims to drive out Americans and their allies from the Arabian Peninsula. In 1998, he widened the arena of war in a declaration made in the name of the World Islamic Front against the Crusaders and the Jews. He declared, ‘The ruling to kill Americans and their allies—whether civilians or military—is incumbent upon every Muslim who is able and in whichever country is easiest for him. . . . We also call upon Muslim ulema, leaders, youth, and soldiers to attack the American devil and those allies of Satan who have aligned themselves with [America].’1
Al-Qaeda soon started catastrophic terrorist attacks and suicide bombings against the West, making civilian their main targets. Al-Qaeda, at the same time, advocated the establishment of Islamic laws and old tradition in all Muslim lands and gave a call for a widespread ‘global jihadist movement’.
This jihadist movement eventually translated into the 9/11 attack and the American counter-attack on the al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan in 2001. After their ouster from Afghanistan, al-Qaeda retreated into Pakistan, went underground and decentralised. But it soon resurfaced in various countries of west Asia and Africa. Presently, it has the capability to target Western interests all over the world. It has been able to increase its stranglehold on Iraq and is now waiting for the departure of U.S. forces to renter Afghanistan in strength. Al-Qaeda’s resurgence is also visible in many countries of south, western and central Asia.2
In India, Wahhabi activism has increased visibly. They are slowly taking over mosques and madrasas with the aim of turning moderate Muslims into adherents of al-Qaeda’s ideology.
Al-Qaeda in South Asia
Pakistan continues to play a major role in spreading religious extremism and promoting sectarian violence in south Asia and facilitating the return of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda in south Asia.
The main reason for the political and religious support of al-Qaeda by Pakistan is the growing support for radical Islam and the reliance of the Pakistan army on fundamentalist outfits for regaining control over Afghanistan. The widespread phenomenon of extremism and sectarian violence let loose by these so-called strategic assets of the Pakistan army is not under anyone’s control now, and south and central Asian nations need to be deeply worried about the shape of things to come after the withdrawal of the ISAF from Afghanistan. Pakistan continues to provide a safe haven and training and recruiting facilities to al-Qaeda and a variety of terrorist outfits helping the upsurge of al-Qaeda-Taliban and jihadism in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Al- Qaeda is likely to spread jihadi terror in central Asia, India and Bangladesh and use Wahhabi groups for demanding the implementation of sharia laws in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kashmir.
In India, Wahhabi activism has increased visibly. They are slowly taking over mosques and madrasas with the aim of turning moderate Muslims into adherents of al-Qaeda’s ideology. India must wake up to the threat being posed to its culture and integrity and vigorously counter Wahhabist activities and propaganda. India should also actively help those organisations in Afghanistan that are ready to fight extremism to prevent the resurrection of al-Qaeda in South Asia.
Wahhabism is being actively propagated in various Muslim pockets of South Asia. For example, a Sri Lankan national, Zakir Hussein, arrested in Chennai recently was found to be an operative of Pakistan’s Inter- Services Intelligence (ISI) and planning attacks on diplomatic missions and other sensitive targets in Chennai, Maldives and Sri Lanka. The ISIsponsored terror cells active in the South Asian region pose a severe threat to the entire region, and it is of critical importance for India, Lanka and the Maldives to join hands to counter the menace of sponsored terrorism in the region.
At present, no one authority is responsible for identifying the illegal migrants and dealing with the problem of foreigners.
A report says, ‘al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has called for jihad in Bangladesh in an audio message posted by al-Qaeda’s media production house “As-Sahab Media” on a website jihadology.net, which promotes jihad across the globe.’ As per media reports, the message titled ‘Bangladesh: A Massacre Behind a Wall of Silence’ contains photographs from Hefajat-e-Islam programmes and severe action against them by security forces. Zawahiri claims, ‘This is the bloodbath taking place in Bangladesh, without the Muslims paying the least attention to it. Bangladesh is the victim of the conspiracy in which the agents of India, the corrupt leadership of the Pakistan army, and treacherous power hungry politicians of Bangladesh and Pakistan, who are always prepared to sacrifice everything for the sake of fulfilling their ambitions and desires, were all equal participants,’ Zawahiri observes.
