'Violence by Islamists has hallmark of 1971 attacks'
By Ranjana Narayan, Dhaka, March 5 : Bangladesh Tuesday said the violence unleashed by the Jamaat-e-Islami in the country, including damaging Hindu temples and burning down homes of minorities, bear the hallmarks of attacks carried out in 1971 by pro-Pakistan elements.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, addressing a press conference here, did not name the Jamaat directly, but said: "The violence by some quarters.. the clandestine attacks damaging public and private property, the attacks bear the hallmarks of the attacks carried out in 1971..and the attacks on religious minorities.
"It is clear to everyone that, these are the people, either they themselves or the successors of those who carried out atrocities on the Bengali people in 1971. And they know only one method, that is violence. And that is what should be shunned, that is what the government is trying to do."
She also said her government is not going to go for a "tit-for-tat kind of action, we don't want violence to escalate," she said, adding that the police were resorting to firing only as a last resort.
Her comments come as Bangladesh has been rocked by violence unleashed by the Jamaat-e-Islami following the death sentence handed down to its leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee. Over 70 people were killed across Bangladesh as Jamaat activists attacked public and private property and clashed with the police. The Jamaat, a key alliance member of the opposition Bangladesh National Party, had called a two-day strike March 3-4, coinciding with the visit of Indian Presient Pranab Mukherjee.
Moni said it was very unfortunate and it has to stop, and "we will all have to work for it".
To a question if the Awami League government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was planning to ban the Jamaat, she said there has been a demand by the protesters at Shahbag Square.
"The government will definitely consider this, and the election commission has a role to play.. The kind of violence they are resorting to has nothing political to it, it is pure and simple violence and acts of terrorism.. The government will have to take it into account and work on it," she said.
She also said the attacks on the police, "the way they were killed, the methods of killing people, the intimidation, the attacks on people and on minorities, the breaking of the Shahid Minar, they ripped and tore apart the national flag, and attacks on homes of Awami League, attacks on homes and places of worship of minorities, damage to power stations and railways.... In 1971, they wanted everything to be burnt down, attacking people and administration, those are the hallmarks."
She said the elections due at the end of the year would be free and fair.
Asked if the government supported the Shahbag protests, calling for banning of the Jamaat and death sentence to those guilty of war crimes in 1971, she said diplomatically that what is happening in Shahbag is a people's movement. "The movement is peaceful, they have shown to the country how peacefully they can protest without resorting to any kind of violence.. as a people's government elected with overwhelming majority it is but natural that our aspirations will be completely aligned with the people's aspirations and what is happening in Shahbag is a people's movement.
"..we are appreciate this, they have shown the country how peacefully they can protest, no question of us trying to use it, we also encourage peaceful protests," Moni said.
(Ranjana Narayan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)