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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 4-Mar-2009
FBI will aid Bangladesh investigation of border guard officer massacre (Revised)

Web Log - March, 2009

FBI will aid Bangladesh investigation of border guard officer massacre (Revised)

76 Bangladesh army officers were mutilated and killed last week by border guards under their command.

(This is an updated version with several errors corrected.) (Corrected - 5-Mar)

The massacre, which occurred over a 33 hour period on February 25-26, has shocked the country for its brutality. Bodies of officers and their wives were mutilated and piled into mass graves. Security forces have arrested hundreds of guards, including many who fled to towns and cities across the country.

News stories indicate that the motive was the border guards' frustrations of pay and hiring practices.

Reading one news story after another, whether by the BBC, CNN, Reuters, AFP, VOA, or anyone else, provides you with no satisfactory explanation for the brutality of this massacre.

However, by doing a few hours research, applying a few Generational Dynamics concepts, and making a few inferences, it becomes increasingly clear what's going on. The other thing that becomes clear is that the Bangladeshi officials almost must be fully aware of what's going on, even if BBC, CNN and the others are totally clueless.

As I've written about many times, when Britain granted independence to India in 1947, it partitioned the Indian subcontinent into Hindu/Sikh and Muslim portions, that became known as India and Pakistan, respectively. Pakistan was split into two parts -- West Pakistan (Punjab, Sindh, Belochistan and Northwest Frontier provinces) and East Pakistan (Bengal province). Following Partition, there was a massive genocidal war between Hindus and Muslims.

However, there's more to the story.

The Indian subcontinent is enormous, large enough to have multiple generational timelines, with the east and west regions having separate timelines. Thus, the 1947 war following Partition was a crisis war for India and West Pakistan, but it was a non-crisis war for the eastern portion of the Indian sub-continent.

In 1970, the Indian sub-continent appeared as follows:

Indian subcontinent, 1970. East Bengal province, also known as East Pakistan, seceded and became Bangladesh in 1971. <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: Stearns, Encyclopedia of World History)</font>
Indian subcontinent, 1970. East Bengal province, also known as East Pakistan, seceded and became Bangladesh in 1971. (Source: Stearns, Encyclopedia of World History)

So, when a new war occurred in 1971, the situations were reversed. This time, it was a non-crisis war for West Pakistan and India, but it was an extremely bloody crisis war for West Pakistan. It was as part of this that the massively genocidal Bangladesh Liberation War (March 26 to December 16, 1971) occurred.

This was actually a civil war within East Pakistan. Although this was officially an entirely Muslim region, ethnic differences were still important. There are two separate ethnic groups in Bangladesh, from two different castes: The Biharis, also called "Urdu-walla," or Urdu-speaking Muslims from the upper castes of Indian society; and the indigenous Bengalis, speaking the Bengali language, from the "scheduled" or "untouchable" castes of India.

Take a look at this map of India's provinces:

Provinces of India <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: Nations Online Project)</font>
Provinces of India (Source: Nations Online Project)

Follow along on the above map as you read the following excerpt from a 2005 interview of Bengali scholar Professor Ahmed Sharif, in which he addresses the question of why there's so much instability in Bangladesh, over 30 years after independence:

"This is a natural question but the answer is complicated. The reason for this complication is due to the fact that the leadership of the movement in 1947 was not in the hands of the Bengalis. It was the Urdu-wallas (Urdu speaking people) who were in the leadership. They came from, which is now Bihar and the Uttar Pradesh; they were the Urdu speaking Muslims of North India. The leaders of those provinces controlled and directed the Muslim League. They were developed economically, educationally and in everything in spite of the fact that they were only 12% of the population.

It was those people who thought that, after the British were driven away, they would be oppressed and ill-treated by the Hindus. Therefore, the Urdu-speaking Muslims had the requirement of a homeland; that was also the dream of Iqbal and Abdur Rahim and that dream, later on, turned into Pakistan movement. On the other hand, the Bengali Muslims were always mute.

These were the people who accepted Islam from scheduled caste staff of Hinduism, people of lower rank in the society, without any means and doing menial works. During the Turkish-Moghul rule they had no leadership role in the affairs of the state or in the society. They were under the rule of the local high caste Hindus. As a result they had no education or initiation.

The conventional view that was prevailing was that, due to hostility towards British rule the Muslims did not accept English education was not correct (of Bengali Muslims) because, they were quite illiterate in Arabic or Persian languages too. They (Bengali Muslims) were descendants of lower caste, untouchable Hindu-Buddhist stock and they had no literary tradition.

