In 1939, Nazi Germany and Communist Russia – mortal enemies – signed a non-aggression pact with each other. Though their ideologies were otherwise in conflict, they were united in their hatred of freedom and their determination to crush it. Last year, Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin reported on a similarly deadly alliance forming in Asia. This time, communists are teaming up with Islamist radicals.
In 2004, al-Qaida terrorists were on the run from U.S. forces that had dislodged them from their strongholds in Afghanistan. Over the next two years, Pakistani forces loyal to strongman Pervez Musharraf harassed them in their mountainous lairs in that country; but many (perhaps more) Pakistanis are loyal to the Islamists. So, friendly border guards got them safely out of Pakistan to terrorist-controlled sections of Kashmir – the territory hotly disputed between Pakistan and India. From there, they helped the terrorists through a sort of no-man’s-land and into Nepal where they set up terror bases. What makes that interesting is the fact that Nepal is overwhelmingly Hindu and hardly a likely candidate as the next Taliban state. But Nepalese King Gyanendra had seized dictatorial powers in response to a decades-long and very bloody communist revolt. That made for social chaos and uncontrolled borders. Islamists in Pakistan’s Nepalese Embassy engineered an agreement with the communists to help set up the terror bases.
The Islamists were not interested in Nepal, at least not for the moment. But they were very interested in the world’s third-largest Muslim country, just down the road, Bangladesh. That country was ripe for the picking. Funded by Saudi and Kuwaiti “charities,” Islamists had infiltrated virtually all of the country’s social institutions and had been part of the government since 2001. Virtually all observers agreed that Islamists stood to make further gains in the upcoming January 2007 elections, perhaps enough to demand the Law Ministry and impose Shariah Law on the nation of almost 150 million. They almost pulled it off, but a military coup has stopped them for now. Their coalition partners, the Bangladesh National Party, or BNP, had so transparently rigged the pending elections that in one of the oddest turn of events in recent memory, every single western democracy publicly urged that elections not be held. The West also welcomed the military regime as the savior of Bangladeshi democracy.
The notoriously corrupt BNP fixed the elections to maintain the gravy train, but its Islamist partners had other ideas. They were using the BNP’s phony voter lists to pad the electorate with their own supporters who were infiltrating Bangladesh from Nepal across its porous northwestern border. Former Bangladeshi Home Minister Lutfuzzaman Babar told me the BNP controlled its relationship with Islamists, using it to subdue Islamist activity. Later, Babar was furious when his erstwhile partners ignored his party’s machinations, especially with regard to pro-U.S., pro-Israeli Muslim journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. At one point, according to Bangladesh sources, the Islamists teamed up with the BNP’s political rivals and leftist trade unions to engineer riots against garment manufacturers. At another, according to Choudhury, they gave Osama bin Laden temporary haven in Bangladesh.
Islamists have been quiet since the coup, but they remain ready to strike. Although the military government announced its intention to combat both them and the country’s endemic corruption, it has moved only on the latter. In the meantime, Nepalese Maoists, on the outside looking in for decades have been rewarded with a place in Nepal’s government. The alliance worked and has been replicated throughout the area.
In India’s West Bengal state, more victims are falling from this deadly alliance. Almost since Bangladesh’s 1971 birth, Islamists have been using the country’s Vested Property Act, or VPA, to rid the country of non-Muslims. The law allows the government to seize property belonging to non-Muslims and hand it over to Muslims of their choice, forcing the former (mostly Hindu) to flee the country. It is ethnic cleansing and nothing less. It is religious bigotry and oppression. Victims number into the tens of millions. Dr. Sachi Dastadar, who has studied this phenomenon for decades, used the government’s own figures and counted 1.3 to 3.3 million acres of Hindu land seized in the 1990s alone. The victims have been subjected to murder, mutilation and ritualized gang rape, as well as the legalized thievery. At first, private gangs committed the atrocities, but later victims reported government officials and uniformed men led the attacks.
With most VPA beneficiaries party members or other apparatchik, the very people who might overturn the law have the greatest stake in maintaining it. Thus, it was not surprising that the Bangladeshi ambassador to Washington, M. Humayun Kabir, said that the current government “had no plans to address the Vested Property Act during its tenure.” And at present, the length of that tenure is indeterminate.
Brutalized and penniless, the refugees fled to the world’s largest Hindu country right next door. But the area bordering Bangladesh, West Bengal, has had a communist government since 1977 and offered no succor. Rigid atheists, the communists reject any bonds of faith in favor of their internationalist goals and have thrown their lot in with the Islamists. VPA victims have been put in camps then sent on forced marches when the government decided to seize the land. The West Bengal Stalinists refuse to recognize them as refugees or give them any legal standing, though many of them have been living there for decades. It also has turned a blind eye to cross-border attacks and further Muslim atrocities.
Dr. Dastidar says the problem is as much political as moral. The victims are strongly anti-communist. Should they be granted citizenship, the Communists fear being voted out of power. On the other hand, he said, “Many [West Bengal] state officials are Bangladeshis [but only] Islamist-approved Bangladeshis are given safe have in West Bengal.”
None of the parties responsible for taking action are doing so. The national Indian government has adopted a rigorous hands-off policy toward West Bengal. The U.N. is equally rigorous in its silence and refuses to grant the victims refugee status, which would entitle them to both material and legal benefits. Misnomered “human rights” groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are silent as well, preferring to criticize democracies like the United States and Israel. So, earlier this year, one brave victim representing at least 1,000 families asked me to help, and I will be traveling to the region to gather additional evidence.
The 1939 Germany-Russia non-aggression pact, though ultimately broken by the parties, gave both the time they needed to prepare for the coming war in which tens of millions died. With almost a fourth of the world’s population living in South Asia, we could be seeing its reprise on an even greater scale.