Zawahiri also states, ‘Today we have a Pakistan that has no Shariah, no independence and no honour. Its government, army, intelligence, police and judiciary act as mercenaries hired to defend the interests of the crusader onslaught in South Asia.’3
The message of al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri is to encourage the fundamentalist Islamists to stand up against the secularists of Bangladesh in the ongoing struggle for supremacy. So far, there is no evidence of al-Qaeda’s presence in Bangladesh, but groups such as Harkatul- Jihad al-Islami-Bangladesh (HUJI-B), Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and Hefajat-e-Islam are trying to facilitate the return of al-Qaeda.
…analysts has called the migration of Bangladeshis into India as demographic invasion. This term indicates a deliberate planned attempt to change the population complex with a view to turn certain areas into Muslim-majority areas.
Experience has shown that war against the shadowy, totalitarian jihadi elements of al-Qaeda has to be contested both by the military and the moderate narrative of Islam. Although Muslims across the world find radicalisation and extremism troublesome, they continue to be in denial and have yet to wake up to the fact that this is primarily a war against their way of life.4
Illegal Migration from Bangladesh
The unabated illegal migration from Bangladesh into contiguous Indian states has led to widespread demographic changes in the north-eastern region of India. Over a period of time, ethnic and religious tensions have brewed in these areas, leading to serious internal security problems. As Bangladesh does not acknowledge the fact that a large number of illegal Bangladesh citizens have indeed settled down in India, the first requirement of Indian authorities is to find a foolproof method of identifying illegal migrants and establishing their nationality beyond any doubt. At present, no one authority is responsible for identifying the illegal migrants and dealing with the problem of foreigners. It will be extremely difficult to identify and deport Bangladeshis in the absence of an overarching national policy or authority to deal with the issue.
A section of security analysts has called the migration of Bangladeshis into India as demographic invasion. This term indicates a deliberate planned attempt to change the population complex with a view to turn certain areas into Muslim-majority areas. There is little evidence to support this theory as mostly the poorest segments of landless Bangladeshis, driven by hunger and abject poverty cross into India. However, the large population of illegal migrants from Bangladesh in some states, like Assam, is depriving the indigenous population of its lands and avenues of employment, leading to frequent rioting and bloodshed. India needs a dedicated central agency for identifying the foreign elements in Assam.
India must accept the fact that the problem of migrants is an uncomfortable reality and it will not be feasible to push out millions of unidentifiable Bangladeshis from the Indian states.
As per the 2001 census, there were 84,826 illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in India, but no reliable figures of illegal immigrants are currently available. Though the census data of Assam indicates a figure of 2 million, figures as high as 20 million have been quoted in certain government and media estimates. Assam has a large number of Indian Muslim Bengalis, who cannot be easily distinguished from illegal Bangladeshi migrants, and many observers believe that a significant number of local migrants are sometimes included in estimates, quoting very high figures. In 1985, India started building a fence along the Assam-Bangladesh border, which is now almost complete. But the inflow from Bangladesh continues unabated.
A number of authoritative studies have proved that much of illegal immigration is overwhelmingly from poorer to richer countries, and migration from Bangladesh follows this pattern. A lack of employment opportunities and basic human needs drives migrants into Indian states adjoining Bangladesh, where there is demand for a variety of jobs. Identification of illegal migrants and their deportation has to be a dynamic process, but it has remained in a limbo because of political and bureaucratic inertia, the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) (IMDT) Act and Dhaka’s refusal to accept people pushed back by India.5
India must accept the fact that the problem of migrants is an uncomfortable reality and it will not be feasible to push out millions of unidentifiable Bangladeshis from the Indian states. In these circumstances, several recommendations to refranchising them and issuing of work permits to the migrants for fixed periods besides developing a workable mechanism with Bangladesh may be considered.
Notes and References
- Wikipedia. ‘Al-Qaeda.’ <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Qaeda>.
- Bruce Reidel. ‘Al Qaeda’s Next Comeback Could Be Afghanistan and Pakistan.’ 13 January 2014. <http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/13/ al-qaeda-s-next-comeback-could-be-afghanistan-and-pakistan.html>.
- Global Voices. ‘Al Qaeda Calls for Jihad in Bangladesh.’ 24 February 2014. <http://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/02/24/al-qaeda-calls-for-jihad-inbangladesh>.
- Richard Adams, Declan Walsh and Ewen MacAskill. ‘Osama bin Laden Is Dead, Obama Announces.’ Guardian (London), 1 May 2011. < http:// www.theguardian.com/world/2011/may/02/osama-bin-laden-dead-obama >
- Wikipedia. ‘Illegal.’ <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Illegal_immigration_in_India#cite_note-financialexpress.com-31>.