Guwahati, Oct 6 (IANS) The rise of Islamist extremism in Bangladesh poses a serious threat not only to the religious minorities, secularists, intellectuals and other sects within the Muslim community, but also to India’s northeastern states, says prominent Bangladesh-based journalist, Saleem Samad.
He was speaking to a group of journalists at Guwahati Press Club from Dhaka through video-conferencing on Friday evening.
An Ashoka Fellow and Hellman-Hammett Award recipient, Samad said an upsurge of fundamentalist forces in Bangladesh may affect Indian states that share the border with the country.
He said atheist and secularist bloggers are increasingly becoming the target of the Islamic extremists in Bangladesh.
He said other minority sects within the Muslim community such as the Ahmadiyyas also face threats of survival in Bangladesh due to the rise of Islamic extremism in the country.
He said thousands of Bangladeshi youths had joined various militia groups in Syria, Iraq, Chechnya, Indonesia, the Philippines, Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight alongside the jihadists there.
The senior journalist reiterated that currently there is no northeastern separatist leader in Bangladesh as the Sheikh Hasina government in Dhaka continues a rigorous crackdown on fundamentalist outfits.
A champion for media rights, Samad painted a dismal picture of press freedom in Bangladesh as journalists are frequently targeted by both state and non-State actors. He regretted that though 26 Bangladeshi journalists lost their lives to assailants since 1991, most cases remain unsolved.
Replying to questions about infiltration from Bangladesh to Assam, Samad said that none of the Indian leaders visiting Dhaka ever took up the issue of illegal Bangladeshi infiltrators in Assam with their counterparts.
Strongly advocating people-to-people contact between Assam (India) and Bangladesh, Samad lamented how Assam had missed the bus despite being so closely located, while other states such as West Bengal and Tripura were taking several steps to improve connectivity with Bangladesh via railway and roadways.
Emphasizing direct air connectivity between Guwahati and Dhaka, Samad said that trade and commerce along with cultural ties would help in erasing many misconceptions prevailing on both sides.