Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh and why did it attack Durga Puja venues?


Destruction of Durga Puja in Bangladesh led by the Jamaat-e-Islami (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@_TheBite)

The banned militant organisation Jamaat-e-Islami (JEI)  Bangladesh is in the headlines again for attacking the Hindu temples and Durga Puja venues. Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has vowed to hunt down and punish the attackers.

Though Hasina government has banned the pro Pakistan militant organisation in 2013, but the group has been active through its affiliated organisations and one of them is Hefazat-e-Islam.

The JEI, an Islamic organisation founded in 1941 by Islamic philosopher Abul Ala Maududi in India. The Jamaat was against Partition as well as the Muslim League. They wanted to build a unified Indian state under Islamic lines and considered principles of secularism and democracy to be Haram. After partition, Maududi moved to Pakistan with a large number of supporters. They had a branch in the erstwhile  East Pakistan, now Bangladesh too.

In 1971, Jamaat was vehemently opposed to the separation of West and East Pakistan, since it meant a split in the Muslim  community. With the support of the Pakistani army, it carried out large scale atrocities against Bengali nationalists and those demanding liberation. Bangladeshi authorities estimate that approximately three million people died in the war of liberation, 200,000 women were raped and about 10 million were forced to flee the country.

After the creation of Bangladesh, the new government under the leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of the Awami League banned the Jamaat.

Following the assassination of Mujibur Rahman and the military coup, Maj. Gen. Ziaur Rahman came to power in Bangladesh in 1975, and his party BNP lifted the ban on religion based political parties and the Jamaat came back to life.

When in 2008, Bangladesh Awami League came to power,  Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced that those found guilty of war crimes in 1971 will be prosecuted. Four Jamaat leaders have been executed under convictions of genocide and other atrocities. Abdul Quader Molla was the first Jamaat leader to have been hanged to death in December 2013. In response, the Jamaat held major strikes and violent protests across the country, which led to more than 60 deaths and alleged mass destruction of public and national properties. The Haseena government banned the JEI and  kept prosecuting its leaders. Mohommad Zaman in April 2015, Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mojaheed in November 2015 and Motiur Rahman Nizami was executed in May, 2016.

Though banned in Bangladesh, JEI  is active in the country with the real time support of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). It has close links with another radical outfit ,Hefazat-e-Islam, which organised violent protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit in April this year.  

Also read: Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announces zero-tolerance towards attackers of Durga Puja pandals