By Ishaan Tharoor
Bangladesh has been in the grips of a hideous spate of assassinations and attacks on secularist intellectuals, academics and non-Muslims and others in the crosshairs of Islamist militants.
The latest killing took place on Tuesday, when assailants on motorbikes gunned down a 70-year-old Hindu priest walking home from his temple. On Sunday, the wife of an anti-terrorism police officer was brutally stabbed to death and shot by unidentified assailants in the port city of Chittagong. On the same day, a Christian grocer was butchered in a village in the north of the country–a media wing linked to the Islamic State took credit, though it’s still unclear what actual tactical abilities the extremist organization based in Syria and Iraq has in South Asia.
As WorldViews has discussed almost each time such a murder has taken place in Bangladesh, the continuing violence exposes the failure of Bangladeshi authorities to deal with the threat.
One senior official, though, suggested the root of the problem lay far away.
“Bangladesh has become the target of an international conspiracy. And a foreign intelligence agency has joined the conspiracy,” Asaduzzaman Khan, the country’s home minister, said on Monday.
He went on and referenced an earlier meeting between an opposition parliamentarian and an Israeli government adviser in neighboring India.
The gesture to link any domestic woe to a foreign plot, especially one with the imprint of American or Israeli meddling, is a common trope in South Asian politics. An Israeli government spokesman deemed Khan’s remarks “utter drivel” when they were put to him by the BBC.
Opposition lawmaker Aslam Chowdhury was recently arrested and barred from traveling abroad after a picture of him meeting with Israeli government adviser Mendi Safadi during a business trip to India surfaced.
Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority state, has no direct ties to Israel.
In the shadow of creeping extremism, the ruling government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been criticized for its growing authoritarian style.
Controversial moves to prosecute and execute war criminals from the country’s bloody struggle for independence in 1971 pushed Islamist factions deeper underground and have perhaps provoked a violent counter-response. Meanwhile, other dissidents and journalists have found themselves subject to state censure and intimidation.