As a result we can see that the local Bengali Muslim had no covenant job not only in Bengal but anywhere in India even during the Turkish-Mughal era. The upper caste Hindus, on the contrary, could assert and got accepted their demand (for jobs) at that period. In Turkish-Mughal era the Upper caste Hindus ruled at village and district levels. There was nothing in those days in social or state structure for the development of Muslim population, changing religion did not change their professional or economic lives and that is true for most of the people in Muslim community.

The Muslim started English education after the Sepoy mutiny and Wahabi movement in 1870. The Hindus lost the sympathy and favour of the British at that time and they (the British) began patronising the Muslims. In these days, again, under the leadership of Sir Syed Ahmad the Muslim community united and expressed their obedience to the British rule and thereby started getting favour from them.

Many educated Hindus, who were employed by the company and who run business with them lost their jobs and business. Many Hindu Diwan and other employees also lost their employments. ]

The other reason for it was that the company officials had no right to get engaged in business any longer during the rule of Queen Victoria. As a result, the educated Hindus after losing their jobs moved to small towns and villages and stated establishing schools. You can easily understand, the English educated Muslims you find only who were born after 1890. And in this context we can say, and the names of the persons you know, for example, Ibrahim Khan, Barkatullah, all of them were born after 1890. One or two persons could be earlier also but nobody from Bengali Muslim community got English education before 1880."

Thus, from the point of view of Generational Dynamics, prior to 1971 we actually had a fairly standard situation in a country with two ethnic groups.

One group, the Muslim Biharis ("Urdu-walla") from northern India, were a "market-dominant minority," controlled the government and major businesses, and the other, the Bengalis, are a poor majority, working at menial tasks in the employ of the Urdu-speaking minority.

During the 1971 war, the Biharis were allied with the (West) Pakistan army that was fighting to retain control, while the Bengalis were the rebels fighting for independence, in rebel militia under the name Mukti Bahini.

India's army came in on the side of the rebels (it was, after all, a war between Pakistan and India), and the rebels won independence.

However, it wasn't an easy victory. The Bengal war was incredibly brutal, especially the Pakistan army toward the Bengalis. Stories of rape, beheadings and mutilation of Bengali civilians were common.

Once Bangladesh gained independence, the relative power of the Bengalis and the Biharis was reversed. The Bengalis controlled the country, and the Biharis were a small minority. Even worse, the Biharis didn't even consider themselves to be citizens of Bangladesh; they wanted to remain citizens of Pakistan. During the next few years, an effort was made to permit some Biharis to relocated to (West) Pakistan, but it turned out that the Biharis weren't particularly welcome there either.

So today, we have tens of thousands of troops in the Bangladesh Rifles, a division of the army tasked with guarding the country's borders, but also are called on to assist the military and police during national emergencies.

Now, here's where I have to make an inference: The officers are the Bengalis, and the border guards, perpetrators of the massacres, are Biharis. I cannot find any information like this in any of the news stories that I read, but something like this is far and away the most likely explanation. And the massacre itself was in revenge for the actions of the Bengalis during the 1971 war.

Is there a danger that this action will ignite a new civil war?

Absolutely not. Bangladesh is in a generational Awakening era, a period when the population is "attracted away from" war. This massacre, perpetrated by a small group of people, will not trigger further killings in other parts of the population.

However, what characterizes an Awakening era society a generation past a crisis civil war is a fear that something will ignite a new civil war.

I discussed this fear several times with regard to Lebanon in the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbollah. I quoted Lebanese President Émile Geamil Lahoud as saying:

"Believe me, what we get from [Israeli bombers] is nothing compared to [what would happen] if there is an internal conflict [a new civil war] in Lebanon. So our thanks comes when we are united, and we are really united, and the national army is doing its work according to the government, and the resistance [Hizbollah] is respected in the whole Arab world from the population point of view. And very highly respected in Lebanon as well."

The Lebanese feared, above all else, a repeat of something like the 1982 massacre at Sabra and Shatila.

A similar fear, of a repeat of the horrendous 1971 civil war, is certain to be a big part of the motivation of Bangladesh officials today.

That's why it's so interesting that Bangladesh officials have asked the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as Scotland Yard and the United Nations, to perform the forensic investigation of the massacre. The US is anxious to keep Bangladesh as an ally, so is willing to help out.

Normally a country would want to conduct its own investigation into such a humiliating massacre. However, in this case, the fear of a new civil war trumps that. The Bangladeshi officials would worry that any local investigators will be biased on one side or the other, and would fear that any misstep might trigger a new civil war.

By asking the FBI to conduct the investigation, the investigation will be a lot more credible, and the results are more likely to be accepted by all sides than if the investigation were conducted internally.

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, as well as more frequent updates on this subject, see the Bangladesh thread of the Generational Dynamics forum.) (4-Mar-2009) Permanent Link
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